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Weston’s Super Mare? – Episode 7: A very merry Christmas

Get the fishing lines out, chaps, we are going fishing! It’s time to reel in Staines and make the top spot our own. We had a fairly good month in November, but now the league schedule is getting very busy and we can start to make some serious progress in the league. We have five league games this month, mostly against mid-table or lower-table teams, so we should be looking to capitalise on that and pick up some wins, plus a cup tie away at Telford. Let’s crack on!

Matchday 24 – Eastleigh v Weston-super-Mare

Eastleigh badge

First up in December is an away trip to Eastleigh. We might have brought in a lot of players over the summer, but I was working on a very tight budget. To compare, we are currently spending £166,000 a year on wages; Eastleigh are paying £605,000. That’s similar to a lower League Two team, so they mean business. However, it clearly hasn’t worked for them so far as they sit eleventh in the table.

That said, they were on a good run of form, so we wouldn’t be taking them lightly. We needn’t have worried, though, because we have Cherno Samba! The game began as an edgy and tense affair, with neither side looking like they wanted to really do much. That was until big Cherno was given a sniff of goal; the ball was played quickly along our left-hand side, before Singh played Samba through, one-on-one with the keeper. Would he score? By ‘eck he would, slotting the ball confidently past the Eastleigh keeper.

Just five minutes later we doubled our lead as Hughes picked up the ball just inside the Eastleigh half, skinned five defenders and then slipping the ball in at the near post. Sensational stuff; Eastleigh were stunned! The half ended with another goal from Hughes and although Eastleigh pulled one back three minutes later it was clear that we were on our way to collecting the three points. After the restart, the game was calm, with neither side really exerting themselves too much. Their overpaid players were being humbled by our plucky band of free transfers and part-timers and our fans were loving it. We rounded out the game and confirmed our win when the ball fell to right back Liam Darville around 20 yards out. Darville caught the ball cleanly in his stride and thwacked a thunderbastard of a shot into the top corner to claim his first goal for the club.

Eastleigh game

The fans were happy, the players were happy, I was happy. What a win, what a team. We might actually have a shot at promotion…

Matchday 25 – AFC Telford v Weston-super-Mare

Telford badge

There is very little that interests me in an away tie to AFC Telford in the FA Vase when we could be fighting tooth and nail to win promotion, but we have to play the game. They are in the league above us and will have home advantage so are theoretically better than us, but the game shouldn’t be a foregone conclusion. They are in dreadful form and are in the relegation zone in the Blue Square Bet Premier League, so maybe a combination of our good form, high spirits and a bit of luck could see us overcome them and pull off something of a giant killing?

Ah, no, they are actually still quite good. They took an early lead through debutant Daniel Donovan. Donovan scored two Gamble-assisted goals; both were strikes that on another day he might have saved, but that is football. They looked comfortable on the ball, too, belying their poor league form. We, on the other hand, looked nervous, and perhaps the occasion got to us – we aren’t used to playing in front of nearly 1500 people – which, even though I wouldn’t mind being knocked out was still frustrating.

I couldn’t be too harsh on the boys at half time though, and tried to encourage them for the second half. I wasn’t sure this was the way to go, and that proved to be pretty accurate when Donovan completed his debut hat trick fifteen minutes into the second half. However, we Seagulls are made of stern stuff and something inside the players awoke as they watched Donovan lap up the applause of the crowd. Straight from kick off, Cherno Samba picked up the ball, waltzed through the still celebrating Telford defence, and slammed home his shot. Hope? Surely not…

Well, Jamil Adam had other ideas. The Irish forward decided now was the time to pop up with a goal, threatening to bring us level and then set up a dreaded and unwelcome replay..! Luckily Chris Sharp popped up with a stunner on 90 minutes to put to bed any faint hope we might have had of earning a draw. We did well to get back into the match after being seemingly dead and buried, but I have to say I wasn’t too disappointed to lose.

Telford game

We acquitted ourselves well against a side from the division above us, which hopefully bodes well if we are to get promoted this season. Now that we are out of all possible cup competitions we can turn our full attention to the league. Good. Let’s just hope our loss to Telford hasn’t dented our confidence.

Matchday 26 – Weston-super-Mare v Dover Athletic

 Dover badge

If we were low on confidence, we couldn’t have dreamt of a better game to get it back than playing Dover at home. They have been poor in recent weeks and were on a five-game losing run, so I was quietly confident that we could send them back to the white cliffs with their tails between their legs.

There were shades of the Sutton game about this one to start with. We dominated proceedings and had a goal disallowed for offside (Cherno might be prolific this season, but he is also a serial offender when it comes to hanging around in offside positions). Luckily, as I mentioned, he is prolific and decided to bring along his shooting boots today. After a slow first 40 minutes, the game came alive as first Samba and then Ben Cleverley found the net in quick succession. We continued to play well in the second half and went further in front through Gavin Whelan, who was playing out of position on the left wing but still managed to score his first goal for the club. Dover immediately hit back because we don’t do clean sheets, but the game was never in doubt from this point and we rounded off the win a few minutes later when Cherno Samba hit his second of the game.

