Welcome back. We avoided a collapse in January; now we had a month that would define our season coming over the horizon. Big games against Luton Town, Forest Green Rovers and second-placed Wrexham, plus a number of the kind of league games that we tend to slip up in, meant that February 2013 would be a long month for me and my squad.
We were able to start the month off by enjoying Scott Brown’s goal against Hayes and Yeading, as it was voted third best goal of January. It is nice that we are pretty regularly scoring excellent goals, but I would happily take a scuffed shot that goes in off of Big Cherno’s knee if it means we beat Wrexham…
Matchday 34 – Altrincham v Weston-super-Mare
Our first fixture was a trip to Altrincham, who were having a poor season and were languishing in the relegation zone despite some decent recent form. It would be good to get the month off to a flier, so a resounding win in this fixture would do us the world of good.
It wasn’t to be. In fact, we were pretty poor, again suffering from wasteful finishing. Altrincham weren’t much better, although they did take the lead just after half time when Paul Terry, brother to England defender John, slotted home. We hit back less than ten minutes later, when Yannick Texeira Barbosa tapped home from close range after good work from Lee Nasir on the right. We continued to create chances, but couldn’t manage to put any away, and in the end, we had to be content with just a point.
This was not ideal at all, especially considering how poor Altrincham have been all season. I was very annoyed.
Not as annoyed as England fans, though, who had to endure England vs Iran, and which featured Michael Carrick and Adam Lallana. Captivating.
Matchday 35 – Lincoln City v Weston-super-Mare
So things went wrong against Altrincham. Luckily, with the schedule as it is, we only had four days to mull over our performance before we had to travel to face Lincoln City. The Imps were fifth in the table and had gone on a decent run of form recently, winning their last four. Given that we struggled to beat a side in the relegation zone just a few days ago, I was suddenly lacking confidence that we would be able to go away to one of our promotion rivals and get a result…
Naturally, I was wrong. Big Cherno was back in the starting eleven, having finally proven his fitness to me. It was immediately clear that he was what we had been missing, as he gave us a cutting edge up front that we had clearly been lacking in the past few games. Indeed, he opened the scoring in this game, scoring a cheeky lob from the edge of the area after just eleven minutes. We tried to push on but the game was very even, with both sides creating chances whilst looking fairly solid at the back.
Almost inevitably, however, Lincoln got an equaliser 19 minutes later, as Danny Hone equalised from close range after we failed to clear a corner from our area properly. This was irritating but was probably deserved, as both teams were looking good and there wasn’t much in it. This carried on into the second half and the game appeared to be drifting away into another draw until we won a freekick on the edge of the Lincoln area. Brian King stepped up and whipped the ball into the top corner to send our fans into jubilant celebration and ultimately win us the three points.
It was hard to say we clearly deserved to win the game, but we ground out the result and I was pleased with the application shown by the lads.
Unfortunately, we had some bad news to come as Yannick Texeira Barbosa pulled him hamstring during the game, ruling him out for at least a month during our busiest part of the season. Excellent news.
Matchday 36 – Solihull Moors v Weston-super-Mare
Luckily we had a brief respite from the league in our next game as we travelled to Solihull to play in the third round of the FA Trophy.
I took the opportunity to rest some of our normal first teamers as this would be our third game within seven days and we had a big game against Wrexham in our next league tie. Unfortunately, the squad isn’t too big, so some first teamers had to start, but at least young Graham Ryan got a run out on the right wing in place of Yannick Texeira Barbosa, and Jamil Adam got a rare start up front.
We just about snuck past Solihull Moors, who put in a good display and on another day could have won the tie. Gavin Donoghue scored the winner for us in the first half, thumping home a powerful header from Ryan’s corner.
We did enough, and got ourselves into the next round, but given the injury list the club has at the moment it seems like maybe we should have tried to lose the game…
At least we got a home tie. The next game will be against Newport County at the start of next month and the fans will be happy to welcome something of a local rival to the Woodspring.
Matchday 37 – Wrexham v Weston-super-Mare
Speaking of the Woodspring, it seems like a long time ago that we last played there. We travelled up to Wrexham, who had now overtaken us after the Altrincham result and sat top of the league. They were in pretty good form and, importantly, do not seem to concede many goals. That’s not great, considering that, at the moment, we are struggling to score them…
Oh! Thank the Gods of waterlogged pitches, the game was postponed! This gave us more time to allow my threadbare squad to recover. The one downside was that the rearranged fixture is now just three days after the Newport cup game, meaning next month is going to be another bumper one. At least we might be able to build up some momentum between now and then.
We were given one boost by the return of Gareth Seddon who came back from injury a lot quicker than was expected. His return was welcome as we need as many fit bodies as we can get and we have another run of three fixtures in seven days coming just around the corner.
I really didn’t want this season to be ruined by the ill health of my small squad, but the transfer window had just closed. Luckily, we have no money to spend anyway, so I dipped into the free transfer list and picked up a new midfielder and a new striker. Say hi to Scott Davidson, who will challenge for our central and right sided midfield positions whilst Yannick Texeira Barbosa is out…
…and to Steven Howarth, a Scottish striker who will hopefully be able to score, unlike most of the rest of them.
