We have a month chock full of exciting football thrills, so let’s get to it! Before we get to the league, however, we have to play our fourth round FA Trophy tie against Newport County, one of our local rivals…
Matchday 41 – Weston-super-Mare v Newport County
As you know, I have never been one for valuing cup competitions too highly, but now that we are in the quarter finals of the FA Trophy, I felt it was probably worth doing our best to get to the final. Also, the fans would never let me get away with it if we got knocked out by our rivals, so I really had to give this game top billing.
It was a game of few chances and not one for lovers of beautiful football, but we won, thanks to rare goals from Gareth Seddon and Latvian Toms, either side of a Newport equaliser. Newport never really threatened to come back into the game, given that their goal was the only shot on target that they had, and we did our best to shut the game down and not expend too much energy once we had gotten our noses back in front.
We just about did what was needed and we now found ourselves in the hat for the semi final draw. We could have had Lincoln or Blue Square South side Chester, but instead we got Dagenham and Redbridge. We have both beaten each other this season, so the two-legged semi final should be an interesting pair of games. Unfortunately for us, those two games have been shoehorned into this month, so we have two more fixtures to enjoy before March is over…
Matchday 42 – Wrexham v Weston-super-Mare
Now for the big one. This game would go a long way to seeing us take the title this season should we win, as it was our last chance to stop our immediate title rivals. They have scored a load of goals and haven’t conceded many. We have been struggling recently to score, not helped much by me having to rotate my strikers to keep them fit. With so much at stake, I could see this game being a cagey, low scoring affair…
Oh my god, we won 2-3, and what a game it was! Latvian Toms, a player who only scored his second or third goal of the season in our last fixture, scored a hat trick in this one as we came out on top against our title rivals. We took an early lead through a Latvian Toms header at a corner to stun the home crowd and spur on Wrexham’s players.
After scoring, they hit back and took the momentum from us, laying siege to our goal before finally making a breakthrough in the 22nd minute through a lovely goal from Nathaniel Knight-Percival. However, this woke us up again and from kick off we earned ourselves a corner. Yet again, that man Latvian Toms was on hand to score as he volleyed home the in-swinging ball from inside the six-yard box. We had our tails up and now our boys poured forward. Very soon we won yet another corner, which fell kindly to Latvian Toms who smashed a bullet header into the back of the net to send us 1-3 up!
We had shellshocked them and for the rest of the half we kept them at bay. Half time was an excitable affair, but I did my best to keep the lads grounded so that they wouldn’t let it slip in the second half. We did well once we had retaken the field, and restricted Wrexham to long shots that were repeatedly thumped high into the stands behind the goal. That said, once they finally did get a shot on target, they scored to set a nervy finish to the game as Adrian Cieselwicz netted a lovely free kick in the 72nd minute. From this point on it was all Wrexham as we dropped deeper and deeper to keep them out. It was back to the walls stuff, but everyone gave their all and we somehow managed to keep them out until the final whistle blew.
At the final whistle, everyone exploded with excitement. Latvian Toms was asked to give an interview to the local press, but he was so overcome with emotion having scored his first career hat trick, that he could only gibber on in Latvian. Bless him.
Things were not all rosy, though. Our defensive midfielder, Gavin Whelan, was ruled out for three weeks after hurting his elbow, and Scott Brown took a knock that might keep him out of contention for our next match.
Matchday 43 – Kettering Town v Weston-super-Mare
After the highs of Wrexham, we had just three days before our trip to lower-mid table Kettering Town. They were lacking in defensive solidity, but did score goals, so this game looked likely to be a high scoring one…
Finally, a correct prediction! Although to say that I had predicted a second 2-3 win in three days would be an exaggeration. We were playing a series of second stringers in this game, including Sacha Opinel (our left back last season) at left midfield and Graham Ryan on the right.
Somehow, though, we managed to score three again, with Opinel opening the scoring with his first ever goal for the club, notching from close range after good work from Ryan on the right. We immediately conceded the lead, however, as Kettering won a corner straight from kick off, before former Swindon Town man Jerel Ifil prodded home to restore parity.
