We are having a poor season, although for a newly promoted side that has the same budget as most local NHS clinics (ie. £0.00) to be fairly comfortable in mid-table is not something to sniff at. That being said, our recent form looks like this: LWLWLW. Hopefully, this month we can break that record…
Matchday 37 – League Two – Weston-super-Mare v Aldershot Town
First things first, we welcomed high-flying Aldershot Town to the Woodspring. They were a pretty middle of the road side, despite currently bothering the play-off positions, and were going through a relatively patchy run of form. It would be a tough test for us, but with Rob Hall finding his shooting boots in the last match, I was confident that we could end our Loss-Win pattern of form.
Well, I was wrong. We didn’t play well and failed to break the pattern, meaning that another big, fat ‘L’ was added to our form guide. It was particularly frustrating given that we matched Aldershot in all areas of the pitch. The only real difference was in the quality of the two sides’ finishing. They took the lead early on thanks to a decent finish from Gary Martin, weathered the fairly bland effort we made of producing a storming comeback, and then finished us off with an Adam Mekki goal ten minutes before the end of the match.
What games like this tell me, perhaps surprisingly, is that we aren’t actually too far from the right formula. We tend to match teams and very rarely are we completely blown away. The difference between us and the teams, like Aldershot, who are making a serious push for promotion, is the quality of our finishing. Hopefully, without too much tinkering over the summer, we can make next season one to remember.
Speaking of things to remember, let us all take a moment to fix in our minds the time that Robert Hall, a striker for a side that lost 2-0 in his last fixture, was somehow rated as one of the strikers in League Two’s ‘Team of the Week’ this week. Maybe they have Garth Crooks picking the side?
Matchday 38 – League Two – Bury v Weston-super-Mare
Next we traveled to mid-table Bury, a side that could not have been more mid-table if they had tried. They play bland, boring football and, like us, cannot seem to string more than one or two results together before taking a backwards step and suffering an irritating loss.
Despite Bury being below us in the table, their manager, Steve Davis, took pity on us and our situation in some comments to the media before the game. Quite what he meant, considering that we are in a better situation than they are, I don’t know. Perhaps he is playing some serious mind games with me?
Well, if he was, it didn’t work. We absolutely battered Bury, taking them apart in front of their home crowd and sending a number of grown men home with tears dripping into their forgotten mugs of Bovril. Somehow, and don’t ask me how because I don’t know, we went goal crazy. Everything seemed to click as we took the lead in the 31st minute through Captain Barbosa’s speculative effort that squirmed into the goal at the near post. Bury were shellshocked (who would have thought that we would actually score?) and we took advantage, winning a freekick on the edge of their box just two minutes later. David Hruby stepped up and stroked the ball over the wall and into the top corner of the net to double our lead and essentially kill off any possibility of a Bury comeback.
We flew out of the blocks again after half-time and had our third of the afternoon after Dave Mackay got himself sent off just two minutes after the restart. Captain Barbosa hit the resulting freekick past the keeper to grab his second goal of the afternoon, and we were cruising. From then on the game was a quiet affair. Bury were lacking in confidence and had no chances of note. They seemed content to just sit back and prevent us from scoring any more, but they couldn’t even do that as Hjortur Hermannsson nodded home a late corner to round off the result.
It felt excellent to actually take advantage of our dominance in a game for once, although it didn’t escape my notice that we managed to thump a team and yet our strikers were unable to register a single goal between them. Thank goodness the rest of the side has goals in it otherwise we would have been really screwed this season.
Matchday 39 – Johnstone’s Paint Trophy – Weston-super-Mare v AFC Bournemouth
Now for the big game this month. It had felt like this game was hanging over the heads of some of the lads, so I was very happy to get this one over and done with. Bournemouth had been on a dreadful run of form since we thrashed them at their place, whilst we had enjoyed some relatively good results (interspersed with some dreadful ones). To me, it all felt like things were setting themselves up for a demoralising comeback from Bournemouth. In the dressing room before the game, I was sure to emphasise to the boys how hard they would still have to work in order to get through to the final. With our first-leg win, expectations were high, and I didn’t want us getting embarrassed…
As if to underline my point, the Woodspring was expected to be packed to its “Very poor” standard rafters for the game. That is a lot of people to disappoint…
…And then the game was abandoned. The pitch, in dreadful condition anyway, was unable to handle a small amount of drizzle pre-game and so the game had to be postponed.
