Happy New Year one and all! I have a feeling that 2013 will be a good year for the club and I hope that we can continue on the upward trajectory that we have found ourselves on since I took over at the club. This time last year we came off of a strong December in a prime position to go for promotion, but we faltered a little bit in January to put our promotion push seriously into question. I was determined that this year we would not do the same thing. We are just two points off the top with a game in hand. We have a tough and busy month. It is imperative that we do well…

Firstly though, some admin. Yannick Texeira Barbosa was awarded goal of the month for December for his goal in the Newport County game. Almost as pleasing, our rivals Truro City conceded the goal that came second. Ha.

goal-of-moneth-december

Oh, and I got Manager of the Month. Well deserved. I love awards.

manager-of-month-december

Matchday 27 – Grimsby Town v Weston-super-Mare

grimsby-badge

First up was a trip to Grimsby Town (whose badge I forgot to screenshot normally, #professional) and what was sure to be a tough test. I could easily see us slipping up here and the result triggering a poor run of form just like last season’s, particularly as we still do not have the services of Cherno Samba who remains our best striker despite having only played about ten games all season.

I shouldn’t have worried, though, the boys were clearly inspired by the holiday spirit around Blundell Park and consequently dashed into a 2-0 half-time lead courtesy of goals from Norwegian Mo and Scott Brown. Brown’s goal, in particular, was a bit special as he thumped in a mighty shot from outside of the box.

Grimsby were struggling to create any chances, having to rely upon the giving nature of Liam Darville who selflessly turned the ball into his own net ten minutes into the second half. Darville was clearly caught up in the giving spirit of the holiday period, and nice though the gesture was for Grimsby it did leave us with a nervy end to the game. Nevertheless, we managed to hold on for the win, easing my fears that January might be a tough month for us.

grimsby-game

The Grimsby game was one of the two very tough games that we were going to face this month and so to come through with three points was an excellent result and a real confidence booster.

Matchday 28 – Dagenham and Redbridge v Weston-super-Mare

dag-and-red-badge

Next up was another away trip, this time to Dagenham and Redbridge, a side that we had bested earlier in the season but who were now in a much stronger position and which had serious designs on winning the league. We had already come through a tough away fixture this month, another would be fine.

Nope. We were disappointing and yet again displayed a comically poor ability to put our chances away, something that Dagenham and Redbridge had no problem with. In a fairly even game in terms of chances created, finishing made the difference. The Daggers took an early two-goal lead, in part due to poor defending that gave them a chance to score from the penalty spot which they gleefully accepted.

In the second half we briefly threatened to recover as Gareth Seddon grabbed a rare goal on the counter, but just three minutes later we were finished as Kostakis Artymatas got himself sent off for an unnecessary and horrible foul in the midfield. After that, we were completely nullified going forward and Dagenham and Redbridge took full advantage, extending their lead further in the 72nd minute to effectively kill the game.

dag-and-red-game

The result was highly disappointing and made we think of last January where our form started to fall off a bit of a cliff. I was also worried about the lack of goals from our strikers. Yannick Texeira Barbosa, Norwegian Mo and defender Gavin Donoghue were chipping in with vital goals here and there, but they can’t do it all and our strikers just aren’t delivering. Therefore, I dipped into the loan market to bring in Guy Madjo from Aldershot Town. They were doing awfully in League Two but still didn’t have the lad in their first team plans, so I swooped to bring him to the Woodspring until the end of the season. Hopefully, he can provide some competition for our misfiring strikers, plus his aerial ability will come in handy as a lot of our strikers are fairly poor when attacking high balls.

guy-after-dagred-game

Matchday 29 – Weston-super-Mare v Hayes and Yeading

hayes-and-yeading-badge

So, we needed to bounce back, and quickly. We couldn’t afford to let our promotion rivals get any further ahead of us, so we needed to get back to winning ways, especially against mid-table sides like Hayes and Yeading. I would put Madjo up top to replace Seddon. Ok, he scored in his last game, but he has been consistently poor since coming back from injury and I needed to make a statement…

They were nothing special, although they had strung a couple of wins together and were in good shape so it was definitely not a gimmie that we would win this game.

