A dire first half was sparked to life by a subtle tactical tweak and the introduction of Brandley Kuwas, who helped Excelsior to their first win of the season.

  • By Andy Booth
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From the first whistle Excelsior’s tactics were clear: knock the ball to the wide men.

On the right Jordan Botaka seemed distracted. He asked for the ball when he was marked by two men, or encouraged his team mates to spray forward balls for him to run onto, when he didn’t intend to track them down. We now know that if he seemed distracted, its because he probably was, with a move to Leeds United imminent. His poor performance was summed up when yet another ball was sent his way, this time feasibly controllable, Botaka had already decided he was going to blindly charge down the line again, expecting the same lazy pass. His lackadaisical jaunt was halted abruptly though, as the ball dropped onto his unaware crown – much to the amusement of, well, everyone.

On the other flank Nigel Hasselbaink was slightly brighter, but only slightly. On the rare occasion he made himself available for a pass from left-back Bas Kuipers, he attacked with directness and intent. But too often he would turn and shy away from involvement; perhaps a sign of his lack of fitness or confidence.

The turgid first interval concluded with both sides very much looking like the relegation candidates they are expected to be; devoid of ideas and quality. If anything De Graafschap had had the better of proceedings, edging the midfield battle whilst coming closest with a cross which hit the outside of the post and forcing Filip Kurto into an excellent low save, to prevent an own goal.

Alfons Groenendijk acted quickly, hooking Botaka off and bringing on Brandley Kuwas and it was the former Volendam who set the game alight with a superb second half display. An early second half goal saw Excelsior take the lead as Sander Fischer headed home a Jeff Stans free-kick to send the Rotterdamers on their way. The first goal aside, Kuwas was involved in everything positive Excelsior produced.

His goal, scored in the 63rd minute, was a delight. Picking the ball up around half way, he drove at the De Graafschap defence with purpose and the Superboeren could only back pedal in fear of bringing him down. Now operating with a right footed left winger and a left footed right winger, Groenendijk had clearly told his men to cut inside and get shots away, following a string of poor crosses which were easily cut out in the first period. And Kuwas did just that, letting fly with a curling effort from 25 yards, which looped over Jurjus and into the back of the net for his first goal for the club.

He had the chance to double his tally too, pouncing on a poor touch in the De Graafschap box, feinting a shoot and then blasting wide from 8 yards out. With De Graafschap on the ropes, Kuwas continued to threaten down the right. His pass found Daryl van Mieghem free on the left hand side, and his low drive into the bottom corner secured the three points.

A goal and an assist for man of the match Kuwas only tell part of the story. The subtle change in tactics implemented by Groenendijk gave Excelsior a more direct route to goal. Of course, grabbing the lead early in the second half helped, as De Graafschap were forced to open up more in search of the equaliser, but the job still needed to be done. Kuwas had the quality to turn the tight match into a straight forward victory.

Andy Booth (27 Posts)