Willkommen ein unt all to another episode of Weston’s Super Mare? Things have started fairly well for us and I would like to carry that on into this month’s games. As I said at the end of last episode, this time around we are playing a bunch of middle-of-the-road teams. Therefore, we should be looking to win at least three or four of our games this month if we want to challenge for promotion.
But first, our players got into the Goal of the Month competition twice this month. Firstly, David Hruby came second with his ‘real poacher’s effort’ (a freekick), and secondly, Captain Barbosa came third when he scored an incisive finish following a good run. Well done lads, more of the same this month, please.
Oh, and I came third in Manager of the Month award. Not bad, it feels like a very long time since I have had one of those awards. I miss it. Jon Dahl Tomasson (remember him?) won it this month. I’m coming for you, Jon Dahl…
Oh and one final thing to note: no game against Crawley this month. We have too many international call-ups (ridiculous) so the game was called off. No worries, this gives us more time to recover.
During our extra time off we learned who we would be playing in the second round of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy. We got a tough tie at home against Yeovil Town, a side that put six goals past us with no reply last season. I am not keen for that game, but let’s see.
Meanwhile, England were scraping the bottom of the barrel as Roberto Mancini called up James Tomkins and Jordan Mutch to his England squad. I assume they will be playing Azerbaijan and not Portugal.
Speaking of, somehow England managed to pull off a shock win against Portgual in the first of their two games this international window. A goal from Ashley Young and two from Jack Wilshere were enough to see off the Portuguese, although how they were enough I will never quite understand.
But friendlies don’t count; the real proof of the pudding is in the qualification games. England still had to qualify for the 2016 tournament despite being the current holders of the competition, and they started off their qualification in stuttering style as they crept passed a surprisingly dogged Azerbaijan side. England only got the winner in the 87th minute as Jack Wilshere chipped the keeper. Quality football.
England are still looking shaky, then. Clearly, Mancini has his work cut out if he wants to emulate England greats like Alf Ramsay, Bobby Robson and Stuart Pearce…
In other, less depressing news, Captain Barbosa grabbed his first international goal as he scored for Guinea-Bissau against the Democratic Republic of Congo. Good lad, well played! We got him a mug to celebrate.
One minute you’re up, the next you’re right back down again. In this case, I was mourning the loss of Hjortur Hermannsson who did his knee in an Iceland Under 19s game. Hopefully, he won’t be out for too long, but I will be having words with the Iceland manager if anything happens to my lads again. Grumble grumble, frozen food, grumble.
Matchday 8 – League Two – Weston-super-Mare v Bradford City
Finally, we could get back to the joys of competing in England’s fourth tier of professional football. And nothing is more joyful than welcoming a struggling side from Bradford to our run-down and grotty little patch of grass surrounded by a few port-a-cabins and a mobile construction office building. Welcome, Bradford City, to the Woodspring (now with seats!).
Bradford, as I alluded to before, weren’t having a great start to their season. They had a mixed bag in terms of results but things had picked up in their last two games. Really, who knew what sort of beast they would be? You’d think I would have a scout looking at them play to see how we should counter their threat. I would counter that by reminding you: 4-4-2.
And 4-4-2 would be the correct response (it is always the correct response) as proven by this match. We were pretty dominant against Bradford who, in turn, were very poor. The game was wrapped up fairly early on as Norwegian Mo opening the scoring after 19 minutes before Latvian Toms doubled our lead with a thumping header from a corner 18 minutes later. The second half was a comfortable affair and Bradford didn’t really do much in an attempt to get back into the game. That was fine by us; we were happy to play out the remainder of the game and record another win against a big side.
One extra thing to note is that our attendances are now starting to average at between 2,500 and 3,000. This is excellent as it will give the lads a boost to be playing in front of lots of people every week, but it will also help us in keeping the club’s coffers full (or, more accurately, less empty).
In other news, Claus Larsen returned from a groin injury. He is by far our best left-back and will be re-taking his place fairly soon, but I wanted to give him a bit of time in order to get back to full fitness before throwing him straight into the side.
