Crunch time for McMahon's Daggers
I didn’t want to relive the Notts County affair which followed the same pattern of games gone by, a narrow defeat which saw us unable to pose a serious attacking threat. So instead, I feel it better to focus on just what is going wrong, the predicament McMahon has and the imperative he sorts it out quickly… else, it’s another mid-table season dawning.
“There’s still a long way to go” - while that is true as we are only 18 games in (along with Notts County, everyone else having at least one game in hand) this almost false sense of security we were lulled into last season I believe is in danger of recurring. A never-ending nightmare, a nightmare of being unable to reach the play-offs; let alone the football league.
It’s the hope that kills you, some may say, but it’s more complex than that dismissive statement. There is plenty of reason for hope in this team, staff and club, this season like few before we began strongly and looked a real force to be reckoned with. A Stockport fan said just the other day that we are the best team they’ve seen at Edgeley Park all season, that opening day victory reminds us just why we had such faith in McMahon’s men - that game along with the unbeaten run that ensued.
“Keane - we’ve won two in twelve - the season goes on for longer than just August and September.” You say, as I’m reminiscing in the best parts of the season (the first day) amid this concerning slump which has seen us lose three league games on the bounce. But the earlier example is an example of what this team, under McMahon, can be and indeed has been very recently in the grand scheme of things.
I’m not here to cite excuses for the not only alarming results of late - but equally disenchanting performances that accompany those losses - no, but that not all hope is yet lost of this season and the issues don’t go as deep as we’re first inclined to believe.
I say this as injuries have left the team depleted and the playing style that won us consecutive games early on redundant. This is not to absolve anyone of blame and put it down to fate, as I have been a critic of how we went into this season - ‘Quality over quantity’ - because we need both to get out of this unforgiving league. But it is more to add context to this situation that we’re in and accept where we are, what we currently have and crucially how we overcome this situation.
Besides the obvious injury woes which have left the squad exposed to its bare bones, the fact we’re just that bit ‘short’ at the back must be addressed efficiently, by delving into the market over the coming weeks. This being essential, if we are serious about the play-off push this season.
Some have already written us off, which I believe is too soon yet understandable, after watching us lose at Meadow Lane in the freezing Nottingham night. But it is a host of issues that need to be solved quickly, if this season isn’t to become another mid-table disappointment that we’ve seen too many times in recent years.
If you haven’t stopped scrolling by now as I attempt to give McMahon an opportunity to prove himself as the man to take us back to the football league; here is why I still have some hope: we are a football club first and foremost, a business second. The owners have indicated that they will buy Daryl the players he needs (within good reason) to take us to where we need to be, during the season, if need be. They did it before, I’m of the belief they should give him one last opportunity again.
But, it is on Daryl McMahon now to source the players we need, which are a centre back we’ve been crying out for since the summer and a couple of experienced, reliable squad players who are capable of steering this team through a tough winter period. The evidence for the former is in the two goals we conceded on Saturday (just one of countless examples), I mean, just the apathy on the faces of supporters around me in that away end as those goals were scored.
The apathy captured in those few seconds, which I’m sure were reflected in the living rooms of those supporters who couldn’t make the trip, is the reason we need a centre-back who is dominant in the air - that can’t be repeated at the current frequency it is if we’re to clinch play-offs.
Now, the answer in part could already be on our bench and this ‘delving into the market’ half-complete, but we’re yet to see Richard Taylor (the 6ft 2in defender we signed last Tuesday) in action. As for ‘topping-up’ our squad in order to have both the quality and depth, that remains a different task, perhaps one John Still would’ve helped complete?
Either way, the injuries shouldn’t be seen as a ‘misfortune’ or ‘excuse’ for a downturn in form but an incentive to go out and invest in this team and overcome the problems we face - as a matter of urgency.
When at our best, I feel we’re one of the best in the league, we know what McMahon and his players are capable of - but they aren’t delivering - this adds a further layer to our frustration.
Fortunately there is no better time to help put it right, or at least back on the right path, than in front of a Victoria Road crowd against Grimsby on Saturday.
Let’s hope things change, as they must, very soon.