It was a disappointing day at the office for Marc Richards and Gloucester City on Saturday afternoon as they went down 2-1 at home to a very impressive Slough Town side.
As good as Slough were, you can’t help but feel that Gloucester really were just not up to speed at all. Both in and out of possession the Tigers weren’t good enough and for probably 90% of the game, Richards’ side barely had a sniff.
The game brought about many talking points and even saw something I personally haven’t seen at a Gloucester game for some time: fans leaving 10 minutes early despite the deficit only being one goal.
There was an air of positivity following Gloucester’s win over Oxford City on Tuesday night but this weekend’s defeat has thrown up a few questions that need answering, fast.
Where is Harry Williams?
This is the big one on all Gloucester City fans lips: where is their star striker? Williams was brought into the club last season after leaving Sacramento Republic, with the Supporters Trust footing the bill for his wages. There was a lot of speculation as to whether or not Williams would remain with the Tigers for the 2018/19 season and the former Cheltenham Town man has had trials with Football League clubs in the summer, but nothing has come of them.
At the Supporters Trust AGM in July, Richards told fans that they would know by Friday 10 August if Williams was signing or not. Well, we’re now two days past that and, despite appearing in the Tigers team photo, there has been no word at all from the club regarding the situation. Is Williams with Gloucester for the near future or will he get his move? The radio silence seems deafening.
Does three at the back work?
It’s a system that Gloucester have played for the most part of 2018 since Richards took the job. We first saw them do it at Oxford City on New Year’s Day and it’s a philosophy that the Tigers boss has stood by ever since, but he’s not afraid to change it when he needs to. Against Slough, City lined up as a back three of Spencer Hamilton, Sam Avery and Jack Deaman with Joe Hanks and Adam Page as wing backs.
I’m no football manager, but it was plain to see how overrun the Tigers midfield were getting, with just Liddiard and Knowles as a duo in the centre of the park. It’s very bold and daring to experiment with fluid formations at National League South level and, yes, it has worked in the past for Richards but yesterday it didn’t go according to plan, with Gloucester lacking a lot of creativity in the middle. Which leads us on to…
Is Joe Hanks Gloucester’s best option at right wing back?
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen Hanks fill in at every position except left back for Gloucester City since signing for the club and he’s done a job when asked. He was deployed at right wing back last season and, for a natural central midfielder, did a decent job. We all know how good Hanks can be when he gets going forward, however defensively there was something lacking yesterday, Slough enjoyed themselves down both wings.
With the creativity Hanks brings to the team, is he wasted playing out at wing back when his creativity and tenacity could be brought further infield to support Liddiard and Knowles who, let’s be fair, are not the two most creative midfielders you’ll find at National League South level (they’ll do the dirty work, mind). With Hanks in the centre that frees up a space for Issac Kelly who, for one reason or another, hasn’t played at all this season.
Can Spencer Hamilton fully recover from last season’s knee injury?
I’ve got a lot of time for Spencer Hamilton, I really do. Last season he was performing at legitimate player of the season contender form, before a knee injury that didn’t seem to be too bad at first basically ended up writing his season off. Hamilton didn’t play on the opening day at Concord Rangers but has been in the team for the Oxford City and now Slough Town games, and his performances have left a lot to be desired.
Give him credit, Hamilton still has the same tenacity and fight that saw him turn heads prior to his injury last season, however he doesn’t look as comfortable as he did last season. Maybe that will come with time but with Matt Williams waiting in the wings Hamilton needs to improve quickly.
Are Gloucester in for a relegation battle this season?
In a nutshell: probably not. They have a lot of quality in the side and it’s just taking it’s time to gel at the moment. Jake Mawford shows flashes of individual excellence at times but went missing on a few occasions yesterday. Jake Jackson is a true poacher but Gloucester need to find ways of getting the ball to his feet in the box to reap the rewards.
It’s going to take a bit of time but provided Gloucester pick up results steadily whilst the team comes together a bit more, there’ll be nothing to worry about.