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Weston’s Super Mare? – Episode 47: Swings and Magic Roundabouts

Salutations and greetings to you hardy folks who are making this journey with me. Bad news, I’m afraid; I didn’t win Manager of the Month. Aldershot Town’s Dean Holdsworth won it, although we can’t be too angry as he did give Paul Ince’s Millwall a damned good thrashing. I came second, the loss to Rochdale in our last fixture being the difference between yet more personal glory and a stupid second place for losers.

As October loomed into view we had to say our goodbyes to Stuart Winfield whose loan from Brighton and Hove Albion came to an end. Winfield grabbed one whole goal during his nine appearances for the club and, truth be told, I wasn’t too fussed to be losing him.

Matchday 14 – League One – Weston-super-Mare v Stevenage

So, despite being without Winfield (oh, how will we continue?) we still had to complete our league commitments, which meant waiting around until Stevenage turned up at the Woodspring. It wasn’t super fun, but we got over it. Stevenage had lost two of their last three but were doing ok in the league and sitting in ninth. Have we ever played Stevenage before? I can’t remember, but I was confident that we should be beating them even if I had no basis for this assumption.

One blow to my prediction was an injury to Tamika Mkandawire who so far this season has been a dependable presence in our midfield. Luckily, bald Roy Burnell is more than capable of filling the gap left by Mkandawire, so his loss will not be felt as keenly as it may have been.

The game was a hard-fought one but, in the end, we were able to overcome the vile Stevenage foe. The first half was devoid of anything particularly interesting right up until a minute before half-time when Chris Beardsley finished off a rapid counter-attack to put Stevenage one up. As I predicted, we weren’t missing Mkandawire too much; what we were missing was some much-needed penetration.

Enter Joel Ambalu. Having impressed in the Charlton game, Lyes Saadoune had struggled for form a bit, so I hauled him off at half-time in favour of our former loanee. Joel gave us exactly what we needed, changing things up just enough to unsettle the Stevenage defence. It took Joel just twelve minutes to drag us level; he received the ball on the edge of the box with his back to goal, turned well and hit a quick shot under the despairing dive of the Stevenage keeper.

This changed things very quickly as suddenly Stevenage looked worried and full of mistakes. We took full advantage of this and, just four minutes later, David Hruby popped up with a lovely goal from the edge of the box to put us into the lead.

After the goal, the game settled down a bit and for a while both sides traded blows equally ineffectually. Plenty of chances were created, very few were put on target, and it seemed that we were going to stroll fairly comfortably to the three points. And we did, albeit with a major scare right at the death when a Stevenage striker slammed the ball against our crossbar. We had had a lucky escape and we knew it, but we had the three points in my bag for life so we were happy.

There were some positives to take from the game, for sure. We came from behind to win, we actually had quite a large percentage of our shots on target, and 4,700 people crammed into the Woodspring to watch us. This is very good news. We are on the up!

As I sat down to go over our last game and prepare for our game with Bristol Rovers, I was informed that our game with Walsall would be rearranged due to the number of international call-ups between the two squads (lol).

In the short-term, this is excellent news as it gives us more recovery time between the Rovers game and the Carlisle game. In the medium-term, we will now have less time to recover between the Carlisle game and the new Walsall fixture. Swings and roundabouts…

Matchday 15 – Johnstone’s Paint Trophy – Weston-super-Mare v Bristol Rovers

Fresh from our comeback victory against Stevenage, we geared up for another meeting with Bristol Rovers, this time in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy. I had designs on going a long way in this tournament. Luckily, we had beaten Rovers just a few short weeks ago – 0-2 at their place – so we had the psychological edge over them. Also, they have been in terrible form recently, so there’s that.

