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League Two

Sammy McIlroy's Blog 1

22 August 2012

Remind me never to do the betting coupons for npower League 2 because if the first week of the new season is anything to go by, we're set for an extremely unpredictable campaign.

Take Burton Albion for example. They were convincingly put to the sword by Rotherham United at the beautiful New York Stadium, yet a few days later they entertain AFC Wimbledon - who kept a clean sheet on the opening day - and blitz them 6-2. That's some turnaround, it really is.

Even though they sit in mid-table on three points, I do wonder if that defeat will prove to be damaging to AFC Wimbledon. It's never nice to ship six goals but when it happens in your second game of the season, it's a little bit worrying and could affect morale and self-belief.

If I were in the manager's shoes, I'd watch the match over again on DVD, maybe twice, and then break it down into four or five minutes' worth of footage that needed to be studied by the players. We'd sit and watch the bad bits - analysing where we could have done better - and then, so that we ended on a positive note, I'd play some of the good pieces of play we produced before they went home.

The message has to be clear; we're two matches into the season so this isn't a crisis, but you have to drill it into the players that such a poor performance defensively cannot be allowed to happen again.

I mentioned the Millers, and their follow-up result was another surprise to me. You'd have expected Rotherham United to have got something out of their trip to Northampton Town but it appears the Cobblers are going to be a tougher nut to crack this year.

Aidy Boothroyd's men have had two tricky tests so far and sit nicely on four points, which shows me the team is pulling together for the manager. He's got his own players in now and they will have gained great confidence from the start they've made. Sixfields can be an intimidating stadium when it's packed out, so if they get on a roll and the fans flock to see them, I can see it being a bit of a fortress for them.

At the top I'm not hugely surprised to see Oxford United and Gillingham get off to a flyer but two wins from two for Accrington Stanley is something I didn't see coming. To take six points from good sides such as Southend United and Port Vale is a massive bonus for them. I'm told keeper Ian Dunbavin has been outstanding so far, and I can well believe it because he's one of the league's best shot stoppers.

Southend have endured a horrible start. They were hammered 4-0 by Peterborough United in the Capital One Cup, did everything but score in a 1-0 loss at home to Stanley, and then they went down to 10 men early on at Oxford before succumbing to a 2-0 defeat. Not the beginning the Shrimpers were looking for.

All I can say is that Southend must relax. There's no need to panic and think, 'oh my God what are we going to do', because they haven't become a poor side all of a sudden. One win and they'll quickly start climbing the table, I'm sure of that.

I'll end this season's opening blog with a few words on my old side Morecambe, who would have been buzzing with their 3-0 victory at Exeter City last Saturday.

I don't know what it is about Morecambe but their away record has been excellent for a few seasons now, even dating back to the time when I was manager. They won seven times on the road in 2010/11 and eight times last season, drawing another eight, too, which was very impressive. Big Jim Bentley usually operates with a 4-5-1 system on their travels, playing fast counter-attacking football and it's a formula that works a treat for them.

It's important to prepare properly for away games, so I ensured we only travelled on the day when it was a local fixture, and that's a policy the club has continued with. It's crucial you stay overnight in a hotel so that the players aren't knackered before kick-off thanks to a gruelling journey on the morning of the game.

Now Morecambe must make their new stadium a harder place for visiting sides to come and win. If they were as consistently successful at home as they are away, they would be pushing for promotion. I wish them well.


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