Weston’s Super Mare? – Episode 39: More Plasters!

Welcome, one and all! Come with me as we step timidly into the bright land of promise and fun that 2015 will surely offer. Will this be another promotion year for Weston-super-Mare? Will we ever get an ‘average’ stadium? Will Roy Burnell ever grow hair? The potential for fun is mind-boggling…

Speaking of mind-boggling, Pat Bamford’s form last month was just that and he was rightly recognised for his “dangerous” form by being awarded the Young Player of the Month award. He got six goals in five games last month – more of the same please, Pat!

We opened 2015 with a high-profile game against Premier League Sunderland in the third round of the FA Cup. Just imagine a world in which Sunderland are disappointed to be in 14th place, or where their manager doesn’t feel confident about a home tie against League Two opposition…

Matchday 32 – FA Cup – Weston-super-Mare v Sunderland

Martin O’Neill was probably, on balance, wrong to be worried about us in this game. Ok, his side weren’t in great form and hadn’t won for ages, but they were still streets ahead of us. Plus, outside of friendly games, we have never beaten a side from the Championship or the Premier League. He’s obviously a bit of a worrier.

Obviously, O’Neill was being a tad pessimistic with his pre-match predictions. Rather than struggling, Sunderland blew us away with three first goals to rob us of the possibility of getting a lucrative replay at the Woodspring. Captain Barbosa did his best to get us back into the game in the second half as he scored a tap-in at the back post after good work down our left by Diabate, but we were never a serious threat to Sunderland’s progression.

That was a massive shame because we could really have done with the money. Our coffers are not so much empty as really, really, really empty. Not to worry, though, I am sure it will all be fine if we just carry on like nothing is happening.

Matchday 33 – League Two – AFC Wimbledon v Weston-super-Mare

So, with our fingers firmly in our ears to drown out the incessant phone calls from HMRC, we travelled along to London to take on AFC Wimbledon. They are in mid-table but are in decent form, plus we have never won at Kingsmeadow Stadium. Hopefully, we could change that this time round.

No, in the end, we played out a dire 0-0. Two shots on target throughout the entire game tells the story of this match; not much quality, three yellow cards, one player off injured; League Two football.

It was far from our best performance but, considering that we lost this fixture 2-0 last season, we could take some positives from the result. At least we got another point to keep us on top of the league.

Matchday 34 – League Two – Wrexham v Weston-super-Mare

We wanted to quickly get back to our flowing best after the tough-watching of the Wimbledon game. Luckily for us, three days was all that separated us from our game against Wrexham. Last season they had just missed out on promotion and, after a slow start this time round, they were looking to challenge again for a spot in the play-offs.

We had comfortably beaten Wrexham earlier in the season but they were in better form now, plus we were playing them in their own back yard. Can you guess what happened?

That’s right; we lost. Of course we lost, because why make things simple? In fact, the game had a number of twists in it that made for a good spectacle, so at least we had improved on the dour performance at Wimbledon, but that was scant consolation. Wrexham took the lead through a Leon Pankivar penalty after a handball from Andreas Nordvik. Things went from bad to worse as Alan Heald then scored from a corner to double their lead. We just about managed to hang on until half-time at 2-0, but it was a close-run thing.

I laid into the lads a bit in the dressing room and told them that I expected more from them in the second half. I also made a move to shore up our midfield, putting George Moncur in the more defensive midfield role and bringing off Simon Feindouno. Things seemed to be much better for us after our changes and my rousing “I’m not angry, just disappointed” team talk. We were holding on to the ball a lot better and we started to actually create some chances.

Finally, just nine minutes into the half, Bob Holmes slotted home to give us hope! This prompted a flurry of attacks from us but Wrexham’s defence held strong and prevented us from making too many clear cut chances. Luckily, Alex Diabate is a tricksy sort and he was able to unlock the Dragons’ defence after 75 minutes to smash home from inside the six-yard box after some cheeky interplay between himself and Holmes.

Things were looking up and we now took the game to Wrexham. We looked certain to find a winner, making it even more gutting that Wrexham caught us on the break and forced a late, late winner of their own as George Moncur scored an unfortunate own goal.

Another disappointing defeat. This was extremely frustrating, especially considering how hard we had worked to get ourselves back into the game in the second half. The result also allowed the chasing pack to gain ground on us in the race for promotion. Not a good day at the office.

Matchday 35 – League Two – Weston-super-Mare v Notts County

To compound matters, we next had to face up against an in-form Notts County side who were on an absolutely fantastic run of form. They were scoring goals for fun and looked like they were making a serious push for promotion. We absolutely had to shake off the dodgy form that we had been in and rouse ourselves to hold off the charge of one of our closest rivals.

We rose to the challenge very well and ran out deserving 2-0 winners in front of over 3,100 fans at the fortress that is the Woodspring. Where this kind of performance was in the last couple of matches I don’t know, but the important thing is we gave a good slapping down to the upstarts from Nottingham.

The first half was a cagey affair as both teams tried to edge past the other without giving anything away at the back. The chances were few and far between and you really got a sense that this game had a lot riding on it.

My halftime team talk surrounded me reassuring my team that they had the ability to get past their opponents. I reminded them of the huge opportunity that winning a game against one of our close rivals could give us. I reminded them that they were building something special at the club and to go out and take this chance. But most of all, I reminded them that, really, Notts County aren’t very good.

As team talks go, this was outstanding. Blowing my own trumpet? Well, possibly…Possibly not! As the second half restarted you could feel that the players had a little extra belief in themselves. We were pushing them back and starting to actually create some chances. We were first to every ball and 50-50s were going our way every time. Just eight minutes after our onslaught began, we finally made the breakthrough as Alex Diabate broke free on the left before whipping a ball to the back post for Captain Barbosa to tap home.

