LEWES boss Tim O’Shea this week explained his selection and substitution decisions after the Rook’s 4-0 defeat at Dover Athletic on Tuesday.
Lewes performed better than the one-sided scoreline suggests (see match report below) but some fans expressed surprise on the unofficial fans’ forum about O’Shea’s decision to pick two players more known for their defensive attributes in the centre of the midfield – while others wrote of their bemusment at the half-time substitution of captain and Rooks’ long-time “seven-out-of-ten” man Anthony Barness.
O’Shea said: “In patches I thought we did quite well. The gap between the two sides in terms of league position wasn’t evident in patches.
“When you concede a soft goal after 49 seconds you give yourself a mountain to climb against a very good team. And I felt with the second goal we tried to be a bit clever on the edge of our box and got outmuscled.”
O’Shea explained his decision to play two players – Chris Breach and Andy Pearson – who might normally be regarded as central defenders in the centre of midfield.
“We had a game plan of having the two boys in front (of the defence) who were going to shore things up and that all goes out the window (after the early goal).
“Breach has played there (midfield) before anyway. Although they’re classed as centre halves, they have both played there before.
“Jermaine Wright was suspended; I could have gone for (Jamie) Crellin but I went for players who had played more recently. And although we knew they weren’t the kind of players who would produce defence-splitting passes, we wanted people who could stand toe-to-toe against a very good team – and I felt the two competed very well.
“A 4-0 scoreline makes it look like we’ve been taken to the cleaners. But overall I wasn’t too disappointed.”
The two stand-out performances on the day were from Harry Baker and Adam Birchall, who were involved in every Dover attack and shared the Whites goals with two apiece.
“The third goal [scored by Birchall] was class,” said O’Shea. “He should be playing at least two divisions higher than he is. I think the middle two (Breach and Pearson) and the back two (Tom Hutchinson and debutant John Scarborough did ok against probably the two best attackers in the division. And Ben Godfrey got through a hell of a lot of work.”
However, one player who did not earn praise from O’Shea on Tuesday was captain Barness, and the ex-Chelsea and Bolton full back’s non-appearance after the interval raised eyebrows amongst some of the travelling contingent of Rooks fans. O’Shea explained: “I was disappointed with Barney in the first half. He was at fault for the first goal and I think with the second goal as well: the ball came over a long way to Baker, who seemed to have a long time to get the ball down and pick his spot. For someone of his experience it was disappointing.
“I also wanted to have someone who could get forward more and I thought Nathan Green could do that.
“But to be fair to Barney he put his hand up in the dressing room and was getting round the lads and wishing them good luck for the second half. He dealt with it (the substitution) brilliantly. I like working with Barney, there’s no fall out or anything like it. Barney’s is very important to this team and will probably be playing on Saturday.”
Talking of 33-year-old Scarborough, who looks an impressive addition to the squad after joining from high-flying Bromley late last week, O’Shea said: “It isn’t about money. He could have got more elsewhere and was offered more elsewhere. But he wasn’t playing and was keen to get back playing.
“He’s going to bring experience and he was performing very well at Bromley and sitting at the top of the league. His experience will bring a calming influence to others around him who maybe aren’t used to the situation that they’re in.”
And of Ross Sutton’s move to Hastings United, the Lewes manager said: “He’s joined up with Jason (Hopkinson) who he’s worked with before. By his own admission he wasn’t quite where he wanted to be fitness-wise. He’s got to get fit but he needs to play. With Jason he’s going to play regularly and I couldn’t offer him that.”
Looking ahead to tomorrow’s game at Ebbsfleet and Monday’s game at home to Welling, “Tosh” said: “I think Ebbsfleet will be very similar to Dover, possibly with a bit more muscle about them. (Liam) Daish has got things settled there and now they’re on the top of their game.
“Every one of our players will have to be at the top of .their game for us to have any chance of getting something out of the game. But we’ll be up for going there and putting on a performance.
“And Welling are another top four side. These teams aren’t up there for no reason. They have been consistent performers over their 17 games so far this season. Jamie (Day, Wings’ manager) has brought in some good players. He’s signed two strikers, Andy Pugh and Luis Cumbers, from Gillingham – two good centre forwards who know where the back of the net is.
“Again, we will definitely have to be on top of our game against them.”