How Evatt turned round his Barrow

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How Evatt turned round his Barrow

Post by Dave Sutton's barnet » Sun Sep 13, 2020 11:49 am

“The definition of insanity is to keep doing the same things and expect different results. We're doing that at the moment, so we have to make changes - that's why I've brought in a centre-half, who's a very good player, and we have to somehow become harder to beat, not from general play, just from individual concentration. There are individual moments in the game where you need to do your job - don't worry about anybody else, do your job - and we're not doing it.

“There is so much right with this team, they make you proud at times then they also infuriate you by the way we just self-destruct and blow our own feet off. It's flabbergasting, it's hard work, it's stressful, but all we can do is keep working hard, stick with it, keep our belief and keep going."

– Ian Evatt, 2 Sep 2019


——

A Tuesday night in early September 2019, and things don’t look good for Ian Evatt. Boos ring around Holker Street after Hartlepool condemn hosts Barrow to a third successive defeat. His 15 months in charge have shown some promise, with the Bluebirds finishing 11th compared to 20th the previous season, but with the side now in the National League relegation zone questions are being loudly asked about the manager’s long-term suitability.

Back on loan from Blackburn, centre-back Matthew Platt made his second Barrow debut in that defeat to Hartlepool, slotting into Evatt’s 4-3-3 as one of four changes as the manager sought a new mindset. But after a slightly unlucky defeat, the manager made more swingeing changes for the subsequent trip to Aldershot.

What Evatt and his coaches unveiled at short notice was the 3-4-1-2 system that would lead the side to an unheralded title win. At Aldershot, the newest signing seemed to be the important figure Don Revie’s players superstitiously called Lady Luck. John Rooney’s free-kick right on half-time deflected into the corner, and with 20 minutes to go a cross deflected past the Shots keeper to present Josh Kay with an open goal. Barrow were the better side, but more importantly they were also the more fortunate.

Still they contrived to almost throw it away, as they had so often already in that young season: five times in the opening nine games – against Wrexham, Stockport, Chesterfield, Halifax, Woking – they had opened the scoring but collected just one point (at Evatt’s old club Chesterfield, who had shared the spoils from 2-0 down).

On this occasion, right-sided centre-back Sam Hird gifted Aldershot a lead-halver with 10 minutes to go, and in the third minute of stoppage time Jack Hindle gave away a soft penalty, the fourth in five games awarded against Barrow. As Connor Shields stepped up for the hosts, it was deja vu all over again.

Except that Joel Dixon stopped the spot-kick, and although Shields had an immediate chance to atone, there was Platt to stop him and protect the points. Flanked by Hird and converted left-back Patrick Brough (and later Dan Jones), the loanee sat in the middle of a settled trio as Barrow won 11 of the next dozen league games; in a 26-game run lasting into February, they won 19 and lost one.

How that turnaround came about was due to astute, detailed tactics, which have been dealt with elsewhere. But it also started with stability and luck. Whether through lack of depth or not needing to change a winning team, Evatt clearly had a core of players he relied upon last season; his new task is made more difficult by the compressed, fixture-heavy campaign, and having used up his coupons on this summer’s free-transfer supermarket sweep he quickly has to ascertain which of his new signings are capable of implementing his Barrovian blueprint.

It would be futile to compare his players then and now like-for-like, as the Evatt of 2019 could only dream of the calibre of some of the players he’s now working with. What he needs are players to make similar impacts, against opponents of a higher quality. Last term he had Scott Quigley scoring 20 and Dior Angus 10, and he would hope for the same returns from Eoin Doyle and Nathan Delfouneso. He also had John Rooney bagging 17 from midfield, and while that’s an extraordinary number he might hope that Antoni Sarcevic could repeat last season’s double-figure return for Plymouth.

But behind that, it’s about drilling the players. The tactical switch from 4-3-3 to 3-4-1-2 did not also herald an entire ethos change, it just altered where the players he had available stood on the pitch, in and out of possession. There’s not much fundamentally wrong with the system, but with how his many new charges are applying it in those split-second match situations - when to pass adventurously, when to keep possession; when to make the forward run, when to hold fast. Similarly, while the opponents are in possession, when to press and when to sit; when to commit to the tackle, when to hold the line.

