Weston’s Super Mare? – Episode 34: ‘Poor’ Woodspring

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It feels good to be back, eh folks? Evidently, people in Weston-super-Mare thought so, as they flocked to the tatty old Woodspring stadium (yet again in the midst of seemingly pointless repair work) to hopefully see us thrash the living daylights out of a bunch of Wombles.

What an image.

Matchday 1 – League Two – Weston-super-Mare v AFC Wimbledon

Unfortunately, this being the first game of the season, Wimbledon didn’t have very much form on which to base my pre-match predictions. Last season we beat them comfortably at home and lost comfortably to them away. Both games ended 2-0 to the victors. We were even last season. There was literally nothing to go on. Therefore, I predict we will win.

We did, well done us. Things started off well for us as David Hruby, finally fit again after missing the end of last season, stepped up and whipped a nice old free-kick into the top corner of the net. It was a good way to kick off the season and things were looking good.

For about eight minutes they looked good, anyway. That is the trouble with things; they can change quite quickly. In this instance, Yannick Bolasie was the man to change the things as he danced a merry jig around our defence before hammering the ball past a despairing Pedro Guedes.

I felt that Bolasie was taking the mick a little bit with his fancy footwork and the like, but that was nothing compared to our second goal. Or, more accurately, the name of the man who scored our second goal. Captain Barbosa whipped in a cross in the 66th minute towards Bob Holmes. Unfortunately for Holmes, he couldn’t grab his first for the club because a Wimbledon defender got there first. The lad sliced his clearance into the roof of the net and immediately collapsed with his head in his hands. Whether this was because of the goal he had just scored, or because his name was La’Vere Corbin-Ong, is unclear. History is suspiciously silent on the issue. For my money, I suspect the latter.

After Mr Corbin-Ong (seriously?!) had taken a cup of tea to go with his slice (football banter 101), we got the game back under way. From this point on we were pretty dominant (I assume the Wimbledon players, upon seeing Corbin-Ong’s name on the scoreboard, rightly gave up all hope) and we carved out a number of gilt-edged chances to kill off the game. It took us until the 83rd minute, but we managed it, as Bob Holmes ran clear on the left before crossing the ball into Joel Ambalu. Joel took a touch to take him past a defender, then shot hard and low into the net. A good finish and a well deserved punishment for any club that has a professional footballer in their ranks called La’Vere Corbin-Ong. Modern football…

Well, that was a good start to the season. I was very happy with the result and allowed the lads to go down the pier to play on the two-penny slot machines as a treat. They loved it.

Speaking of loving it, the people of Weston are loving supporting the club at the moment as we increased our season ticket sales yet again. This is excellent news as it guarantees just that little bit extra money each game, and boy could we do with it.

Matchday 2 – League Cup – AFC Bournemouth v Weston-super-Mare

Our second game of the season was against League One side AFC Bournemouth in the League Cup. We had them in the two-legged semi-final of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy last year, I am sure you will remember. We thumped them 0-4 at their place before grinding out a 0-0 draw back at the Woodspring to send us on our way to Wembley. This season we were a better team, plus I had noticed that their badge includes the font Comic Sans and we couldn’t be having that. They had drawn their only game of the season so far 0-0, and with our renewed vigour in front of goal I was in confident spirits.

I was right to be, although we were lucky in the end to edge our way past the Comic Sans wearing Cherries. They had the better of the game, but, in truth, it was a poor tie and neither side really deserved anything. Three shots on target in the entire match tells its own story. Luckily, though, we scored with our one shot on target as Bob Holmes was put through by David Hruby. Holmes wasted no time in rifling the ball into the back of the net from just inside the area, and from then on the game became a bit of a stodgy affair.

We created a few chances but got nothing on target. They created a lot more chances, but again didn’t put enough on target to trouble Pedro in goal. When the final whistle blew there were cheers around the ground, but I suspect the fans were simply celebrating being allowed to go home.

Whatever, we are in the next round and could be drawn against another Premier League side. Exciting!

Before the draw was announced, though, FIFA released their new World Rankings. England are somehow 13th which seems high considering they didn’t even go to the last World Cup. Oh, and well done, India.

