It has been a while since I could start one of these episodes off with some good news, but for once I am able to. Scott Brown came second in goal of the month for his screamer against Northampton. Note that Bradden Inman also got into the top three with his goal in the same game. Given how good both were, Billy Clarke’s goal would have had to be truly sensational to beat both. Somehow, I doubt it was as good…
More admin to throw your way; our stadium upgrade is complete. This time around the board have decided to add in a large bank of seating to replace some of the old standing areas to add some 20th century comfort to the ground.
The capacity of the ground has, somehow, grown, suggesting that some of those seats were in fact completely new. Also, please note that the ground is still in very poor condition and still does not have a roof. I am not sure exactly how, after two consecutive years of renovations, the ground still resembles a small shed with a few plastic chairs bolted on the front. You would have thought that the board could have got some painters in at the same time, but there we go…
Anyway, we were now all set for the visit of Brentford to the newly upgraded Woodspring in the quarter-finals (confusingly called the South Semi Final) of the JPT. We were expecting a good crowd to turn up to try and see the magnificent Seagulls waltz past Brentford and on to the proper semi-final.
We were also boosted by the return from a groin strain of Scott Brown. His recovery gives us an extra body to fling onto the field and he is also capable of the odd world class goal, so this was definitely a boost.
Matchday 26 – Johnstone’s Paint Trophy – Weston-super-Mare v Brentford
Brentford were in the division above us but were struggling a touch and were definitely there for the taking. I expected a close game and was desperate for us to put on a show in front of a bumper crowd and in a really challenging fixture.
I was rewarded richly by my players, who put in a real fighting performance to overcome the Bees. The visitors took the lead early on through West Ham loanee Robert Hall. Hall looked sharp and took his goal very well from the middle of a crowded penalty area. I liked the look of him and after some top notch snooping I discovered that he was to return to his parent club in just a few weeks. I took note of this and resolved to try to take advantage of the situation once the January transfer window opened….
Despite the good play of Hall, we were the equals of Brentford and we took the game to them in the second half. Just seven minutes in, Norwegian Mo found Olli Sara in acres of space in the Brentford box, allowing Sara to nod home the equaliser. This got our tails up and within another seven minutes we had taken the lead as Steven Howarth scored yet another cheeky chip, lofting the ball over the keeper after being put clean through on goal by Sara. The Finn was having by far his best game for us and had the opportunity late on to double his personal tally for the evening when a Brentford defender was penalised for hacking him down in the area. Sara stood up but slammed his spot kick against the post and out for a goal kick. This was disappointing and could have sparked a Brentford comeback but, by this point, the game was starting to wind down and we saw out a comfortable final few minutes until the whistle.
This was a superb result for the club. In front of a strong crowd of over 2,100 (which is very good for a midweek fixture), we played well and could have scored more against a side from the league above. Everyone, except the Bees’ fans lol, went home happy at a job well done.
As well as getting to the semi-finals, we also bagged ourselves a nice little chunk of prize money which will go down very nicely with the chairman.
Whilst everyone else was enjoying the celebrations, I was still hard at work and having to listen to sore losers moan about me and my team. This time, Brentford boss and Big Sam apologist, Phil Brown, took to the media to tell them that he doesn’t like me. He is welcome to his opinion, mainly because we are in the semi-finals and his team aren’t har har har har.
I was then told who we would be facing in our two-legged semi-final. Rather than be drawn against League Two side Yeovil Town, we instead found ourselves with the prospect of facing up against AFC Bournemouth of League One. We did, at least, have the benefit of playing the second leg at home, but we would likely need a big performance in at least one of those games if we stood a chance at reaching the final.
Whilst our fans are clearly loving life watching Weston, the Crawley fans did not share their excitement about watching the Seagulls play. Hardly any had bought tickets to see the clash, but then that might be because Crawley are having a dreadful season.
Matchday 27 – League Two – Crawley Town v Weston-super-Mare
In fact, Crawley had recently been picking up a bit of momentum. They may be twenty-third out of twenty-four, but they had three wins in their last five and were definitely not a side to be taking lightly. They would definitely offer us a good game and, given that this is exactly the kind of game we usually contrive to lose, my hopes were not high.
I am, on occasion, proven wrong. Crawley were awful, showing exactly why they are in danger of relegation this season, whilst we, for once, looked dangerous. Olli Sara opened the scoring, continuing his recent good form by slotting home after being sent clean through by David Hruby. Hruby himself then stepped up to score a free kick just twelve minutes later to double our lead and allow us some breathing space. We saw out the half comfortably, limiting them to long-range efforts that Guedes in goal had no trouble in saving.
The second half was a closer game, with both sides getting forward well which made for an entertaining watch. Crawley continued to create chances but were wasteful as most of them were from long range. When they did finally get in a decent position, Kevin Kyle was able to sweep home to briefly give them hope of a comeback. Luckily we had other ideas and Olli Sara restored our two-goal cushion just seven minutes later as he nodded home from an Andreas Nordvik cross. After this, very little of note happened. We restricted them to half chances and generally made them play sideways all the time, preventing them from playing balls in behind our back line, and before long the referee had blown for full time.
I was impressed with Sara and told him so in front of the lads after the game. It was only later that I realised that there might have been a secret motivation behind his good performance in this game, as I was informed that the manager of Portuguese side Academica was in the stands to keep an eye on Sara. Hopefully, they have a lot of money because I do not intend to sell him.
