Last season was spent overhauling the roster via free transfers as well as signing as many players to full-time contracts as possible. Going into the holiday, we have 21 full-timers and only 7 part-timers. My main area of concern is still the center of our defense, as we got routinely dispatched by the upper-tier teams within our league. Often times, our defense just couldn't hold up against their steady attacks and we were helplessly defending our back third with no hope of mounting much of a counter-attack.
I have told the board that we expect a midtable finish which gives us a transfer budget of 20k and a wage budget of 12.75k p/w. Much like last season, we will reallocate nearly all of that transfer budget to increase our wage budget. I still don't think we have enough money to dive into transfers that aren't of the free variety.
Friendlies are all wrapped up and we've been busy looking for players to bolster our team. As mentioned, the focus has been primarily on our defense. So far, we've managed to bring in a solid DC. Staying with our theme, we landed Callum Morris on a free and he is a young player that looks promising due to his work rate. He is the more offensive-minded of our DC tandem, where Cedric Abraham is the no-nonsense defender.
We also got in the market for an MC when Darrell Clarke went down for ~2 weeks. How do I pass on a guy like Solomon Shields? Even when Clarke comes back, Shields will remain our trigger man at midfield. And never being one to pass up on young talent, I couldn't help but bring in another MC in Jimmy Ryan. Clarke is 32 so he'll need to be replaced sooner than later, and with the addition of Ryan we can look to offload him next season at the latest.
Just like last season, we seem very sluggish coming out of the gate this season. It's been an up-and-down start so far. I was disappointed in our play against Eastleigh (0-0 draw) and got hammered by Kidderminster (1-4 loss). But on the other hand we pushed promotion candidates York City to the brink before losing 1-2.
Injuries played a role in things, as we lost ST Loick Pires for two weeks and had to bring in one of our youth players to take his place. Ouch. We're back at full strength minus the loss of backup DR Ian Hillier for ~1 month. His loss, and our continued lack of quality defense, led me to bring in DL Sam Williamson. I'm hoping that with his addition, our defense will fare much better. It already looks much improved on paper and it's a matter of time before the new team begins to gel.
Current standings: 1/2/3, -3, 19th position.
We were straight across the board yesterday - winning, drawing, and losing one game each. Our win was against a solid midtable team in Salisbury (1-0), and we only lost 1-2 to another solid midtable team in Weymouth. The game that irritates me is the 2-2 draw we had against cellar-dweller Hinckley.
I attribute that draw to an injury sustained to our starting DMC, Mark Hughes. Hughes is one of our best defenders. Nathan Davies replaces him on the first team and Hughes will likely miss two games before he is back in game condition. I'll be looking for a more defensive-minded DMC for depth to possibly replace Davies.
I like what Davies brings in term of playmaking, but he will never crack the first team barring injury as a MC.
Current standings: 2/3/4, -4, 18th position.
I didn't get a chance to play any games at all yesterday. Just too much going on at work that ultimately spilled into my time outside of work. I'm hoping to make up for it by getting some games in today, though.
Current standings: 2/3/4, -4, 18th position.
We got a handful of games in yesterday and had some great results to boot. We're playing the style of football that I think we're most successful at - the low scoring variety - and I'm hoping this means our team is starting to gel.
The only injury of note is to starting DR Robbie Rice. He will be back in ~9 days. He is replaced by veteran Ian Hillier.
We are currently without the services of first team DC Callum Morris due to international duty with the Ireland Under 21s, however. This loss led to the call-up of two of our youths and I'm liking what they've shown thus far. DL Steven Hargreaves (19) is on the first team, with Sam Williamson moving inside to DC while Morris is away. DC Ryan Pendleton (18) was also brought up for depth on the bench. And while they are showing some promise, I'm looking forward to the return of Morris in the next few games.
Current standings: 5/4/5, -2, 14th position.
We are on a roll right now! We have won six consecutive league games and have catapulted in the league table. We also won one game apiece in the FA Cup and Conference League Cup; heading into the 1st round and 4th round respectively.
A lot of our winning streak has to do with us being back at full strength. We're operating with a complete first team and the added depth is showing. We're looking a lot stronger in the 2nd half of games.
I've also made the switch to our more veteran GK. Martin Pearson will be the better GK in the future, but for now his low determination was showing against dominant teams. Often times we'd get down a goal and he would fall apart. Glyn Thompson hangs in there much better.
