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Weston’s Super Mare? – Episode 41: The ‘A’ Team…

Well now, we are well and truly coming to the business end of the season. Just three more months left in which to achieve our dream of promotion to English football’s third tier, or die trying.

Before we begin, we have, after many months, finally gotten a goal in the goal of the month award. We have been functional rather than spectacular so far this season, but Wesley Said – our new loan signing from Arsenal – is a bit of alright. His first goal for the club, a superb solo effort, makes the top three for February.

Also, the League Cup final was played on the first of March between Tottenham and Manchester United. It looks like a great game of football as well, as it featured a 90th minute Ashley Young equaliser and a 95th minute Phil Jagielka winner. Madness.

Matchday 42 – League Two – Weston-super-Mare v Barnet

Back to the real story now where we finally get the chance to play the game against Barnet that was postponed last month (assuming the pitch doesn’t flood again). Barnet are on a run of five draws in their last six games and seem to have given up on seriously challenging for the play-offs after having been in the mix earlier in the season. We are now on a three-game winning run and were starting to look a bit like the side that was on fire towards the end of last year.

We continued to look dangerous in this game as well as we comfortably swept past Barnet with another efficient performance. Wesley Said grabbed his second goal for the club right on the stroke of half-time as he capitalised on a sloppy back-pass to score confidently.

Getting the goal right before the half-time whistle was a great boost for the lads who came into the changing room in high spirits. Said’s goal must have also knocked the confidence of the Barnet players who looked limp and lacking in ideas come the second half.

In truth, the second period was a comfortable one as neither side over exerted themselves in search of a goal. Late on, however, we did manage to double our lead as Scott Davidson, on as a sub, connected well with a cross to the far post from Alex Diabate.

Barnet, as I said, didn’t create much and looked fairly listless. By contrast, we looked comfortable in possession and were able to hold Barnet back for the majority of the game. It was therefore slightly odd to find that their manager, Lawrie Sanchez, mouthing off at full-time about how bad we were and how we would struggle to gain promotion.

What it is that I do to these men that make them come out with odd statements like this is beyond me. Cleary Sanchez needs his eyes looked at, because on this form we will be walking to a fairly comfortable promotion. Sorry, Lawrie.

Matchday 43 – League Two – Weston-super-Mare v Southend United

After beating Barnet for the second time this season (poor are we?), we welcomed Southend United to the Woodspring. Revenge was very much on the menu for this game. The Shrimpers had put five past us earlier on in the season despite sitting in the relegation zone. Now, nearing the end of the season, they are still struggling down near the bottom of the table. The problem is, they have won four of their last five. Could we be on course for yet another embarrassment against the boys from Saafend?

No, for once the form book was correct and we swatted Southend aside. Gone was their late-season revival to resurrect their survival fears; gone were the bad memories of that afternoon at Roots Hall. The game started well for us as Bob Holmes latched on to a through ball to thump home from just inside the box after just eight minutes. We were dominant in terms of chances created, although just like last season our problem in this match was an inability to get our shots on target. The first half was simply a series of good chances that we inexplicably shanked wide, over, or straight into the keeper’s hands.

At half time I reminded the lads that Southend had embarrassed us earlier on in the season and not to let our lead slip. I also told them to start hitting the target a bit more – you can always hope for miracles..!

Actually, though, the advice I gave them worked. They lads attacked with a bit more desire and intent in the second half, resulting in Bob Holmes grabbing his and our second of the afternoon. With our lead doubled, the game descended into a fairly boring affair. Southend didn’t offer much in attack and, other than an Andreas Nordvik yellow card, we didn’t do much else either (other than miss loads of chances).

We ended the game with 17 shots in total, with a measly four on target. That is dangerously like our statistics from last season, so I had the lads do extra finishing practice during the week so that they were prepared for our trip to Accrington.

Matchday 44 – League Two – Accrington Stanley v Weston-super-Mare

Accrington Stanley (don’t..!) were a fairly poor side who had solidified their place in the bottom half of the table with a string of inconsistent performances (sound familiar to any sides that we know from last season and are us?). They were, however, on a good little run and would be in confident mood when they faced us.

Their confidence was, indeed, high, especially after they took the lead through Alex Jones in the 39th minute. Our extra finishing practice didn’t do us much good, primarily because we only created six chances in the entire game this time. We did at least score one when Steven Howarth did what he does best and chipped the ball over the Accrington keeper midway through the second half.

Both sides registered just a single shot on target each. It was a dour game to watch. I nearly fell asleep on the sidelines and was prevented from doing so only because my assistant kept nudging me to ask if I wanted any Bovril.

I didn’t.

Matchday 45 – League Two – Weston-super-Mare v Exeter City

After the disappointment of Accrington away, we had to rush back to the Woodspring in order to face off against Paul Ince-less Exeter City. Since giving Incey the old Spanish Archer a couple of months back, Exeter have been on a good run of form and now find themselves contending for promotion again. Recently their results have been a bit shakier but regardless they will be a tough team to face up against. That said we are undefeated in six.

In the end, just as they had done under Ince earlier in the season, Exeter dealt a blow to our promotion hopes. Despite slightly edging all the key statistics, we found ourselves 0-2 down at half time thanks to early goals from Richard Duffy and Liam Sercombe.

We did our best to get back into the game in the second half and actually had some shots on target to boast about as well but, unfortunately, the tired legs of our strikers prevented us from getting anything from the game. It was a lacklustre display from our boys, not helped by the fact that the rescheduled fixture against Barnet meant we had played four games in eleven days.

As if to underline the fact that the amount of fixtures were taking their toll, Norwegian Mo scored himself an early end to the season by twisting his ankle again in the Exeter game.

