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Analysis: Telford are not learning the lessons as defeats pile up

An eighth consecutive loss in the Vanarama National League North arrived less because of great play from their opponents and more because AFC Telford United invited trouble.

Jamie Allen chasing a long ball.
Jamie Allen chasing a long ball.

Although Kevin Wilkin’s team were missing the services of several of their more experienced personnel for this match, there should have been enough nous in the team to understand that at this level, most teams are capable of punishing any elementary errors.

Sadly, the Bucks aren’t learning, and until they do you have to surmise that painful losses will continue. Any opportunity to collect a reward from this game had evaporated by half-time; Curzon had established a commanding 3-0 lead without having to work overly hard, and that has to be the biggest concern of all.

It’s not unreasonable for fans to feel that if the Bucks are going to go down then they should go down fighting, or making it hard for teams. At the moment they are simply making it hard for themselves.

Wilkin’s challenge is that until he can find and bring in more reliable and stronger characters, he has to find ways to extract more from the players he currently has.

Although fans might have been tempted to do so in his position, Wilkin revealed that there were no harsh words or hairdryer treatment meted out, simply because he feels that would be counter-productive for a group of players who are giving their all but collectively aren’t up to the standard.

Wilkin’s search to strengthen the group has so far only yielded young loan players; realistically, it may not be until January, when clubs start to assess their position, that he is able to source more experienced recruits. Another loanee, Abdi Sharif from Wigan Athletic, started this game, one of two changes to the personnel, along with the return of Bailey Sloane at left-back.

Sloane’s restoration to the starting XI came in response to the loss of captain Matty Brown through illness. Sharif, although not a direct replacement, stepped into a midfield shorn of Jordan Piggott as a result of a knee injury. The absence of Piggott, who performed creditably in a defensive midfield role in midweek against Kidderminster, gave Wilkin further selection issues, and Jamie Allen, more of an attacking player, filled in at right-back whilst the on-loan Adam Senior switched to the centre to partner Harry Flowers.

It was the Nash from whom the Bucks signed Flower in spring last season, the defender seen as a marquee signing and a player to build a side around by previous manager Paul Carden.

However, life has been far from rosy for Flowers at Telford, and he endured a difficult afternoon against his former side.

The Bucks had made a reasonable start to the game, with Mo Faal, the striker on loan from West Bromwich Albion, firing a low shot into the side netting after beating his man on the left of the 18-yard box. Curzon’s response saw Flowers head the ball away from the lurking Tom Peers, once a Telford player, when Craig Mahon was allowed to measure a cross from the right, and then goalkeeper Luke Pilling’s first real action was to save low down from Benni Smales-Braithwaite.

But in the 27th minute the hosts struck. Allen’s inclusion at right-back had raised a few curious looks, and whilst Allen’s pace made him a good match for the on-loan Barrow winger, his lack of positional sense at right-back contributed to the Nash taking the lead.

Flowers and Allen both went for the same ball, which fell to Smales-Braithwaite who fired a low shot into the bottom corner.

Within minutes Flowers, again pulled wide to cover the right-back position, scythed down defender Devon Matthews. An inswinging free-kick invited a touch and got one from Nash left-back Connor Hampson.

By half-time it was 3-0, and the same players for the Nash did the damage. Smales-Braithwaite took on Allen down the left, getting just ahead of the right-back to deliver a dangerous near-post cross which Hobson got his head onto. Hobson’s header either struck the post or defender Sloane but ran clear to Richards, and he smashed a rising, angled shot past a floundering Pilling from 12 yards.

Facing another humiliating afternoon, the Bucks did show some resolve in the second half, but in truth the hosts had no need to push for anything more, having established a position in which they had control, something Wilkin laments his side are rarely able to achieve.

In the last ten minutes Wilkin gave substitute Kai Williams a run-out, his first competitive action since sustaining a fracture to his foot against Bradford (Park Avenue) in late January, and the Nash went close to a fourth goal, Pilling saving a shot fired straight at him by centre-half Matthews after a corner.

Telford (4-4-2): Pilling, Allen, Sloane (Bood 54), Senior, Flowers, Ekpolo, Chong, Daniels (Evans 54), Sharif (Williams 82), Faal, Blissett (c). Subs not used: Burroughs, Moore.

Curzon Ashton: Renshaw, Richards, Poscha, Matthews, Hampson, Barton, Walker, Mahon (c), Smales-Braithwaite (Hayhurst 76), Hobson (Stephenson 61), Peers. Subs not used: Hancock, Ollerenshaw.

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