We also made a big switch at ST. Longtime first-teamer Craig Hughes has been relegated to the Reserves
in favor of Steve Hutchings. In watching our team's matches, I wanted to have more fluid play in the final third. Hutchings has better team work (16-6!) and is better off the ball ( 13-8 ) than Hughes. The two are comparable everywhere else, although Hughes is a much better penalty taker, braver, and slightly more determined.
Things are working out quite well so far, however, and I like the potential of our ST unit. Pires is our target man with Hamlin and now Hutchings making plays off the ball.
Current standings: 8/4/5, +4, 9th position.
Our streak of undefeated games continued yesterday as we added one more win and two draws. One of those wins came against the 2nd ranked team at the time - Burton. We also did well in Cup play. Although we lost in the 1st round, it was to Coca Cola League 1 Hartlepoole by a final score of 1-2. Definitely a good showing there!
Our team continues to be injury-free.
Current standings: 9/6/5, +5, 6th position.
Our undefeated streak continues, but just by the slightest of margins. Our fixture results from yesterday: 0-0, 0-0, 1-0. We also played our way into the 2nd round of the FA Trophy but it was costly. We already had a congested schedule, having to play our cup game only 3 days removed from a league game, then we had a marathon 2-2 draw that resulted in a replay of that cup game only four days later. On top of that, we had to play a league game four days afterward! My guys are tired going into today's games, and we have our first league game of the day only two days removed from the last one. :weep I'm hoping to keep our streak going, especially since we're in the top 5, but fatigue is working against us at this point.
Not only that, but we got bitten by the injury bug early yesterday and we've been without the services of first-team ST Loick Pires. Newcomer Steve Hutchings has stepped in well, but we had also lost backup ST (and former first-teamer) Craig Hughes at the same time. This meant I had to bring up a terrible ST just to have a fresh body. Pires is due back in ~4 days, but Hughes is out for ~3-4 months. We'll be looking to add a ST, but not until the January transfer period. Ouch.
Current standings: 10/8/5, +5, 5th position.
Only two games logged in two days, but both were big wins! We continue to hold serve now that we're in the top 5 and we're only 7 points from the #1 ranking!
Loick Pires should be back in game shape within the next day or two, and once that happens I think we can continue our assault on the top ranking. Our team has really stepped up in his absence and we're looking forward to doing even better when he returns to the ST group.
One thing I forgot to mention is the tactical change that we implemented a few days ago. Around the time we demoted Craig Hughes, I made the decision to play a slightly more offensive game. I'll get some updated screenshots posted in the next few days, but essentially, our MCs are doing a lot more forward runs. In order to compensate their attacking nature, my back line stays at home almost all the time and so does my DMC. The results have been the ability to maintain a semblance of an offense even without one of our top threats in action.
Current standings: 12/8/5, +10, 5th position.
I apologize for the lack of updates these past few days, but I've been terribly under the weather. To catch everything up, our undefeated streak finally came to and end but not before we managed to storm our way to second place in the standings. We got knocked out of the League Cup in the quarterfinals, but have managed to advance to the 4th round of the FA Trophy!
All of these games have taken a toll on our team and we've had more injuries than ever. Starting DMC Mark Hughes is out for ~2 more months and has already been out for 1 month. Backup MC Adrian Harris is out for ~3 weeks and has already been out for 1 week. Backup defenseman Ian Hillier is out for ~2 months and has already been out for 3 weeks. The result of all these injuries is new faces and starters in different positions. I'll be thrilled to get all of these guys back, hopefully in time to make a push for promotion!
Current standings: 16/9/6, +16, 2nd position.
Wow, talk about building steam just at the right time! One week ago our team was decimated with injuries yet we were still holding on at the top of the table. I'm proud to announce that we WON the Blue Square Premier this season on account of some gritty play in the last games.
We dropped as low as 4th place as we finished the home stretch 7/6/2, +7. Torquay caught fire and didn't lose a game for the last month it seems. They blasted from the midtable all the way into 2nd place, and it literally took until the final games of the season before things were decided. I was relieved to win the trophy outright after Torquay only managed a tie in their final fixture.
Beyond that, we also managed to win the FA Trophy. We had a month between the last league game and the finals, so we were at full strength against promotion contender York. It was a tight game that went to penalty shots. After playing so close all game long, York missed their 3rd and 4th shots to seal the game for us.
My initial expectations of a midtable finish were more than surpassed this season but I know we have yet another big hurdle to climb as we go into Coca Cola League 2. We go in confidently, however, knowing that if we get through the growing pains of our first year in the league, I like our chances going forward from there.
Click here for the final standings and here for the season in review.
Here is the final transfer information for the season.
And lastly here are the final team stats and here is our best eleven for 2010.