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Talking Tactics with Mark Bright - Dover Athletic

5 January 2015


Quite ironic that Alan Pardew, our new manager, is known for his heroic exploits in scoring the winning goal in the FA Cup semi final against Liverpool in 1990. His first game in charge was against Dover Athletic in the same competition and this time he oversaw an emphatic win. The "super Alan Pardew" era is up and running. 

Four goals scored without reply is not to be taken lightly. After the match I heard someone say "it's not as easy as it looks". Personally I think it was made easier as everyone carried out their task to the manager's instruction. 

Wayne Hennessey started in goal and commanded his area, kicked well and distributed the ball excellently. It wasn't his fault he never had a shot to save. Joel Ward reverted back to his right-back role and the whole back four performed very well, and Martin Kelly looked solid and got forward well at every opportunity. 

With the skipper Mile Jedinak away on Asia Cup duties and Yannick Bolasie away for the Africa Cup of Nations, the holding midfield role was played by Joe Ledley and he played it well, linking the play between defence and the forwards very efficiently. Alongside Joe and back from a loan period at Blackpool was Stuart O'Keefe who relished the challenge of being involved and his professionalism was rewarded with a start as was Barry Bannan, who for me was man of the match. 

I know Scott Dann bagged a brace but the wee man controlled the midfield, got forward to assist the strikers as often as possible and his all-round display was of a very high level throughout the 90 minutes. Dwight Gayle also started up front on the left with Glenn Murray, also back from a loan period at Reading, leading the line. Wilfried Zaha moved back to a wide right role and is growing in confidence with every game.

The pitch was sticky and the TV cameras were in attendance for a potential FA Cup upset but it appears we didn't read the script. Right from the off we moved the ball around confidently and with authority. The non-league bombardment didn't materialise, Dover had to chase the ball from the kick-off as Damien Delaney and Dann dropped deep and moved the ball about between defence and midfield. 

The manager has asked the players to be brave on the ball because he wants more possession. I watched the team prepare for the match on Saturday morning and everyone at the club seems to be impressed with the manager's approach and his clarity in what he wants and expects. 

I expected Dover to throw the kitchen sink at us in the second half but once again we started on the front foot, pushing our opponents back with good football. We looked solid when defending set pieces and dangerous from our own dead ball situations. The mixture of open possession football, whilst keeping it tight and solid when defending, reminded me of how we were at the end of last season. There was lots for the manager to be pleased about and plenty to ponder as he looks to strengthen the squad for the second half of the season. 

It must be nice for the manager to hear his name sung with such passion by the supporters which I'm sure he enjoyed, but there's no disputing that bigger challenges lie ahead and it won't be all smiles and back slapping. 

Now the manager has more time on the training ground with the players I expect a few subtle changes in the way we play. I know what he wants from the team, he likes attacking football, exciting players and goals.


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