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View From The Dolan: Moving In The Right Direction

Ben’s take on an encouraging 1-1 draw with West Ham at the SCL.

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Well well well. Rolls around quick, doesn’t it? It feels like just last week that we were wrapping up against WBA (who I now hate) at the SCL. Effectively, I was homeless for this game, so ended pitching up in the Lower West.

With the pitch basking in sunlight and more pairs of sunglasses than you could shake an angry East London fist at, it bought back memories of past pre-season friendlies. The only thing missing was an ice cream van outside the new Megastore (it’s not new - they’ve just rebadged it you fool!) and we were in for a day at the beach.

Interestingly, not a grain of sand was to be found on the newly relaid pitch - I know because I went on briefly before the match to check the position of the sprinklers for an upcoming half-time game. It really was outrageously luscious and the groundspeople deserve a massive slice of gratitude and thanks for turning it around so quickly since the end of 2021/22.

Formation wise, the teamsheet messed me up big time. At first I thought 4-3-3, but it quickly transpired that it was in fact 3-4-3. Ince SNR clearly felt we needed to behave like a mid-table Spanish team. I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed the three centre backs. With Hutch deeper, it allowed the two Toms the license to bomb forward down the middle (with the actual ball at their actual feet) when the need arose.

Other notable points of the first half were Shane Long warming up (he wears Tiempos - the boot of choice for unflashy workhorses), Lumley smashing the ball into the barren Upper West, Holmes frogsplashing Antonio onto the canvas around the 32-minute mark and Declan Rice wearing trainers to warm up in. I said a little prayer (it wasn’t a prayer) at HT, hoping that there weren’t wholesale changes at the break. There weren’t and I was glad.

It didn’t take long for our visitors to break the deadlock, which wasn’t too upsetting given the standard of oppo we were playing. A sprinkling of subs were made, with Long, Meite and Guinness-Walker all coming on. The latter two were directly involved in the equaliser, with GW keeping the ball alive and interchanging with TMac for Meite to meet the inswinging cross. Attractive football all around.

Truth be told, I left on the 82-minute mark. I needed a wee and some water and I’d had my fill of footballing feasting. I compared my overall feelings to how I felt last year when we played West Ham and I can honestly say I feel more positive now. We aren’t going to get promoted (probably) but there is something building here and the players coming in have character.

I was asked if I’d sign Guinness-Walker. The answer is yes. If that’s the system we are looking to play, he fits that and we need balance with Yiadom on the right. Until he came on, it didn’t really work down the left and so I’d definitely be interested in seeing him at Wimbledon on Tuesday (if it goes ahead of course).

Overall, a positive day. Great to be back, splendid to see some old faces on and off the pitch and encouraging to see a system starting to take shape. I do plan on going on Tuesday (weather permitting - lols) but either way, I think we are in for an exciting week as our pre-season culminates with Brighton next Saturday.

Have a good week, stay safe and take care.