We had a tough introduction to League One football last episode. We lost a few games, got knocked out of the League Cup, but we did at least win a few as well. All those games, though, were against top teams from this division. This month, we get a chance to play teams that are more on our level.
Or we would do, except that the squad had so many international players called up that our league game against Bristol Rovers was called off. We will now have nearly two weeks between the Oxford game and the Hartlepool game, giving us a bit more recovery time in which to prepare.
Matchday 8 – Johnstone’s Paint Trophy – Weston-super-Mare v Oxford United
Here we are again, the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy. Winners in 2014, knocked out in the second round last season. This season I want to challenge again for a trip to a Wembley final.
The first side to stand in our way was Oxford United. We have played Oxford a fair few times over the last two years and, by and large, we have the beating of them. Their manager is also one of the few who seems to like me, but I won’t be letting that cloud my judgement and we will definitely be going for a big win here.
To help us in that goal, Lyes Saadoune returned from injury before the game. I wasn’t expecting to give him much time in this game to try and avoid any potential injury recurrences, but it was a bit of a boost to see him back on the training ground.
Oxford have started their season well after winning promotion last season and currently sit above us in the table. It is still early doors though, so that might not really mean much. Plus, our past form suggests we usually beat them at the Woodspring. Let’s make it happen.
Happen it did! In fact, we brushed Oxford aside with little trouble and ran out comfortable 3-0 winners. Bradley Weston grabbed his second of the season as he met a cross to the front post with a glancing header that just squeezed in between the Oxford keeper and his near post.
Things were looking good and we were dangerous going forward, something that Oxford were very much struggling with. Throughout the game they looked tired and their strikers kept snatching at their chances, ending the game without a single shot on target between them.
We, on the other hand, were having no such troubles up front, finally hitting the target with relative regularity. The second half saw us stretch our lead as Bob Holmes scored just seven minutes after the restart, before Norwegian Mo rounded off the win in the 88th minute.
It was an all round display that was excellent to watch. We were entertaining, we scored three goals, and we finally got the result that our good displays in recent games had deserved.
As reward for our win, we were given a cool £3,330 in prize money. Our financial woes are over.
The result also shattered the illusion that Oxford manager Chris Wilder was one of the good guys. The good feeling between us has clearly drained away and he now feels it is appropriate to tell the media that he is not my biggest fan.
All I have to say is; “HAHA YOU LOST LOLZ”.
Speaking of LOLZ, we drew a home fixture against Bristol Rovers for the next round of the JPT. Not as hard as it could have been, but I would have preferred a side from League Two. Ah well.
In other exciting news, England have seemingly turned around their Euro 2016 qualification woes. Their most recent game was a hard-fought win over Russia in Moscow, with Wayne Rooney scoring the only goal (LOLZ).
That win meant that, against all odds…
Wow. Mancini had done it. England were going to Euro 2016. Hopefully, Iceland wouldn’t be there.
Back to reality with a bump; apparently the £3,330 that we got for our JPT first round victory wasn’t enough to bring the club out of the red. In fact, the board instead felt it necessary to inject yet more funds into the club to help keep it afloat. I suspect that they should not have given me such a large wage budget if they knew this was going to happen…
A little good news was the return from injury of Vladimir Rusnak. This was good news as Rusnak is our first choice right back, so we welcomed him back to the first team with much excitement (although a damaged elbow is hardly an excuse for missing games, so don’t do it again, Vlad.
The international break that we had enjoyed meant there was plenty of time for me to do my homework on our next opponents, Hartlepool United. The Pools were defying expectations by sitting in second. Perhaps because of this, their manager, Andy Morrell, thought he would let the press know that he didn’t think Weston-super-Mare were cut out for League One football.
We’ll show him…
Matchday 9 – League One – Weston-super-Mare v Hartlepool United
With Morrell’s words still stinging our egos, we prepared extra hard for the Hartlepool game. They were the side we upset to win the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy a couple of years ago. Finally they would have time for revenge. Would they be able to get it?
At first it seemed like they might. The first half was very even and we matched them all over the pitch. It was gutting, then, when they managed to sneakily edge themselves in front right on the stroke of half time as the ball fell kindly to Scott Vernon in our box. Vernon wasted no time in smashing home and giving Hartlepool the lead, much to my annoyance.
My half time team talk was more a collection of primal moans and screams than actual human language. I was frustrated with the lads; whilst we were matching them for the most part, we really could and should be taking the game to them. In particular, being behind was extra annoying; we may not be deserving of the lead, but we sure as heck didn’t deserve to be behind.
I think the players got all that. Anyway, my screaming had the intended effect of making our lads suddenly start playing much better. We pushed hard for an equaliser right from the off, hitting the post and forcing their keeper into a couple of very good saves. One of these led to a corner which Captain Barbosa whipped in to the box, right on to the head of Christian Neumann. Neumann’s header flew into the net, giving the young German his first goal in English football.
