Misfiring Whites are desperate for goals
THE inability of the Wanderers defence to keep a clean sheet remains a source of frustration to manager Dougie Freedman after his team conceded three more at Brighton on Saturday.
But the boss has also highlighted the lack of penetration at the other end with no league goals for any of his strikers after eight matches.
The Whites have netted just six goals in those league outings that are yet to earn a win and only Saturday’s opponents Yeovil have scored fewer in the Championship.
It is a worry for a former striker like Freedman as the pressure mounts on both the team and himself.
The club’s top scorer in the league last season was winger Chris Eagles with David Ngog managing just eight goals and Kevin Davies six.
The summer signing of Jermaine Beckford was made with the intention of adding that much-needed firepower, particularly after the departure of long-serving frontman Davies.
But Beckford, along with Ngog and Craig Davies, is still awaiting a first league strike of the campaign, despite a Capital One Cup goal at Tranmere.
It is a rarity to see Wanderers front men struggling so much at the start of a campaign.
In recent times, they have normally hit the ground running.
Since the turn of the century, at least one of the squad’s strikeforce has opened their account within the first three games prior to this season.
In 13 previous seasons, stretching back to 2000-2001, a goal from a designated forward has come in the season opener on eight occasions.
Three of those came from former skipper Kevin Davies – in 2005-06 at Aston Villa, 2006-07 at home to Tottenham and in 2008-09 against Stoke.
Davies was also the first forward to find the net last season in the second match at home to Derby in a 2-0 victory.
The last frontman to score in the first game was Ivan Klasnic in 2011-12 in the 4-0 hammering of QPR.
The longest a Whites striker has had to wait in the league to score was just three games in 2009-10 when that man Davies bagged in a 3-2 home defeat to Liverpool after the team drew two blanks in their opening two matches against Sunderland and Hull.
This season is a break from the norm and is certainly a contributing factor to the club’s worst start in 111 years.
Manager Freedman will hope that can change against fellow strugglers Yeovil this weekend.
But he does not believe it is entirely down to his shot-shy strikers.
He says the decision-making in the final third needs to be better and the final ball more productive.
He said: “We are getting in untold situations in the last third but do not pick that right final pass.
“At Brighton, we created a few goalscoring opportunities but they didn’t fall our way, “We do get enough situations up there but we have to pick the right pass and make the right decisions.
“It needs to be better because we do get bodies in the box.
“If it does then we can only hope one of our front players can hit a bit of form.”
It will be even more imperative with every game the Whites fail to keep a clean sheet.
They have conceded in every one of the eight Championship outings so far, making their task of breaking the worst winless start since 1902-03 even harder.
Last season they shut out the opposition in their second game at home to Derby, though that turned out to be their only clean sheet in 14 games as Freedman replaced Owen Coyle at the helm.
The previous two seasons, the Whites backline secured a blank on opening day.
However, in 2009-10, a clean sheet did not come until the 21st league match when Chung-Yong Lee’s solitary goal settled a Lancashire derby against Burnley.
There is some way to go to match that but, again, Freedman believes the tide can turn if they can improve things at the back.
He added: “When you concede first, you give the away team something to hold on to like we did against QPR and even earlier against Leeds.
“We have worked hard to make sure we are more solid at the back and keeping the back door closed. But again at Brighton we could not do that.
“There was nothing in the game except for a crazy 11-minute spell when we lost three goals.
“That has been the story of our season so far.”