There’s a real chance that one thing could cost us our place in the top six at the end of the Championship season. Goals.
Before I begin, please note that this is not one of those piece where our forwards will be lambasted for their inability to take the chances that come their way. It’s simply an honest assessment of our performances since October when we went ahead of everybody in the goalscoring charts and a comparison to our opposition who have proven, lethal forwards at this level.
The bluntest statistic available is the goals scored column in which we sit 13th in the division. Each other side in the top 8 has scored more than our 38. Since going second on October 20th, we have scored just 19 goals in 19 games, far less than our direct challengers for the play-offs. We remain a wholly frustrating side to play against but our ability to finish games off is inconsistent at best.
It is an easy thing to say following the last three results. We have proved when we are in the mood that we can hit teams hard at the other end of the field. Ipswich, Derby, Fulham and Bristol City have all felt our forward power at different times of the season. It’s the sporadic nature of those results that is more concerning.
Against Bristol City we struggled to muster too many chances, Donaldson having the best on his left foot when Kieftenbeld played a beauty ball over the top for him. Against Sheffield Wednesday we had Buckley’s blocked effort, Donaldson’s tame one on one that was read and saved confidently, Donaldson’s close range effort that was saved before Buckley came steaming in and put the rebound over hesitantly. And against Rotherham Maghoma missed two decent chances while Donaldson’s power strike was admittedly well saved by Camp.
At the start of the season, our struggles against the ‘lesser’ sides was mostly about our inability to create chances. Now we have enough talent to create chances but our predatory instincts could cause concern as the season continues.
Donaldson has never looked a truly natural finisher but is always a livewire inside the six yard box. To an extent, he is quite similar to Cameron Jerome in that respect. James Vaughan has yet to have too many clear chances as he rebuilds both fitness and confidence having joined from Huddersfield Town. Jacques Maghoma and Jon Toral have chipped in with a few goals from midfield while David Cotterill has no doubt been a huge miss – particularly from set-pieces. Diego Fabbrini has never been a huge goal scorer while Buckley’s best total in the Championship was the 8 he scored with Brighton in two consecutive seasons.
The concern is naturally looking at the other sides around us and wondering whether we have enough firepower to elevate ourselves beyond them when it comes to seeing off the lesser sides in the division. Watching the confidence of players such as Andre Gray, Sam Vokes, Jordan Rhodes, Gary Hooper, Fernando Forestieri, Chris Martin and others in front of goal strikes a slight bit of envy at times. Can our boys finish chances like them and help us see off games in the manner of a side confidently heading for a top six finish?
There is little doubt in our abilities as far as commitment, defensive nous, defending at set-pieces and being able to hold the ball up in the final third is concerned. Our inability to keep hold of possession for pass after pass is no excuse as proven by our position at this stage. It doesn’t exactly hinder Leicester City in the Premier League either. Our direct style can make us one of the most enjoyable outfits to watch in the division when it goes right.
The key from now until the end of the season is being able to start games quickly, take our chances when they come and show the energy levels until the end of the game to ensure we hold onto our victory. Can we come from behind in games and get victory as Sheffield Wednesday were capable of at St.Andrews? Can our forward players keep composed when the chances come to them in the key moments of games? Can our new additions be the difference between an 8th and 6th place finish in the division?
Plenty of questions. Goal scoring heroes could well emerge during these final couple of months.