2012-13 Season Review: Part 3

Last updated : 12 May 2013 By deadbat_db


Mark Howard: Howard was brought in at the back end of the previous season and did not play. He must have known as he walked around the Wembley pitch at the end that he may be replacing Steve Simonsen as he patted him on the back. So it proved as cut backs meant United opted to go with the unproven Howard who had been fairly well travelled but never really established himself anywhere. The season began for Howard at home to Burton and then Shrewsbury and I felt he was less than convincing in the early games. He had a decent kick and did come off his line more than Simonsen (not hard) but was still indecisive and another keeper that seemed to not control his area. He did seem to improve and made a few decent save v Donny and Bury at the Lane. We had not conceded that many goals and maybe he and the defence were starting to gel when disaster struck at Orient when he pulled a hamstring. After scans it showed up it was not a straightforward injury and he would be out well until Christmas at the earliest. As Long came in and took his place we did not really miss Howard in the end. Any criticism (not that there has been much) of Long certainly was not used with the phrase, ‘Howard was better at this or that…’ As it turned out a few aborted come backs meant Howard never really got back fit and was not even on the bench nor did he play more than a couple of games for the u21’s (reserves). Worrying that he still was not back in contention some 7 months after what was a routine injury.

Grade C-

George Long
Long has shown real promise in the Youth Team and had dipped his toes into the first team at the back end of the relegation season. He played a few games last season but there was mixed success with a poor game versus Exeter and Simonsen came back and stayed in despite some pretty awful performances overall. When he came on at Orient he was excellent and made one really good save. He let in a late goal versus Oldham but then he then impressed on TV at Nott’s County drawing rave reviews with some of his stops. He then kept four clean sheets on the bounce in the league and was only denied 5 by a late goal at MK Dons from the spot. He had a poor game against Crewe when he was at fault for a couple of goals and a few questions started to be posed about his form around td his time. It was accepted there were some moments of hesitancy and he did not always perhaps communicate that well with the back line, United did keep plenty of clean sheets. The defence did a good job of protecting him. As United’s form started to dip Long had a few dodgy moments as he conceded a horror goal v Yeovil at the Lane when he tried to dribble out and then also spilt a few shots (Coventry winner at the Lane) and let in a soft header at Nott’s County. However he recovered and we went on another decent run and another considerable number of clean sheets. In the last season fade out, he could not be blamed for that many goals and the hammerings at Stevenage and Portsmouth were not down to him.

He continued to make excellent reaction saves and some of his saves in some games were superb where he got across and somehow saved (made a number of worldly saves that prevented certain goals where he clawed the ball out). His kicking was mixed. He could clearly hit it a long way but at times he was not always sure but sometimes was put under unnecessary pressure.

He like Simonsen could be at times indecisive coming off his line and he conceded a few penalties by not getting there when coming off his line (Donny – latterly v Brentford at the Lane too) but his handling overall was pretty sound and yes he shovelled a few shots out centrally but most of the time he was quite solid and as I say had the tendency to make those wonder saves that not many keepers in the lower league can make. He kept 19 clean sheets in total out of 37 (league/play offs) so an almost 50% record and contributed to our best record for clean sheets in a league season; 21.

He still has things to work on in terms of communication, knowing when to come and his taking of high balls/crosses. He also needs to command the box better but overall all the tools are there for him to become a top keeper. He is 6’2’’ and is athletic and looks the part (probably still growing) and is still only 19. I would not be surprised to see a Premiership club take a chance on him as a developing number 2/3 and then loan him out to a club lower down (Champ or League One) until he is ready. He would be better staying here and developing of course but the reality is if he keeps improving he won’t be here that much longer in my opinion.

Grade B-

The rest

Danny Coyne
Coyne came in on a short term contract but this turned into him staying for the whole season. He never actually played but it was good to have some experienced cover.

George Willis: Willis was on the bench earlier in the season but with a young keeper already in the side, you could understand why United signed an experienced back up. Hopefully Willis can kick on and maybe get some experience in the non league next season as he plays regularly for the u21’s.

Next season I cannot see that United will change things next season in this area barring Long going. If they keep those two (Coyne will depart) and Howard gets fit; Long will remain as the number one and Howard will have to try and oust him but it would take a series of poor games for that to happen I feel. Of course if someone comes for Long then Howard is back to number one and we probably have to sign another keeper to compete or as back up.

Returning players;

Player / Position Years remaining (contract expires)


Mark Howard 1 year (2014)
George Long 3 years (2016)
Danny Coyne Out of contract (2013)
George Willis 2 years (2015)