Given we are fast approaching FM22, I decided I would have a go at trying to put everything I have learned into one last FM21 save. I wanted to start with the weakest side I could find and settled on Hungerford in Vanarama South. They have the weakest ranking of any playable side in the English competitions at 2150, and also the lowest Genie Scout rating of any playable English side. They have a media prediction of 21st or last in the previous 3 games I have started that have English tiers down to this level.
Wage budget is low at $5k, but not the lowest. Good news is that they are solvent and have just above average 95k in the bank. Here is the list of their finishes in the first season in my last 3 saves:
• 5 wins 26pts 21st last relegated
• 9 wins 42 pts 17th
• 10 wins 41 pts 18th
So these are the numbers I need to beat.
The Board gave me their expectations which included staying within budget, which seems to happen with every club, and staying away from relegation for the next two years. Given they are so solvent; I suspect the budget one is pretty important to them. Time will tell. Clearly staying in League competitions is also very important given they want it for the next 2 years, so I think if I can get a good result this year they might loosen the purse strings a bit.
First thing for me to look at is the squad. I can either adapt tactics to the squad or go with my preferred tactics and try and mould the squad to the tactics. If I had a bit of time to play with, the first is probably easier. I decided to go with the harder one of deciding the tactics and then trying to get the players that suit.
So let’s look at the squad. There are 24 players on our books, and 5 are out on loan, and 3 of them look like they would have been handy to have. They are committed for the season and can’t be called back. Our full useable squad is 19 across 3 sides, Seniors, U23 and U18. Only 5 are under 23 and 5 are over 30 years old. I sorted them by Pace and 7 of them are under 9 for pace. Our fastest player in the squad is our GK. Not very strong, as you would expect.
I introduced myself to the squad, and was surprised when they were dissatisfied with my suggestion we needed to fight to avoid relegation, apparently they have a higher opinion of themselves as a group than I have. I settled them down.
I decided I would get rid of as many of the older and slower players as I could and then try and get a useable squad of 22 to 25 of players that are fast, a good size and under 23yo. I set 2 players for release who were on match contracts, Harrison Bayley (DR/DM, 30yo, Pace 10) and Mike Atkinson (DM/MC, 22yo, Pace 8). I then set 6 players for mutual termination Keith Emmerson (DC, 37yo, Pace 6), Matt Partridge (DC/DM, 26yo, Pace 7), Callum Willmoth (DC/DM/MC, 29yo, Pace 7), Mike Jones (DC/MC, 31yo, Pace 8), Luke Hopper (ST, 31yo, Pace 8), James Rusby (DC/DM/MC, 31yo, Pace 8).
The Board blocked the mutual terminations. This is now going to be very hard.
I selected 3 sets of tactics. My first is my favourite for fast teams and very attacking scoring many goals, Dragons Breathe. It is one that I created and rates at 6.5 on FM Arena. It is a 4-1-3-2 strikerless tactic. The next was also created by me, Sponge Bob which rates at 6.7 on FM Arena, similar to Dragons Breathe, but with the MC dropping back, so 2 DMs. I like being able to easily move between the 2, and that this one is a lot more solid in defence. The third tactic is Mongoose rated at 6.8 on FM Arena, an adaption of Zaz Blue 3.0 with 2 strikers and an AMC. To move to this tactic from Dragons Breathe the MC moves forward to AMC and the 2 AMC Shadow Strikers move forward to ST Advanced Forwards.
I have left the training schedule as is during the pre-season and will decide what I run with when the new season starts. For individual training I have run with the role that aligns with their natural position and the role that relates to in Dragons Breathe. For example a natural left winger has ML Winger Attack.
For additional focus I select Defensive Positioning for the back 4 positions and DMs, Crossing for the wingers, Final third for the MCs, Passing for the AMCs. For Strikers I still train them as AMC Shadow Striker Attack but change their additional focus to Shooting as they will play as strikers when I use Mongoose. I do want them to learn AMC as well to give me versatility.
I decided I would drop all the players I wanted to terminate to U23s and then go about completing my original strategy for bringing in new players. Many of the players I thought would have been great for us wouldn’t join. I started with the criteria of 13+ Pace, UK and Irish Region, U23, 75kg+ and 178cm+. I then dropped the age, height and weight to try and fill the attacking slots. I also used Reflexes and Handling to try and find a couple of decent GKs.
I was also focused on trying to get players that would improve over the coming couple of years so that we had a core group going forward. I am sure some will fail but if we can get half that keep growing with us it would make life a little easier.
28 July 2020 First trial – Intra club
Our first pre-season game was the First XI vs Second XI. I got the Second XI playing Mongoose and the First XI playing Dragons Breathe. I have to say, this game made me even more determined to bring in players. Both sides were dreadful. One shining light was Craig Fasanmade, scored a cracking goal and set one up. Firsts won 3-2.