Matchday 9 – League Two – Weston-super-Mare v Shrewsbury Town
After another strong performance and good result, confidence in the squad was high. That was good because we had to welcome the mighty Shrewsbury Town to Fortress Woodspring (now with battlements!).
The Shrews were on a good run of form and were sitting in eighth. We have our own run of good form to maintain, so I got us pumped up by playing “The Final Countdown” before we ran out for kick off.
That was definitely the reason that we won. You could see them all humming the tune in their heads as they tore into Shrewsbury right from kick off, forcing an own goal from Martin John after just eight minutes. Fifteen minutes later we ripped into the Shrewsbury back line again as Joel Ambalu nipped ahead of a Shrewsbury defender to nod home from inside the box after great work from Norwegian Mo.
Interestingly, this was the exact moment when Shrewsbury suddenly decided to start playing football. Prior to this moment they were merely standing around and moving in a way that suggested they knew what football was but weren’t that interested in playing it. Now, they struck. After fifteen minutes, Cauley Woodrow dragged one back following a corner. And then, just as we were reeling from that, they only went and grabbed an equaliser via a frankly ridiculously good goal from Jermaine Grandison that was struck from way out.
Half time was odd. We had played well for the most part but the final seven minutes of the half had seen us allow Shrewsbury back into the tie. This was not acceptable, and I told the lads as much. They clearly agreed as they took to the field in the second half almost more pumped up than when I had played the Final Countdown. Anyway, they had gotten back into their rhythm and were back to controlling the game as they had done in the first half. Eventually, after a period of sustained pressure, we broke the deadlock again as David Hruby got on the end of a bit of a goalmouth scramble to sweep home our third.
This goal proved to be just about enough to see off Shrewsbury who, to their credit, gave us a tough game. They scored with their two shots on target (of course they did…) but other than that they didn’t actually create very much of note. They were up for this one, though, and they really made us work for our win.
Well now, another win. The only thing that could take the edge off this would be if our back-up centre-half was found to be suffering from a double hernia.
I bet Rachel Greenley is loving her new position…David Callow must find life very boring now that he isn’t working at the club.
Matchday 10 – League Two – York City v Weston-super-Mare
Our next outing was an away trip to play York City. York were doing alright this season and, despite a recent loss, were playing well and on good form. They had won promotion via the play-offs last year and seemed to be adapting well to life in the Football League. Well, we know a thing or two about being a new team in a new league. Let’s remind them that they can’t have everything their own way!
Well, crikey. What a topsy-turvy game. If you score three goals at home, you really should be winning the match, or at the very least getting a point. As it was, we made tough work of turning over the Minstermen in a game that was full of excitement.
We took the lead early on through a Bob Holmes strike. Things were looking good for the next twenty or so minutes, until Matty Blair, out of nothing, grabbed an equaliser. This spelt an end to our early good play and for the majority of the next ten minutes, the chances all fell to York. Luckily, though, this side is much more resilient than it was last season and, despite being under a lot of pressure, we held our nerve well before launching a devastating counter attack to allow Captain Barbosa to tap home and restore our lead.
Things calmed down for a bit after the goal and we seemed to be cruising to half time, but not so. Right before the whistle blew, Martin Fulford scored to again level the tie and completely change my team talk.
The lads were looking frustrated so I told them to calm down and that if they just kept their heads screwed on, they would come out of this game with a win. They seemed to believe me as they went back out, but they definitely believed me when Bob Holmes smashed home after just one minute of the restart. Again, we were looking comfortable, but both sides were still creating chances.
In fact, we were lucky that they seemed to have strikers that were just as good as ours last season, as they had plenty of chances that they wasted or shot straight at Pedro Guedes. This couldn’t be the case every time, though, and Chris Doig dragged York level yet again on 53 minutes, less than ten minutes after we had retaken the lead.
Instead of letting our heads drop, the boys seemed stung by this ludicrous spirit being shown by the other team. Instead of letting York take the momentum, our brave Seagulls immediately redoubled their efforts to score. This very quickly paid dividends as Bob Holmes completed his hat trick just seven minutes later. Holmes’ goal, a smart finish after good work from Hruby, seemed to finally knock something out of the York players who clearly did not have enough about themselves to find a fourth equaliser.
