So, pre-season was over. I learned a lot about my team, and we even got a confidence-boosting win over Premier League opposition.
In the week before the Bromley game, I went and spoke to the board, hoping to secure a parent club to affiliate ourselves to, so that we could get in some loan players more easily. Unfortunately, dispute agreeing with my proposal, the board came back to me having been unable to find a single club that we could partner with.
I was also sent a rather discouraging final figure on season ticket sales. Clearly, the inspirational pre-season ties against Barnsley and Bolton didn’t excite the footballing public in Weston…
So that left me with nothing to do but focus solely on the first game, our starting line up, and tactics. Over pre-season, I had stuck to a simple 4-4-2 formation, with Samba as a target man playing up front with Hughes or Adam as a poacher. Our wide midfielders would attack down the wings, with support from our full-backs, whilst one midfielder dropped deeper to support the centre backs. Our other midfielder tends to float in the centre of the park, supporting both attack and defence as necessary. We have been quick on the counter but have also come out on top possession-wise in most of our games with opponents of a similar level to us. On top of all that, we have been successful, so I won’t be changing my formula yet. We are playing in the Blue Square South, not the Premier League, so fancy tactics can wait!
Speaking of playing style, Bromley’s manager, Mark Goldberg, started chipping off before the match, attacking our style of play. I ignored him and decided to let our work on the pitch shut him up…
In terms of line-up, below is how I intend to start the game against Bromley, and I would consider it our strongest 11, despite us missing Jamil Adam to a cruciate ligament injury. All things going well, and after a week’s rest, this will be how we line up against Bromley, in my first competitive game in charge of the Seagulls…
Matchday 1 – Bromley v Weston-super-Mare
Ah! Despite our best efforts, we were held to a draw away at Bromley. We dominated the game in terms of chances created, and they even managed to score without having a shot on goal!
We may have beaten Blackburn, but Bromley is the one that counts. Unfortunately, Bromley started the better, and threatened early on with a few balls that were whipped into our box, which we managed to clear with little fuss. Real scoring chances were hard to come by, but we were passing the ball around well and started to grow into the game, pushing Bromley back. In the 37th minute, the ball was played long by Samba, releasing Brian King down the right-hand side of the pitch. King took a touch past the Bromley defender, before hitting the ball hard and low into the box. New singing Marc Hughes came charging in, getting a powerful connection on the ball to send it past the Bromley keeper. Hughes had his first goal, and we were finally under way!
We saw out the remainder of the first half in comfortable fashion, with Samba missing a few chances, and I told the lads to keep going at half time. Just as I decided to make my first ever substitution as a football manager, Bromley levelled the game. A shot from their striker hit the bar, bounced off the back of Lloyd Irish’s head, and went in. A lucky goal perhaps, but it served us right for wasting so many chances. After that, the game petered out into a midfield battle, although substitute Brett Trowbridge nearly won it for us on 90 minutes as he grazed the top of the crossbar with a long-range strike.
A slightly disappointing result, given how many more chances we created, but we must pick ourselves up and dust ourselves down. Games come thick and fast in this league, and dwelling on disappointments won’t do us any good. After our first game, we find ourselves in 13th place in the table, but there is obviously still a long way to go yet!
Matchday 2 – Weston-super-Mare v Thurrock
Next up was a home game against Thurrock, a team who had lost their first game of the season and are predicted to come 22nd. This really should be a win for us, and I would be annoyed if we couldn’t put a few past them.
Well, we certainly did that! A solid first win for us, in front of 274 loyal fans, will do a lot for the confidence of the boys.
This game was much more one-sided than the Bromley game, and we were dominant right from the off. We took our time in going ahead, but after half an hour the big man, Cherno Samba, got off the mark for the club. He picked the ball up outside the box, worked his way past one man, and blasted the ball into the net. He looked delighted, and the fans were already chanting his name. Everything was coming up Seagulls!
However, you are always most vulnerable after scoring, and that proved to be the case here as Thurrock, stung by our goal, went on the attack. Their goal came out of nowhere and sent us into half time a little dejected. I told the lads that I believed in them, but that I wasn’t happy with letting the lead slip, and they seemed enthused. This was clearly a good move, as we started the second half like a whirlwind and had retaken the lead just four minutes later as a ball from Brett Trowbridge fell to Cherno Samba inside the box, which he then thumped home. Our fans were again jubilant and were enjoying the impact the new signings were making. Leeroy Chinthengah, starting in place of the tired Marc Hughes, made way for Trevor Benjamin, and the former Leicester City striker got off the mark for the season by slotting coolly home in the 90th minute to round off the win and send the fans home happy.