With the final not too far away, the game needed to be played as soon as possible, so rather than play our league game against Morecambe the following Saturday, we instead got to play our semi-final with three more days’ rest and preparation. No good for the nerves, but it gave us more practice time for the fancy new corner tactic that I have been dreaming up…
So, the game finally got going. We had another record crowd expected to attend. We were finally going to actually play this game.
I again emphasised that the job was only half done and that the lads would have to really work hard if they wanted to walk on to Wembley’s dodgy and hallowed turf. This wouldn’t be easy…
Que sera, sera. Whatever will be, will be. We’re going to Wemberlee! Oh yes, my friends, we did it. We stunk the place out, playing some of the most negative football I have seen with my own two eyes, but it was just what we needed to do. They created a lot of chances, hit the post at least three times and were denied a few times by goal line clearances. We created barely anything, by contrast, and looked blunt without the creative force of David Hruby who went off injured after 30 minutes.
Nevertheless, despite us employing Jose Mourinho style tactics, we prevented them from scoring and now find ourselves in the final of the competition!
The biggest news, for the Chairman at least, was the prize money. That will keep the bailiffs away from our stodgy old ground for a few more weeks!
Slightly more troubling news was that David Hruby’s injury was far more serious than I had first thought. I was expecting a couple of weeks out, but it turned out he had damaged his knee ligaments and would in fact be out of action for most of the rest of the season.
He would certainly miss the final of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, which was a massive blow to the lad. Hopefully we can win the trophy for him and at least get him a medal.
Speaking of the final, we found out later on that evening that we would be playing League One side Hartlepool United in the showpiece event at Wembley. You don’t get to win a trophy without beating the best sides in the competition at some point. Ok, so Hartlepool are hardly the best side, but they are in the division above us and knocked out Yeovil, a side that have thumped us this season, so they will certainly be no pushovers. Well, we have over a month to prepare. In the meantime, we have a league to continue to be frustrating in.
One other small tidbit of news is that this game broke our attendance record as we packed over 3,500 fans into the Woodspring. Luckily we were able to send them home happy and hopefully we will be seeing them again at Wembley on March 30th.
Matchday 40 – League Two – Wycombe Wanderers v Weston-super-Mare
After the high of our JPT heroics, three days later we travelled to take on a tough Wycombe Wanderers side. They were doing very well in the league, had a mean defence, but hadn’t scored in their last two games. Plus, we tend to do well against the better teams in the league. Would the loss of David Hruby mean we came unstuck here? Or would we be able to ride our wave of confidence to a win?
Well, despite taking an early lead though Robert Hall, we ended up falling to a pretty disappointing defeat. We were well in control in the first half, with our finishing the only thing that was preventing us from building on our advantage. Then, 16 minutes into the second half, Matt McClure headed home an equaliser from a corner and we proceeded to fall apart.
Full of renewed enthusiasm and belief, Wycombe started to swarm forward. Totally unprepared for this, Hjortur Hermannsson decided that the best thing to do would be to hack at the shins of the Wycombe strikers. Rather than giving us the psychological edge, as I assume Hermannsson had intended, he instead found himself enjoying an early bath as he was shown a straight red card for his ingenuity. The resulting free kick was lofted towards the back post and beautifully picked out the head of Mr McClure, who nodded the ball into our net to complete the turnaround for the Chairboys.
Not happy to finish there, though, Wycombe decided to continue to rub salt in our wounds by scoring a late third. This goal was fortuitous; the ball was repeatedly humped into the six yard box until, eventually, Guedes had the misfortune of dropping it into his own goal. What a way to end the game.