Flips, what a game! It had everything; comebacks, turn arounds, more comebacks, and turnarounds. It was fantastic to watch but not good for the nerves. Luckily we had over 1,000 inside the Woodspring for this one; hopefully, they can spread the word and keep coming back for more.

We started the game strongly, with Guy Madjo slipping the ball under the Hayes and Yeading ‘keeper after just eleven minutes of his club debut. The fans were singing his name and everything was coming up Weston as we doubled our lead twelve minutes later, Gavin Donoghue powering home a header from a corner to put us comfortably in control.

Unfortunately, we took our collective foot off of the proverbial peddle somewhat, and within seventeen minutes we were left rueing our complacency as Hayes and Yeading hit back to level the game before half-time, thanks to a double from Paris Cowan-Hall.

They were very much in the ascendancy and we were thanking the footballing Gods that half time was just around the corner. The lads ran into the dressing room with their tales between their leg. It was my job to calm them down and send them out there to win the game. “No silly mistakes early in the second half”, I told them. “No conceding a soft goal in the first few minutes”, I said. They nodded. They knew.

But it didn’t stop Hayes and Yeading, who carried on where they left off and completed their turn around just eight minutes after the restart, Tom Collins scoring from a corner to put the visitors ahead for the first time in the game.

I was furious, and to demonstrate that I dragged off Marc Hughes and Norwegian Mo, throwing on the misfiring Gareth Seddon up top and Scott Brown on the left. They had 30 minutes to salvage something from the game, otherwise, the dressing room was not going to be a happy place to be after the final whistle.

Luckily, Ben Wheatland is a football genius. The changes that I made had the effect of breaking up Hayes and Yeading’s momentum whilst simultaneously giving our lads a kick up the backside. Brown, a marginal figure in the season thus far after turning in average performances whenever he has played, had a point to prove. Ten minutes after his introduction he picked up the ball and charged at the Hayes and Yeading right back. He beat his man and crossed the ball in hard and low where it found another player who was out of form. Seddon couldn’t miss, and we had leveled the game at 3-3. The best was yet to come, however. Brown, determined to continue proving his point, really took the game by the scruff of the neck. Just five minutes later he picked the ball up again, this time cutting inside rather than beating his man on the wing. As he sailed past two Hayes and Yeading players, he looked up briefly before mashing a shot into the top corner from outside of the box, sending the fans in the stands into ecstasy.

hayes-and-yeading-game

We had won, but we had made things far too difficult for ourselves. Whilst we were rightly proud of the boys for rallying back and getting something from the game, I was very angry about the period in which Hayes and Yeading turned the game on its head. I had a congratulatory yell at the lads in the changing rooms after the game – which sounds confusing and was – and we all went home satisfied.

Matchday 30 – Weston-super-Mare v Kidderminster Harriers

kidderminster-badge

Ok, we got lucky. At least we managed to turn the game around and the lad’s confidence was sky high. Hopefully, we could try and ride that wave of optimism into the next game, against an in-form Kidderminster Harriers side.

How we didn’t win the game, I will never know. We peppered their goal with chances, but the standard of our finishing was poor and from our 22 shots we managed just three on target in the entire game. To put that into an even harsher perspective, we had been playing against ten men for nearly 80 minutes of the match after Jack Byrne was sent off for a dangerous tackle.

We were at least able to rest assured that we would take a point from the game, only for a late flurry of controversy to rob us even of that. First, Donoghue was sent off for bringing down a Kidderminster striker when he was clean through. This looked to have saved us from a sucker punch winner until two minutes later Marc Dyer slotted home to break our hearts.

kidderminster-game

Given that we were so wasteful, we couldn’t complain about the result, although looking at the statistics of the game it is bordering on criminal that we didn’t put Kidderminster to the sword. Thankfully for the boys, we now faced Gloucester City in the FA Trophy, giving us an opportunity for a break from our league duties.