We took advantage of this by sending on some fresh legs. Alex Diabate, coming on to replace Norwegian Mo on the left, was the man to benefit most from the tiredness of the York players as he ripped their right back to shreds before slotting calmly under the keeper to score our fifth right on the stroke of full-time.
What. A. Game.
In fact, this weekend was a bit of a one for goals as Dagenham and Redbridge stuffed eight past Southend United on the same day. Unfortunately, not everyone was treated to a feast of football, am I right Exeter and Burton fans? Yes. I am.
Unsurprisingly, the eight goals in this game made it our highest ever scoring match, bettering the 5-2 win against Maidenhead back in 2011. How times have changed.
Matchday 11 – League Two – Barnet v Weston-super-Mare
So, with three wins from three this month so far, we headed next for Underhill and the challenge of a mid-table Barnet side. They had started the season strongly but in recent times had struggled a bit for form and had only won once in their last five. They were ripe for a thwopping.
We thwopped all over them, so we did. It was another silly game and we conceded at least two goals for the third game in a row. Luckily, we scored three, so it didn’t really matter.
Captain Barbosa got us off to a flyer as he smashed home a shot that beat the Barnet keeper at his near post. Just a few minutes later, we managed to score again as Bob Holmes beat two men before laying the ball to Joel Ambalu to tap home. The partnership between the two strikers was really impressing me and I hope we can see some more goals from the two of them (especially if we keep conceding at the rate we have been).
Speaking of conceding, we did just that after 30 minutes as Izale McLeod robbed Latvian Toms of the ball on the edge of our box before slotting calmly past a stranded Guedes. I wasn’t impressed and I yet again had to have a few words at half time to remind the lads that this kind of sloppiness was not to be tolerated.
Luckily, Bob Holmes is bleedin’ quality and he grabbed another quick, second half goal. The rest of the half was pretty lame when compared to the first, and nothing much happened until the 89th minute when McLeod scored again to set up a nervy final two or three minutes. Luckily, as I said before, we are made of sterner stuff this season and we held out for another important win.
I decided I would have words with the defence this week. We can’t keep conceding two each week because there will come a time when we don’t score three (hopefully not that soon though). I told the coaches to work on keeping a clean sheet, then went for a lie-down. The last few games have been pretty stressful watching.
Oh, and our best creative midfield presence is out for the next two weeks. Brilliant stuff.
Matchday 12 – League Two – Weston-super-Mare v Port Vale
The final game of the month saw Port Vale attempt to join the illustrious ranks of clubs who have beaten us on our home turf. They were just outside the top ten but have dropped off a cliff – form-wise not literally – recently, suffering three losses in a row.
Whatever, it didn’t matter. With the run we are on, the opponent is essentially unimportant. We will beat them, that’s all that matters. We dominated Port Vale in this one and prevented them from creating any really good chances. Latvian Toms nodded us into the lead right on the stroke of half-time following a Captain Barbosa corner, before Norwegian Mo scored from the edge of the box to double our lead and guarantee us the three points four minutes into the second half. Port Vale created very little and, for the first time in three matches, we had kept a clean sheet. Obviously, the extra defensive training paid off.
Or Port Vale were really bad. I think it was the coaching, though.
So, there you have it. At the end of September, we sit in second, three points behind Aldershot at the top (although we do have a game in hand). This is much more promising. Last season we were in a similar position but it felt like we were slowly running out of steam as we trudged into October and November. This season, it feels like we have some proper momentum behind us. We have also fixed the problem with our strikers; we got 15 goals this month which is, frankly, greedy.
As you can see from below, the reason we are sat in second is because we won every game this month. I mentioned at the beginning of the episode that I would like to win three, but five will also be fine. Next month we take on Crawley, who are rubbish, Southend who always beat us, and we get to reunite with old friend Paul Ince. We also play Yeovil (who also always beat us) in the JPT second round.
Join me next time for some more exciting football action. Will we be going to Wembley again in the JPT? Will we be able to beat Paul Ince and make him really upset? Well, you’ll have to come back next time to find out the answers…Cheers!