I managed to sign 11 players in my first batch:
Cian Byrne (DL, 22yo, Pace 14)
Evan White (DR/DM/MC, 21yo, Pace 14)
K-Cee Allen (DC, 19, Pace 13)
Harry Hodgson (DR, 21yo, Pace 14)
Jean-Baptiste Fischer (MC, 22yo, Pace 13)
Jordan Hughes (DRLC, 21yo, Pace 14)
Louis Hamilton (MR/AMR, 29yo, Pace 17)
Joel Whittingham (DL, 20yo, Pace 16)
Chekaine Steele (MR/AMR, 23yo. Pace 13)
Freddy Tracey (ST, 22yo, Pace 12)
Ciaran Elsworth (GK, 20yo)
A couple of players were out bid against me including a very good DM and Left Winger. There are still 4 potential transfers to come. Tried for another young ML but the club has turned the tap off now. So this will be it for the year, or at least until mid-season. If we perform well I might be able to argue for more money.
That leaves us 28 players, 24 in the main squad and 4 in the U23 pending selling or retirement. Players in the main squad who are not in the run on side very often will be available for the U23s to keep fit. Here is the Hungerford squad:
Backup: Luke Cairney
Backup: Curtis Angell (DRL, 29yo, Pace 12)
Matt Berry-Hargreaves (DC, 22yo, Pace 14), Jordan Hughes
Backup: K-Cee Allen
Backup: Cian Byrne
Backup: Evan White
Backup: Chekaine Steele
Jordan Edwards (20yo, Pace 13)
Backup: Jean-Baptiste Fischer, Jake Evans (DR/DM/MC, 22yo, Pace 10)
Solomon Wanjau-Smith (ML/AML/ST, 21yo, Pace 12)
Backup: Rhys Tyler (DRL/WBRL/DM/MRLC, 27yo, Pace 10)
Ryan Seager (AM/FC, 24yo, Pace 12), Louis McGrory (MRC/AMRC, 23yo, Pace 13)
Backup: Craig Fasanmade (MRL/AMRLC, 20yo, Pace 10)
James Harding (ST, 23yo, Pace 11), Freddy Tracey
Backup: Luke Hopper
U23/Excess to requirements
I set up 5 selection teams, Best XI, Second XI Fastest, Biggest, and Most Potential. This gives me a number of different options depending on who we are playing and what the analysis of the opposition is.
I decided I would leave the staff as is given funds were a bit tight. I shuffled around the coaching assignments a bit and managed to get most of them 3 stars, except GK and Fitness – both 1.5 stars. I will work on that later in the season.
I did manage to pick up an additional scout with 9 ratings for both Judging Player Ability and Potential, and a Physio with a rating of 10. These will help with looking at players to bring in and assessing time out for injured players.
When I was appointed Manager, 5 friendlies had already been arranged for September, 4 of them away games. I thought I would leave them and add friendlies throughout August after the Intra Club trial. I always think it is best to have home games, less travel, and to keep the games to Saturdays, less impact on training.
Given the Board was worried about finances, I checked to see if we had any affiliate clubs. Lo and behold, we have 2 – Reading (Championship), who will pay us 28k for the game, and Swindon (L1), who will pay us 15k. I added Maidstone (VNS), Aldershot (VNL) and Salisbury (Non-League). These games should toughen the squad up before we hit the second half of the pre-season.
The remainder of the fixtures are Bishop’s Cleeve, Sholing, Brimscombe and Thrupp, Poole and Staines. These are all Non-League teams so should give our attackers a bit of shooting practice prior to the season proper.
1 August 2020 Pre-Season Game 1– Home to Maidstone
Looking at the Maidstone squad the scouts commented that their squad is physically strong, and that the Goal Keepers don’t have much aerial reach. My thoughts are to pick a big strong team, with good height.
This therefore looked to me to be a good game to play our Biggest side. A few minor injuries meant I had to adjust it slightly. I also selected the best side I could from the remaining squad to sit on the bench and come on at around the 60 minute mark. This is to try and raise the fitness levels of the whole squad. The tactics selected were Mongoose, so 2 Strikers.
I told the squad there were positions up for grabs. Some of the old squad were still sulking after the attempt to get rid of some of their mates so were pretty apathetic.
Harding scored after 14 minutes to put us up 1-0. Tyler intercepted on the left wing and put a high ball into Harding who headed it past the GK and into the net. Maidstone equalised after 28 minutes and they were ahead on xG and possession. I decided to change to Dragons Breathe at the 30 minute mark. It was still 1-1 at half time. I blasted them, saying it was not good enough. The same response from the players again, newbies inspired, and the oldies not so much.
