Updated: Mar 2
Well, well, well, two wonderful performances this week and the least said about the Swansea game the better. I could wax lyrical about the win over Bristol or the 4-0 over Charlton but that would be missing the point somewhat, the fact is town have found some form and shape that suits them and the players brought in during the January window have been well chosen and effective.
I could also probably do a couple of thousand words on Smith-Rowe who has been exceptional and who I have a rather large footballing man-crush on. What a player he is and will be (sadly not for us long term but we can say we knew him when he was a terrier). Lewis O'Brien was also excellent yesterday and easily the MOM, but there's one man who has really changed this team and he was the cheapest of the lot. Harry Toffolo! Danny Cowley's previous charge from Lincoln has been a revelation.
Not only has Harry slotted into the team and the championship like he's been playing here his whole career, but he's also fixed something that has been destroying us for over a season. The shape. We've written extensively about this over the last 18 months particularly John's brilliant article on why Flo was letting us down. He could never remain in his position and as such was pulling the team's shape all over the park leaving his teammates exposed and being culpable for errors far away from where he was on the grass.
Kongolo gave up long ago and Jayden Brown did admirably as a stand-in but requires time to mature. He could do a lot worse than copying everything Toffolo does.
Harry knows his position is full of running up and down the left flank, links incredibly well with Grant and is not afraid to go for it when the opportunity arises and is appropriate. His solo goal the other week, showing not only his skill but his timing. He knew it was safe to go for it and that's just what he did scoring a fantastic goal any striker would be proud of in the process.
By having a supreme understanding of his role the shape of the whole team looks better, the backline has not once been left exposed, his threat and running down the wing gives town more attacking options and a man over, his crossing is also fantastic, giving an end result to the hard run yards.
This foundation along with the excellent and solid Stearman alongside the handsomest man in football (Christopher Schindler obviously) has given Towns midfield less defensive work to do in the centre of the park. So much so we barely even missed Jonathan Hogg this week. This allows them to be more forward-looking and offensive and less likely to look for a safe ball backward. Coupled with the aforementioned Smith-Rowe's willingness to always turn and go toward the opposing goal means we now pose a real attacking threat, throw in the pace of Willock, the hunger of Bacuna and the revitalised form of Mounie and suddenly Town look like a team capable of beating anyone in the league and who should've been pushing for the play-offs, not scrapping against the double drop.
As we approach the last ten games of the season with 30 points to play for anything is possible in what is the tightest league in the world (we're currently 5 points above the line and 6pts away from mid-table). However safety is our priority, consistent performances are essential and the supreme Harry Toffolo is the key player for me. He's given the rest of the team the ability to concentrate on their roles, play their shape and feel more confident that Harry will deliver consistently good cover, great running, and excellent crosses. Long may it continue.
Till next time UTT