After I had taken a moment to calm down after the excitement of the World Rankings announcement, I checked the League Cup draw. More excitement coursed through me; we had drawn Premier League side Aston Villa at home. Another big, big side coming to the Woodspring. Hopefully, we have fitted all the seats in time.

Matchday 3 – League Two – Gateshead v Weston-super-Mare

Before the fun of welcoming a proper big club to the Woodspring, we first needed to get going properly in the league. Our second game was against Gateshead, a side that had been unaccountably good and beaten us twice last season despite being absolute horse pops against everyone else. They only just avoided relegation at the end of the season. We really need to be beating teams like that if we want to have fun this season.

Well, 3-3 draws are fun, right? I am reliably informed that yes, they are fun. They are not, however, wins. This game started off in a very fun way, with Captain Barbosa whacking home a goal after just five minutes. Unfortunately, John Wright took it upon himself to score an equaliser for Gateshead just ten minutes later. This was annoying because it meant we weren’t winning anymore, but things were about to get worse.

John Wright was having a lovely old time as he toyed with our defence. He bamboozled poor old Lee Nasir so much that Nasir got a bit over excited and scored in his own net. We were suddenly 2-1 down and really we didn’t deserve to be as we were playing the better football. Such is football life.

At half time I had a few choice words to say to the lads. They really shouldn’t have been losing this game. Gateshead were poor defensively and it wouldn’t take too much for us to turn this around, I was sure. So, I sent them out after the break with fire in their bellies. It worked too, as Norwegian Mo scored just three minutes after the restart, cutting in from the left to smash a shot into the far corner.

John Wright was having none of it, though, and he scored again to put Gateshead back in the lead. Luckily, though, we are not the side from last season that gave up when the going got tough. Instead, we redoubled our attacking efforts and won ourselves a few corners. We wasted most of them, but we only needed the one and we got it as Hjortur Hermannsson powered a header into the goal to rescue us a point.

I didn’t mention it before because the board have asked me to stop moaning about refereeing decisions, but we were also denied a clear penalty in the game, with the score at 3-3, that would have allowed us a big chance to win the game. The FA weren’t happy when I moaned about it in the press, particularly after it was shown that we shouldn’t have had the penalty anyway, but I stand by my rant.

Also, this is a fixture that we lost last season, so to get something out of it at all is progress and not something that I should be so angry about. Calm…

Matchday 4 – League Two – Weston-super-Mare v Wrexham

Before the Wrexham squad arrived at the Woodspring, some big news was announced:

This was good, our capacity was now technically 5,000 and, miraculously, the condition of the ground is now just ‘Poor’ rather than ‘Very Poor’. What a time to be alive!

This Wrexham side missed out on back-to-back promotions by a tiny margin last season, thanks partly to us beating them right at the end of the season. This time round, however, they are struggling in the league and are yet to win (although we are only two games in). They had yet to score, had been dumped out of the League Cup, and were 22nd in the table. Usually, I feel we would lose this game. But surely, surely, we can win?

We can! Joel did a right little number on them, snaffling home two poachers’ goals after good work from Bob Holmes and Captain Barbosa. They offered very little and I suspect they will struggle a lot more this season than they did last. They didn’t really threaten very much and ended the game with ten men after Dave Winfield was sent off for a second yellow card after continually hacking at the heels of Joel. The one bad mark against us this game was the fact that we lost our defensive utility man, Andreas Nordvik, to injury. Luckily it was nothing serious that might rule him out of future games, but it did give me cause for concern for a while.

In truth this match was fairly unremarkable in that we were so damned comfortable. We had 64% possession and created far more chances than they did. We were just better than them. Deal with it.

Matchday 5 – League Two – Notts County v Weston-super-Mare

Now our job was to take the good early form and apply it in our game against Notts County. The Magpies were predicted to win the league and so a win against them, on their own turf, would be a massive show of force to scare the rest of the league. They have been a bit average in their opening few games, winning one, losing one and drawing one of their three league fixtures. We could definitely do this.