Terrible form indeed, it really showed! We had the game done and dusted within 25 minutes and totally dominated the game from start to finish. If I was pushed for comment, I would suggest that perhaps Rovers weren’t entirely interested in qualifying for the next round, preferring instead to focus on survival in League One…

Things started well as Norwegian Mo curled in a beauty from out on the left and got even better just three minutes later when Captain Barbosa tapped home at the far post. Rovers were clearly struggling to cope with our wide-men, but soon devised a cunning strategy to deal with the problem. That strategy was to put in a few ‘reducers’ on Captain Barbosa and Norwegian Mo to try and keep them quiet. One such challenge did the Cap a bit of damage and so, to avoid actually injuring him, I replaced him with Dirk Lindner.

This turned out to be an excellent idea; for one thing, it preserved Captain Barbosa’s fitness, for another, Lindner immediately ran the ball around Rovers’ defence before tapping home his first for the club.

At 3-0 the game was essentially won. Rovers were only making half-hearted attempts at getting back into the game and I was in no mood to see my players burn out, so I told them to conserve their energy a bit. By the end of the game, it was clear how much we had dominated. We had a fair few more chances but didn’t convert them, whilst Rovers only managed two off-target efforts in the entire game. Not even trying.

So there we have it; a straightforward pass to the next round of the cup. We all know what that means…

That’s right, pitiful amounts of prize money! Surely our shady accounting team can turn that into a few million…

We also set a new record (we are so good). This time it was in recognition of our excellent defence – we haven’t conceded since January 2014 in this competition. We are so good.

Whilst good things are coming our way, better things are going the way of Coventry City who are rumoured to be the subject of a very big-money takeover.

Why is it never us that get these good things? Just think of what I could do with £32.5million…

Well, it is all very well that the club will be rich very soon, but are you in the fourth round of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy? No. We are. We drew Watford away. We beat Watford earlier in the season. Good omens..?

During our mini break because of international call-ups, Latvian Toms managed to pick up an injury. Was it because of a meaty challenge whilst keeping Latvia’s foes quiet? Was it a strained muscle after stretching to clear a goal-bound shot from crossing the line? Was it heck.

He strained his wrist in the gym. Luckily he isn’t in the starting XI at the moment, otherwise I would drop him. Sometimes I feel sorry for Rachel Greenley and what she has to put up with. This is one of those times.

Roberto Mancini was using the international break to its full potential as he led England to a 2-0 home walloping of Greece. Having already qualified for the tournament in France, England had nothing to play for but pride. Good to see Wayne Rooney is still doing it on the international stage.

Matchday 16 – League One – Weston-super-Mare v Carlisle United

With all of our squad back from their international travels (except for Latvian Toms, who would be spending some time thinking about what he has done), we began preparations for our game with Carlisle United. Carlisle are having a mixed season and find themselves in 18th. They are exactly the kind of side we need to be beating if we want to avoid relegation, but they are in good form at the moment and would surely pose a bit of a challenge.

Carlisle certainly gave off the impression of a challenge, at least to begin with. They did something that we are quite good at and grabbed an early goal to stun the Woodspring. Luckily we are a bit good at football, us, and Bob Holmes proved it when he thumped home a shot to draw us level.

Our lead didn’t last long, though. Eight minutes later, Adam Campbell scored his second of the game with a deft header after good work down their right flank.


The thing is, you are always most vulnerable after scoring, and we proved that here by going right up the other end of the pitch and scoring a goal of our own as Captain Barbosa hit a freekick into the top corner of the Carlisle net.

The first half ended all square, although after four goals everyone was thankful for a bit of a break. We were not prepared to keep our feet off the gas in the second half, however, and substitute Joel Ambalu proved this by putting us 3-2 up on a naughty number of minutes. Not to be outdone, Arvid Fahrmann scored a header from a corner just four minutes later to make the score 4-2 and wrap up the three points for the Seagulls.

Another come-from-behind win. Our character is very impressive and I was proud of the lads. I told them as much and sent them to enjoy an evening with the penny pushing machines on the pier. There’s a good football team, good boys.

It isn’t all good news, though;

Huh. Out for six to seven weeks, you say? Great, no, that’s really excellent news. Fine.