We started to dominate possession in the second half and xG. I swapped the full side at the 60 minute mark. Finally at the 84 minute mark Evans put Seager into space one on one with the keeper who managed to push the ball away, but Seager was too fast for the defence and got to the ball and put it away. 2-1. Then in the 88th minute, Whittingham at left back and from well inside our half plays through ball. Seager too fast for the Maidstone defence, gets to the ball and beats the GK. 3-1.
The xG was 1.76 to 0.66 and we won possession with 54%. It was a solid win against a side we will be coming up against in the real season. Happy with that.
Final New Signings – Squad complete
Joining us on 2 August was Ross Willox, another MR but also MC. He is 21yo Acc 14 and Pace 12, 183cm and 79kg. I now have 3 very good MRs. I think I will either use Steele forward or try and retrain one of the MRs to be an ML. See what happens. We are still waiting on another GK, DC and ST. Definitely want the DC to give us more depth. The other 2 would be handy to lift the pace but not necessarily essential.
Josh Bailey signs with Gateshead on 3 August 2020 – we miss out on our DC, but we signed Affy Obafemi 25yo ST Pace 16. I think Affy will be very handy when we need pace up front. I will try and give him plenty of time at AMC during pre-season to try and build up his knowledge of the position.
And finally on 5 August 2020, Adam Bruce GK signs with Solihull Moors. So that is the end of our recruitment for the time being.
Affy moves into our starting line-up at ST, with Freddy moving down to backup and Hopper moving to the U23s. Willox is added to backup MR and to backup MC. Steele is added as a backup AMC. Fasanmade is added as a backup ML. No further changes. I feel like we are a bit light on at DC and ML. However we do have some very versatile players and should be able to cover it. Most of the Squad are a good size and height, with a fair bit of pace. It is exactly what I was after. Slightly slower than I would have liked on the left wing, but left fullbacks are fast as are the front men.
After our 13 signings, 2 players released on free, and banishing 5 players to U23s for the rest of their careers, we have a Senior squad of 25 players. Which is around the number I was after given I am persisting with Strikers on top of our standard tactics.
Our Acceleration, Pace and Agility are now easily the best in the league.
Next match is against our major affiliate Reading. It will really test our players out. I am hoping it won’t demoralise the team too much.
8 August 2020 Pre-Season Game 2 – Home to Reading
Hughes, Hodgson and Rusby were all listed as some way short of full fitness but I decided to give them all a hit out for 45 minutes given there is a while to go before the season kick off. I like to play the quickest side I can against very hard opposition so went with the Fastest team this time.
Mood in the dressing room had improved for this game with players either inspired or normal. After 20 minutes we had 3 yellow cards in defence so I told the entire defensive line to ease off tackles. Reading had 64% of the ball and 5 shots all off target with the xG against us but only 0.11 to 0.20.
Finally in injury time in the first half Reading scored with a through ball to take the lead 0-1. I blasted the team at half time which seemed to go well.
Hamilton went down injured to a dubious tackle at 57 minutes so I decided to replace all the yellow card players. At 63 minutes I replaced the remainder of team and changed to Sponge Bob to see how that went. The first time we have played it. One minute later we cleared off our line and sent the ball over half way towards the right hand touch line. Seager gathered and ran down the right wing crossing in to Steele who was playing the other Shadow Striker role and who smashed it into the left hand side of the net with 3 Reading defenders around him. Back to even.
Only 4 minutes later Reading intercepted and sent the ball forward to a striker who beat our keeper. 1-2. This goal opened the floodgates. It finished at 1-4. This was a sad end after a pretty exciting first 65 minutes. Still, the match was against a side that is 4 divisions above us. So this wasn’t a surprising result really. Hopefully we can regroup against the next opposition who are also many divisions above us being League One team Swindon.
We had a near sell out 2500 supporters watch the game. I am hoping the performance will inspire supporters to turn up when the season begins. The stats told the story, 59% to 41% possession and 3.86 to 0.53 xG to Reading. I am hoping it wasn’t the unused tactic that cost us. I might leave playing it again until we play a Non-League team.
We did pick up 3 injuries with Hamilton, White and Willox all out for 1-3 days. This makes it especially important to keep checking the rest area of Training, which I try and do each day in the game, reset all the main squad to Automatic intensity and then apply the Physio recommendations. This should minimise the training related injuries.
15 August 2020 Pre-Season Game 3 – Home to Swindon
I went for a mix between Biggest and Fastest this time relying on players lack of sharpness to pick the main team. I left Wanjau-Smith and Angell out of the 23 as they are the fittest players at the moment.
Started with Dragons Breathe and dropped the mentality down to Positive against the better team. No real response from the pep talk, but nothing negative either.
