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Brian Caffarey - 27th August 2007

I spoke to Frank Gray this (Tuesday) evening to get his reactions to the two Bank Holiday games and to get an update on the injury situation.

I asked Frank, first of all, how disappointed he was to have gained only one point out of six. ?Obviously, I?d have hoped to have done better but we knew that they were both tough games. Cambridge were top of the table when they came to us and Salisbury had made an excellent unbeaten start, including winning both of their previous home games. I?m still very pleased, though, with the start which we?ve made to the season and we?ve now got two home games to look forward to.?

I mentioned Nick Gindre?s injury against Cambridge. I said that I understood that Nick felt that Leo Fortune-West had deliberately led with his elbow. ?I couldn?t see clearly what happened from where I was?, Frank responded. ?There were a lot of bodies there. In the end only one person ? Leo Fortune-West ? knows if it was deliberate or not.? Frank was pleased that Ross Worner had performed well: ?He was lucky that he had barely a save to make but he did well on a dangerous cross and his kicking was good. I wouldn?t have put him on the bench if I didn?t think he could have handled the situation. He was fortunate in a way, though, that he didn?t have time to think about playing: he just had to come on and do his stuff.? I asked Frank if he had thought about playing Ross in the Salisbury game. Frank said, however, that he didn?t think that it would have been fair to have put this pressure on Ross, given his youth and lack of experience. ?It would have been different selecting him in advance for that game, as opposed to coming off the bench unexpectedly against Cambridge. Although Alex McCarthy [who played in goal against Salisbury] is also young, he?s got a lot more experience than Ross, including representing England in the Under 17 side and has played at quite a decent level.? I asked if Frank had already identified Alex as a possible replacement for Nick in the event of the latter?s injury but Frank said that it was more a matter that our goalkeeping coach also works with Reading?s keepers, so knew Alex well. Frank confirmed finally that Alex had been brought in for one game only, on work experience terms, and that he expected Nick to be back in the side on Saturday against Forest Green Rovers.

Turning to the Salisbury game, I asked about the changes Frank had made from the Cambridge line-up. ?Tom Hutchinson has got a sore big toe. I don?t know if he?ll be fit enough to resume by Saturday. As for the other changes, I felt that, with games coming close together, it was good to have fresh legs on the pitch and therefore to give starting places to Adam Green and Michael Charles.? I commented that Giuseppe Sole had looked lively when he came on and Frank saw this as justification of his selection policy: ?Sometimes players benefit from a bit of a rest. Giuseppe was feeling a bit tired after Saturday?s game. Twenty minutes on the pitch on Monday was probably just right for him, and the goal he scored won?t have done his confidence any harm.?

I put to Frank the view which some fans had expressed that his first half formation on Monday was too defensive. Did he think, with the benefit of hindsight, that it would have been better to have started the game with the 4-4-2 formation he adopted in the second half rather than the 5-3-2 formation in the first half? Frank rejected this criticism. ?Why change a formation that had worked so well in previous games, including in the win in our last away game at Stafford? Why do people think that we would necessarily have played better if we?d started with a 4-4-2 formation? The wind was a big factor in the first half, blowing down the pitch. In any case, it was intended to be a 3-5-2 formation but we were pushed back.? I suggested that the concern was, rather, that the formation took Bradley Quamina out of the central midfield and left us exposed there. Frank?s view, however, was that someone ? be it Bradley, Jerome Maledon or Matt Pattison ? would have had to move into the wing back role.

Frank went on to ask, rhetorically, where fans thought that our current strengths lie. It is clearly the defence, he said, at present. We?ve got to play to those strengths for the time being and hope that the injury situation will improve and that players like Michael Charles will find their feet. This led me to ask about Matt Gray and Liam Marum. (I forgot to ask about Michael Charles, who limped off at Salisbury.) Frank confirmed that Matt Gray would need to have an operation for a groin injury: this is expected to take place in the next ten days or so. Frank is hoping that Liam may be fit enough to return to action in three or four weeks, although he has been told it could be longer. The problem is bruising to the bone and tissue in his calf. Frank agreed that Liam?s absence has been a big blow since it has reduced our attacking options very considerably.

Frank ended by saying that he is looking forward to our next two home games, against Forest Green Rovers and Weymouth. He noted that Rovers have started strongly and that Weymouth have some useful players and will have drawn confidence from their 0-0 draw at Exeter City.

Brian Caffarey
28 August 2007
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