All that is coachable, as long as the players are. Although they must be ironed out, the odd howler of concentration is almost to be expected in a hard-thinking system. Getting players to understand that system is Evatt’s big challenge – and it’s one he has achieved with lesser players than the one he has now. The pressure is bigger, but so are the rewards. It’s time to step up, because if he manages it, this could still be a glorious era. And it could come from tactical brilliance, but it might also require a little old-school man-management.

In August 2016, a northern side striving for distant better days sat bottom of the division, having drawn one and lost three of their first four games under a new manager expected to attain promotion. The latest loss, to a stoppage-time winner at a distinctly unglamorous London ground, was particularly gut-wrenching because the visitors had played well – “shown signs”, as the phrase says. But the mood on the coach back was bleak. And that’s when the manager stepped in.

“I got the driver to pull over at an off licence and bought £100 worth of beer,” he later revealed. “I could see the lads were down. They care. We had lost in the 93rd minute, but had played all right. They were down on that bus and I wanted to change the mood.”

The club was Sheffield United, the manager Chris Wilder. The Blades won the title that season, then went up again, and then wowed the Premier League with a brand of brainy but gutsy football based upon overlapping centre-backs, appreciation of space and – most of all – hard work. That journey started at Millwall. Maybe Bolton’s – and Evatt’s – will start at Colchester.

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Re: How Evatt turned round his Barrow

Post by Worthy4England » Sun Sep 13, 2020 12:17 pm

Think there were too many folks expecting 4-0 yesterday, mayhap in the Twittersphere rather than on here. I was hoping for a coherent performance and if we drew or lost against the better team on the day, so be it.

What I think I saw was a team beset by its own self doubt. We dominated the first 15 minutes, but as soon as they got half a sniff the doubt crept in. We have a nucleus of capable players at this level. Doyle, Fonz, Sarceivic, White, Crawford, Hickman, Crellin maybe Tutte, Comley. That's most of an XI.

Maybe they just need that gallon of beer and possibly just the one slice of pizza for Sarc.

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Re: How Evatt turned round his Barrow

Post by LeverEnd » Sun Sep 13, 2020 12:58 pm

I was expecting a bit more attacking coherence, still some blips at the back, but that we would avoid defeat and maybe nick it.
I'll hope for that by the next home game. Won't be buying the away game.
...

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Re: How Evatt turned round his Barrow

Post by brommers95 » Sun Sep 13, 2020 1:09 pm

Glorious write up DSB. I've seen enough glimpses of promising play from this team that I'm quietly confident that, in time, it will come together and we will get results. I'm not expecting it to happen overnight though and I'm willing to give Evatt time.

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Re: How Evatt turned round his Barrow

Post by Dave Sutton's barnet » Sun Sep 13, 2020 1:16 pm

Worthy4England wrote:
Sun Sep 13, 2020 12:17 pm
Think there were too many folks expecting 4-0 yesterday, mayhap in the Twittersphere rather than on here. I was hoping for a coherent performance and if we drew or lost against the better team on the day, so be it.

What I think I saw was a team beset by its own self doubt. We dominated the first 15 minutes, but as soon as they got half a sniff the doubt crept in. We have a nucleus of capable players at this level. Doyle, Fonz, Sarceivic, White, Crawford, Hickman, Crellin maybe Tutte, Comley. That's most of an XI.

Maybe they just need that gallon of beer and possibly just the one slice of pizza for Sarc.
Twitter has plenty of unsanctioned idiots. It also has some wise voices and fascinating people, and that's who I choose to follow, but I do see the other sort in the replies to, say, BWFC or Marc Iles or whoever.

From what I read on T-W, which strikes me as reasonably reasonable as far as forums go, I think most people wanted to see progress: hopes were high, rather than expectations. Instead, we got arguably the worst display of the three, against unarguably the worst team of the three. I understand why feelings ran high, and not just because because of hubris.

I agree that they seemed hesitant, doubtful. Success breeds confidence and the reverse is true, but Evatt is misdirecting when he says the club has an "ingrained" losing culture – the payers are new, the manager is new, the system's new, the coaches are new, the owners are still relatively new. It's his job, literally, to make them win, by making them confident and well-versed in the system he wants.

