Pritchard can strengthen Stevenage midfield

Ask a Leyton Orient fan about Bradley Pritchard and their response is likely to be: a hardworking player with a good attitude, but his technical ability is very limited. The 30-year-old started 24 of Ian Hendon‘s 26 league games in charge of the O’s, but has made just four appearances under Kevin Nolan, all of which as a substitute. Despite good performances early in the campaign, it now looks as though Pritchard has fallen out of favour since the change of manager, the former Charlton man having been loaned out to Stevenage on Tuesday.

The fact that Boro wanted to bring him in suggests a deviation from the strategy they had last summer. In July, the club dispensed with the core of the side that helped the team reach the play-offs last season and tried to build a midfield of playmakers and technicians. This gave the team a soft centre and was perhaps a factor behind their poor defensive record, which currently reads 63 goals shipped in 37 games.

There have been signs recently, that the club is looking to change their approach. Manager Darren Sarll has said that he looks in detail at the attitude and work rate of the players he brings in. Lee Cox, an industrious midfielder who joined from Plymouth in November, has played consistently under Sarll, so too has the experienced Michael Tonge. Pritchard, seen by some as the League Two equivalent of Ramires, will provide unrelenting energy and a willingness to challenge for the ball.

Given the ever-diminishing size of Stevenage’s squad, which has been blighted by injuries, any addition is in some ways a good one. It is important, however, that in search for bullish grafters, the team is also able to find a creative spark. The Hertfordshire side have taken just eight points since Chris Whelpdale got injured in December, underlining the importance of the midfielder’s quality and goalscoring nous. Reports suggest Whelpdale could be back before April and his return will unquestionably boost the team.

However, there has also been bad news on the injury front. Left-back Connor Ogilvie is reportedly out for the season with ligament damage, just a few days after extending his loan move from Tottenham. Ogilvie has been one of the few bright spots for Boro this season, impressing with his speed and front foot play.

The advantage of having young players, as Ogilvie’s success proves, is their energy and exuberance. However, a couple of the youngsters showed a degree of defensive naivety against Northampton, by Sarll’s public admission. Northampton’s Ricky Holmes got a lot of credit for his stunning 95th minute winner at Broadhall Way, and rightly so, yet there may have been more the Boro rearguard could have done. They needed to close the opposing winger down early and force him into a wide area, rather than give him time to get a shot away. The arrival of a tenacious player such as Pritchard might help the side in this respect.

If York maintain their points per game ratio for the remainder of the season, then Stevenage can lose all of their last nine games and still stay up. In terms of this season’s relegation picture, their fans need have little fear. However, a return of one clean sheet since November does not breed confidence and, beyond Cox and an aging Tonge, the team lacks power in midfield. Pritchard would seem the type of player Boro need, as Sarll looks to re-organize his struggling side.