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Weston’s Super Mare? – Episode 31: A bit of a comedown

Golly. I don’t know about you, but I am still buzzing from our cup final win. Who really cares about the rest of the season, let’s just sack it off and go for a swim? What? We can’t do that? We have seven games left to play? Really? Bah.

At least we will have Robert Hall back for those games. Let’s not forget that we could, technically, still make the play-offs, so no slacking off!

Before we begin, though, a bit of fun for those of you out there who remain fans of the work of Big Cherno Samba. Currently at AFC Wimbledon, Big Cherno has had a decent season and this month came third in the goal of the month award. Well done him (we should never have gotten rid of him…).

Matchday 50 – League Two – Northampton Town v Weston-super-Mare

The fun is over, let’s crack on. Although given that Northampton have been giving goals away this season, this game could well end up being a fun one. They have conceded at a rate of well over two a game so far and seem on course to ship over 100 by the end of the season. The worry is that they have also scored a fair few as well. To counter this threat, I lined the lads up in my tried and tested 4-4-2 – just to ram this point home: I will NOT. BE. CHANGING. MY. FORMATION. FOR. ANYONE.

I was right, too. We beat them 0-2, maintaining their proud record of conceding twice a game. Well done us. Norwegian Mo got us off to a good start in this one, banging home from the edge of the box. Northampton didn’t really display much of the finishing that has seen them score their 68 goals, but they did show off their fantastic ability to produce a defensive cock-up about 25 minutes later to gift us our second goal. Their keeper passed the ball to their right back, who passed a dreadful ball back across the edge of their box. Gavin Massey, always on his toes except when he’s not, nipped in to latch on to the ball and slot it past their keeper. Suddenly we were 0-2 up and cruising.

Not much else happened in the game, although were we blessed with good strikers we could have scored a load more. But let’s not moan.

This was just what I had wanted. We came out of the JPT final and produced a good result to remind everyone that we have something still to play for. It would have been easy to lose limply and just go through the motions for the remainder of the campaign, but we are better than that. Good lads, good.

Whilst we were happy, Paul Buckle was not. Northampton, having stuck with him through most of the season, 89 goals conceded and with just six games remaining, decided that enough was enough and sacked their manager. The new fella will have a job on his hands to turn around the club, shore up their defence, and avoid relegation. Luckily, the two teams in the relegation zone are doing dreadfully (except for when they play us) so they should be ok this season…

Matchday 51 – League Two – Oxford United v Weston-super-Mare

Next up was a trip to Oxford United. Earlier in the season, we beat them and it was rumoured that their manager was going to be sacked. In the end, their board stuck with him and he kept his job and now the club are sitting in fourth place in the table. They have scored a rude number of goals *tee hee* and are obviously going to be a tough prospect despite losing their last game.

Excitingly, we played out a 0-0. How we managed to score nil I will never know, and how they didn’t at least score one is equally a mystery to me. They were all over us all game and battered us in every department apart from the goal scoring one. Our defence in the last few weeks has been very good and we haven’t conceded too many since our giveaway at the beginning of last month. Doesn’t matter much if you don’t score, but let’s not complain. This has dented Oxford’s promotion push, so let’s focus on that!

Given the performance, it wasn’t a bad result. What was less good was the news from David Callow and his ever-exciting physio room. Firstly, Olli Sara ruled himself out for the rest of the season by pulling a hamstring during a mid-week reserve game against Dorchester. Given that Sara’s pace could charitably be described as ‘glacial’, why he was even attempting a sprint is beyond me.

Then, in the same game, Scott Brown also got an early end to his season as he sprained his ankle. Brilliant. At least we won the reserve game, right? Wrong, we drew 0-0. Well worth it.

Silver linings, though, as David Hruby returned from injury just in time to help us round out the season. Hruby has been a really excellent signing this season and, in the two months, he has been injured we have really missed the creativity that he adds to our play.

Matchday 52 – League Two – Weston-super-Mare v Exeter City

The draw with Oxford meant they dropped down one place in the table, to be replaced by Paul Ince’s Exeter City (who must have had a game in hand or something or else this wouldn’t actually make sense). The most nonsensical thing, to me, was that a team managed by Paul Ince could possibly be challenging for promotion. He had started our mini-feud earlier in the season, but now it was up to me to ruin his hunt for promotion. We were going to beat them and stop them getting automatic promotion. Petty? Yes.

In the end, we had to settle for a draw, but we were seconds away from beating them. We were the better side on the day but struggled to take advantage of our superiority until we were awarded a penalty in the 43rd minute. Massey stepped up to take it but blasted the ball over the bar. He didn’t even trouble the keeper… Luckily, we were given the chance to redeem ourselves in the 70th minute when we were awarded another penalty. This time Hjortur Hermannsson stepped up and calmly converted the spot kick to set us up for a handy 1-0 win. They were down to ten men by this point and didn’t really look like creating anything until the last five minutes when they suddenly awoke from their metaphorical slumber and started attacking. Even then, they looked to have started the game a bit late, but then, disappointingly, they managed to bundle home an equaliser in the 95th minute and with the very last kick of the game. It was frustrating, but to have now held two promotion chasing sides to draws in our last two draws meant that I was happy. We also put a little break on Incey’s promotion charge, which he was well upset by. Poor guy. See you in League Two next year, fella!