Equality didn’t last long, thankfully, as Steven Howarth grabbed his second goal for the club with yet another cheeky chip just five minutes later. For the rest of the half we were on top and Big Cherno Samba extended our lead on 30 minutes to send us into half time 1-3 up and cruising.
Immediately after half time, Kettering grabbed a second, taking advantage of our sleepy start to the half. However, despite some concerted pressure late on, they were unable to force a second equaliser. We ended this game with ten men as we had four players forced to leave the field through injury. In the first half, Dean Lawrence and Steven Howarth needed to be subbed, before David McMillan and Cherno Samba followed them to the physio’s room in the second half.
Most of the injuries were not too serious, but I received some horrible news from our physio after he returned from the hospital with Big Cherno later that evening.
With this injury, Cherno was likely to miss the end of the season. This was bad, bad news. We had to hope that our other strikers started sticking the ball away more regularly, and that the rest of the squad could keep popping up with goals to help them.
One final thought from the game; Harry Redknapp is crazy.
Matchday 44 – Weston-super-Mare v Tamworth
In our next game, we welcomed back some of the players who had been rested in the Kettering game. Back came Brian King, Gareth Seddon, Yannick Texeira Barbosa and Scott Brown. We were thankful that they were fit, given that half the squad was, at this point, suffering from one injury or another. Tamworth were another middle of the road team who didn’t have to worry about relegation but also had no realistic ambitions about crashing the play off party. They were, however, unbeaten in four, so we would have to work hard for a win.
We had to settle for a draw, which, given our injury problems, was an acceptable result. We opened the scoring thanks to a Gavin Donoghue header at a corner, but were soon pegged back when Jean-Paul Marna netted for Tamworth. After that both sides had chances to take the lead but the finishing from both sides was poor and a draw was definitely the fairest result.
Never mind the result, though, I was more worried with the physio’s report after the game. We lost Brian King, our influential midfielder, for over a month after he did his knee…
…and Gareth Seddon joined him on the injury list after he was ruled out for six to eight weeks after doing his thigh.
Things were looking bad and we were barely halfway through the month!
Matchday 45 – Weston-super-Mare v Dagenham and Redbridge
Up next was the first of our two semi-final games against Dagenham and Redbridge. Having reached the semi-finals, I was now determined to reach the final and give our fans something to cheer about. However, given our now serious injury problems, I was sceptical as to our ability to win these games, and part of my mind was telling me to rest as many players as I could so that we would have a decent side to put out for our league games. It was a conundrum.
In the end, I decided to see how far we could go, and put out the best team we could field. Unfortunately, we were utter rubbish and Dagenham and Redbridge beat us pretty comprehensively. We barely created anything and it was far more comfortable for them than they could have hoped.
The good thing is that we do at least have one more leg of the tie to go. We could quite easily turn over a 2-0 deficit, but it would be hard work.
Matchday 46 – Ebbsfleet United v Weston-super-Mare
So, back to the league for one game before we have the chance to get revenge against the Daggers. We had a tough trip to make, away to Ebbsfleet United. They were having a very good season by their standards and sat 5th in the table. Thankfully, they had been on some pretty patchy form recently, which game me hope. Our cup game aside, we were on very good recent league form, so we might be able to carry that on here and really extend our lead at the top of the table.
I was right, oh I was right, and it gave me renewed confidence that we might be able to go on and turn around the semi final in our next game. We were again thankful to our defenders for scoring our goals as both Dean Lawrence and Latvian Toms scored with headers from corners, either side of an Ebbsfleet equaliser.
The second half was pretty even, with neither side creating too much in the way of clear cut chances until Steven Howarth put the game to bed with an excellent, jinking run around a couple of defenders before he calmly placed the ball into the corner of the Ebbsfleet goal.
Another three points and a excellent result against a promotion rival that put us in driving position in the league and left us in good stead for our game against the Daggers. Nevertheless, we weren’t fooled and knew it would be a huge ask for us to reach the final after our defeat in the first leg.
Matchday 47 – Dagenham and Redbridge v Weston-super-Mare
Our boys were tired, we needed to rotate. I had played as strong a team as possible in the Ebbsfleet game, and so we had to make do with a slightly makeshift team. Norwegian Mo and Yannick Texeira Barbosa were returning to fitness but I didn’t want to risk them from the start and so they only made the bench. That meant that, without Scott Brown to play on the left, we had to start again with Sacha Opinel out wide, with Graham Ryan on the right, and Matthew Martin, ever the back up, playing at left back whilst Liam Darville was rested.