The silver lining to my defensive midfield injury cloud is that Coventry seem to be moving further away from their ridiculous takeover. This can only be a good thing.

Oh no, wait, I was wrong. Andy Matthews sounds like he is a bit of a moaner but I suppose that is fine if your club is suddenly rich with Kangaroo-dollars.

Matchday 17 – League One – Walsall v Weston-super-Mare

First off, yes, I forgot to screenshot Walsall’s badge (#professional). To business; this is the game that was called off due to international call-ups. Because of that, we got plenty of time to prepare for our last few games, but this one now comes just four days after the Carlisle game. So, I did a bit of switching things up and played a few of the more reservey players.

Bad idea to do that, we lost 1-0. We were equal to them for the whole game which makes it even more annoying, but in the end a long-range banger from Patrik Twardzik was enough to separate the teams. We had more than enough chances to equalise, but Lyes Saadoune, Joel and Bob Holmes were unable to make the breakthrough.

The loss was hard to take, particularly given how good our recent form had been. We would have to pick things up for our next game if we wanted to continue our (promotion push) journey away from the relegation zone.

Annoyingly, Adam Dodd went down with a dead leg in the Walsall game and would now miss our next fixture. Luckily he isn’t out for too long, and Norwegian Mo should have recovered enough to play by the time of our next game anyway, but it is still not ideal.

Also, this happened;

Oh good, Tamika has been handed an automatic ban after collecting five yellow cards. Great. Ok, good. Well then. Fine. That’s ok, because we have Roy Burn…He’s out for seven weeks? Right. Fine. Sure. Good. If I could fine you, Tamika, I would.

I guess we will play Darren Duncan, then. The 19-year-old probably isn’t ready yet, but he will have to do.

Matchday 18 – League One – Leyton Orient v Weston-super-Mare

Luckily for us, the next game was against a struggling Leyton Orient side who were languishing in the relegation zone after four straight defeats. In thirteen games they had scored nine goals and let in a mighty 22. They were in dire straits and I would laugh at them more, except that they have Lee Nasir amongst their ranks and I like him.

You wouldn’t have thought that Orient were all the way down in 23rd from their performance, though. They were really good in this game (clearly another case of a team saving themselves for us) and it took us really digging in to grind out the win. Bob Holmes set us on the road to victory in the first half as he raced clear of the Orient defence before slipping the ball under the stranded keeper.

However, Orient hadn’t read the script (that I write) and equalised just seven minutes after the restart as Craig Westcarr netted on the counter. Luckily, Tommy McDermott, on as a sub, took this opportunity to suddenly become good and he put us back in the lead as he scored an impressive diving header at the front post.

Things looked good for two minutes before Ollie Logan headed Orient level from a corner (the football cliché machine is working overtime this episode..!). Things were getting desperate and there was only so much Bovril that I could drink to calm my nerves. In a Bovril-fuelled panic I threw on Dirk Lindner and told him to “score”. He didn’t, but he did do the next best thing as he whipped in a corner that Christian Neumann connected with. Neumann put the ball back across the goal where it struck the post before nestling into the back of the Orient net.

We had done it! We had beaten the team in 23rd with a late, late goal. The stuff dreams are made of.

Almost as exciting was the return from stupid injury of Latvian Toms. Will he get an opportunity to play this season? Given the form of Neumann and Fahrmann, it seems unlikely. Sorry, Toms.

Matchday 19 – League One – Weston-super-Mare v Swindon Town

A packed October didn’t let up as just three days later we welcomed Phil Parkinson’s Swindon Town to the Woodspring for the first time in two seasons. The Robins were in decent form, despite losing their last game, and looked dangerous up front (particularly with the 41-year-old David Beckham marauding down their right flank, whipping in his trademark crosses).