In response, I made a quick addition just before the loan transfer window slammed shut by bringing in Tommy McDermott from Southampton. He isn’t a world beater but he will offer us another option and he is, at least, very fast.

But Norwegian Mo’s injury was not the worst news I received in the wake of the Exeter game. Not even close. It was lucky that the ink had just dried on the McDermott deal, as just moments later I was told by a panicky secretary that the club was close to administration.

This was potentially very bad news. The club are haemorrhaging money and it isn’t exactly clear whether the owners can afford to stump up the cash necessary to see us through until the end of the season. A ten point deduction would be incurred if we did enter administration, something that would seriously impact our ability to gain promotion. In fact, promotion could be our only saving grace, as the prize money we would receive might well allow us to stave off HMRC for another few weeks. Things were bad…

…And then, as if things couldn’t get much worse…


Matchday 46 – League Two – Oldham Athletic v Weston-super-Mare

So, with the threat of administration hanging over the club, we travelled up to Oldham to take on a side that was putting on an unexpected late challenge for automatic promotion. The Latics were in fine form and looked like they were a tough nut to crack, especially considering that we were in poor form ourselves. That said; we had done for them pretty comfortably earlier in the season. Why not again?

Why not indeed. We absolutely battered away at their goal, ending the game with 20 shots in total. Unfortunately, we only managed to put five on target, but that was enough in the end. The first half was fairly even as both sides had chances to break the deadlock. Oldham, luckily, had even worse finishing than we did, managing only one shot on target in the entire half. In punishment, Vladimir Rusnak volleyed home from a corner to give us the lead just seconds before the whistle blew for half-time.

The second half began in much the same vein, with Oldham spooning chances high and wide, and us doing the same. A potential obstacle came when Hjortur Hermannsson conceded a penalty in the 68th minute. Oldham would have the chance to get only their second shot on target of the game. Could they beat Pedro Guedes? Could they heck! Carl Winchester stepped up and slammed his kick straight at Guedes in goal who reacted well to tip the ball over the bar. Scenes.

As another act of punishment for the wasteful Latics, we put our collect foot firmly on the proverbial gas as we went up the other end and laid siege to their goal. Just eight minutes after Guedes’ penalty save, Wesley Said had doubled our lead as he nodded home a Captain Barbosa cross. The game was officially won nine minutes after that when Alex Diabate raced clear on the left before poking the ball home under the despairing dive of the Oldham keeper.

It was a very pleasing performance and result, especially considering the uncertainty that is hanging over the club. A win against a fellow promotion contender was very welcome as it moved us further and further inside the automatic promotion places. The lads did the club proud today.

Speaking of doing clubs proud, the seemingly ageless David Beckham did Swindon proud by breaking their assist record for a single season. For a man in his 40s, 17 assists isn’t bad at all.

As I sat down to try and find some way to trim the club’s wage bill (who needs substitutes anyway?) I was greeted with some good news regarding the administration situation.

The club had been given a stay of execution and had managed to agree a deal to extend its credit, meaning we could continue to spend loads of money on plasters and Czech Under-21 internationals to our heart’s content. Even so, I still earmarked a few of the higher earners that could be moved on in the summer, albeit without the sense of impending doom that there had been before.

Matchday 47 – League Two – Weston-super-Mare v Rotherham United

So, with the club free from the imminent prospect of losing ten of our hard earned points, we were left to finish the month’s fixtures by welcoming Rotherham United to the Woodspring. The Millers had endured a tough first season back in League Two after relegation last year and found themselves in 15th in the table. They were in a good patch of form, though, and they still had some very good players for this level.

We have better ones, though. Wesley Said was in a goal-scoring mood as he took to the Woodspring pitch before the game and was so pumped up that he grabbed a goal after just one minute of the match starting. We kicked off, the ball found its way over to Captain Barbosa, who played in Bob Holmes. Holmes then slipped the ball between two Rotherham defenders and Said was there to rifle home from the edge of the box.

Things were looking good for us and for the next twenty minutes or so we looked absolutely unstoppable. However, we failed to capitalise on our early momentum and slowly Rotherham fought their way back into the game. As Rotherham pushed, we dropped deeper and our strikers were forced to muck in to help the team defend. Wesley Said was more than happy to help out, but was a bit over enthusiastic and overdid it a bit, leading to him being forced to leave the pitch holding his hamstring. Brilliant. Despite our good work at the back, five minutes before half-time, Torbjorn Agdestein curled home a pearler from the edge of the box to restore parity and leave me fuming.

Having had to bring on Olli Sara for Wesley Said due to the latter’s injury, I wasn’t overly confident that we would be able to turn this game into a win. Luckily, I am bad at predicting the future, as Olli Sara played a storming second half to ensure we went away with the three points. Sara’s hold up play was excellent and he capped off a great performance with the winning goal as he delicately slotted the ball into the back of the net from just inside the box.

It was lucky that Sara had stepped up because Bob Holmes booked himself two games’ rest by collecting his tenth yellow card of the season.

Moreover, Wesley Said’s injury was more serious than I had initially imagined and he will now miss most of the rest of the season. Our striking options are now severely limited, down to just Sara, Howarth and McDermott (in a pinch). Would we have enough about us to get ourselves over the line?

At the end of March, our position was looking good. We were a massive 15 points clear of fourth, and a respectable eight clear of second-placed Notts County. With only 21 points left to play for, promotion was edging ever closer.

We had a very strong March, winning four of our six games. Next month Would be a big one as we play promotion-chasing Aldershot in what could be the game that seals us promotion. We also have tough games against Burton, Dagenham and Wycombe, all sides that have at one stage or another been competing for a place in the play-offs.

Would we be able to get ourselves over the line considering the lack of fit and available strikers at the club? Can we gain the promotion that our football has deserved and our creditors desperately want?

Come back next time to find out! Cheers!

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