"Conceding goals now seems to be their main concern" - Maidenhead United v FC Halifax Town: Opposition Focus
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How have Maidenhead been doing of late?
Maidenhead may be struggling down near the foot of the table but their performances of late don’t reflect that. On Saturday they pushed an Oxford United side pushing for promotion to the Championship all the way in the FA Cup and the previous weekend saw them deservedly overcome Eastleigh 3-2 at York Road. Prior to that the club went on one of the league’s longest runs without a win, however, manager Alan Devonshire will point to the fact that during that 14-match run, they often didn’t get the rub of the green. They drew with leaders Chesterfield, Oldham Athletic away and Rochdale at home and were very narrowly beaten in games against Barnet and Aldershot Town away, matches, the Magpies will feel they had the chances to win before going down late on. Despite this, they remain in the relegation zone, and it’s a slight concern that this recent run of improved form hasn’t lifted them out of the drop zone.
They're the second lowest scorers in the division - has a lack of goals been their main problem?
Maidenhead may well be the second lowest scorers in the division, but this goes back to their earlier matches in the season. There was a point where they were struggling to score – or even create – chances and were being edged out by the odd goal here and there. However, as assistant boss Ryan Peters said after Saturday’s game at the Kassam Stadium, they’ve been ‘scoring goals for fun’ recently. I think that’s backed up by the stats. They scored at least two goals in their five matches prior to FA Cup clash with Oxford United, however, conceding goals now seems to be their main concern. They’ve conceded 13 in their last six matches in all competitions and, in an effort to be more attacking and cause teams more offensive problems, they’ve left themselves a little open at the back. It’s the short blanket analogy, if they pull the covers over the defence and make themselves more difficult to beat, they struggle to score but the opposite happens if they go more offensive. Striking that balance is something I’m sure Alan Devonshire is wrestling with in training and matches, however, the return of some players from injury should help in that regard. Midfielder Kane Ferdinand returned to the side at Oxford following five weeks on the sidelines and his presence should give the Magpies more going forward and at the back.
What would be a successful season for them?
Survival would be a successful season for the Magpies. It may seem like a conservative aspiration, but consolidating their place in the division for a eighth consecutive season would be a real achievement given their limited resources. Once that is achieved – if it’s achieved – they can then look at setting new goals, but that’s the first target for the Magpies.
Who will be their dangermen and why?
Maidenhead’s dangermen tend to be their midfielders and wingers. The likes of Reece Smith, Jayden Mitchell-Lawson and Ashley Nathaniel-George are all given license to roam and get forward and all three of them have had positive seasons so far, particularly Smith, who scored the side’s winner in their recent home win over Eastleigh. Striker Chanka Zimba had also found some form in front of goal before picking up a knock in recent weeks, so they’ll be hoping he and Tobi Sho-Silva can find the form to fire the Magpies up the table in the coming months.
What's their style of play, what can Halifax expect to come up against?
Maidenhead will try to outwork their opposition, press well and win the ball high up the field to catch teams out in transition. They can often do this at York Road and dominated possession and territory in the first half against Eastleigh. However, they’re also adept at soaking up play and hitting teams on the counterattack through the pacey Mitchell-Lawson and Nathaniel-George. They’ll look to get in down the flanks and put in crosses for their strikers or midfielders running from deep, and also pose a threat from set pieces and corners through the likes of Remy Clerima, Kane Ferdinand and Will De Havilland etc.
Maidenhead do still have several players out, including Kevin Lokko, Chanka Zimba, and Shawn McCoulsky. However, quite a few have returned in recent weeks. At one stage this season they had around seven or eight players on the sidelines.
Likely line up and formation?
4-5-1 with the likes of Smith, Mitchell-Lawson, and Nathaniel-George supporting one loan striker, possibly Sho-Silva.