FOOTBALL: Cirencester's poor starts sets Hughes' alarm bell ringing
BRIAN HUGHES has challenged his Cirencester Town players to sort out the slow starts that have been a feature of their recent matches, two of which saw them conceding goals in the third minute, writes Danny Hall.
A lack of urgency in the opening stages has been partly to blame for the end of Cirencester’s lucrative runs in both the FA Cup and the FA Trophy in the space of eight days.
Hughes said: “The senior team has begun very poorly in our last four games and we had a heart to heart at training on Tuesday night about whether they were adequately prepared for the games mentally from the outset and whether we needed to do something different in our pre-game warm-ups.
“We conceded in the third minute of the first FA Trophy tie at Didcot, went behind against Weymouth in the FA Cup which made life difficult, and even on Saturday at Egham, we were behind again as early as the third minute.”
Of Saturday’s 3-2 defeat, Hughes added: “It was a very strange game. It could have been 6-6 at half-time, so badly did both sides defend.
“It was the first time that we have not defended properly all season.”
There were perhaps mitigating circumstances, especially surrounding the performance of centre back Chris Holland who has been a colossus for Ciren in both boxes throughout recent games.
“Chris had a stiff back and neck and missed training the previous Thursday and you could see he was not comfortable,” said Hughes.
“He was probably at fault for two of the goals and he was really struggling by half-time, so we took him off.”
Chasing the game in a much duller second half, Hughes opted to play 4-2-4.
“We were carving them apart at will in the first 45 with our normal formation but we played four up top in the last 35 minutes and didn’t have a shot,” he said.
The lack of goals from last season’s top scorer Sam Collier is causing concern and the striker is considering options to move on.
“You can never criticise Sam’s work rate but he has scored just three goals in 16 games,” said his boss. In comparison, wide man Lee Smith has scored 15 goals in the same period.
“We have spent a lot of time trying to bring in a striker who can hold the ball up but without any luck, and Sam knows we have been on the look-out.
“I’ve suggested he continues to train with us but plays for Wootton Bassett in the Hellenic to get his goal touch back, and he was due to turn out for them on Tuesday night (game abandoned at half-time due to adverse weather).
“But he has also been the subject of seven-day approaches from both Didcot and Thatcham and he may choose to continue his playing career elsewhere.”
Hughes used a lot of the Development Team in the 1-0 win at Cinderford in the Red Insure Cup last week.
“Cinderford also took the opportunity to look at some of their younger players and it was a super game – I really enjoyed it,” said Hughes.
“Shane Bumphrey (who scored the winner) and Jack Smith have really got a good partnership going up front and they are both in my thoughts to break into the first team.”
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