Welcome back, ladies and gentlemen! Some fun news to start off with; my personal trophy cabinet is bulging again as I bagged the Manager of the Month award for September. Well deserved, I thought, so let’s all say well done me.
More good news came in the shape of a returning Hjortur Hermannsson who had recovered from twisting his knee in an international match.
Despite our high-flying status and goal-crazy strikers, it seems that the people of Crawley were not enthused about turning out to watch us play. This could be jealousy, or it could be the fact that they haven’t won for ages and were ripe for a beating. Who knows?
Matchday 13 – League Two – Crawley Town v Weston-super-Mare
We arrived at the Broadfield Stadium in the highest of spirits. The team was playing well, we had remembered how to defend and our opponents were shipping goals for fun. Usually, in this situation, we would contrive to lose. That would not happen this time, so I told the lads that I was expecting a performance from them to remind them to keep their focus up.
It worked, I am a motivational genius. (Is genius too strong a term? No.). To be fair to Crawley, they made us work for our win, but our quality shone through eventually. In fact, just looking at the statistics makes it seem like the game was a bit of a smash and grab as we scored first in the first minute of first-half injury time, and then grabbed our second in the first minute of the second half.
I prefer the term “efficient”. It was certainly a good way of taking the sting out of the game and the second half was merely a calm procession towards our inevitable victory. Bob Holmes and Captain Barbosa were again on the scoresheet and everything was looking rosy.
The Seagulls go marching on.
Matchday 14 – League Two – Southend United v Weston-super-Mare
We marched all the way to Roots Hall to face a Southend side that we don’t usually do well against but that was also performing like absolute dog pops in the league at the moment. They had conceded a shed load of goals and, despite a win in their last fixture, were on a very poor run of form. Last time out we overcame our typical habit of losing to poor teams. Let’s continue that today..!
Oh, dear Lord… What was that? Why isn’t Junior Agogo playing for Barcelona? Surely Michael Timlin is being tracked by Real Madrid? In case you haven’t guessed, Southend stuffed us.
They had been so poor this season that they had clearly been saving themselves for this game. I am embarrassed and I could cry. They were 3-0 up within 36 minutes and the game was already well and truly beyond us even before the returning Hjortur Hermannsson got himself sent off in the 51st minute. Hermannsson’s ‘alternative’ style of defending seems to feature rather a lot of what could charitably be called “reducers”. I just wish that he wouldn’t show off his special moves when he is the last man.
After that Junior “Messi” Agogo changed into his scoring boots and stole himself a couple more to put the score at 5-0. Our poor defending that has been a feature despite our good goal scoring feats has finally come back to haunt us.
No doubt Southend will be relegated without winning another game this season. Not cool.
Matchday 15 – Johnstone’s Paint Trophy – Weston-super-Mare v Yeovil Town
Well, luckily we had a chance to get over our humbling at Southend by welcoming Yeovil Town to the Woodspring in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy. We had nothing to fear from the side in the division above us that beat us 3-0 twice last season. Ok, they are in poor form, but they are better than us. We know it, they know it, the Footballing Gods know it. We haven’t a hope.
Although maybe we have a hope! David Hruby was back! I wasn’t going to start him, but he was fit enough to sit on the bench and hopefully come on in the latter stages of the game to make a difference.
Now for the frustrating news; we absolutely battered them. We dominated in every aspect. They had no shots on target, we had three. We had thirteen shots in total and spent a lot of time camping on the edge of their box. However, they had a strong defence and we were unable to break it down. In particular, their goalkeeper played a blinder and made a number of excellent saves and catches to thwart our attacks.
In the end, we lost out 4-5 on penalties. Joel Ambalu was the unlucky man to miss, whilst Yeovil, channelling the spirit of the German National side, scored all five of theirs. It was gutting because they didn’t deserve to win and we didn’t deserve to go out, but that is the way things go sometimes.
All of which means we will not be retaining our Johnstone’s Paint Trophy title this season. Not to worry, though. We will almost certainly be in the competition again next season. There is yet hope.
Matchday 16 – League Two – Weston-super-Mare v Accrington Stanley
Well, our JPT title defence was over before it really got started. That was a major disappointment as I had secretly dreamt of back-to-back wins, but it wasn’t to be. By way of punishment we then had to endure a visit to the Woodspring from Accrington Stanley (we all know who they are at this point).
Stanley were doing well so far this season and were sitting fourth. They had scored a lot of goals so I was conscious that our defence would have to be on their toes if they were to keep our opponents at bay. Before the game I sat them down and made it clear that they needed to work hard, just to ram home the point. One final thing before the game; Accrington’s side boasted a former Seagull in the shape of Joao Carlos, the ineffectual loan signing from Liverpool who we had for a few months last season. Chances on him scoring?
Low. In fact, he was poor and got himself booked after just four minutes before being stretchered off the pitch a few minutes into the second half. Bad luck bud, but you couldn’t cut it for us or against us.
Personal pettiness aside, we controlled the game well and ran out comfortable 3-0 winners. Bob Holmes opened the scoring on 17 minutes as he side-footed under the Accrington ‘keeper. Both sides had chances to score but there were no more goals in the first half.
