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Franjo: A Journeyman Story (New Episode Every Week Day!)

My Name is Franjo. And I will be a Football Manager.
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Wtfranjo's avatar Group Wtfranjo 2018-04-19 10:44
00 207 posts 3 likes joined May 08, 2017
Showdown (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Ep134)

“This match,” I begin, “Is going to define our entire season.” I’m pacing back and forth at the front of the changing room, all Auxerrois eyes fixed on me. “What are we doing? Are we just enjoying our luck or are we going for promotion? For the title? Because if we’re just here for the ride and we lose to Bourg-en-Bresse today, we’ll be 6 points behind them by the time that final whistle blows.” I stop pacing and stand, arms crossed, looking and feeling more serious than I’ve been in quite a while. “But if we really want this, if we really want to play at the Parc des Princes and the Stade Louis II next season and test ourselves against the best in the country, we can. We can bloody do it by beating these and going top. We’ve got the goal difference for it, but we need to put down a marker and it needs to be now. Not next week, not next month and not in the bloody run in. Now.”

The lads seem riled after my little speech. They look ready. I'm taking a risk today in keeping the attacking variant of Project: Meatloaf that saw us beat Granville so handily in place. It could backfire, but I'm willing to take the chance. If we can put down a marker today it'll put us in great stead for the second half of the season. The team today is the exact same one that beat our reserves 5-1 last week: Lenogue in net with my settled back 4 of Samba, Captiste, Doucouré and Hikem in front of him, Sissako and Raf in midfield, with Foden, Joël and Zoun behind Hicham Aidir. To be fair, Florian Ayé is unlucky to be pushed out after his brace in the cup, but there's no doubt in my mind that Hicham's still our number 1 striker.

It takes less than 2 minutes for the first Ligue 2 goal of 2022 to be scored. Phil Foden, fresh from pulling the strings in the French Cup 9th round, chests the ball down and turns inside from the right. He slides a pass into the path of Aidir, who turns and places the ball into the far bottom corner. 2 minutes in and we're top of the bloody league. I've turned up to the showdown and drawn my gun first. And my gun's called Hicham fucking Aidir.

10 minutes later the fans leap to their feet as Aidir drives forwards on the ball. He shrugs off Girod's challenge and leaps over Kabeya's slide tackle, dribbling onto the left wing before wrapping his foot around the ball and fizzing in a cross. Foden arrives in the box and shoots - Straight against the legs of centre back Bodin, but the ball takes a deflection and bounces perfectly into the bottom corner. Foden won't get to claim the goal but frankly I don't really care. 2-0 to l'AJA.

Miraculously our recklessly attacking mentality has caught Bourg-en-Bresse off guard and they're crumbling. We win the ball straight from kick off and give it to Zoun, who flies down the left, cuts inside and shoots from 20 yards, but Fabri manages to catch it and keep the scoreline from getting embarrassing... For 10 minutes at least, because when Samba's long ball forwards is nodded on by Joël, Hicham touches the ball past Bodin masterfully, leaving him free to poke it past Fabri and into the bottom corner for 3-0.

It's clear to everyone in the stadium that Hicham smells blood in the water. Just 25 minutes in he's on a hat trick and wants to complete it, but he mishits his next effort from 20 yards, skewing it well wide. After the half hour mark though he's still trying hard to bag his 3rd. He presses poor Bodin and wins the ball before dribbling onto the left wing once more. Aidir crosses from the byline and Bodin heads clear, but the centre back's first win of the day is stripped from him as Foden's shoved to the ground by Lamanje. We have a penalty and there's no prizes for guessing who'll take it. Aidir steps up and places the ball right into the bottom left corner, sending Fabri the wrong way, completing his hat trick and putting us 4-0 up against the former league leaders.
A lesser man would probably call it there, happy with his day's work, but not the big Moroccan. When Zoun cuts in and slips a pass through to him just inside the box, he shoots with venom but can only send the Ball crashing against the post.

My half time team talk is far less prepared than my pre-match one. I wasn't really prepared for the eventuality of a 4-0 lead at the break to be honest. Nevertheless I tell the lads they're performing fantastically and not to let their levels drop.

The hour mark brings about our first black mark of the day, when Raf, already on a booking, trips Tasic and receives his marching orders. Eager not to let the match fall apart, I bring off the attack minded Foden and Joël and replace them with Ba and Fomba, who will slot into a more reserved and standard 4-4-1. We'll retain possession with our 2 banks of 4 and try to kill the match off.

