Tom Jenkins examines why Wanderers struggle away and who is to blame for this…
Jekyll and Hyde has been used to describe Wanderers on a number of occasions this last year and with good reason. It appears that the side home fans view is one willing to give everything to the cause and, on occasion play some really nice football while those who make the extra effort to go away view a side who has forgotten how to play the game entirely. I love going to away games for the atmosphere and sheer jubilation when goals go in that, frankly, you don`t get at home games. Recently though I have shied away from these trips simply because of how painful we are to watch at times. Those who went to Huddersfield last week know what I mean.
This season we have only played “badly” for a total of about 90 minutes (first half at Middlesbrough and second half last week) which were incidentally both away from home and involved us conceding 6 goals in total. This would lead me to believe that it is a psychological thing that causes us travel sickness but if you look closer that is only part of the reason. It is well documented that Lennon screwed up with his tactics on Teesside, as he himself admitted, but I feel it is not just on that occasion he has made a blunder. While psychologically it didn`t help at all that we conceded on the stroke of half time last week what also didn`t help the team was dropping Gary Madine. Marc Iles of the BN said that the striker`s ‘head was down the whole game` and why wouldn`t it be after being dropped to then play 80 minutes. Coming into a game whilst still getting over the disappointment can`t have been easy and as man management goes this was a big DO NOT.
For me he has also got it wrong this season on other occasions such as at MK Dons (a game I attended). It was a game we dominated, should easily have won and yet lost by not taking chances. This may seem like it wasn`t Lennon`s fault but the main source of chances came through the partnership between Clough and Madine however Liam Feeney, the only natural wide player on the field at the time, was the man stuck up front. He had a poor game and stifled the amount of influence Clough could have. If Lennon wants to be defensive away from home and utilise the counter attack then wide players are essential yet that night this obvious tactic was overlooked and thus we lost what should have been an easy game.
My old friend history shows that this is a fairly long standing problem. A simple glance at the table of 2012/13 (our best recent showing in this league) shows we won 18 games overall with 4 victories away. However the next year the roles were reversed and our home form was the problem but, in fairness, that whole season was poor on both fronts and last year we again were worse away from home than at the Macron. Since we were relegated we have only amassed 66 points away which for me is a damning statistic given that promoted teams can gain that amount of points on their travels in little over a season.
So where does the blame lie? I have focussed on Lennon`s failings mainly but at the end of the day the players have to step up when things are harder. Most teams find it harder to go away from home but having a Jekyll and Hyde personality is a habit we must get out of. Consistency is the key to success and without stable form on both fronts this will be an impossible target.