Ah, what a relief to be back in the league (and to be out of that damned FA Cup). But before we could crack on with November’s fixtures, there was a welcome surprise in my inbox which demonstrated how much we had managed to get ourselves back on track last month after a rocky September period.
Ok, so I only came third, but it is encouraging at least.
Now we have time to focus on overturning Staines’ one point lead and really setting ourselves up for the second half of the season’s promotion push. First up, was Farnborough.
Matchday 18 – Weston-super-Mare v Farnborough
Farnborough, as you can see, were struggling and sitting 22nd in the 24 team league. They were also on a four-game losing streak so theoretically at least they were easy prey. Nevertheless, I played the all of the big boys, wanting a good win to set us on our way for November.
What a result! A crushing 5-0 win that could not have been any easier. We restricted them to just two shots, both off target, and absolutely pounded their goal. Centre back Simon Gilbert and front-man Cherno Samba both grabbed braces before half time, and the game was a formality in the second half with very little action save for substitute Jamil Adam rounding off the performance with a fine goal late on.
A good win, a decent crowd of 355 turned up despite the cold and rain. A very pleasing result that put us back to the top of the league after Staines could only draw, and at last another clean sheet!
Matchday 19 – Weston-super-Mare v Sutton United
Next up was another home game, this time against Sutton, and I fancied us to walk this one too given their poor recent form.
We started off in the right frame of mind, with Samba scoring an outrageous dink from the edge of the box inside the first ten minutes. I fully expected us to push on and smother Sutton, but we just didn’t seem to be able to convert chances into goals. We were dominant in the first half and moved the ball well, but just lacked that killer instinct. Samba, dink aside, was wayward with his finishing, and Hughes was poor considering his blistering early season form. Given the number of chances we were wasting, it seemed inevitable that Sutton would strike back at some point. True enough, in the 66th minute Adam Webster thwacked in a shot that squirmed under Paddy Gamble and found the net. It was against the run of play and it was annoying, but we were always going to be punished for being so wasteful.
Unfortunately, we didn’t use this as inspiration to go on and win the game, and despite our best efforts and a number of close chances, we were unable to bag a winner.
Another frustrating afternoon, then, but at least we didn’t lose, and with Staines also drawing we maintained our rather tenuous grip on the top of the league.
I wasn’t the only one with concerns over my team, though.
What will England do now? Spain will be breathing a huge sigh of relief, no doubt!
There was also news from one of our coaches, who let me know that we have to play in another cup competition, the FA Vase, and that we have just been handed an away tie against Blue Square Bet North strugglers, Worcester City.
So, another fixture added to our November schedule. Thrilling.
Matchday 20 – Hampton and Richmond Borough v Weston-super-Mare
At least we had the pleasure of playing another struggling side next to get ourselves back to winning ways. Hampton and Richmond have been poor this year and had already conceded 37 goals in their 16 league games this season. Given the amount we have been scoring lately, Sutton aside, I fancy this one. Cherno, mate; bring your shooting boots.
Cor blimey! What a performance. Cherno definitely brought his boots… The game was much closer than the score line suggests and, in reality, on another day we could have conceded a few goals, but that is not our problem, it is Hampton and Richmond’s. Samba was electric again and bagged himself a hat trick, with Jamil Adam also netting having replaced the misfiring Marc Hughes in the starting eleven. If we were wasteful in the Sutton game, we were clinical here scoring with four out of six shots on target. Very pleasing indeed.
Another win that kept us top. We might be hitting a bit of a purple patch, and with ten goals in our last three games, I fancy us to continue this winning run against another struggling side, Welling United.
Matchday 21 – Welling United v Weston-super-Mare
Welling have already fired one manager this season, and after enjoying a small upturn in form after hiring Andy Cale, they seem to have gone backwards, losing their last three. They have also conceded a hefty amount of goals. With Cherno in such form, they should be wondering how many times their ‘keeper will be picking the ball out of their net.
So naturally, we conceded within three minutes of kick-off, Gamble getting nowhere near the long range effort from Warren McBean. This took the wind out of our sails and we struggled to build up any rhythm. Instead, it was Welling that seemed the more likely to extend their lead. We were creating chances well but, as against Sutton, we struggled to get that finishing touch right. One thing we struggled with a lot here was the offside rule, with Samba, Adam and later Hughes all straying into offside positions a number of times. This was particularly frustrating as this tended to ruin good attacking moves, and we actually put the ball into the net four times in the match only for play to be pulled back. We also should have had a penalty, but the referee waved away our protests – more on that later.
At half time I had a moan as we really shouldn’t be struggling so badly against a team as low on moral as Welling, but this didn’t seem to change much in the team’s attitude and we quickly slipped further behind on 71 minutes. I thought the game was lost, but I didn’t give up and threw on Trevor Benjamin in the vain hope that he would score a couple of worldies to save us. And it almost worked; well, sort of. Benjamin was clearly more of a handful for the Welling defence and as they put more men on him to keep him quiet, space was created for other players. Finally deciding to take advantage of the chances we created, Harpal Singh popped up with two late goals (one from a very offside-looking area) to rescue us a point! When he scored our second in the 93rd minute and with the last kick of the game, I ran onto the pitch to celebrate with the players. Yes!
The fans loved our show of passion and I could feel a real bond forming between my newly assembled squad and the loyal fans who had travelled to Welling to watch them play.
The FA were less impressed, however, and after I followed up my pitch invasion by complaining loudly to the press that the referee was blind for not giving us a clear penalty, they slapped me with a second warning about my conduct.
Worst of all, on the TV later, you could clearly see that the referee had made the right decision. Maybe I will keep my thoughts to myself in future…
Matchday 22 – Worcester City v Weston-super-Mare
More cup fun, then, to round up the month. A jolly trip up north to Worcester. We could do without the distraction, but there we go. I decided to let some of the subs get a start, but we took a strong bench so that we could make changes if necessary.
I think everyone present could agree that we could have done without this game, what a frustrating evening. Yet again the offside rule confused us. We may not have scored any goals that counted, but we again scored three that didn’t. Frustrating. We also hit the post twice. Ugh.
Thanks to Worcester doing what no other club has done this season and stopping us from scoring, we have the pleasure of welcoming them to Weston for a replay. In three day’s time. Rest? Who needs it..?
Matchday 23 – Weston-super-Mare v Worcester City
Worcester had annoyed me. No one stops us scoring. I don’t want to be in this cup, but damn it if an also-ran from the north will make a mockery of us. Back comes the Samba-Hughes partnership that served us well. Let’s do this.
Better. Marc Hughes had a point to prove, having not scored for a while, so it was good to see him run riot in the Worcester defence. They were terrified of him and rightly so as he put them to the sword with four excellent goals. Ben Cleverley also popped up with a goal from the left. They scored a consolation, but they were humbled at the Woodspring by some ferocious Seagulls.
Which of course means we qualify for the next round…
Oh brilliant, we drew a team from the division above. Just what we need.
So, with the conclusion of November, this is what the Blue Square South table looks like:
We sit one point behind Staines with just over half the season to go. One thing in our favour is our goal difference which, at +29 is 12 higher than theirs. Should we end up level on points I fancy us to edge it on goal difference.
So, we had an unbeaten month, with two wins and two draws in the league, and a draw and a win in the FA Vase.
Despite that, I didn’t even get a look in for the manager of the month award. Not bothered mate.
There are lots of games at this time of year and we could do with avoiding too many more. Next month there will be at least six games, assuming we don’t draw with Telford. Hopefully, the squad will be up for it. Join me next time to see how we round out 2011!