No, we definitely couldn’t. It was an even game but they still managed to absolutely spank us 3-0. We laboured in front of goal and had more than enough chances to have scored three ourselves, but unfortunately, we were unable to take any of them whilst simultaneously allowing County the opportunity to score three themselves. Ryan Brunt and Cristian Montano had put them 2-0 up in the first half and, despite a rousing effort in the second half, we could do nothing to stop them scoring a third.

The message we sent to the league, it appears, is “don’t worry too much about Weston-super-Mare”… We need to work on keeping it tight at the back. Some sloppy defending lost us this game, more than our lack of goals did. This felt very much like a game from last season and it has to stop.

Luckily, we had a bit of a distraction coming up in the form of our League Cup tie against Aston Villa. Over 4,000 were expected to turn up our newly ‘Poor’ stadium to see Martin O’Neill’s side and this would give us a good chance to enjoy a game without too much pressure riding on us.

Matchday 6 – League Cup – Weston-super-Mare v Aston Villa

Villa had started well in the Premier League and were sitting 5th in the early table. This was going to be a tough game for us, have no doubts about it, and even though they brought a few of the kids they had enough quality in the side that they shouldn’t struggle against our boys.

I was right, they didn’t struggle very much at all. They beat us comfortably, strolling to a 0-2 success that flattered us massively. How they didn’t score five or six is beyond me, and it is no surprise that Pedro Guedes was our man of the match. John Brayford got them going after nine minutes and, whilst it took them until the 51st minute to finally grab their second, the result was never in any doubt from that point on. We only managed to craft two chances in the entire game, putting just one on target. It might have been nice to grab a goal for the fans to cheer, but that might have just angered the beast and caused them to score a whole lot more. As it was, 0-2 was not a bad result, especially considering how many more chances they had. Plus, we got a decent number of people through the turnstiles which will have been a good boost for the club’s coffers.

As predicted, a huge number of people (relatively speaking) turned up to watch the game. We beat out previous attendance record by 500, which is nice, but it would have been better to have put on a better display than we ended up giving. Ah well, we can’t have everything.

Matchday 7 – Weston-super-Mare v Oxford United

To round off the month of August, we played Oxford United at home four days later on my birthday. We had a couple of good games against Oxford last year and they were unlucky not to go up in the end so this would be another tough challenge for our lads. They were above us in the table already this season and looked to again be one of the teams to beat.

Their manager, Chris Wilder, is one of the few managers that I have faced who actually seems to like me. Quite why this is I don’t know. I seem to remember we beat them last season in a game that he had to win to keep his job, so why he likes me and how he still has a job I don’t know, but it’s all a bit of fun, no?

Wilder probably doesn’t like me very much anymore, I’d wager. We absolutely humped them and more than made up for our poor showing in front of goal against Notts County the other week.

The first half was a quiet affair as Captain Barbosa gave us the lead early on before then we sat on our lead and held back a bit. At half time I reminded the boys that the game wasn’t won but that didn’t stop them allowing James Constable to equalise ten minutes after the restart.

Somehow, though, Constable’s equaliser spurred us into action. Not long after, Norwegian Mo slotted home to restore our lead, before turning provider and teeing up Joel to bundle home yet another goal from inside the six-yard box. With Oxford reeling from our sudden onslaught, we turned the screw and Bob Holmes fired in a fourth for us with only moments left of the game.

This is the kind of game that we would have drawn last season, or we might even have gone on to lose it, so to have been able to turn it back on to blow Oxford away in the second half was a pleasing thing to see.

That result left us in third place after five league games. Not bad, not bad at all. It being early in the season, however, we are still easily catchable by the teams behind us, so we will have to try and sustain our good form next month in order to cement our place at the top of the league.

This month saw us win three league games, draw one and lose one. We also got to the second round of the League Cup before being sent packing by Aston Villa. Not a bad set of results in my opinion. Next month sees us take on a number of teams that are expected to finish in and around the middle of the table come the end of the season. We should be looking for wins in three or four of these games if we are going to be serious about challenging for promotion this year.

That’s all for this episode, folks! Oh, I think we will soon be back in Johnstone’s Paint Trophy action, so that might be a bit of a Brucey bonus for next episode. We get a bye into the second round for winning the competition last season, so we have missed the first round already!

Come back and see how we get on next time! Cheers!

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