He was our youngest ever player and youngest ever scorer. A trial with Liverpool followed. Since his debut at 16 he has seemed destined for success. His consistency has been patchy in the past, but this season Lee Tomlin has shown why he is such a valuable asset to the club. rushdenjim discusses ‘the Tomlin effect’.
Each team has that very special player that the rest of the team look lost without – Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard is the perfect example – but has our reliance on Lee Tomlin gone too far? The last 4 games can construct and good argument, and it’s fair to say that the performances were not the best. Tomlin’s ban came into force in time for the Tuesday night clash with AFC Wimbledon, and from the first minute the team looked disjointed with the link from the defence and attack missing, and as the match wore on the defence turned to ‘Garry Hill’ style tactics… there was more hoof balls than seen at the Histon air show. The match was arguably the worst performance of the season so far and in Strikers after the game, alarm bells started to ring about how much Tomlin was missed.
Four days later we took the long trip to Crawley to see if any improvement could be made; there was, but it was still way off the mark. Crawley had beaten K*ttering the previous week and we knew that they were not going to just roll over and give us 3 points with pretty pink ribbons. The match started with Stuart pressing the self-destruct button by bringing down a red’s player in the box and conceding a penalty. Abbey saved the resulting spot kick to give Rushden another lifeline and Farrell went on to give Rushden the lead but at the end of the day we ran out 2-1 losers.
We came away from the game asking the same questions: Where was the midfield? Where is the creative play coming from? Where is the link between defence and attackers? And most importantly: are we a one-man team? The answer to that last question was in my opinion duly found out the following Saturday.
With a home game to high-flyers Altrincham, we went into the game looking at 3 points (I know they are up there in the top half at the moment but if it wasn’t for them winning the AGM cup over the last few years then they wouldn’t even be in this league). The game was messy, high winds restricted any team from playing some good football, but once again we were wasteful with the chances we did get with Akurang and O’Connor both failing to hit the target from close range. No-one in midfield was willing to push forward with the ball, we needed someone who wasn’t scared to have a shot once in awhile… we needed Lee Tomlin! We finished the day losing that game as well 1-0.
The stats spoke for themselves, 3 games out – 0 points gained and only 1 goal scored. To the relief on the entire club, Tomlin was back for our next game as struggling Chester. Unsurprisingly Tomlin got straight back into the starting 11 and probably answered the question asked after the previous 3 games by collecting the ball mid-way through the Chester half, running down the wing, cutting inside and curling the perfect ball into the goal from around 20 yards out – with the game not even 5 minute old. A moment of individual brilliance from the player so badly missed. The game failed to live up to the great start, with Farrell, O’Connor and Osano (yes Osano!) missing good chances against nine-man Chester.
So at the end of the match against a team bottom of the table (for obvious reasons) and played with 9 men for ¼ of the game, we managed just the one goal. The performance was not great but the question was asked: what if Tomlin wasn’t playing, would we of won? We could of easily drew or even lose that game with Chester being wasteful with the limited chances they had but if one had gone in, who knows how the game could of finished off.
The team look like a bunch of ducklings lost on a playing field without Tommo and if he was to get sent off again or injured, what sort of reaction would we get from the players then? And if Tomlin was to depart in January we could be in for a very disappointing second half to the season. Let’s all hope I can be proven wrong and we start playing like a team and not a one-man army!