For the next 20 minutes the plan works perfectly. Neither team threatens to change the scoreline until the 80th minute, when Aidir dribbles into the box from the right wing but shoots tamely into the arms of Fabri. 2 minutes later Bourg very sportingly level the playing field and get themselves reduced to 10 men when Lamanje, already on a booking, trips Fomba needlessly. The last chance of the match is ours too. It's a long Samba ball over the top that Aidir latches onto before running through on goal. This time he hits it with his laces but Fabri does well to tip it around the post. The match finishes 4-0.

The Team of the Week fittingly contains 4 Auxerre players and 0 from Bourg-en-Bresse. Issa Samba, Captiste, Phil Foden and Hicham Aidir all make the cut for their contributions to an excellent football match.

I'm still in a fair amount of shock when Ruben Aguilar comes to me saying that he's no longer willing to wait for Issa's form to drop off before he gets his place in the starting lineup back. I don't really blame him as Issa's showing no signs of slowing down, but luckily Captiste is on hand to talk Ruben down. He's very much an unsung hero of our rise to the top this season, Captiste, but he's a fantastic captain.

With Auxerre and Bourg now level on points, we begin the battle to outdo each other in an attempt to get a bit of a cushion at the top. Our next match is away at Stade de Reims, who are not a side to be taken lightly, while Bourg take on ESTAC Troyes. Stade de Reims share a fantastic defensive record with us with both teams having only conceded 15 goals so far in Ligue 2. We're second only to Red Star, who've let in 13. We do have a better attacking record than our opponents and indeed the entire league though as we lead the scoring charts with 34 goals scored, but Stade de Reims are only 5 goals and 4 points behind us.

Raf won't make the team today as he's suspended for that red card. Sissako's out too after reaching 3 yellow cards in his last 10 games, so we're without our first choice midfield. That, combined with the fact that Reims have won every home match since August has me slightly concerned. We'll ditch the attacking Project: Meatloaf and opt instead for a counter attacking Project: Meatloaf Mk II, with the incoming holding man Loïc Goujon adding extra protection while we focus our play up the wings. Lamine Fomba comes in alongside Joël in the middle.

With both teams starting off with variations on 4-1-4-1, the match is predictably slow to get going. We do have a decent chance when Zoun runs the ball into the opposition half 4 minutes in and finds Aidir, but after running for the box and shooting with his weaker foot, our striker can only watch as the ball flies wide.

With half time just a couple of minutes away we give away a free kick 25 yards from goal. Gustavo Hebling steps up for the hosts and fires an absolute rocket towards the top corner. Luckily the ball smacks off the bar and Aidir manages to hoof it clear before Mafuala is able to take advantage of the now open goal.

Neither side changes at half time. The first half was very evenly balanced and I don't want to rock the boat. I can only imagine my opposite number is thinking the same. A couple of minutes after the restart we go agonisingly close when Zoun, who's looked impressive in his new role on the left so far, cuts inside and shoots from the edge of the box, but can only hit the post.

With 20 minutes to go a Lopez corner is cushioned down by Weber and headed at goal by Iloki on the penalty spot, but Lenogue saves well. We're down the other end 10 minutes later with Zoun again, but this time when he cuts in and shoots from 20 yards he sends the ball skimming just wide of the far post. I go the whole match without making a single tactical change and the boat stays un-rocked. 0-0 it ends.

Not that surprising when you think about it, is it? A 0-0 played out between the teams with the joint second best defences in the league. I'll certainly take it though. Stade de Reims, as I said before, are not to be taken lightly. They've been in Ligue 1 for the last 4 years and have some quality players. Going back to good defences actually, Xavier Lenogue, last season's back up goalie, is on 12 clean sheets for the season. That's just 1 behind Zacharie Boucher's record set in 2017/18. Good lad, Xavier. Although that defence does it's part too. My back 5 pretty much picks itself nowadays, they're all so solid.

Annoyingly though, our title rivals did win today and so they retake the top spot. This isn't over though. There's plenty of football yet to be played and if last week's any indicator, we'll be playing far better football than fucking Bourg-en-Bresse.

Wtfranjo's avatar Group Wtfranjo 2018-04-21 11:15
00 207 posts 3 likes joined May 08, 2017
Godspeed, Godspower (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Ep135)

As deadline day approaches I'm not stressing or fretting about deals still to be finished like some of the other managers in the league. I've had a quiet window. Well a silent one really. I don't think we need bolstering at the minute though, if anything we're still a little bit flabby. We've got good cover in every single area of the pitch, except arguably at left back, but I'm not especially worries about that. More on that in a second though because I do allow some outgoings in the final days of January. Georges Bailly and Tristan Dubois both head out on loan to JA Drancy and Le Mont LS, while I turn down an approach from Southampton for young defender Nicholas Charlet. They initially come in with the insultingly low ball figure of £150k and after some really frustrating negotiations they still don't come close to his £500k asking price.