Matchday 37 again – Weston-super-Mare v Stockport County
So, after a nice long rest, we finally had a home game to play! We welcomed Stockport County to the Woodspring and I felt confident. They were doing badly and were in poor form. Of course, they would be desperate not to allow themselves to get relegated this season, but we had our own aims and we needed a win just as much as they did. With that in mind, I gave both of our new signings a start, with Davidson starting in centre midfield and Howarth slotting in up front alongside Big Cherno.
We beat them 2-0 earlier in the season, and we beat them 1-0 today! We dominated the game and absolutely deserved the win, although we had thirteen shots but could only get four on target. Luckily, Big Cherno brought along his scoring boots and netted early on in the tie which, coupled with Stockport’s utterly ineffectual attack, was enough to give us all three points.
Bar our continually poor conversion rate of chances, I was pleased with the result and the performance. The only downside was a nasty injury to Norwegian Mo, who went down under a dangerous challenge and will now be out for the next three to four weeks, adding to our growing injury list. Scott Brown, our back-up left winger, will have to step up…
Matchday 38 – Weston-super-Mare v Luton Town
So with what was left of our squad, we looked forward to the visit of Luton Town to the Woodspring just three days later. Luton were on a phenomenal run that had somehow taken them above both us and Wrexham so that they now stood top of the division. They hadn’t lost in ages, were scoring goals for fun and were in high spirits. We, on the other hand, were knackered, depleted, and had to start Wade Small up front who hadn’t scored for months.
We won 1-0, with a late, late goal from Steven Howarth proving to be the difference between us and our title rivals. The game was tetchy and close, with both sides creating half chances but also playing and defending well. Consequently, there were not too many chances of note, but the goal that won the game was enough to make up for the lack of chances in the game. With just five minutes to go, Howarth collected the ball ten yards inside the Luton half and turned to run at goal. He skilfully beat two players before finding himself one on one with the keeper, whereupon he casually lifted the ball up and over the keeper’s head and into the net. What a goal, what a way to introduce himself! The 1,600 plus crowd inside the Woodspring went wild as the Luton players’ heads dropped.
They did their best to get back into the game in the final five minutes, but only moments later they had a man sent off for a second yellow card and everyone knew that the game was won.
What a fantastic result! A moment of brilliance won us the game and has taken us back to the top of the league. We were buzzing, but we didn’t have long to enjoy ourselves before we had to get ready for our game against Forest Green Rovers.
Matchday 39 – Forest Green Rovers v Weston-super-Mare
Forest Green Rovers, the vegan club. Despite being odd and quirky off the pitch, on it they were bang average this season. They had scored 41, conceded 41, and were almost exactly in mid-table. We had beaten them 2-0 earlier in the season after their manager had spoken out about how much he hated me and my team. This time round he didn’t say anything in the media before the game. Clearly, I had already won the mind games between us, now we just had to do the job on the pitch.
We did that too, with the minimum of fuss, although we had to be thankful to Scott Brown for really stepping up his game and scoring the goals to win us the game. Brown, in for the injured Norwegian Mo, tore Forest Green’s right flank to pieces, creating loads of chances for us after beating their right back and also chipping in with two excellent goals just before half time.
After the half time break, Forest Green briefly threatened to come back into the game, scoring just nine minutes into the second half. Luckily, a combination of our dogged defending and Forest Green having a man sent off late on meant that we were able to hang on to the three points and get one over on them and their useless manager.
This result left us five points clear at the top of the league! After losing to us Luton had contrived to lose again, and Wrexham weren’t faring much better.
Some bad news was to come, however. Due to the game against Wrexham having been called off and our continued involvement in the FA Trophy, our game against York City had been rescheduled to the 27th, just four days after the Forest Green game, giving us our fourth game in just eleven days. The poor lads are only part time players, so how they were going to cope with the physical demands of this league was something I couldn’t help but wonder about…
Matchday 40 – Weston-super-Mare v York City
Given the short turn around we had for this game, our players were not fully fit for this game. With the size of the squad what it was (ie. Small) I didn’t have the opportunity to switch out many of our players, so they would just have to get on with it and do what they could.
Unfortunately, given the circumstances, all they could do was lose, although they created a string of good chances and were unlucky that York scored with both of their shots on target. On another day we would have won the game, but the fatigue was clearly affecting our lads and the finishing touch was just not there.
Nevertheless, we have had an incredibly packed month and to come out of it with only one loss is no mean feat. Also, despite our loss, we were still sitting two points clear at the top of the table, although Wrexham would go above us on goal difference if they were to win their game in hand.
Nevertheless, we had a great month. We got a huge win against Luton to keep the gap between us. Next month’s rearranged game against Wrexham now has huge significance. We also have a chance to put a bigger gap between us and our play-off rivals as we travel to face Ebbsfleet United. Next month is another big month.
Come back next time to see how we get on! Cheers.