Matchday 53 – League Two – Weston-super-Mare v Crawley Town

So, after two positive results that might suggest some good things to come next season, we then welcomed Crawley Town to the Woodspring. They were 16th but were in a decent little spell and had won three of their last five. From the numbers, it is clear that they score a fair few but concede even more. This bodes well, if only our strikers can take advantage…

Well, things started off in good fashion as, from kick off, Robert Hall took the ball, ran through the Crawley defence and then smashed home his fifth goal of the season. The trouble was, one goal isn’t as many as three goals, and Crawley proved this by scoring three of their own. This was not ideal and meant that we were, in fact, behind. Despite the massive swing in momentum, we still managed to create chances. This was a good thing, as was their player, Claude Davis, being sent off on 45+3 minutes, until Robert Hall was injured on 45+5 minutes, right on the stroke of half-time.

I brought on Steven Howarth after the interval to replace him and, within seconds of the restart, he had won us a corner. From Captain Barbosa’s cross, Hermannsson out-jumped the Crawley defence and thumped home a header to reduce the deficit. Unfortunately, however, neither of our strikers, nor our other players, were able to grab an equaliser in the remaining 44 minutes and so we slumped to a disappointing but entertaining 2-3 loss.

Luckily, Robert Hall had only suffered a knock and would be back soo…ah. Our strikers are always breaking their wrists, it seems. Big Cherno even did his twice in one season. What are our opponents doing to our team?? So, that is Hall out for the season. Luckily we only have a couple of games to go now.

Matchday 54 – League Two – Plymouth Argyle v Weston-super-Mare

Oh man, Plymouth are bad. They are rock bottom, are in dreadful form and concede just under two goals a game. However, unlike Northampton, they do not score nearly enough goals to compensate for this. It seems very likely that they will be dropping into non-league at the end of the season. It will give me no pleasure to see them go down, but we have to be professional.

Oh boy, were we professional. With almost nothing riding on the game, we put in a very efficient and impressive performance and came away from Home Park with a 0-2 win. David Hruby, making his first start for the club since returning from injury, scored a dirty old free-kick to open the scoring before setting up Norwegian Mo to slot home just before half time.

In the second period, Plymouth were unable to make much of a fist at getting back into the game and looked every inch the relegation favourites that they were. We restricted them to just the one shot on target, a decent effort that was nonetheless saved comfortably by Guedes in goal.

Matchday 55 – League Two – Weston-super-Mare v Wrexham

We wrapped up April 2014 with yet another promotion chasing team. Wrexham were second in the table and, with only two games left of the season, looked good for promotion. They came up with us last season, finishing a whole load of points behind us as we romped to the title. It was now our job to stop them from gaining a second straight promotion. We are supposed to be the fairytale club, not them, give me back my narrative!!

The game was a good one. Over 3,000 fans packed into the Woodspring to watch our final home game of the season and to celebrate the fact that, in our first ever Football League season, we had survived fairly comfortably. To top it off, and to reward our loyal supporters, we beat Wrexham 2-0. Gavin Massey scored on 33 minutes with a calm finish to put us on top, but we gave them a way back into the game in the 65th minute when Lee Nasir gave away a penalty for handball in the box.

Leon Pankivar stepped up to take the kick, but Guedes was equal to his effort and tipped his shot round the post. After that excellent moment, we took the game by the scruff of the neck and pinned Wrexham back into their own half. We finally wrapped up the game in the 92nd minute, when Alex Diabate, deputising on the left wing because of our lack of a healthy Scott Brown, got in behind the Wrexham defence and slotted the ball into the back of the net.

It was a good way to end the home season, but I was left wondering exactly why we were so inconsistent this season. We had big performances in us but too often we were let down by poor finishing, and a few injuries to key players during the season really hurt us.

Anyway, we had a decent month with only the single loss to our names and three good results against promotion-chasing sides.

Next month, after a break of 14 days, we finally wrap up the season with an away game at the cultural and spiritual home of football, Swindon’s County Ground stadium. They need a win to guarantee a play-off spot. Should we win, we would be in line to snaffle a top ten finish.

The table below shows what was at stake with one game to go. Crewe had wrapped up the title already. Oxford, after drawing with us, went on a dreadful run and had dropped out of the play-off zone, Wrexham had dropped from second to fifth, and Plymouth (despite being cut off on the in-game screen) had, unfortunately, already been relegated. Please also note that Northampton have now conceded 103 goals. That is crazy.

So, could we end Swindon’s hopes of a play-off spot? Could we claim a top-ten finish in our first ever Football League season? Will it be Bury or Northampton who join Plymouth in the Blue Square Premier next season? Find out next time! Cheers!

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