In the second half we turned the screw on Stanley to ease our way to victory. Roy Burnell grabbed his first goal for the club as he hit a half-volley from the edge of the area hard and low into the back of the visitors’ net. Then, on 85 minutes, Hjortur Hermannsson stepped up to sweep home a penalty after a foul on Bob Holmes by a hapless Accrington defender.
I was very pleased with the way we performed and how comfortable we looked. Ok, Accrington had some chances, but they were dealt with fairly easily by our defence and they never really threatened to come back at us.
So, another win for us and another win for England in their quest to qualify for Euro 2016 as they thrashed Andorra 0-4 (even Tom Cleverley scored).
Despite the scintillating football of Roberto Mancini’s England being on the TV, Exeter City boss Paul Ince was still able to find the time to talk some rubbish to the press about me. It doesn’t really bother me – mind games are a thing that I continually ignore – but it does make me laugh that whatever I did to annoy Ince has become such a massive deal for him. Ah well, I guess we will just have to beat them again…
Matchday 17 – League Two – Exeter City v Weston-super-Mare
The ‘Guvnor’ had nothing to be bragging about, really. Exeter were not hitting the same heights as last season where they had finished inside the play-off places and their league form was patchy at best. Plus, Ince has yet to beat me as a manager, so all in all, I was feeling fairly confident that we could continue to upset the former England international.
Unfortunately not. We took the lead through a well-worked Norwegian Mo goal but Exeter were putting up a much tougher fight than Accrington had done and were getting in our faces a lot more. Pretty soon they had forced Lee Nasir to bundle into his own goal under pressure before they completed the turn around when Daniel Nardiello scored just before half time.
After half time the game became very edgy and both sides had multiple chances without creating much of note. Our finishing, so good in previous weeks, was looking a bit laboured and we were unable to take any of our chances. Finally, as if to punish us for our profligacy, Nigel Thompson scored a well-taken finish right at the death. We ended up losing 3-1 – our first loss to Paul Ince’s Exeter side – but we were in the game right until the end and we were unlucky to lose.
3-1 flattered them and I said as much to the press after the game just to annoy Ince. Until next time, Paul…
Matchday 18 – League Two – Weston-super-Mare v Oldham Athletic
After that disappointment, we had to bounce back quickly and continue to put pressure on the teams at the top of the league. Luckily, our next opponents, Oldham Athletic, were no great shakes and were in poor form. If we have any designs on winning this league then this is the kind of game that we really need to be winning and I reminded the lads of this before kickoff.
This time round it was us that had to come from behind, but that we did and we ended up on the right side of a 3-1 win. Oldham threatened to upset the odds by scoring after just two minutes as Alan Fitzpatrick capitalised on some slack defending to nip in and grab himself a goal. Just ten minutes later, however, Olli Sara nodded home his first of the season after the ball was whipped into him by Captain Barbosa from the right.
The game drifted to half time with the scores still at 1-1, although since our goal we had been the better side and had created the superior chances. It didn’t take us long in the second half to rectify this, though, as we forced James Spencer into scoring a freak of an own goal. Captain Barbosa whipped in a corner and, amid confusion in the box, Spencer somehow walloped the ball into the roof of his own net despite his ‘keeper seeming to have the ball. This spurred us on and it soon became apparent that we were getting a lot of joy from corners in this game. This was how we grabbed our third as Hjortur Hermannsson scored a diving header – ridiculously – from a near-post corner.
Another game and another good win. It was a shame that we couldn’t do it against Exeter, but at least this result put us on three league wins in the month; a very good return.
If you are getting bored of the league, though, I have some good news for you. We were drawn against Blue Square South side Histon in the first round of the FA Cup. Histon were doing well in their division but we should be able to get past them quite comfortably. Think of the prize money!
Matchday 19 – League Two – Weston-super-Mare v Aldershot Town
The final match of the month saw Aldershot Town visit the Woodspring. They were sitting in second place, just two points behind the mighty Seagulls from Weston-super-Mare, and they were on fire (not literally). They had scored 31 goals, although I was pleased to learn that they had also conceded 19 which is quite a lot of action to pack into just 16 games.
Despite the game being a top of the table clash played out in front on a large home crowd, this game was a bit of a damp squib in terms of action. Both sides could only chalk up one shot on target each and, though lots of other chances were created, none of them really came close to challenging either ‘keeper. I was happy with the way the game played out. Due to fitness issues in the squad after playing so many games this month, I had to start a few of our weaker players and yet we still managed to come out of the game with a point. Not bad considering we were playing the team in second.
That result meant we retained our top spot this month. We are two points clear of Aldershot in second, and six clear of Oxford in fourth. That means we have a bit of wriggle room for results over the next couple of games, as we will not drop immediately out of the automatic promotion spots with one defeat.
Of course, we don’t want to use our wriggle room. I intend to continue our assault on League Two promotion next month as we entertain a number of mid-table sides. The biggest test would seem to be against Burton Albion who currently sit in seventh, but really there is no reason for us not to win all of our games next month.
Will we do it? Will we be able to get past the football juggernaut that is Histon in the FA Cup first round? Will Paul Ince ever just go away and leave me alone? Find out next time!
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