Somehow we came away with a win, despite a very wasteful display in front of goal. Bob Holmes gave us the lead in the thirteenth minute as he tapped home after good work from David Hruby. After that, Swindon took control and laid mini-siege to our goal. There was one hairy moment when D-Becks stood (with the help of a couple of Swindon defenders holding his arms) over a freekick on the edge of our area. Would he curl one in the far corner? Would he whip it into the near post? Would he cross it perfectly for Billy Paynter to head home? I was worried. The fans were worried. Pedro Guedes wasn’t, though, as Beckham swooshed his free-kick high and wide. He is 41 though, so be fair.

The rest of the game was even. Neither side troubled the keepers much, although chances were created. The finishing on show was poor but the game was a good one. Swindon did more than enough to warrant at least a draw, but their dreadful striking ability meant that they had to settle for a bruising defeat at the hands of Wheatland’s mighty Seagulls.

It hurts me to inflict pain on the Swindon faithful, but that is football.  They wouldn’t care if they did the same to me. Swings and magic roundabouts, I suppose.

Now for a break and a mention of the weirdest injury of the season award. Bradley Weston, unimpressive in his few appearances thus far, will now be out for three to four weeks. Why is that, you ask? Well, he strained his thigh after “mistiming a ball” in training. What does that even mean? I would have thought that mistiming a ball would result in injuries elsewhere on the body, but I am not a medical professional.

Have fun with that one, Rachel.

Matchday 20 – League One – Crewe Alexandra v Weston-super-Mare

So, mercifully, the end of October was upon us. We had to face Crewe Alexandra, a side that was undefeated in five games and scoring goals for fun. I noted that they had also conceded a fair few as well, but that didn’t seem to be phasing them much and they sat comfortably in tenth.

I decided to bring in Rob Griffiths from Manchester United in order to provide a bit of defensive midfield cover for Roy Burnell and Tamika Mkandawire. Darren Duncan had performed ok, but he wasn’t that solid and I thought Griffiths could perform the role a bit better. He would only be playing if we got a few injuries, but it was nice to know we had the backup if it was needed.

The game was, to put it mildly, hard fought. Crewe were the first to feel the brunt of an unexpectedly rough-and-tumble game as they lost Robin Jatta to injury after just fifteen minutes. This spurred them on a bit, though, and James Baxendale (brother of Helen, I assume) put them in front just a few minutes later.

Not content to be outdone, we then went and lost Christian Neumann to injury just three minutes after the restart (more on that later). The rest of the game was a procession of frustratingly near misses from our strikers. I can’t blame them as the kind of tackles that were flying in would have been enough to put me off my finishing too, but it was annoying nonetheless.

Unable to score goals, my players seemingly decided to go for Crewe’s players instead and succeeded in taking Serge Gamwanya out on 65 minutes. In retrospect, we should have focussed on scoring goals rather than scoring points in personal battles as we went on to lose the game 1-0.

It was annoying. Very annoying. We had been better than them in almost every department. We had more possession, had more shots and more on target to boot. Plus, they only actually had one shot in target altogether – and they scored from it. That is unacceptable.

Do you remember when we were in the Blue Square Premier and we lost a whole host of players to broken wrists? Well, now you can add Christian Neumann to the list of players to have suffered the Weston-super-Mare wrist curse. He will be out for four to five weeks whilst he recovers. Hjortur Hermannsson will take his place whilst he recovers.

So, at the end of a bumper month of football in League One, here is the table. Our slightly mixed fortunes see us drop slightly to fifth, although we are still close and are only six points off the top. Aldershot continue to defy expectations, as do Hartlepool, but Charlton have had a sensational month and now sit atop the division.

Just two losses this month, mixed in with four league wins, but we still drop down two places in the league. Clearly, we are in a very competitive division and will have to work incredibly hard to (win promotion) avoid relegation. Next month is far quieter in terms of fixtures, but they are not easy ones by any means. We have three tough league games against Yeovil, Torquay and Oxford, plus a trip to Watford in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.

Will we have enough in us to stave off the threat of relegation this season? Can we overturn Watford and get through to the next round of the JPT? Will the loss of Christian Neumann be a deal breaker for us? Find out next time!


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