Dover game

I was happy with the performance and the result, as we finally retook top spot in the league. I had a slight worry that the Telford game might hurt our form for a while, but it looks like we have moved on well.

In fact, the press are singing our praises, singling out big Cherno for special attention:

Samba praise

Ha, take that Tom Flynn from Twitter!

 Matchday 27 – Weston-super-Mare v Chelmsford
Chelmsford badge

The games were coming thick and fast now as we welcomed Chelmsford to the Woodspring Stadium, but this didn’t seem to bother us. In fact, we went on to chalk up our biggest win of the season against a surprisingly poor Chelmsford side. King opened the scoring with a free kick on three minutes, but Chelmsford pegged us back straight after the restart. Then followed an impressive display of dominance from us where we seemed to score with every chance we took. Gilbert and Samba both scored within five minutes of each other, and then King grabbed his second just before half time to send us in 4-1 up and cruising.

I didn’t want to let off though and told the lads so. Samba looked particularly determined by my team talk and he had a hungry glint in his eyes as he left the changing rooms at the start of the second half. He was a man possessed, completing his hat-trick with two excellent goals to condemn Chelmsford to a demoralising defeat. To compound things for the visitors, they had Kezie Ibe sent off for two yellow cards late on, on an afternoon that their fans and manager will want to forget quickly.

Chelmsford game

We were deadly in attack in front of the 349 who made their way to the ground on Boxing Day and really sent a message to the rest of the league that we are the real deal. At the half way point in the season, we were top of the league and looking comfortable. Bring it on!

Matchday 28 – Weston-super-Mare v Bromley
Bromley badge

Two days later, Bromley rocked up at the Woodspring looking to knock us off our perch. Elsewhere, Salisbury played Staines in a 3rd v 2nd match, meaning that if we picked up a win today we were going to pull further away from one of them at least.

We made a few changes in this game, bringing in Cavener and Martin Slocombe to give a break to Darville and Cleverley. Having drawn our first game against Bromley, I wasn’t expecting a repeat of our last game against Chelmsford, but given that they had lost their last two and we were in high spirits I was quietly confident about the win.

This was a much better performance that in our first game of the season, and it showed how far we have come as a team. We put them to the sword in the first half, scoring three unopposed goals to effectively put the game out of their reach. They mounted something of a fight back after the break and of course as we don’t keep clean sheets they got their consolation prize on 60 minutes. Nevertheless, we looked comfortable and saw out the win.
Bromley game

There was good news from elsewhere in the division, as Salisbury City thumped Staines to move into second place, meaning that our overall lead had increased. We are slowly, slowly, edging away from the chasing pack…

Matchday 29 – Thurrock v Weston-super-Mare
Thurrock badge

With an ever increasing lead and in confident mood, we made the trip to Thurrock, a team that we had beaten 3-1 at our stadium earlier in the season. It is fair to say that that 3-1 defeat could well be one of the highlights of Thurrock’s season so far, as since then they have conceded at a rate of just under two a game and now lie 22nd in the table. Could we round off 2011 with a win? All the signs were pointing to a big old “Yes”…

But cor, we like to make things tough for ourselves, don’t we? We blow very hot and cold when it comes to goals; in some matches, we are clinical, in others, we have to rely on creating so many chances that it ends up being harder to score than not. Since his hat-trick against Chelmsford, big Cherno has gone off the boil a bit, and he played poorly again here. Luckily Jamil Adam popped up with a goal in the first half, giving us a lead that we didn’t ever look likely to surrender, even if we ourselves couldn’t extend the scoreline.
Thurrock game

But a win’s a win’s a win, and it was about time that we registered a 1-0 win in the league this season anyway, if only to prove that we can do it. They can’t all be goal-fests, remember that!

Phwoar, what a month of football for Weston-super-Mare! I was very happy with the performances of the lads, and now we can look forward to the second half of the season with excitement. No one expected us to be where we are, so we can just sit back and enjoy as everyone runs along in our shadows…

The players have done wonders this month and it was nice for them to receive some recognition from outside our own fan base as we took a clean-sweep of the player of the month awards for December.

Darville player of month

Oh, and there was this waiting for me as I sat down in my office and switched on my computer the morning after the Thurrock game…

Manager of month December

Look at the table, just look at it and feel the warm glow that it offers us. Four points clear at the beginning of 2012. I am sure we are all happy with that! Also, for those fancying something a little more hilarious, check out our goals for column; 67 in 23 games. Not bad.

December table

Finally, here is a run down of our results from this month, plus a look forward to January. No games against any of our promotion rivals, but a chance to get some more points between us and Salisbury.

December fixtures reviw

Until next time, thank you for reading! I hope you are enjoying the journey so far; please feel free to comment below if there is something you want to know more about the save and I will do my best to show it off. Cheers!



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