A packed final month of the season dawned for us and we were within touching distance of our second straight league title and second straight promotion.
Before we crack on, though, we received news that Steven Howarth’s chip against Hereford was voted second best goal of March. How it wasn’t first, I don’t know. Truro were again mugging us off. Luckily, our first game this month was against…
Matchday 49 – Truro City v Weston-super-Mare
Yes, the old enemy. The club that had pushed us mightily close last year whilst also knocking us out of a cup. We had finally beaten them earlier in the season, but what a feeling it would be for us to do the double over them. Things were on our side, which was good. They were doing dreadfully (although, given the size of the club, 17th was probably overachieving) and had lost four of their last five games. We were on a winning streak and in good spirits (even if they physio room is absolutely chock-a-block).
Yet another high-scoring win! We are bloody entertaining for the neutrals, at least, but it is no good for my nerves.
Yannick Texeira Barbosa (I am tempted to nickname him Big Yannick or Captain Barbosa, discuss) opened the scoring and we were on top in the opening exchanges. We were utterly dominant in terms of chances created, but we kept leaving ourselves vulnerable to the counter and that is exactly how Truro managed to equalise with eight minutes of the half remaining. Luckily, for once this season we were able to actually take some of the chances that we were creating and just before the referee blew for half time Steven Howarth managed to bundle the ball into the net to restore our lead.
Some choice words at half time about how badly we wanted to beat our rivals got the lads fired up and from the moment the second half started we were again at their throats, winning a corner early on. No guessing what happened next, as Gavin Donoghue scored yet another goal, his eleventh in the league, to put us 1-3 up and give us some breathing room. We continued to dominate without being able to take our chances (how many times this season has that been the case) but were unable to keep Truro at bay for the entirety of the second half, as Jack Redshaw struck midway through the half to keep us on our toes. They never really threatened to equalise, although they did manage to test our keeper one more time before the end of the game. Jack Dovey was equal to it, though, and we saw out the game to finally do the double over the club that represents the devil incarnate, Truro City.
Just to rub salt in the wounds, this win not only gave us bragging rights, it was also enough to formally secure a play-off position for the club.
I’m not interested in play-offs though, I want to win the league. Let’s get to it!
Matchday 50 – Weston-super-Mare v Nuneaton Borough
Before the next game, a few good pieces of news fell into my inbox. First, Gareth Seddon was finally fit again after another injury lay-off. This was great news; Seddon had come back earlier than expected and could add some competition for our dreadfully misfiring set of strikers. Seddon might have been a bit of a sick note this season, but he has at least bagged ten goals for us and he could come in handy in the run in.
Also back was Brian King, who stated the obvious when declaring himself delighted with how the club is performing in the league.
We now had some more options to rest our key players, which was much needed as some of them hadn’t had a game off for weeks.
Next on the fixture list was a home tie against Nuneaton Borough, a decent side who would be a tough nut to crack. They were fairly tight at the back and scored a few goals, so we definitely wouldn’t come away with an easy win.
We won 4-0 in what was probably one of the most one-sided games we have played in this season. Big Yannick/Captain Barbosa got us off to a flier, winning and then converting a penalty before scoring again moments later after great play from Guy Madjo. Madjo was having by far his best game for us and he proved it 20 minutes later as he rounded two players to slot home and put us 3-0 up. We capped off the best first half of our season as Norwegian Mo scored an absolute pearler from the edge of the area, curling the ball into the far corner of the goal from the left corner of the box. It was majestic and was the final nail in Nuneaton’s coffin.
After half time we were content to see the game out and Nuneaton were unable to rouse themselves even to make a single effort on target. After the first half, it was a drab affair, but I was happy for the lads to conserve energy and didn’t want anyone getting charged with assault if we carried on handing out such a public beating.
I said we would be given a good game, but Nuneaton were clearly on the beach for this game and were very disappointing. We, meanwhile, were fast approaching the magic 100 points total…
Matchday 51 – Weston-super-Mare v AFC Telford
Now to see off AFC Telford in our rearranged fixture from last month. Our form had picked up massively since we were supposed to play them and we were seemingly able to score goals again. They were probably already safe from relegation but still they could have done with a result to secure themselves another season in non-league’s top flight.
The game was also a landmark for me personally, as it would mark my first 100 games in football management. It wasn’t going to be a distraction, but it was nice to see how far we had come since I had taken over; win and we would have 100 points and would almost guarantee ourselves promotion…
We put in another excellent performance in front of our own fans, running out comfortable 3-0 winners. Guy Madjo opened the scoring for us, slotting the ball home with ease before turning provider in the final moments of the first half to set up Steven Howarth to score a normal goal.
2-0 at half time was good, but we wanted more. In the second half, Telford were limp and, although they did fashion a few chances on the break, the majority of the play was in their half as we beat them soundly. Howarth sealed the three points midway through the half after hurdling a few challenges and powering home a right-footed finish and we came away deserving victors.
100 games in management, one promotion, a cup semi-final, and on the cusp of a second promotion. What a day. Perfect.
Matchday 52 – Newport County v Weston-super-Mare
Our next game was against our rivals Newport County, but before the game, I got news of some odd goings on at Kenilworth Road, home of our title rivals Luton Town who just a few short games ago were top of the league and who still sit comfortably in third place. In an interesting move, Luton chairman Nick Owen decided that the best thing for his highflying promotion contenders was to sack manager Gary Brabin with just three games of the season remaining.
