So in my first season of Football Manager 15, I have managed to guide Boston United to the play-offs of the Vanarama Conference North. It is a great achievement, if I do say so myself, but the ultimate goal is now to win three more games and take them up to the Vanarama Conference which will be a huge step in the right direction for the club. It was new territory for the club, the players and me as I had never experienced the play-offs before on a football game.
(6) Boston United vs Stalybridge Celtic (2)
As you can see from the heading, we managed to progress from the semi final stage after demolishing Stalybridge Celtic in both legs of the tie. How we managed this I am not sure; the reason for my curiosity is that so far this season I have set the team up in a 4-1-4-1 formation with the focus on counter attacking football which allows teams to put us under a lot of pressure. I have been surprised; especially in this tie just how good we are at changing defence into attack. Despite setting the team instructions to encouraging short passing, this is something that the team ignores and instead they tend to hoof the ball up to the front men, who have been lethal all season (need I mention Marc Newsham again?). I have kept the instructions in place and have no intention of changing them but instead why fix something that clearly isn’t broken.
It was even more surprising as the two times we came up against Stalybridge this season saw us draw 1-1 and the team lost against them before I arrived at the club. You wouldn’t be blamed for not putting us down as favourites but our end to the season had been a lot more positive compared to Stalybridge’s. We were always going to win in my eyes, especially when Lewis Chambers, who I signed earlier in the season as a backup striker, finally got his first goal for the club. Once this event took place, I knew we were going to be reaching the final and I was confident of our chances.
Boston United vs Solihull Moors
Before telling you about the enthralling final I have to have a little moan about the final. After battling until the very end of the season, getting past Stalybridge Celtic in the semi final, I was looking forward to the final. As with Stalybridge Celtic we hadn’t had much success against Solihull in the league season and they had always been in and around us throughout the season. The issue was not that we had to play Solihull Moors, not that it was the tensest game I have ever experienced in football management but instead the final was played at York Street. If you don’t have a lot of knowledge of football stadia, it is the ground home to Boston United. That’s right; we had to play the final at our home stadium in front of our own fans. Despite this being an advantage to us, this made no sense to me. Ok I wasn’t expecting to be at Wembley Stadium in the final of the play-off of the 128th most respectable league in world football but I was expecting a mutual ground. This would have made it fairer for our opposition and would have emphasised the importance of the game to both sets of fans. They would have been able to enjoy a day out at a bigger ground and cheered their respective team to the goal, the play-off win.
As you can see from the result we have managed to achieve promotion to the Vanarama Conference after a very nervy end to the game that literally left me on the edge of my seat. It had been a very full game until the drama suddenly unfolded. Dayle Southwell, who has been on top form recently and would be in my top five players of the season, scored what looked like a winner until Omar Bogle replied with a neat finish of his own. We headed into extra time and I took a risk. I replaced Caine Winfarrah, who has been another great player this season, with the useless Lewis Chambers in order to refresh things in attack. This ultimately saw the legend that is Marc Newsham move to the wing. This decision was a poor one and was immediately corrected with the two players swapping positions. By this point Solihull had scored another goal to bring the game back level.
It did look for all of seven minutes of game time that Newsham was going to be our hero before Elvins shattered our dreams and scored at the end of the first half of extra time. We made the second half tenser was that we were forced to play with ten men after midfielder Conor Marshall was taken off with an injury. I had made all my substitutions, which led to me setting the team up to play on the counter attack. This resulted in Solihull throwing everything at us. Matthew Gledhill stood his ground and stopped shot after shot and really did keep us within a shout.
The penalty shootout was very difficult to watch, especially when it went to sudden death. The penalties just kept being put away until Matthew Gledhill, who I feel deserved a higher rating, became a hero and saved a penalty from the distraught Perry Cotton. The fans celebrated, the players ran all over the pitch until the game moved me onto the match summary screen. It was a great feeling and it ended what has been a fantastic first season for me at Boston United.