It’s a fact not lost on manager Paul Carden, who knows what his team needs, but the Bucks boss insists that he won’t gamble with the clubs playing budget to secure a player who turns out not to be the one.
Carden is hoping that he has found Mr Right in Jamie Allen, who most recently played for FC Halifax Town in the National League, before an unsuccessful spell at the villa.
That’s not Aston Villa, but rather the villa on ITV2’s ‘Love Island’ dating gameshow, where Allen spent only a few days after being introduced as a cast member in the show’s closing weeks.
The Bucks could do with Allen being not just Mr Right, but also Mr Right Now. Jason Oswell has taken a step backwards with his calf injury, and Nate Blissett was struggling with injury also, meaning the Bucks played this game without a recognised striker. Byron Moore, who returned to the side impressively at Haig Avenue on Saturday, has played as a central striker in the past and was employed by Carden in a front three, flanked by Brendon Daniels and Devarn Green.
The trio did exert a fair degree of control in this contest, but alas the lack of a striker by trade meant that tidy approach work often fizzled out around the edge of the penalty area.
That wasn’t the only change made by Carden in his search for more potency. Prince Ekpolo was selected over Liam Nolan and was probably the Bucks’ outstanding performer, while Kobe Jae Chong also returned to the side and showed in flashes that he has the potential to be the Bucks’ X factor’; however, Chong currently appears unable to sustain that over a longer period, and he faded from the contest.
There was to be an ex-factor in this game, provided by Sean Newton. The Buxton centre-half was a promotion-winning left-back over a decade ago in Andy Sinton’s 2011 Bucks side, scoring a penalty in the promotion final victory over Guiseley. Newton has always been an impressive striker of a dead ball and when the Bucks conceded a cheap free-kick in the 43rd minute, Newton struck a beauty with his left foot, bending the ball powerfully over the defensive wall from 25 yards and past the flailing dive of Luke Pilling the ball nestling inside Pilling’s left post.
That goal felt very much like a smash and grab. Buxton, also nicknamed the Bucks, had shown little in the rest of the first half, while the home side showed more willingness to take the initiative.
Chong was involved early on, and after a team-mate had a shot blocked from Ekpolo’s header down inside the box, Chong’s follow-up shot from 18 yards was saved by Theo Richardson. The keeper was the busier of the two, snatching a Brad Bood cross away from Devarn Green, but looked a little at sea when defender Harry Flowers met a Daniels free-kick at the far post, glancing his effort wide.
Bood, who has just celebrated his 19th birthday, has made an impressive return to the side but came out second best in a couple of physical challenges. He was caught by a careless challenge from Buxton right-back Levi Andoh, one where the two collided, Matrix-style, in midair and Bood was flipped through 180° before landing heavily. Andoh could consider himself lucky not to be booked for the challenge.
Ekpolo’s industry was helping the Bucks to press, aiming to turn over possession close to the Buxton penalty area, and further half chances resulted. Flowers and his captain Matty Brown both ended up trying to get on the end of another Daniels freekick and ended up in a heap together on the floor, neither getting their head on the ball as the opportunity disappeared. Chong’s quick feet earned him enough space on the edge of the penalty area to see a left foot shot blocked, and if the visitors sensed things weren’t going their way, they were to worsen.
Striker Jason Gilchrist had already required attention from the physio, and when he went down for a second time, he had to be replaced; Buxton’s talismanic striker Diego DeGirolamo entered the fray but left his manager Jamie Vermiglio with only two other outfield substitutes, the former Bucks midfielder able to name only four replacements on the bench.
Chong and Ekpolo remained involved in some of the Bucks’ brighter moments, but it looked set to be goalless at the interval until Newton exerted just the right amount of gravitational force on to his free-kick.
Bucks fans may have been inclined to think ‘Here we go again’, but within a minute their side was level. A cross into the box from the left was controlled beautifully by Ekpolo and although he looked set to shoot, he unselfishly laid the ball to his left, where Daniels took a touch before firing past Richardson left-footed from 12 yards
The Bucks started the second half brightly and defender Sean Brisley conceded a corner when swinging a leg at Daniels’ cross to prevent it from reaching further into the box.
Daniels’ eyes probably lit up a few minutes later when Andoh finally went into the referee’s notebook, blatantly stepping across Devarn Green to stop him racing onto the ball, having nudged it past the full-back.
The Bucks won a series of opportunities to put the ball into the penalty area but their delivery was too often lacking. Brown got his head on to a couple of balls into the box but was unable to get them on target.
Around the hour mark, the game appeared to open up for a spell. Buxton’s Serhat Tasdemir saw a 25-yard shot take a big deflection that took it away from goal and out for a corner.
With just under a quarter of the game remaining, Moore combined well with substitute Carl Baker to create an opportunity to cross from the left; Baker’s delivery took a deflection and arched towards goal, forcing Richardson to punch clear from the head of Green. His clearance went straight to Ekpolo and perhaps surprised by the opportunity the midfielder couldn’t control his header towards what was a largely unguarded net putting the effort wide.
The Bucks appeared to know that one goal would probably do it, but that only seemed to increase their anxiety levels when they got close to the target. Daniels whistled a cross just too far in front of Green, and both teams appeared to be trying to force the issue. However in the 84th minute, a lengthy stoppage after a nasty clash involving the Bucks Jordan Piggott saw the momentum lost, and both sides appeared to settle for holding what they had.
The visitors did have late claims for a penalty ignored, although it appeared to be their fans more than their players who felt that Flowers had a hold of the shirt of a Buxton forward whilst nodding the ball back to Pilling.
For the second time over the weekend, the Bucks had displayed more enterprise than their opponents, albeit relative. However, while Carden maintains his team are moving in the right direction, failure to work the opposition goalkeeper enough remains a frustration to supporters.
It is a frustration Carden shares, but the solution remains tantalisingly out of reach.