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DEFENDING UNDER SCRUTINY FROM BLUES BOSS

3 months ago By Stevie R

Neil Baker says his players need to sort out their ‘Achilles heel’ if they are to be a major force this season.

Blues were undone by two more set-pieces by Charnock Richard on Saturday in their FA Cup preliminary round replay and Baker says it’s becoming an all-too familiar tale.

Several times already this season Leek have conceded goals from set-pieces and the manager says it’s something that needs to be sorted sooner rather than later.

Baker had the players in for a training session on Monday night ahead of their first round qualifying match at Rotherham-based Parkgate from the North East Counties League Division One on Wednesday night and planned to work on defending.

Speaking to the Sentinel he said, “Conceding goals from set-pieces has become our Achilles heel this season.”

“Charnock Richard scored an equaliser from a set-piece on Saturday purely and simply because we failed to get our starting positions right to attack the ball. It’s something I will be working on with the players ahead of Wednesday’s game at Parkgate because we need to sort it out.”

Blues travel with a big carrot dangling in front of them to win the game. If they beat Parkgate (7.45pm), then National League North leaders Chorley are their next opponents.

The Lancashire outfit have made a storming start to the season, winning eight and drawing one of their opening nine games resulting in their manager Jamie Vermiglio being named manager of the month for August.

Baker says it will be a big test for his players, but first they have to beat Parkgate.

“It’s a big incentive for everyone at the club. They are flying high at the top of their league at the moment, so whoever wins tonight will have a tough task on their hands. But these are the kind of challenges players should relish, the chance to test themselves against teams at a higher standard.

“I have had many a good game against Chorley in the past and it’s a fixture I will look forward to, but as I keep reminding the players, Parkgate will have a big say in who plays them.”

He said: “They haven’t made the best of starts in the league, but they have shown they are capable of beating teams at a higher level. They will come into this game as underdogs with nothing to lose, as they would have done at Brighouse and they won that game.

“Not so long ago, we played Clitheroe in a league match. They came to us bottom of the table with no points, but headed back up north with three after beating us 2-1.

“The point I’m making is, we can’t afford to take any team lightly. We have to be on top of our game from the first whistle and impose our authority. On paper, we should be the better team at Parkgate, but that sometimes counts for nothing.”

Baker will have Mat Bailey and Niall Maguire available for the game game after they both missed Saturday’s 3-2 victory over Charnock Richard. That match also saw the return of central defender Darren Chadwick and midfielder Sam Hall following calf and ankle injuries respectively.

Chadwick played the whole 90 minutes, while Hall was replaced by Harry Brazel on 72 minutes. Baker said: “It was good to see Darren and Sam return to action, and with the return of Mat (Bailey) and Niall (Maguire) it gives me a few more options.”

Baker was also impressed by academy graduate Jessy Bavaganga, who was handed his first start of the season. The 17-year-old slotted in at right-back and Baker says he hardly put a foot out of place.

“It was good experience for him and he certainly didn’t let us down. He coped well under pressure and has a good temperament, certainly one for the future.”

Updated 09:13 - 15 Sep 2018 by Stevie R

Where next?

GATE-WAY TO CHORLEY REMAINS OPEN Blues lived to fight another day after drawing their Emirates FA Cup First Qualifying Round at NCEL side Parkgate 2-2.
RAMSBOTTOM NEXT SATURDAY KRAFTWERK INSPIRED MATCH POSTER REVEALED

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