The reward for getting through to the next round of the FA cup is a game against Halifax Town. They are top of the Vanarama National league. It’s a home game so it will improve our finances but realistically we are going to have to be lucky to get anything out of the game. I quickly check the calendar to see if I can rest some players to prepare. However, we have to play the 4th and 9th placed teams either side. No chance for resting players.
We are starting to pick up some injuries so rotation is becoming difficult. We will need some short term loans. I bring in 1 CM on loan but I need another CB at least for the short term. I could dip into the youth team but they aren’t quite ready yet. In a blind panic, I start looking for CB’s and try to loan them in before they are scouted. This is a bad idea but I need bodies who can play.
The league game against Altrincham comes around and we need to keep up the wins if I want to rest players for cup matches. A defensive mistake gives them the lead in the 3rd minute. They double their lead in the 5th minute. This is unknown territory for me this season. I do not like it. We make it to half time 2-0 down. I am beyond frustrated. At half time, I do my best to be aggressive and rip into them. They do not respond AT ALL. After an hour, we change to a 4-3-3 and Very Attacking. That also makes no difference. We go on to lose the game 2-0.
My only thought for such a horrendous performance is that I brought in 3 loan signings in quick succession before that game. I won’t be making that mistake again. The result also loses our unbeaten run but it was the performance that was most disappointing.
To make matters worse due to my lack of financial competency, the board say I can only have 10% of player sales. I am going to need to try harder with selling players otherwise the board are going to sell my best players.
Back to the league and we need a BIG improvement. We have got our “local derby” against Darlington. I even get a Press Conference for this game, I had forgotten they existed. I start with the same team that played so poorly against Altrincham so they can redeem themselves. I will have to make changes at half time as they are fatigued.
The game starts and we start well taking the lead in the 3rd minute, Moke brings the ball in from the wing and smashes it across the keeper. We double our lead 2 minutes later when Moke passes the ball to Simons and he scores an identical goal to Moke. We are 2-0 up in 5 minutes and THAT is the response I wanted. We get lucky when they have a goal disallowed for offside on the 20th minute. We are not out of the woods yet. They do grab a goal just before half time and that makes my half time team talk a lot easier.
At half time, I passionately tell them to not lower their performance. Their fitness levels are a worry and I will have to make changes when they get less than 70%. The second half starts and there are no highlights of any real quality. We have to make changes to a 5-4-1 which isn’t ideal but hopefully will get us over the line. We get another goal in the 85th minute when Simons gets the ball over the top and slots it home. As soon as it goes in, I change to wasting time. We win the game 3-1. A resounding win against your “fierce rivals” is as good as it can be!
A problem is that the players are now knackered and our FA cup match is around he corner. I do NOT hold much hope for this one. Now is the time to have a Team Meeting and I use it to tell the players how great they all are and how proud I am of them. They all respond positively and that’s just what we needed before this game.
It is FA CUP DAY. This is the most nervous I have felt since I started the save and realistically I should be happy to take a loss with a good performance but I cant. I need the win.
In the pre-match email, I get told I will have a double attendance. I have a few injuries and as Halifax are top of the league above. I change formation to a 5-4-1. I hope they have some injuries but they have none. NONE AT ALL.
Before the game I give the players a “passionate” speech about giving the fans their moneys worth. Not one reaction. So I calmly tell them individually that I have faith in them. 3 defenders like it. That’s it, 3. I am feeling pessimistic about this game. Here we go…
23 minutes in and I get an injury. It is annoying as I have no ready made replacement on the bench. Apart from that we are fine. We get through to HT unscathed. I passionately tell them to grab a goal and be winners. They have no reactions. Once again, I tell them individually I have faith in them. I make a second sub at half time with Moke coming on. He also scores the opener on the 69th minute with a long run and curls it past the keeper. Is it too soon to shut up shop?
Well yes as the next highlight is Halifax scoring their equaliser. Should I stick or twist? I stick and turn Defensive. They have a goal disallowed in extra time and we hold out for a 1-1 draw and that is something I would definitely have taken at the beginning of the game.
After the draw, I am hoping to have a week for the replay so I can rest my key players and try and win the game. BUT NO! I have to play them 3 days later. On the plus side, if we win, we get an away match to Torquay. God I wish it was at home.
To try and get as many “fit” players onto the pitch, I change to a 4-5-1 formation and have a few player changes. Moke starts after his goal in the last game. I make sure that I have attacking options on the bench in case I need to change to a 4-3-2-1. My team talk is passionate and that they need to impress! Not one of them is moved. They best start well.
On the 28th minute they take the lead. They double their lead 8 minutes later but it is chalked off for offside. At half time, I change the team to what we know, 442, positive! Nothing changes for 25 minutes, so I change to a 3-4-3. Within the minute, we are level when Burrow volleys in from a corner. Annoyingly, I have made all my subs so I have to stick with this formation or put several players in the wrong positions.
3-4-3 is way too attacking for this but I am out of options. The inevitable happens in the 87th minute when they take the lead after a long ball over the top. They go on to win 2-1. If I am honest, it is a fair result. Although it is annoying to be out of the FA cup.
Being knocked out of th FA cup is also financially disappointing but we can now focus on the league and FA trophy. The FA trophy will be interesting as York have also won it in 2017 and 2012, could 2020 be the third time in under a decade?
Despite being knocked out of the FA Cup by a team also in Non-league. What team is your best "giant-killing" victory? In 2005 I knocked out Birmingham (then in the Prem) with Rushden and Diamonds (Conference). Interested to know what others are?