I wasn’t too harsh on the lads given that everyone in the media had been predicting a big loss. Plus, up until the 70th minute we had been playing well. The red card really did change the game for us.
As I spent the week preparing for our next game, our physio, David Callow, came and gave me some very bad news; Robert Hall would likely miss the rest of the season after developing a hernia. Luckily it was a sports one and not a political or a religious one, but it was still bad news.
Matchday 41 – League Two – Weston-super-Mare v Accrington Stanley
So, we took on Accrington Stanley despite being without our best striker and our most influential midfielder. I wasn’t expecting an outstanding performance, although Stanley were doing badly themselves and were hardly a strong team. In fact, they seemed to have more trouble scoring than we did! We had scored 41 goals at this point, but they had somehow managed to only score 27. Their fans must be starved of entertainment.
Finally, for the first time in what feels like eons, our strikers scored. Both of them! Without Rob Hall around, both Gavin Massey and Steven Howarth stepped up and took on the goal scoring responsibilities. Massey opened the scoring, slotting home after being put clean through on goal by George Moncur. We maintained our pressure after taking the lead and could have had a lot more but I won’t complain too much.
We did at least extend our lead through Steven Howarth who slid in to score from close range after we counter attacked from a rare spell of Accrington pressure. It was a nice finish and the relief on the two strikers’ faces was plain for all to see.
Despite looking comfortable, we did concede right at the death from an Accrington corner to set up a slightly tense finish, but in the end there wasn’t enough time for them to grab a second and we hung on to record a much needed win.
For anyone who is keeping track, our league form now reads: LWLWLWLWLW
So, we know what will happen next, then, right?
Matchday 42 – League Two – Weston-super-Mare v Morecambe
To round off the month we welcomed Morecambe to the Woodspring. They were having a dire season and sat 20th in the table. If ever there was a good chance to end our run of LWs, this would be it.
Naturally, we drew. The game was a funny one, with both sides taking the lead only to be pegged back moments later. Both teams had good chances as well to win the game and I don’t think anyone was particularly happy with a draw.
The first half was pants; nothing happened and I will waste no more words on describing it. At half time I laid into the lads a bit. They were underwhelming me and the fans and I was absolutely sure that they should be beating a side whose mascot is a massive shrimp.
This got them fired up a bit, so much so that Captain Barbosa scored six minutes after the restart. He picked up the ball on the right, cut inside his marker, charged past him and into the box, and then smashed the ball into the far corner of the net. We were elated, but not for long. Just four minutes later, Andy Fleming nodded home a corner to restore parity and seriously annoy me.
For the next fifteen minutes Morecambe dominated proceedings, culminating in them taking the lead through a Louis Moult header from yet another corner. This annoyed me even more, so I yelled a bit and we pretty quickly found ourselves with a corner of our own (the two were definitely linked). Naturally, the returning Hjortur Hermannsson powered home a bullet header to drag us back into the game.
Having clawed our way back, we found it impossible to edge ourselves back in front, thanks mainly to our finishing which was yet again dreadful. It was an entertaining end to the game in which both teams could have fashioned a winner if either side had talented attackers. As it was, we had to settle for a draw.
Well, at least we ended our WL run, dumping a big old X at the end of that line of results. That is probably the best thing we could say about the game though. I had a bit of a shock when I looked at the table at the end of the month and found that we are, implausibly, just two points outside of the play-off zone. This seems insane, considering how damned annoying it has been to watch us play recently, but it gives renewed hope that we might be able to snaffle an unwarranted play-off spot come May.
Our results this month have been exactly mediocre, with two wins, two draws and two defeats to our name. This is not enough to get us up and into the play offs, so next month we will seriously have to pick it up a bit. We play two or three promotion chasing sides, a couple of relegation threatened teams, and round the month off with our showpiece game, the biggest match of the season; the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Final.
Be sure to check in next time to see how we get on. Do you think we will be able to get into the play offs? Reckon we can overturn the odds and win the JPT final? Put a comment below and let me know how you think we will get on! Until next time, Cheers!