After the horror show of the last episode, we went into the month of October hoping to get back on track and retake first place from the new leaders, Salisbury City. But first, we were obliged to play in the FA Cup second qualification round.
These ties are hardly romantic, and draws are punished with replays rather than penalties, so we have to go for a win. I don’t want to devalue the oldest cup competition in the world in any way, but as manager of a semi-successful Blue Square South club, I have better things to do than play North Leigh. Our focus is on the league, and any progress in the cups would simply be a bonus.
Matchday 12 – Weston-super-Mare v North Leigh
With that rousing and inspirational speech out of the way, let’s crack straight on. We had a decent amount of time between our next fixtures, and in the interest of recovering some confidence, I elected to play the same team that had lost so poorly to Boreham Wood. This way, I reasoned, we could at least be more likely to guarantee our place at the first time of asking, without having to add a second tie to our already busy schedule.
As you can see from below, it worked, although just barely. We did just about enough to edge past North Leigh, winning 2-1 on the day in front of 247 die hard supporters, with Ben Kirk scoring his first goal for the club from the spot and Cherno Samba adding another to his collection. We were so confident in our ability that we even had the luxury of missing a second penalty, this time, Brian King whacking the ball off of the crossbar. Why Kirk didn’t step up for a second bite of the cherry, I will never know. We were never really threatened by North Leigh, and although they did pull one back they didn’t create much themselves and never looked like causing an upset.
It is worrying still how many times we concede – we have only kept three clean sheets in our eleven league games this season, and we are even letting lowly North Leigh get one against us. I will keep faith with Paddy Gamble for now, but too much more and Lloyd Irish might be in line for an unlikely return to the side.
Matchday 13 – Weston-super-Mare v Dartford
Now, on paper, this should have been an easy game. Dartford haven’t set the world alight this season and were comfortably mid-table, having lost their last few games without scoring. The stage looked set for us to grab another win as the opening stages of the game panned out, with us dominating proceedings without creating many clear chances. However, as is always the case in this kind of game, Dartford promptly took the ball off of our midfield and scored what would be the club’s only shot on target for the whole game just before half time.
During the interval I let fly at the players, letting them know that I expected better from them in the second half. Whether or not it was the right decision (Trevor Benjamin, on to give Cherno Samba a break, didn’t seem impressed), it had the desired effect when centre-back Simon Gilbert volleyed home from inside the six-yard box to level up the game. After that, there were very few chances, and the game descended into a stodgy midfield battle before the referee did everyone a favour and called a halt to proceedings.
Too many performances like that and our attendances aren’t likely to grow as we need them to, although we did get over 300 through the turnstiles for this one. Encouraging stuff…
After the game, I was informed that we had been drawn away in the next round of the FA Cup against Chesham…
…a group of people clearly starved of any form of real entertainment, if this piece of news is anything to go by.
Matchday 14 – Tonbridge Angels v Weston-super-Mare
After another disappointing league performance, I decided to mix things up. I swapped my right back, bringing in Robert Caverner for only his second start of the season, and replaced our usual left winger Harpal Singh with a player called Ben Cleverley who was already at the club when I took over. I hoped this would freshen up our wide areas and come as a surprise to the Tonbridge manager. Tonbridge were defying expectations and sat third, one place above us, in the table.
The changes clearly worked, because we escaped Tonbridge with an impressive 1-4 win! Things seemed to be going typically wrong when Ben Kirk bundled the ball into his own net, but we hit back almost immediately and levelled through an own goal of our own. At half time I was clear with the lads that I wasn’t going to accept another disappointing result and then passionately geed them up, ready for the next half.