The goal released us and we were suddenly playing with the kind of composure that we had displayed over November and December. The Magpies weren’t getting a sniff and we started creating lots and lots of chances. To be fair to County, they held out admirably but, eventually, our pressure told and Bob Holmes was able to double our lead in the 93rd minute to seal the win.

This was a much-needed win and it had the added advantage of sending us three more points clear of Notts County. I was in a very good mood, having started to worry that we would throw away our position in the table after our past two dodgy results. No more! I am back to being supremely confident of our promotion credentials.

One slight blot on the day was a minor injury to Liam Conway who managed to suffer a dead leg having been brought on five minutes previously. Luckily, Diabate is performing excellently in the left midfield position. Plus, Conway is only out for a week at most, so we won’t miss him for too long.

Matchday 36 – League Two – Oxford United v Weston-super-Mare

With renewed confidence and our swagger well and truly back, we rocked up at the three-sided shed that Oxford United call their home ground four days later looking to build on our Notts County result. The Us had taken County’s place in third and were in decent form. They had also scored way more goals than Notts County, who I pointed out had scored a lot of goals, so that was something to watch. Not to worry though, my lads would be able to deal with this lot and extend our lead over the chasing pack even further.

No they couldn’t. Just like in the previous match, the first half was a cagey affair and neither side really troubled the keepers much. This was fine with me; I had my tried and tested “I reminded…” speech ready to go. That was until David Hruby went down awkwardly just before half time and had to be replaced.

With our key creative midfield presence out injured we were unable to craft out many opportunities in the second half. After we re-emerged from the changing rooms it was clear that Hruby’s loss had affected our rhythm somewhat and we were being pegged back by Oxford more and more as the half wore on. Eventually they made the inevitable breakthrough as David Amoo scored with a nice finish past Pedro Guedes.

From them on things were fairly relaxed for Oxford as we found ourselves incapable of putting on any sort of comeback. We had played a lot of games by this point and it took its toll as Oxford kept us out well and ran the clock down to a comfortable win.

After the highs of the Notts County game, this was very much a low. We took one step forward by keeping Notts County far behind us in the table, then allowed Oxford to make up ground on us. Stupidy stupidy stupidy.

Perhaps worse news came from a jaded looking Rachel Greenley who informed me that David Hruby would be out for between three and four months…

…Lee Nasir would be out for three to four weeks…

…and that Olli Sara had a cold and would be sent home with a packet of Lemsip.

If you listened closely you might have been able to hear the laughter of previous physio, David Callow, on the breeze…

Matchday 37 – League Two – Weston-super-Mare v Crawley Town

So, with a depleted squad, we rounded off January 2015 by welcoming Crawley Town to the Woodspring. I was forced to shuffle my pack a bit due to the injuries, so we welcomed Simon Feindouno back into midfield, Andreas Nordvik at right back, and Steven Howarth up top. This was not all bad as it added some freshness to the starting XI and gave us a few different dimensions to work with. That said, it is obviously not ideal when your best players are out of the side, but we had to make do.

Crawley arrived at the Woodspring in a poor state. They had struggled for large parts of the season and clearly had some defensive issues, having conceded 50 goals in 28 games. That said, our last few games haven’t exactly been fantastic from a defensive perspective. On paper we should be expecting a win here, but we all know that form doesn’t really seem to affect our opponents…

Although on this occasion it did. We had the better of the opening exchanges and took a deserved lead as Bob Holmes slotted home a calm finish. This provoked a response from Crawley who started to grow into the game a bit more and actually started to create a few chances of their own. They were rewarded for actually trying when Gordon Smith nodded home a well-worked equaliser just eight minutes later.

I was a bit annoyed at half time; surely we should be beating this lot? I asked a few pointed questions of the lads and you could see that they all knew they could do better than this. Our patchy recent form had damaged their confidence a bit, but my half time talk seemed to lift them a tad.

We came out of the blocks quickly in the second half and had won a penalty just three minutes into the half when Bob Holmes was hauled down by a Crawley defender. Hjortur Hermannsson stepped up and confidently dispatched his kick to restore our lead.

From that point on we were in control and Crawley’s players were looking more and more frustrated about being behind in a close game. They needed the points to help drag themselves away from the relegation zone and they clearly felt that they could get something from this game. We held out strong, though, and continued to frustrate them whilst creating our own chances. This eventually led to Crawley defender Claude Davis lashing out and getting himself sent off in the closing stages of the match. With Crawley now down to ten men, we were able to comfortably see out the game and hang on to a precious and barely deserved three points.

One major issue was an injury to Andreas Nordvik who strained his groin during the match. Nordvik can play all across the back four and was my choice to fill in for the injured Lee Nasir at right back. We are getting seriously short of options…

Rachel Greenley, fighting back the tears as she poked her head out of the crowded physio room, assured me that Nordvik would be back in a month, and please could I put in an order for some more plasters?

So far, then, 2015 has not been a brilliant year. Our plaster budget is through the roof, we are out of the FA Cup, and our dodgy form in January means that Oxford are now just three points behind us.

We really need to pick it up again in February. We have to play five games in four weeks, although we are lucky that none of the sides we will face are higher than 8th. This should give us a good chance to pick up some much-needed points and extend our lead at the top of the table. We can’t afford too many slip ups with Oxford breathing down our necks…

So, join me next time when our injury-ravaged squad take on Bradford City. Will Rachel Greenley be able to perform miracles and bring some of our squad back to life? Will her insistence on more plasters have dire consequences for the club’ budget? Will we get back to our form in 2014? Find out next time! Cheers!

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