He was mobbed by our players and the fans went a bit wild. Everyone was very excited. I jumped so high that my cup of hot Bovril spilled all over the dugout. I made substitute keeper Jack Dovey clean it up.
From that moment on, we were by far the better side and it seemed to be only a matter of time before we would take a deserved lead. Football is not always that logical, however. Our approach play was good, as usual, but our final ball was letting us down and Bob Holmes wasn’t getting a sniff up front at all. It looked like the game was heading for a draw.
Until we got a corner. Dirk Lindner, on for Captain Barbosa, whipped the ball in to the box. It wasn’t cleared properly by the Pools’ defence. The ball pinged around the box as shots were scuffed, clearances were missed and shins were savaged. And then, it happened. The ball fell right at Hartlepool player Josh Wright’s feet he was right on the goal line. He knew what he had to do; clear the ball out of the box. He swung his leg, his foot connected hard with the ball. But. Instead of smooshing the ball out into the stands, he horribly shanked it. His face fell as he heard the ball strike the frame of the goal. He collapsed to the floor in dismay as he heard the ball rustle in the net. Bob Holmes gave him a massive hug in excitement, which, looking back, was probably unnecessary.
We did it. We had won.
Take that, Andy Morrell. Not cut out for this league, are we? Second in the table, are you? Well, not for long, buddy!
With the euphoria still coursing through my body, I sat down at my computer after the game to check the news. For weeks now, Paul Pogba has been angling for a move away from Manchester United. Being the player he is, he has been making eyes at all the big clubs, such as Norwich.
I don’t know if it was the giddiness from victory or evidence that this job has taken a significant mental toll on me, but I put in a cheeky loan bid for him. If he was willing to go to Norwich (or, reportedly, Reading) he would surely consider Weston?
Apparently not. I never got a reply.
Matchday 10 – League One – Weston-super-Mare v Notts County
Next in line for a pasting from our Paul Pogba-less side were the side that finished runners up to us last season; Notts County. They had started reasonably well considering that they were a newly promoted side. That said, they were in the lower reaches of the table and we took that as a sign that we should be expecting a win here.
The game was set to be a big one for off the pitch reasons too. Firstly, Lyes Saadoune had the opportunity to make his debut from the bench after finally reaching full fitness. Secondly, and more importantly, Captain Barbosa was set to feature in his 129th league fixture for Weston-super-Mare, making him the club’s all time leading appearance holder. What a servant that man has been. Hero.
Thankfully the boys really stepped up in the game and made the afternoon one to remember for Captain Barbosa as we confidently saw off a poor Notts County side. They battled well in the first half without really creating many chances before our superior skills took over in the second half. Adam Dodd, on just after half time for a tired Norwegian Mo, was the man to make the difference, cutting in from the left on two separate occasions before both times beating the Notts keeper at his near post.
Our strength in depth this year is much improved and this was a prime example of that. Dodd comes on, scores two and gives us renewed energy and skill down the left. Last season’s back up left mid, Liam Conway, would come on and do almost literally nothing in 90% of the games he was involved in. I prefer Dodd.
There wasn’t much to report from this game, really. We ended up very comfortable indeed and really deserved to win the game. We created far more chances, troubled their keeper more, and even had the lion’s share of possession which is not always the case.
One blot on the copy book was an injury to Claus Larsen, our starting left back. This would likely mean having to put Adam Dodd at left back whilst we await Larsen’s return which, considering the impact he had today in an attacking sense is a bit of a shame. Ah well, we have more defenders than you could shake a rather large stick at, so we will work it out.
And here it is then, conformation that Captain Barbosa is now the holder of the club’s appearance record. Poor old Stuart Slater – whoever he was – but well done to Yannick Texeira Barbosa, a club legend.
Matchday 11 – League One – Charlton Athletic v Weston-super-Mare
Next up for us was another very tough test. Charlton Athletic had finished bottom of the Championship last season but hadn’t lost too many players and were a very dangerous proposition this season. They were amongst the favourites to go straight back up and were widely predicted to thrash us. I had a pair of external experts do some extensive scouting on Charlton’s squad over the summer and they reported back that the Addicks have more talent than us in every single area of their team. We had no hope. We were going to the Valley, and we were going to the slaughter.
We won 0-3. Lyes Saadoune, the child prodigy from Belgium who had managed to injure himself at the end of pre-season, was finally able to make his first start for the club, and what a performance he put in. Saadoune proved that he is a quality footballer as he scored two goals late in the first half to truly silence the home crowd and send us on our way to an unexpected victory.
His first was a great poacher’s finish as he pounced on a low cross from Captain Barbosa to tap home his first for the club. His second, however, was special. Bob Holmes laid the ball into Saadoune’s path. Saadoune accelerated quickly, charging towards the Charlton defence. He took on one man, cut back and rounded another before breaking into the box. The Addicks’ keeper came rushing out, only for Saadoune to take the ball round him and tap home the ball into the empty net. What a player.
