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Game-changers

Reporter: by MATTHEW CHAMBERS
Date online: 04 August 2014

LEE Johnson believes he has assembled a squad capable of turning matches on their head.

Athletic’s boss cut a frustrated figure in the final public pre-season run-out against Huddersfield Town, in which on-trial defender George Elokobi made a second-half appearance.

That is, until an early tactical change from a 4-3-3 line-up to a traditional 4-4-2 resulted in Athletic turning on the style to score two quick-fire goals through James Dayton and captain Liam Kelly.

Nahki Wells halved the deficit in the second half, only for Jonson Clarke-Harris to plunder his sixth goal of the summer with a brilliant long-range strike at SportsDirect.com Park.

It remains to be seen what shape Athletic will line up in at Colchester for the opening game of Sky Bet League One on Saturday.

What is guaranteed, Johnson says, is that there is no lack of belief within the squad.

“I was really annoyed with the first 15 to 20 minutes and really pleased with the rest after that,” Johnson said.

“It was against what I believe is a really good side — but I think we did it to ourselves.

“I changed formation as I was bored. I couldn’t sit there watching what was going on.

“We didn't get enough of the ball for that formation to be effective.

“It is good that we have the personnel where we can say, this isn't working — bang, let’s change it.

“Is it my fault for starting like that? I think it was their fault for not starting with the tempo required.

“People talk about formations, but it is about being organised and when you have the ball, being positive and doing something with it.

“We could go to Colchester in a 3-5-2, a 4-1-4-1 or a 4-4-2. We have worked a lot behind the scenes on different formations and you have to be flexible.

“It's a new bunch and there are things I would like to iron out, but we are 95-per-cent of the way there.

“We go into the Colchester game at least full of confidence. The players can be pleased with themselves after what has been a decent pre-season.”

As for Elokobi, who showed a no-nonsense approach to his defending late in the game, Johnson says that there is no sign as yet that the ex-Wolves player will sign a deal with Athletic.

Johnson added: “He’s big old boy (Elokobi) isn’t he? And a good guy as well.

“Whether or not we will bring him in, at the moment he is doing us a favour and we are doing him a favour. It is working like that at the moment.

“There have certainly been no offers or anything like that.

“He is a good professional and we are just enjoying having him round the place.”

Other trialists in the squad against Huddersfield were Michael Rolandos, a French winger who has spent time at Chesterfield. He appeared in the second half and will get a run-out in a behind-closed-doors game against Blackburn today, as will unused substitute Ben Heneghan, a former Stoke centre-back.

Genseric Kusunga missed the game due to being on international duty with Angola for their friendly with Ethiopia.

The centre-back returns to training tomorrow and will be needed at Colchester, with club captain Adam Lockwood missing through suspension while also carrying a foot injury.

 

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