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Weston’s Super Mare? – Episode 48: One club, two cups

Welcome very back, mon friends, to the exciting Weston-super-Mare FC ride. Keep your arms, legs and mugs of Bovril inside the vehicle at all times, as things could get bumpy.

How does an FA Cup 1st Round tie at home to Welling United sound? That doesn’t sound bumpy. I should have thought that this tie would see us easily through to the next round and, hopefully, one step closer to a big game against a big team to help raise some funds for our dodgy accounting team to process.

Before the prospect of a home game with Welling gets me too over excited, let’s move on to what really matters – trying to stay in the league (promotion chase – STOP THAT).

Matchday 21 – League One – Yeovil Town v Weston-super-Mare

First up for us this month was a mouth-watering tie against relatively-local rivals, Yeovil Town. Of course, Yeovil are a team we have played a few times in the last seasons and, by and large, they are a side that have had the beating of us. Ok, this time we are above them in the table and going good guns, but they are in decent form and performing well in the league. I would say this game is flashing the classic warning signs of a hubris-laden defeat.

Hubris be damned! We beat them, and we did it well. The game wasn’t too much to remember, with only the single goal separating the two sides at the final whistle. We had the better of all of the statistics, including an overwhelming victory in the yellow card stakes. Whilst I am proud of the lads for winning in every comprehensible metric, I am not happy by how many bookings we have been picking up lately. Tamika Mkandawire has already served a ban for collecting too many yellows and, on this showing, a few more players will have to do the same before season’s end. Hopefully, we can iron this part of our game out and avoid it derailing our heroic push to survive relegation.

Oh yeah, we won 0-1 thanks to a well-taken goal by Bob Holmes late on. Having spuffed a number of easy chances, he finally made the breakthrough with a bit of a belter, hitting an attempted clearance on the volley into the top corner of the net. It was a beaut.

Fresh from our win over Yeovil, I was told by the assembled media in my post-match press conference that Coventry City’s takeover had finally gone through. New Coventry chairman, Andy Matthews, promptly sacked their underperforming manager, Stuart Gray. The media wanted to know how I would respond to the news that I was, apparently, the man that Andy Matthews had decided would be the one to lead his Sky Blue revolution.

I couldn’t help but be tempted by a £35million transfer budget (in League One, that’s MAD), but my head and my heart are here at Weston. The players, staff and I have built an exciting project at the Woodspring, and I would be a fool to leave it. Maybe we could persuade Matthews to invest in Weston instead of Coventry..?

Matchday 22 – Johnstone’s Paint Trophy – Watford v Weston-super-Mare

My loyalty sufficiently proven, I took my lads up to Watford in preparation for the upcoming JPT game. We took in some of the local sights (Captain Barbosa was particularly interested in the Watford Junction which, he explained to me, is located on the West Coast Main Line. It isn’t his favourite railway junction, though, he much prefers Clapham), and then made our way to the ground.

Despite the fact that we had beaten them earlier in the season, I wasn’t overly confident. Since our last meeting, Watford had kicked on and were now living up to pre-season expectations by sitting right on the cusp of the automatic promotion spots. We have been in good form, but they are now above us, that basically tells you all you need to know. My team talk dared to be optimistic, telling the guys that we were more than capable of beating Watford.

We lost 2-1. More annoying still, we lost having been 0-1 up. Arvid Fahrmann got us off to a flier, hammering home a header from a corner that nearly ripped the back of the net off.

The boys were chuffed to bits as they made their way back to our half to allow the game to restart. Less than two minutes later, they were less chuffed and, as Luis Seijas wheeled away in celebration having drawn the game level, I was left to ponder on the fact that we are always the most vulnerable just after we have scored #clichealert.

Despite having been pegged back, we kept on going at them and could have had another fairly soon after were it not for some excellent goalkeeping. In situations like this, it is often the case that the side that is creating chances but not taking them will be hit by a sucker punch. Our sucker punch came in the form of a wildly flailing Hjortur Hermannsson leg and the rapidly crumpling body of a Watford striker. Jordan Remacle stepped up, brushed himself off (in public, really…), and emphatically thumped the ball into the net to put Watford ahead.

I was angry and proved it by giving Jack Dovey a clip round the ear. My halftime team talk couldn’t be too harsh – we were away from home against one of the best sides in the competition, in fairness – but it was hard to suppress my rage. I did my best to put on a calm face, telling the lads that I believed they could turn the game around, but the telltale stains of spilt Bovril on my shirt told its own story. The lads knew. I wasn’t happy.

