May brought with it my first taste of league action with SalPa, in the form of Ykkönen. Fresh from our defeat at the hands of the mighty HJK in the Suomen Cup, we were ready to make amends by getting some points on the board early in the season as we began our battle against a relegation struggle.
Seventeen New Players Joined SalPa As Ryan Ferguson Rebuilt His Squad
Well, we had nine players when I first joined, and then Alberto Ródenas terminated his contract to leave us even further short-staffed. I wanted a full squad of twenty five players for my first season so I could experiment with my tactical approach, while also being able to deal with the rigors of dense fixture schedules in the summer season format of Finnish football. A number of players would leave the club after this season when I would look to fine-tune the squad, but I needed a base to start with (AND I HAD NO STAFF TO HELP ME FIND PLAYERS!?!?).
SalPa Enjoyed A Very Mixed Start To The Ykkönen Season
0-0 Draw vs MP Mikkeli (H) - 04/05/2031
Salon urheilupuisto | Attendance: 250
SalPa Goals: -/-
In our first Ykkönen game of the season, we struggled to create any chances of note. Luckily for us, MP Mikkeli were also just as lacking in attacking quality. We earned a point and a clean sheet, which wasn't a terrible way to begin the season. After all, we were just looking to scrape together points to help fight off relegation.
Filippo Ferro (SalPa) - 7.5/10
2-0 Win vs HIFK Fotboll (A) - 07/05/2031
Töölön jalkapallostadion | Attendance: 3,352
SalPa Goals: Arto Jääskelainen x2 (55', 84')
We were up against probably the second strongest team in the league, in terms of player quality and facilities, but we proved to be more than a match for them. After a tightly contested first half, Arto Jääskelainen produced the goods in the second. The striker scored twice as we earned a very unexpected victory.
Arto Jääskelainen (SalPa) - 8.8/10
2-0 Win vs Ekenäs Tammisaari (A) - 11/05/2031
Tammisaaren keskuskenttä | Attendance: 713
SalPa Goals: Arto Jääskelainen (73'), Serge Atakayi (83')
It was another late rally which produced the victory for us. Serge Atakayi was the star of the show, as the former Rangers player first assisted Arto Jääskelainen before scoring a goal of his own to earn SalPa the three points. It was SalPa's third consecutive clean sheet too.
Serge Atakayi (SalPa) - 8.7/10
0-1 Defeat vs JJK Jyväskylä (A) - 07/05/2031
Harjun stadion | Attendance: 2,660
SalPa Goals: -/-
JJK: Alexandr Adamov (69') | SalPa: Erik Pettersson (79')
JJK were, by far, the favourites to win the Ykkönen title, and they showed their quality against us. In a fiery clash, they took the lead very early in to the second half. However, they were reduced to ten men with just over twenty minutes remaining as Alexandr Adamov was sent off for a second bookable offence. We couldn't hold our discipline either, as Erik Petterson was sent off for a second bookable offence of his own just ten minutes later. JJK ended our unbeaten start to the Ykkönen season, and deservedly so.
Janne Mäkinen (JJK) - 8.3/10
2-1 Win vs Kemi Kings (H) - 18/05/2031
Salon urheilupuisto | Attendance: 237
SalPa Goals: Serge Atakayi (7'), Filippo Ferro (81')
We were back at home, and back to winning ways. Serge Atakayi scored an early goal for us, but Kemi Kings equalised on the half-hour mark. Central defender Filippo Ferro proved to be the hero of the day as he scored a vital header in the final ten minutes, earning us all three points.
Niklas Ojanen (SalPa) - 7.8/10
1-1 Draw vs AC Kajaani (H) - 21/05/2031
Salon urheilupuisto | Attendance: 208
SalPa Goals: Topi Savolainen (2')
The game started very well for us as Topi Savolainen scored the opening goal just after one minute of play. However, we failed to hold on as Juha Nieminen, frustratingly, scored an own goal with two minutes remaining, condemning us to a draw.
Juha Nieminen (SalPa) - 7.7/10
2-1 Win vs TVP Tampere (A) - 25/05/2031
Tammelan stadion | Attendance: 430
SalPa Goals: Erik Pettersson (8'), Arto Jääskelainen (90')
Erik Pettersson had proven to be a key component in our midfield in the early stages of the season, and he got us off to a flier with a superb long range goal. Unfortunately for us, Filippo Ferro scored an own goal with fifteen minutes remaining, but Arto Jääskelainen scored a last minute goal to earn the win for us.
Filippo Ferro (SalPa) - 7.7/10
0-0 Draw vs FC Jazz (H) - 28/05/2031
Salon urheilupuisto | Attendance: 251
SalPa Goals: -/-
FC Jazz: Riku Viitanen (77')
Such a boring game. Nothing exciting happened apart from Viitanen getting sent off. Nevertheless, it was another point and another clean sheet.
Juha Nieminen (SalPa) - 7.3/10
An Impressive Opening Month Had Put SalPa In Fourth Place
We had risen above all expectation in an impressive opening month. Our excellent defensive record helped us to an unexpected fourth place, after eight games. We were still a long way from securing safety, but a ten point gap above the two relegation spots meant our focus was on further climbing the table, and not avoiding the drop.
SalPa Would Play Six Ykkönen Fixtures In June
There would only be a slight let up in the congestion of fixtures as we were to play six times in June. Following a strong start to the season, we were looking to further our development and put even more points on the board.
Ryan Ferguson's Reaction
"It has been a very positive start to the season for us and we are absolutely delighted with the progress we have made. However, we are still taking things just one game at a time. There is absolutely no point in looking at the full picture of where we could finish at the end of the season, as everything can change in a minute on the pitch. We can only focus on one game at a time and we will look to continue improving our performances as the season goes on."
, it isn't something he plans on becoming accustomed to either
, we will have our revenge one day!
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