Matchday 31 – Weston-super-Mare v Gloucester City

gloucester-badge

So, for the third game in a row we were playing in front of our loyal fans at the Woodspring, although the prospect of watching Gloucester City clearly didn’t appeal to everyone as our gate was much lower than our match day totals of late.

Our opponents were struggling after their change of division and found themselves languishing in 17th in the Blue Square South. With our good recent form, barring the Kidderminster debacle, we were expecting to brush them aside with ease.

We didn’t, though, we drew what was probably the most boring game both sides have ever been involved in, with only two shots on target in the entire match. The draw set up a replay at their place in four day’s time. Just what we need; a replay to add to our already taxing list of fixtures.

gloucester-game-1

Matchday 32 – Gloucester City v Weston-super-Mare

So, four days later we found ourselves traveling the short distance to Cheltenham Town’s Whaddon Road stadium which apparently doubles as Gloucester City’s home too (Gloucester are in a serious mess as a club). I was determined to get this game done and dusted without forcing anything as tedious as extra time or penalties. I didn’t want any additional minutes on the pitch for the lads who are already starting to struggle to cope with how many games we have.

Clearly, the boys shared my desires to get this game out of the way, although it took until after half time to prove it. This was a much better game for the fans to watch as we finally started to show off our class against our lower league opponents. Just ten minutes into the second half, Scott Brown hit a shot past the Gloucester ‘keeper, before laying on an easy tap-in for Guy Madjo to score just moments later.

Our quick-fire double pretty much killed the game off, although Gloucester did briefly threaten to come back and force a draw when they pulled a goal back in the 76th minute through Darren Edwards. It set up a slightly tense finale and the game was only finally put to be for sure when Guy Madjo grabbed his second with two minutes to spare, running clean through on goal after dispossessing an unlucky Gloucester defender before slipping the ball into the net.

gloucester-game-2

Fantastic news, depending on how you view things. On the one hand, we get a small amount of prize money and have progressed to the next round of the cup, on the other; progression means even more games to fit into our schedule. I’m conflicted, although a cup run could be good for the club’s bank account…

Matchday 33 – Weston-super-Mare v Braintree Town

braintree-badge

We rounded off the month with yet another home tie, this time a league fixture against Braintree Town. Braintree are rock bottom of the league and have conceded an average of two goals a game. They are also the first side I have ever encountered in the lower leagues to play with a sweeper and wing-backs system, especially when it so clearly doesn’t work.

braintree-formation

I’ll stick to 4-4-2, thanks.

Given their poor form, odd formation, and porous defence, this should be a relatively comfortable game.

Cue a scrappy 1-0 win. Latvian Toms grabbed the goal early on, nodding in from a corner to put us ahead in front of over 1,200 fans. Braintree had nothing about them and we carved them open a number of times only to fluff our lines when it came to finishing. Their formation was simultaneously leaving them short at the back and lacking in numbers whilst attacking, and they created just the one solitary shot on target. Give it up, mate.

braintree-game

They were poor and we were good value for our win, even if the scoreline was a bit smaller than I would have liked.

We had made it to the end of January, and this year we hadn’t had such a bad time of things. We won three of our five league games, progressed in the cup and somehow still find ourselves top of the tree (with a game in hand over third-placed Luton Town). I’ll take that; I was happy.

table-jan

Next month, though, is going to be another busy one. Our replay with Gloucester pushed one of our league games back, plus we have our third round tie against Blue Square North side Solihull Moors. It is not just a busy schedule, though. Some of those games are big-uns. We have an away game against Wrexham, who sit just behind us on goal difference, as well as games against third-placed Luton Town and promotion challengers (and hipsters) Forest Green Rovers.

fixtures-and-results

Come back next time to see how we get on. February will really make or break our season. Come out strongly and we will be right in there with a chance of promotion. Struggle, particularly against our closest rivals, and our surprise title challenge might be over already.

Cheers!

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