In our pre-match meeting, my coach, Ryan Northmore, proved his worth by giving me his thoughts ahead of the tie with Newport:
Thanks, Ryan, that’s some good tactical advice that is. Do they play with inverted wingers? Do they attack down the right or the left? Who is their danger man? Helpful…
Despite my coaching team coming up short when it came to tactical preparations, we still managed to run out winners. Goals from the returning Scott Brown and an in-form Guy Madjo secured the win, with Madjo’s sensational late winner sending the fans into raptures and putting us just one point away from wrapping up the league title. Newport nearly put a dent in our chances, and in fairness probably had the better of the game, but (for once) we took our chances and got the win despite not playing brilliantly.
Matchday 53 – Weston-super-Mare v Barrow
So, this is it. Just one point against a dreadful Barrow side would guarantee us the league title. Could we do it? We stood on the brink of making history. Could we hold our nerve?
Yes, yes we could. We had blown Nuneaton out of the water with a blistering first half just a few days ago, and we did so again here. Despite playing in our away kit, we took Barrow to the sword and yet again scored four in the first half to wrap up the three points as early and with as little fuss as possible. Guy Madjo scored his fourth goal in four games to kick us off. Big Yannick/Captain Barbosa then doubled the lead three minutes later, arriving late at the back post to tap in our second. Six minutes after that, Steven Howarth got in on the act, capitalising on some poor defending to nod home from a Norwegian Mo cross. To round off the first half’s blitzkrieg, Norwegian Mo grabbed a fourth, beating the Barrow keeper at his near post to send our fans into delirium.
The second half was played out in a party atmosphere as our fans enjoyed themselves and revelled in our impending promotion, which was confirmed as the final whistle blew. There was the expected pitch invasion as hundreds of our fans swamped the pitch to celebrate with the victorious players.
As we watched the players lift the trophy, a huge cheer erupted from the Woodspring. It was great to see, especially considering how much our squad had been decimated by injuries.
Somehow we managed to win the league despite our top scorer having only grabbed thirteen goals all season. Who was that man? Big Cherno, of course…
(Actually, that’s not a bad return considering he broke his arm twice.)
Our fans were ecstatic, obviously. We had been tipped for immediate relegation at the beginning of the season and yet here we were, lifting the trophy and having a good old sing-song. The supporters’ club had apparently suggested renaming themselves after me, which I thought was a bit much, but the sentiment was nice.
The board were, unsurprisingly, absolutely delighted that we had won another promotion. The club would be in line for some of the Premier League’s parachute payments which would be greatly appreciated given the state of the club’s finances. Especially since we were probably going to have to do up the stadium again to meet even more league rules. And we would have to go professional now, surely?
Big Cherno was first in line to give me some praise, which was very nice of him. I like the cut of his jib and will be trying to get him to join my coaching staff when he retires. Given his injuries this season, it remains very much in question as to whether we would be able to keep him on at the club.
Nothing can ever be truly perfect, though, and as I sat down behind my desk with a glass of champagne in my hands, I was hit with the news that Paolo Di Canio’s Swindon side had made a fairly poor fist of their first season back in League One…
Relegated after finishing in last place. Good effort, lads. That means that we will be facing off against each other next season, something I have been looking forward to ever since I got into football management.
Matchday 54 – Kidderminster Harriers v Weston-super-Mare
With the title wrapped up, we had nothing left to play for, whilst Kidderminster still had to make absolutely sure of their playoff spot. We weren’t going to gift it to them, we had a squad of (semi) professionals.
Before the game, Kidderminster manager Phil Robinson came out with a bizarre quote, questioning whether or not we were the “real deal”.
Quite what he means by this I don’t know, given that we have won the league and have gained over 100 points, but it was enough to give the boys something to inspire them for our final game of the season.
We took the lead thanks to Gavin Donoghue’s 12th goal of the season and we looked like we were going to sneak a 0-1 win until Jake Sinclair levelled things up with 20 minutes to go. They pushed hard for a winner late on that would guarantee them their play-off spot, but we held firm and kept them out.
The result meant we finished the season on 107 points, nine points clear of second-placed Wrexham on 98. It also meant that Kidderminster Harriers missed out on a play-off spot thanks to Lincoln City’s 3-1 win over Luton Town that meant they jumped over Kidderminster and into 5th. Dagenham and Redbridge also won their last game, putting them 6th, and even Cambridge United leapfrogged the Harriers, leaving them with an 8th placed finish. That’ll teach their manager to get mouthy in the press.
Guy Madjo was unsurprisingly named Player of the Month for April, scoring four in his final six games at the club, with Howarth coming second.
Howarth also won the Young Player of the Month having also scored four in six to help us finish the season so strongly.
The club were also home to two of the three goals of the month for April, with Norwegian Mo’s curling strike against Nuneaton coming first and Guy Madjo’s late, late winner against Newport County coming second.
In the end, this is how the top of the table looked. We absolutely deserved our promotion in the end and it was much closer and less stressful than the season before when we had only confirmed our promotion on the final day.
We had absolutely smashed April, winning five of our final six games to win the title at a canter.
So, that is the end of our second season. I now have a lot of work to do to get us ready for next season, our first ever season in the Football League. Come back next time to see how the summer goes and how many Premier League clubs we play this pre-season! Thanks for the support and I will see you soon!