Things started badly for us as we conceded after just eleven minutes, a mistake from Martin allowing Luke Hacker to slide the ball home and leave us with a mountain to climb. Credit to the lads, though, they fought back well and eventually managed to score when Guy Madjo nodded home a cross from Ryan.
At half time the lads were upset and annoyed at themselves, but there was a feeling that we could still do it. We just needed two more goals, something we were more than capable of. However, it wasn’t to be. We created a lot of chances in the second half, but without the cutting edge provided by Big Cherno or Steven Howarth (out of the squad due to fatigue) we were unable to score. I even risked bringing on Yannick Texeira Barbosa and Norwegian Mo, but they couldn’t make a difference. We kept pressing, though, and came close a few times before Luke Hacker popped up again, finishing off a fine counter attack by the Daggers in the 87th minute.
It was a huge disappointment for everyone involved at the club, but we couldn’t really argue. Dagenham and Redbridge had been the better side over the two legs and deserved their place in the final. It is worth remembering that we were not even considered likely to qualify for the second round of the FA Trophy, so to get to the semis was as triumph in and of itself. I wasn’t harsh on the boys after the final whistle, I just reminded them that we had to focus now and do what we could to get the club promoted.
Of course, to add to the disappointment of defeat, we were also left without defender Dean Lawrence until the end of the season…
But the mood was lifted slightly with the confirmation that defensive midfielder Gavin Whelan was back and available for selection again.
Also, after the game the physio confirmed that Yannick Texeira Barbosa was fully fit again. I didn’t tell him that I had played Yannick in the Dagenham game, so best not to mention it again…
Matchday 48 – Hereford United v Weston-super-Mare
After our cup exit, focus was now solely on the league and getting ourselves promoted. We were in a good position, having beaten a lot of close rivals in recent league games, so we just needed to keep winning and not worry about what everyone else was doing.
That is easy to say, but thankfully the lads were able to recover from the disappointment of our cup defeat and record another impressive away win. Clearly the boys had been affected by the Dagenham and Redbridge game as we started poorly and Hereford were on top for much of the first half. They created way more chances than us and looked to be the most like team to score. All that changed in the second half, though, when the ball found Steven Howarth who confidently chipped it over the Hereford keeper from outside the area to send our travelling fans into joyous celebration. Does Howarth score anything other than filthy chipped goals? No.
The goal seemed to calm our nerves and we were able to see out the rest of the game fairly comfortably, with our defence standing firm.
We now had four days to try and get the lads ready for our home tie against AFC Telford. Luckily for us just a few hours before the game kicked off, the referee called off the game due to the state of the pitch at the Woodspring.
This gave us a few more days’ recovery time and I could not be happier that our pitch was a virtually unplayable bog! Thank the footballing gods!
In other news, European Champions England were continuing their dreadful qualification campaign for the 2014 World Cup. Having already lost to Poland, they went on to follow this up with a 2-2 draw away in Ukraine, only escaping with a point thanks to the natural finishing skills of Darren Bent. Oh England…
So, with just April to go, the table was starting to look very nice indeed. We had already gotten to 91 points, which was a fantastic achievement, but we needed to keep winning just to make sure we achieved automatic promotion. I really didn’t fancy the play offs. We still had a game in hand over everyone else. Win that, and we would be six points clear and within touching distance of the title.
April was set to be a bit more of a relaxing month (relatively speaking). Our rearranged game with Telford makes things a bit more hectic, but had we played the original date we would have played on both the 31st of March and the 1st of April, so this way is much more reasonable.
Four more wins should be enough to guarantee the title for us, but I doubt that we will need that many as the chasing pack have all been dropping points recently. We still have 18 points to play for, so it would be nice to pick up enough to at least get us to 100 points. Given the fact that we were favourites for the drop this season, I would say that was pretty good going.
Thanks for reading, everyone! Leave me a comment to say hi or to ask me how your favourite club is doing, or please just share this with your mates! Until next time, Cheers!