The second half was going to be pivotal, or so I thought, but Bob Holmes put paid to that idea as he nabbed us a third goal just eight minutes after the restart. Charlton were terrible and didn’t managed to get a single shot on target all game. Our defence was looking incredibly solid and I was impressed with the way the new guys had bedded into the team.
What a damned result! We were excellent! We put them to the sword! But wait, we got excited last month after beating a big team, let’s not do it again (WE ARE GOING TO WIN THE LEAGUE).
Matchday 12 – League One – Bristol Rovers v Weston-super-Mare
The penultimate game of the month was against Bristol Rovers. Not the JPT game, but a league game. We are going to get very friendly with these Rovers by the end of the season… Now, we are obviously not going to win the league this season (WE ARE, WE ARE GOING TO WIN THE LEAGUE) but, going on our results this month, we might well be a little better than merely aiming to avoid relegation. Therefore, we should probably be looking to win this game, especially considering that they are 18th in the table. This is also pretty much a local derby for us, so we want to get some bragging rights, gosh darn it!
All I have to say is: BRAGBRAGBRAG. We beat our local rivals (who don’t consider this a rivalry but who cares)! It was a memorable trip to the Memorial Stadium for Weston-super-Mare and, whilst the game could probably have gone either way but for some better finishing, in the end we took our chances and they didn’t.
David Hruby got us off to a good start with his first of the season, firing home from the edge of the area after some good build up play from Holmes and Burnell. After that the game descended into a more cagey affair. Both sides had chances to grab the next goal but, whilst the number of chances created was high, the quality of the finishes wasn’t.
At half time I told the lads that they were more than capable of seeing this game out for a win and told them I believed in them. They looked all happy, like Labradors who can see food (tails wagging, etc), and went back out on the pitch with their confidence fully bolstered.
This was good as the beginning of the second half featured a lot of Bristol Rovers attacks and not much of Weston-super-Mare attacks. Our defence, for the second time in two games, performed admirably, though, and we never truly looked threatened even though they were on the ball a lot more than us in this period. Finally, we got our chance. A quick break from Dirk Lindner and Bob Holmes resulted in Holmes being dragged down and a penalty being awarded by Anthony Taylor the referee. Up stepped Norwegian Mo to confidently dispatch the penalty and wrap us up the three points.
Another win for our burgeoning collection. We were on a bit of a roll and I for one was enjoying it immensely. Our defence had gelled nicely, despite the loss of both of our full backs at one point or another, and we were at least taking chances that came our way. This was a good formula and had seen us climb quietly up the table…
Matchday 13 – League One – Rochdale v Weston-super-Mare
To finish the month, who fancies a trip to Rochdale? No? Well tough.
Rochdale are mid-table and looking a bit average. They are, however, unbeaten in four so they will not be easily beaten. We have never faced Rochdale, so this is something new and fun (it is fun), but being realistic we need to acknowledge that we should be beating them if we want to have a successful season. They are usually also-rans so finishing above them will almost certainly guarantee that we have done well.
Well, we will have to do better than that. Two first half goals were enough to see Rochdale through to full time with the points, although we had plenty of chances to level the game and I was a touch annoyed that we didn’t manage to equalise as our second half was by far the stronger.
Jason Kennedy got them off to a great start as he scored after just seven minutes, but the real kick to the nads was their second goal fifteen minutes later. Who better to score it than son of my arch rival, Thomas Ince? Ince Jr cut in from the flank, jinked passed Rusnak, and then curled a beauty into the top corner. Not amusing. Pass me the Bovril.
As I said, we improved in the second half and even threatened to claw level once Alex Diabate had grabbed us a goal back on 72 minutes. Unfortunately, despite having the opportunities, we didn’t manage to make one count and we had to settle in the end for a frustrating defeat.
Bovril won’t fix this pain of mine. Get me a bag of Kettle Chips and warm up the DVD player, I need a dose Mike Bassett, stat!
So, at the end of a very successful month, here is where we now stand…
Third is ridiculously good, even if the result of the Rochdale game wasn’t ideal. We are six points behind unlikely leaders Aldershot Town and just a single point behind Watford in the second automatic play-off place. We are still focussing on avoiding relegation, but perhaps we could also start considering a horrifyingly unlikely promotion push? (WE ARE GOING TO WIN THE LEAGUE!!!). Shush.
Four league wins and only one defeat, plus a convincing win in the JPT, means that September 2015 was a successful month for the club. The good news is that next month looks like it could be a repeat as none of the side we are facing are anywhere near the top of the table. We can also go another step further in the JPT as we welcome Bristol Rovers to the Woodspring for our second meeting in four games. Exotic..!
So, what do we think? Could this be the beginning of another shocking promotion race? Will we fall away like we did two years ago? Could we win the JPT again? Let me know your thoughts!