It felt good to finally have three points on the board, but even better was that this time we really looked dangerous and played as I knew we could. If we can carry on in this vein, we will be troubling the upper reaches of the table come the season’s end!
Matchday 3 – Basingstoke v Weston-super-Mare
High on life, four days later we travelled to Basingstoke with confidence levels at a high point. A first away win was what we were looking for, and it is exactly what we got, too!
Harpal Singh got his first goal for the club after good work from the left, and Jak Martin headed in our third from a corner, but the game was stolen by a topsy-turvey performance from Irish midfielder Brian King. After setting up Singh’s opener, King then went one better and scored a fantastic free-kick from the edge of the box to put us 0-2 up. Then, after halftime, he was helping out at the back when he slid in to tackle a Basingstoke striker, only to slide the ball into his own net. He then settled down a bit, continuing to run the show from midfield, before popping up in the 90th minute with a screamer from 25 yards that lobbed the opposition keeper! What a performance from the new signing, who even managed to appear in the Blue Square South team of the week!
Another pleasing win, this time against a team who the pundits believe are better than us. This is even more pleasing, as it shows we are capable of taking down some of the league’s bigger teams. Also, that is another three points, putting us on seven after three games. Not bad.
Matchday 4 – Weston-super-Mare v Dorchester
Finally a week’s rest to let some of my players have a break! This was much needed, as Marc Hughes and Harpal Singh, in particular, seem to struggle to complete 90 minutes. We have cover for Hughes, but Singh is our only quality left midfielder, so I might look into signing some back up for him…
The break did us good, it seems, and we ran out comfortable 3-0 winners against a poor Dorchester side. They are predicted to struggle this season, and although they managed a creditable 0-0 draw with early pace setters Eastbourne Borough in their next match, they did nothing to dispel the naysayers in this game.
Instead, Marc Hughes stole the show, coming back fully rested to put the Dorchester defender to the sword. Two early goals killed off the game for us, with Hughes and Trowbridge putting us 2-0 up after only 15 minutes. The game was as comfortable as we will get this season, with our defence restricting them so that they couldn’t get a single shot on target. Hughes rounded off the game in the 37th minute, and this allowed me to use my substitutions in the second half to give Singh and Hughes a rest.
Another win and we are up to third in the table! A very strong start from Weston-super-Mare, and already it is looking like we might be contenders. It is early days still, but we will look to keep this run of form going for as long as possible. One negative to take from the game was an injury to our experienced winger Ali Gibb. Gibb is 35 and broke his leg after a strong challenge. Worryingly he is talking about retiring, so I spoke to him to see if he would consider becoming a coach at the club should he chose to hang up his boots. For now, he says he wants to focus on the football, so I am taking that as a sign that we might yet see him back in the team.
Matchday 5 – Woking v Weston-super-Mare
We were heavily tipped to lose this game. Woking are the bookies’ favourites to win the league, and although they haven’t yet won a game this season this was enough for many in the media to write us off.
They shouldn’t have done that, though, as we responded to our doubters in some style! Two quick-fire goals just before half time saw us 0-2 at the break, and we were looking pretty comfortable. Woking were giving us a much better game than some of the other teams that we have faced so far but seemed unable to make their chances count. Of course, things had to give eventually, and they finally got the goal their play deserved in the 73rd minute. This looked to set up a nervy finish to the game, and for the next few moments it looked like they would pull the game back to 2-2, but on a lucky break we won a corner, and from Ben Kirk’s kick, Jak Martin nodded the ball into the near post to put us 1-3 up! This essentially killed the game off as a contest, with Woking’s players looking deflated, and we wound down time to secure ourselves another vital three points.
This was an excellent result against a very tough Woking side who pushed us all the way, but we still managed to come out on top. Our tactics are working, with the 4-4-2 system we employ being more than good enough to handle our opposition at this level. Samba has done well, but the stand out stars have been Marc Hughes and Brian King, with honourable mentions for Brett Trowbridge and Sacha Opinel who have both played very well.
So after five games, here is how the top of the table looks:
Top of the league, and having a laugh! Below is a run-down of the fixtures we played, and I will be back with more updates after the game against Tonbridge, after which we will really know if we are promotion contenders.
Oh, and this happened:
Well done, Stuart Pearce…