We're making the trip to USBCO in the league before the window slams shut though. They're having a tough old time of it so far this season and are currently propping up the league, while we're 2 points behind the league leaders Bourg-en-Bresse. You'd think because we've recently comfortably beaten the latter that a victory over the former should be a breeze, but doesn't it seem so entirely football that we should lose this one, lulled into a false sense of security after our recent form?

Hopefully not though. I mentioned before that we're light at left back and we're certainly going to see if I should have signed back up today because Faouzi Hikem's suspended after reaching 3 yellow cards in his last 10 matches. I've got faith in Ruben Aguilar though, our backup right back who's currently unhappy with his lack of playing time. He did a job at left wing back against Zlatan's Valenciennes, even scoring the winning goal, so I reckon he'll do a job today. Abdoulaye Sissako also comes back into midfield after his suspension at the expense of Lamine Fomba, who's still not showing me what he can really do. We're also going back to our attacking Project: Meatloaf system which may be tempting fate, but on the other hand... Come on, they're bottom of the bloody league. We're going to play wider than usual, we'll press them hard and get our attackers running at the defence. I want us to tear these apart, ideally.

It seems I needn't have worried too much. 11 minutes in a USBCO throw next to their own penalty area is fumbled by David Charles and Zoun heads it straight into the box for Aidir. Obviously he thumps it past Thuram-Ulien. It's 1-0 but we can't afford to relax. 2 minutes later we can though when Foden receives the ball 20 yards out, draws the centre backs out of position and slips the ball casually through for Aidir, who takes a touch and places it firmly past the keeper for 2-0.

By the 26th minute it's 3-0, this time from a Foden corner that's flicked on by Doucouré and volleyed by Captiste straight into the crowd of bodies in the box. A quick game of pinball ensues and ends when Sissako stabs the ball home from 6 yards out. A couple more minutes pass and we have the chance to extend our lead further, but when Aidir gets in behind the defence courtesy of a good long ball from Loïc Goujon, his shot is turned behind brilliantly by Thuram-Ulien.

It almost slips my mind, such is the action at the opposite end, that our young loanee Brahim Ferhat is on USBCO's left wing. He makes me sit up and pay attention with about 10 minutes to go before the break though when he bursts down the flank, leaving Issa Samba for dead. He approaches the byline and whips the ball back to the edge of our bo, where Loquet arrives to place it beautifully, first time into the bottom corner. I allow myself a wry smile. We're in such good form that it makes sense. The first goal we've conceded in 2022 is created by one of our own.
Half time passes and I bring off Joël at the hour mark. He's been OK today but he's struggled to make a real impact, finding himself isolated between USBCO's 2 holding men. Lamine Fomba comes on and I want him to throw his weight around a bit up there as more of a destroyer. Just seconds later we grab ourselves another goal. It's not Fomba, although I would have been extremely smug if it was. No, Ruben Aguilar, solid again at left back so far, whips a cross in towards the far post from deep on the left. It's a flat, angled cross and it's easy for Foden to anticipate. Phil arrives to tap the ball home from close range for 4-1. A few minutes later Fomba takes a potshot from 30 yards but it drifts harmlessly wide. I choose to ignore it.

Still not content for some reason, I bring Adama Ba on for Zoun on the left with 20 minutes to go. He does nearly make an immediate impact, receiving a brilliant chipped pass from Fomba and crossing from the byline, but Aidir's heavily outnumbered in the box and the ball's headed clear. Lamine cushions it down for Ba though who volleys it first time - Against the far post. Unlucky.

With the game dead we drift into injury time. I don't know if complacency drifts into our ranks but in the 91st minute the hosts' goalscorer Arnaud Loquet crosses from deep on the right and who else but Brahim Ferhat pops up to poke the ball in at the far post. I give Brahim a subtle thumbs up as he runs past and he grins back at me. He's not been prolific this season and that's only his 3rd goal in 25 games, but he's certainly impressed me today.

We've not lost in 5 league matches now, including 3 wins and a goal difference of +7. It's extremely promising form but annoyingly it's not enough to take the top spot back from Bourg. I wish they'd just stop bloody winning.

