With the year about to turn maybe it’s a good time to have a look at Keith Hill’s work so far.
Hill took over at the end of August, with the announcement made barely within two hours of a 5-0 defeat at Gillingham. There was no time wasted, 48 hours on from that, a new team was effectively signed on a hectic deadline day, a whole summer’s work done in the space of a few hours.
It would be mid-September before the team got a first run-out. Optimism was high in a sold-out away end at Rotherham, and Thibaud Verlinden backed that up when he scored our first league goal of the season in the opening minutes. But that went quickly south. From there, progress was initially slow, the defence was quickly sorted, with just one goal conceded from open play in the next four games, away to Portsmouth. But scoring goals remained a problem, especially with Daryl Murphy having to recover from an injury before being able to play. When he started scoring, we started winning, picking up a first victory at Bristol Rovers before home successes in November against Fleetwood and MK Dons.
Then came a massive setback, when we lost 7-1 at Accrington, but our only defeat since then has come at Peterborough, although you could flip the coin and say the only win came against Southend (and then we were poor in large parts).
In Hill’s 15 games, he has won four of them and picked up 18 points. If you take only results from that first weekend he led the team out onwards, we’d be 17th in the table, which for the team we have, isn’t that great, but it is better than everyone around us in real life (apart from Wimbledon)
Some would argue that the gelling together of a new team meant we were effectively doing a pre-season in September and October. If you want to discount Hill’s first six games, then things look a bit better, we’ve won four of our last nine and had the season started that night when we won in Bristol, we’d be 10th, and just a point off the playoffs, and three off third place.
After a bedding in period, results have improved, and we’re probably doing okay given the amount of injuries we’ve had to put up with, while the football isn’t bad to watch. There are negatives you can point out, many people would have wanted Verlinden to have played more than he has – that penny seems to have dropped, while the Accrington game was badly managed once we went down to ten men, in dropping Bridcutt back to defence, not only did we not put a defender there, we also lost a shield in midfield.
There are also some out there who find his personality abrasive, and whether his criticism of some players has been better off left in-house.
In all though, Hill has made a solid start in very tough circumstances. Hopefully, he can be given enough wriggle-room next month and hopefully, results can further improve as the season goes on.