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Matt Holland's Blog 14

21 November 2012

There were 11 npower Championship games on Saturday and in five of those matches headed goals were scored from corners. Technically Jordan Rhodes' hat-trick goal for Blackburn Rovers at Peterborough United was a header from another header and Troy Deeney's winner for Watford against Wolverhampton Wanderers was a short corner but the point stands.

It proves that corners are still a productive source of goals but whenever there's a glut of scoring like we witnessed this weekend, the debate about man marking versus zonal marking is reignited and there are plenty of pundits who argue defending at set pieces is a dying art.

Personally, I don't think it's that clear cut. As a player, I grew up with the man marking system but I do believe that modern defenders are much more wary of referees and just aren't able to get as tight as players 10 or 20 years ago. Referees are much more aware of the jostling and shirt tugging that goes on in the box and defenders are scared of getting caught.

That gives strikers more freedom to find space and that leads to more headed goals.

Saying that, I always felt more comfortable with a man marking system because every player has to take responsibility and do their individual job. When you adopt man-to-man marking from a corner, there's no hiding place in the dressing room if you make a mistake. If your man scores, it's obvious who is to blame.

I see teams with a zonal system conceding goals and as soon as the ball hits the back of the net, the players look at each other and immediately try and absolve themselves of responsibility. With a zonal system, it's easier to hide and blame someone else for allowing the opposition to score.

When I was at Charlton Athletic, we went with man marking with a tweak. Everyone had their man to cover or were on the post but Hermann Hreidarsson was given the licence to attack the ball rather than pick up a specific player. He was the best header in the side and we felt that the combination of a tight man-for-man set-up plus Hermann with a free role worked well for us.

On Sunday, Millwall beat Leeds United 1-0 at the Den with a late Chris Wood header. It didn't come from a corner but the win did make it 10 npower Championship games without defeat for Kenny Jackett's side, making the Lions the in-form team in the division.

Kenny celebrated his fifth anniversary in charge at the club earlier this month and after an awful start to the season, Millwall are racing up the table and if they can maintain their momentum, they could be Play-Off candidates.

At the moment, Millwall are a potent mix of good individuals playing in a good unit. They're very difficult to contain and they look like they've got goals all through the team. Up front, Wood and Darius Henderson are both in good form but the Lions have got a midfield threat as well in the shape of Liam Trotter and the defence isn't too shoddy either.

Henning Berg enjoyed his first league win as Blackburn manager on Saturday after his side's 4-1 thumping of Peterborough at London Road and with Rovers' unbeaten in their last four since he took the job, there's no denying he's made a solid start.

I was a little worried for him when he became manager because of his comments about no-one wanting to work at Ewood Park. I thought he'd put himself under a lot of pressure before he'd even started but the early signs are he's handling the situation well.

I've said it before but the big plus for Berg is simply that he's not Steve Kean in the eyes of the supporters and now that he seems settled at Blackburn and with the depth of squad at his disposal, there's absolutely no reason why Rovers will not be in the mix at the end of the season.

There was bad news for Sheffield Wednesday this week when it emerged Everton skipper Phil Neville was out for two months after knee surgery, prompting David Moyes to recall Ross Barkley early from his loan spell at Hillsborough.

With four goals in 13 npower Championship games, the young midfielder had made a big impact for the Owls and with the team looking nervously below them at the relegation places, they can ill afford to lose him just now.

I saw Barkley play against Ipswich Town at Portman Road last month when he scored a couple and I could see why Everton rate him so highly. He's a big, powerful lad and although he's still only 18, he can certainly handle himself.

Loan deals can be great for npower Championship clubs but the flip side is suddenly losing an influential player without much warning. It's the nature of the beast sadly and the Owls have to regroup quickly and not dwell too much on losing Barkley.

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