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League Two

Sammy McIlroy's Blog 19

28 December 2012

Goalscorers get all the glory, but what about the heroics of those who tee the strikers up with so many fabulous and frequent opportunities? Blazing the trail this season is Southend United's Kevan Hurst who already has an impressive 13 assists to his name.

I worked with Kevan at Morecambe and he's a lovely, lovely lad, so I'm thrilled to see him playing so well for Paul Sturrock down in Essex. Some boys need a rocket every now and then to keep them on their toes but he's not like that at all. He won't thrive on being told he needs to buck his ideas up. No, Kevan Hurst is a classic arm-around-the-shoulder player, who needs to know he's wanted. If he's happy and content, Hurst can be an unbelievable player, and he's showing it this season for the Blues.

Another player in the form of his life for Southend United is Gavin Tomlin, who will have been buzzing to net a brace against his former employers Dagenham and Redbridge on Boxing Day. That's 13 goals for him in his last 11 matches. Wow.

Every promotion team needs a striker to supply a steady stream of goals. Earlier this season Britt Assombalonga was on fire for Sturrock's side and now it's Tomlin. Having someone up front that you know will tuck away the chances gives the rest of the side much more confidence. If you go a goal down you don't worry so much because you're aware of the threat your attack poses at the other end.

When I managed strikers who were red hot my advice to the team was obvious and simple; give him the ball at every single opportunity.

The top seven in the npower League 2 is beginning to have a familiar feel to it, and I suspect those same clubs might be the ones we see occupying the highest places come the end of April. Inside the top seven are some big clubs, and some ambitious clubs, so I'm not surprised to see any of them there.

Arguably the biggest shock among them, are Port Vale. This is a club that nearly went out of business in the summer, so when you reflect on that they are doing remarkably well.

Micky Adams probably hasn't been given enough credit for the work he's done at Port Vale. Financial worries do affect player performances, so his man management this season must be applauded.

He'll have been reassuring them that everything's going to be okay, even if he hasn't been sure of it himself - and that's not a skill every gaffer can master.

Footballers can be quite nervy and precious at times. They like to know what's around the corner, so well played to everyone at Vale Park for producing some superb football this term despite the uncertainties that have lingered.

Barnet upset leaders Gillingham on Boxing Day, but I half expected it. The Bees really didn't need a team talk at the Priestfield coming up against their old boss Martin Allen, and with the away fans giving Mad Dog plenty of stick from the terraces, the players' spirits will have been lifted.

Eight times out of 10 Gillingham would beat Barnet but when a side has the bit between their teeth and has a point to prove, it's amazing how often you see the tables turned.

I was among those that feared Barnet's appointment of Edgar Davids as joint head coach was a publicity stunt but the Dutchman's making me eat my words.

If you didn't know he was a former superstar player you really wouldn't be aware of it, and that's a big compliment to Davids. He's not swanning around the place acting like a big-name star; he's knuckled down and put in some serious work on and off the pitch to get acclimatised to the division.

Those like me who wondered if his arrival was a gimmick have been made to look silly because Davids' attitude has been spot on. He's behaving professionally and despite a slight increase in the club's profile it hasn't become the circus that some feared it would.

Barnet looked dead and buried but I wouldn't bet against them surviving relegation again this term now. They're showing a real taste for the battle.

Just 10 points separate 24th place from 16th, so any side that endures a bad run in the coming weeks will get nervy and look over their shoulders. Accrington Stanley were in the Play-Off spots not so long ago, but now they're in that very position and it must be uncomfortable for them.

npower League 2 is so competitive this year and at this stage it's impossible to call who will end up in the bottom two. The pressure is beginning to mount on everyone in the lower reaches of the table.

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