And in fairness to the lads, they did give the game a go. We more than matched Watford throughout and the game was fairly even. It would take a mistake to allow us back into the game, but it never came despite Watford fielding an ancient Wayne Routledge. The game was very different to our last match with Watford, where they had dominated but somehow lost 2-0. This time the two sides were more closely matched, with both defences doing relatively well at cancelling out clear-cut chances in the second half.

The final whilst came all too soon and, for the second season in a row, we had been knocked out of the only competition we had any realistic hopes of winning. I was mightily disappointed, but this did at least allow us to concentrate on the league.

If I was the type to take positives out of a defeat, I would say that we went toe to toe with one of the promotion favourites and only lost narrowly. This should give me hope for the rest of the season. But I am not that type and so, instead of detailed preparation for our next game, I drowned my sorrows in Bovril. The trouble is you can’t find the solutions for your troubles in the bottom of a jar of Bovril. Those jars are black, you can’t see a thing.

I think I have a problem with Bovril. I’m going to give it up.

So, whilst the first step to fixing a problem (addiction to Bovril, for example) is by admitting it, the first step to getting to the third round of the FA Cup is beating Welling United at home, something that the press and just about everyone else were tipping us to do comfortably.

Banana skin?

Matchday 23 – FA Cup – Weston-super-Mare v Welling United

So, four days and one “Bovrilholics anonymous” session later, we welcomed Welling to the Woodspring for the first time in four years. We played them back in our Blue Square South days and they were one of many sides to be brushed aside on our march to the title that season. We have come on in leaps and bounds in the intervening time. They haven’t, they are still in the Blue Square South. This should be easy, right?

Yeah, pretty much. I made a few changes, bringing in the lads who haven’t had much game time whilst also giving a game to Adam Dodd who had been out with injury recently. Olli Sara got us off to a good start and calmed my nerves as he nodded home a goal from inside the box after just eleven minutes.

Sara’s goal was his first of the season and was well taken, but most importantly it silenced the fairly boisterous away support. They put away their inflatables and settled in for a long afternoon. It was the right choice, as just eight minutes later the returning Adam Dodd beat the Welling keeper at his front post to double our lead. We saw out the rest of the half comfortably, keeping Welling at bay and attacking at will.

The half time team talk went something like “carry on, fellas”, and they did just that as Frank Christensen smashed home our third from well outside the box just three minutes after the restart. At this point, Welling’s fans and players both decided to give up. We enjoyed almost total domination from this point onwards and we could and should have scored loads and loads of goals. As it was, our finishing was suspect and we didn’t extend our lead any further.

One man given his chance to get some game time in this match was Latvian Toms, he of the pathetic injury excuse. Whether he did it because he is easily susceptible to injury, or because he doesn’t want to play football that much, I am unsure. Whatever the reason, he successfully guaranteed himself another few games off when he absolutely thundered into a challenge in the 78th minute and earned himself a red card. Good work, Toms.

Despite Toms’ attempt to get himself banged up for assault, we saw out the game comfortably and we easily progressed to the second round.

Sure as night follows day, that brought in a bit of money for the club. When compared to what we get for winning in the JPT, £20k isn’t nothing, but it still isn’t enough to keep the accountants happy.

Something that definitely would make a dent in the gaping black-hole that is our finances at the moment is £120k gathered in gate receipts from the game. This was excellent news for the club, although why exactly the people of Weston had collectively decided to splash the cash on an FA Cup first round tie with Welling United, I will never know.

It seems unlikely that we will break that record in our next FA Cup game as we drew an uninspiring home tie against the winner of Wycombe v Swindon.

My last update before the Torquay game: Bradley Weston returned from injury. He hasn’t had that much of an impact on our side so far this season, so hopefully, now that he is fully fit, he can start to make his presence felt.

Matchday 24 – League One – Weston-super-Mare v Torquay United

On to the Torquay game. Once again we were playing at home, playing host to a bang average Torquay side who are in lower mid-table. The key thing to note is that in 17 games they have conceded 33 goals. They are in good form, but nonetheless I was confident that our strikers would be more than capable of putting them to the sword. I told Bob Holmes to fill his boots and settled into my seat in the dugout, ready to watch a feast of football.