Even so, the first 15 minutes against FGR weren't exactly dominant. As you would expect of a well-backed possession-based team at home, we had the ball – 62.5% of it at that point and 107 touches to 74, per WhoScored – but the teams had managed one shot each, and it took us a goodly while thereafter to improve on that. As you say, the belief drained away - slowly at first, but rapidly after FGR scored.

We do have the tools to improve on it. We have good players, and I believe we have a good manager. The squad overhaul might mean we almost have too many options but we need to investigate the best ones and then, within reason, stick to it, with rotation being planned and sensible. It's not quite the bingo machine yet but let's just say the decision to replace Taft with Greenidge didn't bear fruit.

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Re: How Evatt turned round his Barrow

Post by GhostoftheBok » Sun Sep 13, 2020 2:10 pm

With any system or style of play you need to have players who are not only physically and technically capable, but who also have the mentality to make it work. Some systems are less demanding than others. Some players from this group will not have the concentration and confidence necessary to play the way we want. It'll take ages to figure out who is who entirely, though the coaches will probably have ideas on some very quickly.

The benefit we have is that our increased likelihood of cocking it up due to playing a more demanding style of football is matched by the lower quality in this division. Mistakes get punished less often down here. In theory we should have more chance of winning games whilst we sort it out - but if we play like we did yesterday too many more times we'll be in bother.

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Re: How Evatt turned round his Barrow

Post by Dave Sutton's barnet » Sun Sep 13, 2020 2:26 pm

GhostoftheBok wrote:
Sun Sep 13, 2020 2:10 pm
With any system or style of play you need to have players who are not only physically and technically capable, but who also have the mentality to make it work. Some systems are less demanding than others. Some players from this group will not have the concentration and confidence necessary to play the way we want. It'll take ages to figure out who is who entirely, though the coaches will probably have ideas on some very quickly.
I agree on this, and I have my suspicions on who they do and don't trust. That of course may change: the players have to shape up or ship out, and in return the coaches have to make decisions without prejudice or indeed pride – players should be able to play their way back into contention. But the key word there is "concentration": Evattball requires a lot of it, in and out of possession, and some of the higher-profile bloopers haven't inspired confidence. Maybe it'll come, maybe it won't. As a great man said, football is a game you play with your brain.
GhostoftheBok wrote:
Sun Sep 13, 2020 2:10 pm
The benefit we have is that our increased likelihood of cocking it up due to playing a more demanding style of football is matched by the lower quality in this division. Mistakes get punished less often down here. In theory we should have more chance of winning games whilst we sort it out - but if we play like we did yesterday too many more times we'll be in bother.
That too is true - but there is a harder corollary to your thought. The club is at a lower level, but the manager is at a higher level, and so are many of his players – Football League experience is entirely absent or severely lacking in Crellin (5 EFL games before this season), Gordon (0), Greenidge (0), Hickman (0), White (0) and Mascoll (4). That said, we have plenty who should know better and aren't showing it - yet.

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Re: How Evatt turned round his Barrow

Post by GhostoftheBok » Sun Sep 13, 2020 5:13 pm

Dave Sutton's barnet wrote:
Sun Sep 13, 2020 2:26 pm
That too is true - but there is a harder corollary to your thought. The club is at a lower level, but the manager is at a higher level, and so are many of his players – Football League experience is entirely absent or severely lacking in Crellin (5 EFL games before this season), Gordon (0), Greenidge (0), Hickman (0), White (0) and Mascoll (4). That said, we have plenty who should know better and aren't showing it - yet.
This was a concern of mine when Evatt came in and our transfer policy unveiled itself.

For me, the biggest jump between non-league and league football is the mental side of the game. Knowing when to run and when to stay, when to get tight and when to give your man a yard. There are plenty of players who have solid technique in non-league, but they've not made it in the leagues because they don't know how to use it on a pitch.

One side of me thinks that if Evatt can apply his principles in non-league he can do it anywhere. Another side says that his system didn't have to work as well at that level, because it's easier to drag players around and confuse them.

Having to make the adjustment to league football whilst also trying to turn non-league players into league players is a big ask. He at least has the option to put out an 11 with some league experience if he feels he needs to - with Mascoll being the least experienced player in that 11 (and it really is very little). As you suggested elsewhere, McFadzean would have completed that league 11.

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