Following this game, we had the rare pleasure of seeing two of our players feature in the team of the week. Nordvik and Hruby were both featured within the first eleven, and their inclusions were well deserved. Olli Sara could be forgiven for feeling aggrieved at missing out, but maybe that will spur him on to start banging in the goals more regularly. Also, well done to Big Cherno who made the team after an excellent performance for AFC Wimbledon.
After this happy news, I was met with some that was slightly more devastating…
Guedes is by far the best goalkeeper at the club and to miss him for at least four weeks could be crucial for our promotion challenge. We had just started to pick up form again and now we will be forced to play Jack Dovey instead. Dovey is decent, don’t get me wrong, but he is no Guedes…
Matchday 28 – League Two – Weston-super-Mare v Plymouth Argyle
At least we got to face Plymouth next, a side that doesn’t even seem to want to avoid being relegated this season. I was all prepared to see my boys brush them aside when the game was called off because our dreadful pitch was, once again, waterlogged.
Matchday 28.5 – League Two – Wrexham v Weston-super-Mare
Wrexham were our next game, then. They have had a ridiculously impressive first half of the season, especially considering that we finished last season miles ahead of them. Clearly, their manager was doing a good job and, although they were currently on a bit of a poor run, they were still a very good side and this would be tough. Luckily, the postponement gave us a bit of extra time to prepare for our trip and meant that Guedes missed one less game. This was good.
What wasn’t good was our performance in the game. We created next to nothing, Olli Sara had to be stretchered off the pitch with a serious looking injury, and the only good thing about us was our ability to keep the score down to just the one. They carved us open a fair few times and, but for some poor finishing, they could have two or three hat-fulls. It was particularly annoying as they didn’t look to be in great shape and, if we had been on form, we could easily have won the game and gained some ground on the promotion pack. As it was, we fell further behind…
More bad news was to follow. What had looked bad during the game turned out to be a full-on broken ankle. The poor lad had just hit some form and was now facing at least three months on the sidelines as he recovers. At least that Portuguese club is now unlikely to want to sign him, I suppose…
Matchday 29 – League Two – Weston-super-Mare v Swindon Town
If we struggled against an out of form Wrexham, our next opponents were looking much more dangerous. Swindon, since hiring Phil Parkinson, have gone from strength to strength. They are still languishing in 16th but their form has picked up massively and they have won their last five. We can at least fall back on the result we had against them earlier in the season where we battered them 3-0 in the JPT, but I suspect that this will not be a repeat performance judging on our contrasting fortunes since then.
This time, I was right. Dovey had a nightmare in goal, letting in shots from Paul Benson and Evandro Brandao that he really should have saved. He was not alone in disappointing me, though, as our strikers yet again failed to take the chances provided for them. We must be up there with the top sides for wasting chances because we are excellent at it. Without Sara, we were left looking short of decent options up front and it showed as we managed just two solitary shots on target. We didn’t even have the luxury of having a decent defensive display to hang our hats on. Dovey was awful, but we also gave away a penalty that Matt Ritchie buried confidently and we let them have a number of other chances that they could have scored from. We were lucky to only lose by three, honestly…
Oh, and David Hruby, by far our best player, will now have to miss our next game after picking up a load of yellow cards. Good work, fella.
I had to put the Swindon result to the back of my mind and I immediately turned my attention to Barnet, another side that we had already beaten in the JPT this season. They are also a side with a manager that seems to dislike me, and Lawrie Sanchez was not in the mood for keeping his opinions to himself.
It doesn’t matter, it just gives us some extra motivation for the match.
Matchday 30 – League Two – Weston-super-Mare v Barnet
Barnet, like us, had been suffering through some indifferent form of late. When we met in the JPT a little while ago, both clubs were threatening the automatic promotion spots. Now we are in a fight just to remain within touching distance of the play-off spots. Both sides realistically needed to win this game, and I desperately wanted to get another one over on Lawrie Sanchez.
Football is frustrating. I tell the lads how important it is we come away with a win and they give me an excellent performance. The one thing missing was goals. We peppered their goal throughout the game whilst restricting their chances to one or two off-target efforts. They had nothing and were there for the taking, but without Olli Sara offering some proper cutting edge we were unable to make the decisive breakthrough. Elliot Lee and Steven Howarth were short of ideas. I was angry. I let the lads know.
We are slowly watching the promotion-chasing teams break away from us. We are still only seven points away from the automatic places, but that is a lot of points to get back and our goal difference is a paltry +1. Realistically we must now be looking to get back into the play-off picture, but if our striking situation stays the way it is at the moment, we will be lucky even to get that.
I will need to bring in some new faces in January to try and reinvigorate our promotion push. Whilst doing that, we have a couple of big games next month that we need to get results in. Chiefly we have an away trip to Cheltenham Town. Beat them and we can at least start clawing into the points difference between us. We then have the first of our JPT semi-finals to play. Other than that, we have a number of mid-table teams to face, so one would hope we can pick up a few wins to keep us in the chasing pack.
Will we manage to sign the striker we need to fire us to promotion? Will we be able to go to League One Bournemouth and get a result? Could we make the final? Come back next time to find out..! Cheers!