Anyway, deadline day is here and we've already lost our first player of the day. Phil Foden... Has a cold and won't be fit for arguably the highest profile match of my career against Bordeaux tomorrow. Come on, Phil.

We have actually lost our first player of the day though. Nicholas Charlet is going to Southampton after all after they come back in with a £750k bid with future incentives for the 15 year old. He can't move until the Summer when he's 16 but it's all agreed. To be fair, it's a big move for the lad and I hope he makes the most of it.

Godspower Tower's leaving too, as much as it pains me to lose a player with such a fantastic name. He's joining Diósgyör in Turkey for £500k, where hopefully he'll get a bit more football. Godspeed, Godspower.

And finally Crouchie lets me know that young midfielder Paul Lefevre is off to Fethiyespor on loan, again with first team football in mind to aid his development. I'll keep a close eye on him. Well, Crouchie will, when he isn't watching Isaac Sohna.

And with that the deadline slams shut. I'm glad of it to be honest. The window's nothing but an annoyance if you're not planning on buying anyone and I've mainly been ignoring it over the last few days, because I've been focussing on this: Our French Cup 10th Round match away at Girondins de Bourdeaux.

Only a madman would attack such a big team away from home, so I'm reverting once again to our counter attacking Project:Meatloaf Mk II. Foden's out with his... Cold... And Samba's suspended for (All together now) picking up 3 yellow cards in his last 10 matches. I'm never going to play a full strength side again, am I? But luckily Hikem's back from his suspension so he comes in at left back, while Aguilar finally gets to play in his favoured position of right back. Adama Ba will cut in from the left after briefly impressing against USBCO, while Zoun moves over to the right wing. Let's see if we're ready to take on a Ligue 1 club.

We threaten early on when Zoun leads a counter attack, darting with the ball through the centre of the pitch. He shoots from the edge of the area and sends it over the bar, but he gets an ovation from the travelling support even so. Our fans fall silent a minute later though when Bordeaux do some breaking of their own. Andersen feeds the ball through for young striker Gnago, who slams his shot against the near post. It's a close call.

A few minutes later they're starting to pen us into our own box. This time the ball's on the right with Vida, who gets a cross in from the byline straight onto the head of Lo Faso at the far post. He powers a header - Against the angle from close range. Bloody hell. For a moment I get flashbacks to a certain bombardment in Stockholm, but our luck doesn't last like it did that day. In the 17th minute Coco slides the ball across the edge of our box and Gnago turns the ball in under Lenogue at his near post.

The next 8 minutes are a painful watch. We stay under the cosh and concede not once, but twice more before the 25 minute mark. First through Andersen, who dribbles forwards and powers it in from the edge of the box, and then through Gnago again, who receives the ball from Acosta and beats Lenogue at his near post. Again.

And that's how my first half of competitive football against a Ligue 1 club ends. 0-3 and utterly, thoroughly outclassed. Seeing as we're pretty much out of the cup at this point anyway though, I choose to see this as an opportunity. How does our attacking Project: Meatloaf hold up against a much better side? I bring off Ba and replace him with a sniffling Phil Foden, who swaps with Zoun and moves onto the right. If we're going to lose I'd like us to at least play some decent football and in the last few games we've played some brilliant stuff.

It bloody works within 2 minutes. First Zoun cuts in from the left and shoots, forcing a good save from Dimitrievski, and from the resulting corner Foden swings the ball right onto the penalty spot, where Sissako's waiting to lash it home on the volley. Unfortunately though, Bordeaux take control back after that, perhaps realising that they let their guard down after the break. With half an hour to go we go 4-2-4, with Florian Ayé replacing Joël and joining Hicham up front and the 2 wide men swapping wings so that they can stay wide and float some crosses in on their favoured feet. A few minutes later we get at them again. This time a long ball from Hikem is brought down by Ayé and slipped through the defence for the onrushing Foden. He pokes the ball at goal but Dimitrievski saves well.

With 20 minutes to go we're back against the wall though. Gnago goes close to completing his hat trick but is denied by a parried save by Lenogue, and then a close range free kick is bent just over the bar by Lo Faso. 10 minutes later that nuisance Gnago goes close again, receiving another great Acosta through ball and shooting just wide of the near post, but a few minutes later it's Acosta himself that bags the final goal, firing past Lenogue from 20 yards after a good Bordeaux break. We go close with a couple of minutes to play when Foden's corner is cushioned down by Hikem and volleyed goalwards by Captiste. The ball crashes against the underside of the bar but stays out. In all fairness, the better side has won.

