I spoke to Frank Gray earlier this (Thursday) evening to get an update before Saturday?s FA Trophy game at Hemel Hempstead Town. Frank was speaking from his sick bed: he?s been struck down by a bug of some kind but expects to be fit enough to go to the game.
We spoke first about last Saturday?s game at Histon. Frank was naturally very pleased with the result and the performance: ?We played particularly well in the first half and we felt that we were unlucky to go in with the score at 0-0 at half-time. Histon had a couple of good chances late on but we stood up to the pressure well. We knew how Histon played and we were ready for everything they threw at us.? I asked Frank if he agreed that the first half performance was the best this season. He thought that it was perhaps rivalled by our first half at Oxford ? another game in which we had taken the game to the opposition straight from the kick-off. I also sought Frank?s reaction to the argument put by Clive Youlton and others that our improved performance in recent games was at least partly due to switching to a 4-4-2 formation. Frank was prepared to concede that perhaps our shape looked a bit better on Saturday but pointed out that we had also looked compact in some other games when we?d played 3-5-2. He preferred to emphasise the quality of our play in recent games and the team?s hard work.
Looking ahead to Saturday, Frank confirmed that Marvin Morgan, serving the final game of his three match suspension, and Matt Pattison, following his yellow card at Histon, will both be missing. This will of course be Joe Gatting?s last game before he returns to Brighton and Hove Albion at the end of his three month loan. On the injury front, Frank says that Bradley Quamina may possibly be fit on Saturday but doubted whether Jerome Maledon would be available. Frank watched Hemel Hempstead on Tuesday night when they lost 3-2 at home to Banbury. He ? rather than me ? introduced the parallel with the Staines FA Cup game, saying ?We know that it?s going to be another tough game. We don?t want another result like our game against Staines. Hemel Hempstead are in an equivalent position to Staines in their league, so we know what to expect. They are billing this game as the biggest in their history ? they?ve never reached the first round of the Trophy before ? so they will clearly be ?up? for this match.?
I took the opportunity to ask Frank for his reaction to the Setanta Shield draw, which pitches us at home to Stevenage Borough on Saturday 22 December. ?Of course it?s a tough draw, but it will be tough for Stevenage too. It?s a good draw: it?s an attractive game, against rivals, and we?re at home. It will be Peter Taylor?s first visit to Kingfield since he took charge, so that will provide added interest too.?
I asked Frank, finally, about the reports that some funds will be made available to him to strengthen the squad in the January transfer window. Frank confirmed that he had had discussions with David Taylor and that he had a fair idea of what he would have to spend. He indicated that his first priority would be to bring a forward in to replace Joe Gatting but also said that he would be hoping to persuade Kevin James to remain at the club. He commented, though, that Kevin ?was naturally keeping his options open at present?.