Less a feast, more of a famine. We completely dominated Torquay yet we couldn’t hit the round, bouncy thing into the rectangular, netty thing behind the Torquay goalkeeper. We carved out twelve chances but could only put three on target, and those that we did get on target were comfortably kept out by their keeper.

It was so frustrating to watch. They created nothing. A single long-range effort that sailed serenely over the bar was all that their entire 90 minutes amounted to. And yet they still left the Woodspring with a point. I wasn’t angry, I was just disappointed.

Despite the blank we had fired in the Torquay game, that didn’t stop the bookies making me the odds-on favourite to take over from the sacked Slaven Bilic at Leicester City. I wasn’t interested. My ultimate goal is to take Weston to an unlikely Premier League title before following that up with a truly terrible title defence and a Champions League and FA Cup double. That could never happen at Leicester…

Speaking of the FA Cup, we drew David Beckham’s Swindon Town in the second round. For once we had a decent chance of getting to the third round and bagging ourselves a lucrative tie against a big Premier League team. I was excited – Stoke away is the stuff dreams are made of.

Good news, too, in the form of a return from injury of defensive rock, Christian Neumann. We have been pretty solid in his absence, so I can afford to ease him back into the team. It is nice to have decent options, rather than relying solely on a single player in each position. Nice, but expensive…

Matchday 25 – League One – Oxford United v Weston-super-Mare

Our final game of the month was our second of the season against the horrible Oxford United. Their manager got stroppy when we knocked them out of the JPT earlier in the season, but he kept his counsel before this game and didn’t feel the need to attempt mind games. This was nice, as it allowed me to focus my team talk on how rubbish his players are instead. I’m not above having a dig, that’s all I’m saying, I just do it in blog form rather than using the in-game options. He will never know. HA. Mug.

The game itself was very much as disrespectful as my top quality pre-match banter. We were second best in every department except for the goalscoring one. We started off well, with Lyes Saadoune scoring his first since the Charlton game after just ten minutes. After that, Oxford stepping it up a bit and laid siege to our goal for a while before stupidly giving us a penalty in the 42nd minute. Bob Holmes stepped up and mammajammed the ball into the back of the net to double our lead.

Oxford were enraged at the injustice of the fact that we were two up having only had three shots – one of which was a penalty – but they had left themselves with barely enough time to kick off again before the half-time whistle went.

My half-time team talk took the form of a long, long laugh at the fact that we were mugging Oxford off so badly before I sent the players back out to carry on the entertainment.

The second half got a bit more even, as we created a few small chances, but still Oxford kept up their hard work as they pushed hard for the goal that would get them back into the game. Luckily, Pedro Guedes was having a worldie and was protecting his goal with near superhuman ability. You could see the frustration spreading from the Oxford players to their fans and manager. I just sat in the dugout, smiling smugly and supping at a small cup of Bovril (because I have control).
Smugness levels were set to eleven in the 80th minute when we managed to break out of our own half. Adam Dodd played a lovely through ball to Bob Holmes who took a single touch before firing across the keeper and into the back of the net. It was a well-taken finish and I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself as Chris Wilder slumped back into his seat, defeated. That’s what you get for changing your mind about me, Chris. YOU GET SAD.

So, with that emphatic if utterly flukey win, we finished off our games for November. An undefeated league schedule means we maintained our ridiculously good start to the season and we were now just five points from the top of the table. Just three more points would get us to 40, meaning that it would take a collapse of phenomenal proportions for us to get relegated at this point. Given that, I have decided to officially change my expectations for the season to “lower mid table”. I think that is realistic.

Next month is December, a month in which we tend to do well. We have a number of big games to play, so we will need to keep our good form in December going if we are to meet our new goal of reaching lower mid-table. We start with the FA Cup tie against Swindon, a game that I really want to win so that we can get to the potentially lucrative third round. We then get a chance to reacquaint ourselves with your friend and mine, Paul Ince, before travelling to the home of two-time European Champions, Nottingham Forest.

Other than the Millwall game, all of these are games we should be winning, considering our current position. Forest, despite their history, are still rock bottom after their point deduction, whilst Gillingham and Brentford are mid table and nothing to be scared of.

Next month will be a fun one, then! Lots of opportunities to continue our march to promot- I mean, lower mid table. Yeah, that’s what I mean.

So, will we get to the third round of the FA Cup? Can we get the better of Paul Ince? Could we really get a result against a club like Forest? Tune in next time to find out! Cheers!

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