Whatever I said it worked, because straight from kick off Marc Hughes had found the net! We then did something that we haven’t done for a few weeks by holding on to the ball and not inviting pressure onto ourselves by making silly mistakes. This revolutionary tactic worked, and we kept Tonbridge at arm’s reach, before hitting them with a sucker punch right at the death, with two quick goals. Brian King scored our third of the evening, finishing off a slick move, before Marc Hughes scored a wonder goal, collecting the ball in his own half before dancing past the entire Tonbridge defence to score. Shades of Maradona…
What a result! That put us third, just a point behind joint leaders Staines and Salisbury City. There was, of course, one black lined cloud in sight, however…
Matchday 15 – Chesham v Weston-super-Mare
Luckily, with our involvement in the FA Cup qualification rounds (and with my less than enthusiastic stance towards the competition anyway) we were able to rest big Cherno without too much interruption to our league campaign. I send him to the physio’s room to get some ointment for his bruise, and then set about plotting my way past the might of Chesham.
Thank goodness for Jamil Adam and the returning Leeroy Chinthenga who were both finally fit in time to cover for another injury. I used the game against Chesham to rest a few of our ‘stars’ and to give a run out to some more of our lesser spotted squad members. Again, it was just about enough, and we slipped past Chesham thanks to a first competitive goal for the club for Jamil Adam. Onwards and upwards to the fourth (qualification) round of the FA Cup (yay…)!
What was our prize for brushing aside Chesham, I hear you ask?
Truro. Again. Excellent…
Matchday 16 – Weston-super-Mare v Salisbury City
Finally, back to the league and a chance to regain our rightful place at the top of the league. I was sceptical as to our chances in this game; Salisbury are a strong outfit and were on a fantastic run of form with just one defeat in their last fourteen games. Admittedly we had started to pick up form again, but this was surely too big a task, especially without Cherno Samba to bang in the goals. Surely…
Err, no, actually. We started the game brightly and took the lead on five minutes through an outstanding goal from Brian King, the Irish midfielder whacking in a shot from 25 yards to stun our visitors. We never looked comfortable, however, and we were pegged by Salisbury just 15 minutes later after some poor goalkeeping from Paddy Gamble.
But, as against Tonbridge, we didn’t panic and instead made it to halftime with the scores still level. I made another passionate plea to the players to really kick on in the second half; I believed in them! I was right to believe. Soon after the restart, Steven Gilbert slammed home a header from a corner to restore our lead, before we shut up shop and kept Salisbury at bay with some solid defensive work. Jamil Adam and Marc Hughes played well together up front before Adam was replaced by that man, Trevor Benjamin, who stepped up big time and scored a composed finish into the bottom corner to send the 424 fans at the ground into raptures. To top it all off, Hughes again added a late, late solo goal to put the icing on the cake. We won!
With this victory, we can definitely put behind us the difficult last month and look to build on our strong position. Staines also won, meaning that we remain one point off of the top of the table. So close, but yet so far…
Matchday 17 – Weston-super-Mare v Truro
Before we could continue eating up the ground between us and Staines, we had the small matter of the FA Cup fourth qualification round tie against Truro to deal with. Victory in this game would put us into the FA Cup first round proper, meaning we could be drawn against such giants of the game as Accrington Stanley or Port Vale. But first, we would have to win. Given the potential boost to attendances that such a tie might bring, plus a substantial boost in prize money for reaching the first round proper, I played our strongest team. I even put a fully recovered Cherno Samba on the bench.
Of course, with that much enthusiasm, we just had to lose and lose we did. We took an early lead through Jamil Adam’s goal in the fourth minute; sailing seemed plain. But we were soon hit with a double blow, as Truro scored two goals in three minutes – the second of which was an absolute peach – to effectively win the tie. We toiled away but were unable to create any meaningful opportunities, signalling the end of our FA Cup journey this year before it had even really begun.
Still, that’s one less competition to compete for, meaning we can focus better on the league. Given the health records of our strikers, this might well be a good thing.
October was a much more fruitful month for the club as we regained some form in the league and made some small progress in the cups, albeit in vain. The league table looks like this. As you can see, we have scored a shed load of goals, but nevertheless, we are still a point behind Staines.
We have a relatively easy month in November. Just four games and all of them against teams in the bottom half of the table, so we should be looking to pick up some good wins. The Hampton & Richmond game, by the way, was moved due to our involvement in the FA Cup, hence we didn’t play it this month.
I hope you are enjoying our journey so far! Leave a comment below if you have any advice or if you just want to say hi! See you next time…