“On the opening day of the season Darren Moore had James Constable in his pocket. IN. HIS. POCKET” repeated Nick Harris on Radio Oxford like the bloke in the pub who has stumbled across a tactical insight and now thinks he’s Brian Clough.
Well, seven months later and Constable has clearly survived the attrition of the season better than Moore. Not really a surprise given that Moore is shifting a 36 year-old 6’ 2” frame around and giving away a decade of wear and tear to Constable.
Constable used his lower centre of gravity and Moore’s hefty bulk and lack of mobility to turn and twist the centre back to the point where he made his critical mistake to give away the penalty and gracefully leave the scene of his crime, beaten and frustrated.
He was instrumental in Tom Parkes’ sending off too. His mood was to agitate and hassle, lean into tackles and draw fouls from the opposition. I don’t know whether you could actually call this ‘playing well’, but it is effective and completely legitimate. OK, he ends up getting involved in a lot of shoving and finger pointing and argues the toss too much, but he was as much a match winner as the goalscorers.
Apparently last week Graham Westley offered a briefing to Paul Peschisolido on how to beat us. If true, it seems that the key piece of advice was to make the game as niggly as possible. From the ongoing argument between Chris Wilder and their assistant manager Gary Rowett on the touchline to the various shove-fests on the pitch.
However, where we seemed aghast at Stevenage’s cynical approach, we took Burton’s version of the rough stuff in our stride and used the energy it created to our advantage.
It still needed some cool heads though, and both Harry Worley – a titan under pressure throughout – and Jake Wright who broke up scuffles and exerted his authority on Steve McLean when he wouldn’t hand the ball to Tom Craddock for his penalty, showed a maturity that wasn’t so evident earlier in the season. The question is, has it come too late?