It's quite troubling, really. I'm aiming for promotion here and although Bordeaux are admittedly a good Ligue 1 team and not one of the strugglers, we were so thoroughly outplayed today that it really makes me wonder whether this team would cut it in the top flight. Or maybe it's my system? Either way, if we hit our target this year I'm going to have to give this a lot of thought.

Wtfranjo's avatar Group Wtfranjo 2018-04-23 05:16
00 207 posts 3 likes joined May 08, 2017
Phil-led With Pride (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Ep136)

Do you know what I'm most proud of about this season? Because it's not our undeniable overachievement in the League and it's not our almost unparalleled defensive and offensive goal records either. It's Phil bloody Foden. It genuinely could've gone either way when I brought him in and I'd never spent as much as £500k on a player before, which would've made signing him a big mistake on my part if things hadn't gone to plan. Before this season he'd barely played competitive football in his career, instead being a stalwart for Man City's youth teams as a sort of luxury number 10. He's really started to shine in Ligue 2 though and that's why I'm so proud. In fact he's already on 9 assists for the season and will almost certainly break Jérôme Mombris' club record of 12 from the 2018/19 season before the final game. His impact has been especially noticeable in our few games since the winter break, not because of his goal and 3 assists in those 4 matches, but because of his obvious growing intelligence as a right sided inside forward. As I heard one pundit* astutely observe recently, "How satisfying is it seeing him utterly nailing the inside forward role to perfection, especially after his early struggles? On the ball, he's cutting inside and dragging defenders with him before slipping clever reverses through to Aidir. Off the ball, he's making darting far-post runs and getting tap-ins. Lovely stuff." Good lad, Phil.

Today we host ESTAC Troyes, which I've really been looking forward to. After our recent humbling defeat in Bordeaux this really is the ideal match in which to bounce back. We've got a fantastic record against ESTAC Troyes in our previous 3 encounters under my stewardship, winning on all 3 occasions. Let's hope we can make it 4 out of 4.

Today though I've got a bit of a headache because I'm not quite sure how to line up against them. I attribute a lot of our success this season to the fact that in pretty much every match I've set up primarily to nullify the opposition, whether that means playing 3 at the back and man marking their front 2, playing a narrow formation to strangle the opposition's central players, etc. But I'm not sure how Troyes will line up. They've been a bit all over the place recently, having used a 4-2-3-1, a different 4-2-3-1 with deeper central midfielders, a 4-1-2-3 and a flat 4-3-3. In the end though I remember the words that dear old Ms Alexandersson bestowed upon me: "Don't overthink it." Why should I try to nullify Troyes? We're going with our new and improved attacking variant of Project: Meatloaf and they can have a good hard think about how they're going to deal with us. I'm making a couple of changes from the team that lost in the cup: Aguilar and Goujon are both suspended but conveniently Samba and Raf are back from their suspensions, so they come back in at right back and centre midfield respectively. Phil Foden's shaken off the sniffles so he comes back in for Adama Ba on the right, with Zoun swapping back to the left where he's recently impressed.

The first half is a quite horrible experience. Troyes do set up in a 4-2-3-1 with deep midfielders which I don't mind, but what really ruins my plan is the weather. It's a bitterly cold day with sleet pelting the pitch. The surface is slippery and not ideal for dribbling or playing the ball on the deck, which is what we're trying to do. We do get a chance with about 5 minutes to go before the break when Sissako passes to Foden on the edge of the box though. Phil turns onto his left foot and rifles a low shot towards the far corner, but the ball cannons back off the post, rolls across the line and is cleared before Aidir can knock in the rebound.

At half time I decide that we need to go more direct because of the conditions. Aidir will play as more of a target man and we'll knock the ball up to him quicker. With half an hour to go though the scores are still level. Joël makes way as we're bypassing him anyway and Florian Ayé comes on as a second target man in a 4-2-4 formation. Foden and Zoun swap flanks and will try to get more crosses in to the big lads as out and out wingers.

Not even 2 minutes after Ayé's introduction, Foden stands over a free kick 25 yards out on the right. He chips a cross in towards the penalty spot towards Ayé, but Samuel Grandsir leaps in and clears the ball. All of a sudden the referee blows his whistle and points to the spot. Penalty! The ref judges Grandsir to have raised his foot too high, but I have to say I'm really surprised he's given us that. The winger's boot was nowhere near high enough to be a danger to Ayé. He's 5'6" for fucks sake, he's surely physically incapable of kicking anyone in the face. I won't look a gift horse in the mouth though and with Troyes' manager Oscar Ewolo still fuming nearby, Ayé steps up himself and buries the ball into the bottom corner from 12 yards.

10 minutes later I bring on Adama Ba for Zoun on the right wing and within minutes he nearly makes just as much of an impact. Another Foden free kick, this time out on the right wing, is flicked on by Sissako and headed by Ba at the far post, but he hits the post. With 5 minutes to go we look to control the game and hopefully kill it off. There are a couple of late chances though, firstly in the 91st minute when Hubert tests Lenogue from 20 yards and forces a decent save, then a minute later MBuemo fizzes a shot across the face of goal. Lenogue doesn't even move and looks even more relieved than I feel when the ball goes just wide of the far post. I'll take the 1-0 win, even if it doesn't feel all that deserved.

With that result in the bag though we're unbeaten in 6 league games, which is a great feeling. Xavier Lenogue will be feeling the best of us all as that result takes him to 14 clean sheets; A new club record. 13 of those have been in the league too and he's closing in on the Ligue 2 record of 15 in a season, which was set by Darko Dejanovic of FC Metz last season.

The week that follows is full of club news: Firstly Jérôme Mombris is hanging up his boots in the summer. It's a wise decision in my opinion. He was obviously a very good full back in his pomp but his 30's have taken away any pace that he might have once had. In my opinion though he's still got a bright future, possibly as a coach, assistant or even a Manager. I may even see if he wants to stay on at the club in some capacity in the Summer.

A few days later I find out that a takeover may be on the cards too, which is always exciting, if a bit disruptive. The club's Chinese owner Zhou James is looking to step down and there's rumblings of some local investment. Watch this space, I suppose.

Our next match, which marks Abdoulaye Sissako's 100th for the club, takes us to Nîmes Olympique for another reunion with Isaac Sohna and his temporary teammates. Nîmes are sitting comfortably in mid table but after our 3-0 win in the reverse fixture I'll be looking for another comfortable victory today.

We're almost unchanged today, with the exception of Captiste, who's suspended and replaced by Mike Kakuba. Mike's been very patient this season, watching on from the sidelines as I build a solid defence without him. It hasn't really helped him that although our full backs and central midfielders need shuffling literally every match because of these silly suspensions, our centre back pairing has kept their powder pretty much dry until this point. Captiste's absence doesn't just have big consequences for Mike though, because as our captain sits in the stands we need somebody else to turn to for leadership. Hicham Aidir, Auxerre vice captain, takes the armband for the first time.

The first real chance of the match falls nearly 20 minutes in after our corner's cleared by the Nîmes defence. Samba plays the ball to Raf, who passes short to Zoun, cutting in from the left as usual. As the hosts hesitate to close him down, the Burkinabe winger has time to take aim and fire - into the far corner of the net. It's a great start and an even better finish.

The home side might peg us back 10 minutes later, but when Buzaglo sends a 35 yard free kick soaring into the box, Doucouré clears it firmly. Raf receives the ball and looks up to see Phil Foden tearing into space on the left wing and picks him out with a superb long ball. Foden pulls it back to Zoun, who tees up Sissako, and the 100 match graduate drills the ball home to put us 2-0 up.

That'd be enough for me in an extremely dominant first half, but we don't relent. 5 minutes later Foden floats a free kick into the Nîmes 6 yard box and the keeper comes out and misses the ball. His defender bails him out by heading it clear, but only as far as Joël, who nods it down so that Zoun can smash the ball into the empty net. We head in for the break with a deserved 3 goal lead.

As we approach the hour mark the cherry is well and truly placed on top when a quick passing move culminates with Joël teeing up Sissako on the edge of the box before the man of the day fires in our 4th and becomes the 2nd player to bag a brace. Satisfied with a job well done, I replace our booked pair Hikem and Raf with Goujon and Fomba and we see out the game without a problem.

I obviously single out Sissako, Joël and Zoun for praise after the final whistle, but this has been an excellent team performance. I suppose the downside of our aggregate 7-0 win over Nîmes this season is that Isaac Sohna has really failed to impress me, which is worrying. He is definitely improving but if all goes well we'll be in Ligue 1 next season and if he can't cut it at this level... We'll deal with that in the Summer. All that matters today is the 3 points, which combined with Bourg-en-Bresse 's 1-1 draw against Ajaccio leaves us sitting atop the league. We just need to try and stay here this time. Come at me, Bourg.

*Top analysis @Sammuthegreat on fm-base. Cheers mate!

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