Just after 3 minutes in and we had a disallowed goal for a very close offside. Good start. They then had 2 similarly disallowed in the next 15 minutes. I changed to very attacking after 30 minutes with the xG and possession pretty close between the 2 sides. Our morale was higher though. They finally got a through ball right on 43 minutes and scored. 0-1,
I got stuck into them at half time and just about everyone responded positively. I swapped the full team out on 60 minutes, and 4 minutes later Hamilton ran 30 metres with the ball and smashed it past the GK. 1-1.
On 84 minutes Swindon knocked in a free kick from 25 metres out. A pretty good strike but I thought the GK had it. It was not to be. 1-2.
And that was the ball game. Gallant effort from the lads but just a bit outclassed. They can hold their heads high after that effort. I told them that they played well and all were very pleased. No more extremely hard games during the pre-season. I am hoping we can get a result against the Vanarama National team next outing. That would be promising and fill the team with confidence going into the real season.
17 August 2020
The wage budget is sitting at 5k and we are currently paying 6k per week so I will need to perform to keep the Board happy. We still have 101k in the bank so that’s not too bad. This is after replacing the Head Physio (rated 2) with a new one rated 11. It cost us 7k to get rid of her but longer term it will be worth it.
I scouted all the League Two teams to see if we could find a decent ML to loan, and also our to affiliate clubs.
22 August 2020 Pre-Season Game 4 – Home to Aldershot
Once again went with pace and those that needed match sharpness the most. The team talk went well with 4 or 5 motivated or inspired and no one negative.
Another offside disallowed goal early on which is a shame. Two yellow cards in the first half and another couple of decent chances with Steele shooting just wide and Hamilton not making enough of getting past the defence with his pace and knocking it straight to the keeper.
Possession even to half time, xG close, and no late goal against us. 0-0 at the break. Blasted the team and they all responded well. Let’s get them in the second half lads.
On 55 minutes, Hamilton takes the ball 25 metres out from our goal and runs the length of the pitch outrunning all the opposition and blasting the ball from 10 metres out to score. A sensational goal, 1-0. Side line praise to the whole team. Just 5 minutes later and a throw in leads to Steele finding the net. Unfortunately it is called back for offside. Very close that one.
At 67 minutes I replace the whole team and change back to Mongoose because I have 2 strikers on the bench, Freddy and Affy. I tell them all that there are places up for grabs. One minute later McGrory our MR is sent off for a very bad tackle. A reshuffle is required. Evans moves from DM back to DR, Tyler from DR to MR and Fischer from AMC to MC, so an MC instead of DM and AMC. See how we go. We only have a Striker left on the bench.
At 81 minutes I tell the GK to slow the pace down. Let’s see if we can hold onto this lead. On 85 minutes Affy through with pace but GK saves. 2 minutes later and Freddy is through on goal and misses the target. Then a through ball finds Freddy and he hits the back of the net. No goal, offside.
We totally dominated the last 10 minutes of the game and hold on to win. A sweet victory, and the commentator calls it as a deserved win to Hungerford. Man of the Match to Hamilton. In the sheds I tell the lads how well they played and thanked Hamilton individually. Everyone is happy. They showed a lot of heart to hold onto that win. Promising signs from the group as a whole. This will go a long way to putting to rest the issues around trying to get rid of the old players.
Key stats – we lost possession 49% to 51%, but dominated Shots 11 to 9, on target 6 to 3, and xG 1.31 to 0.90.
Plan for the remaining pre-season
There are 6 games remaining, all Non-League teams. I want to get everyone across our tactics, bring them up to full fitness and try and not have any injuries. I think we will use our main tactic, Dragons Breathe 4-1-3-2-0 wide formation for 3 of the games, Sponge Bob 4-2-2-2-0 wide formation for 2 games, and just once, and for the next game our Mongoose 4-1-2-1-2 wide formation. This will have our last 5 games focused on strikerless and give the opportunity for Affy and Freddy to get across the AMC Shadow Striker role. I am also going to try and get Evans across the DM position and Fasanmade across the ML position.
I made a loan offer for Anthony Cheshire, a young 18yo Swindon DC (Acc 8, Pace 10) to give us a 4th DC instead of using Rusby there. No charge as they are an affiliate.
Turns out one of our loaned out players, Bartolo, gets picked for his country Angola. He is a 24yo fast MC/AMRLC. He would have been very handy. And under squad depth he would have been our best AMC and MC. Who would decide to loan him out. Anyhow, I am nearly over that.
29 August 2020 Pre-Season Game 5 – Home to Salisbury
Starting tactic is 4-1-2-1-2 wide with Freddy and Affy playing up front. Missing out of the match day squad of 23 are Angell and Harding. I told the team that there were positions up for grabs. The responses were mostly positive again.
Affy copped a lower leg injury early on but I decided I would play him through to half time. It didn’t seem too bad. Mid first half we aren’t really dominating but I will keep it going and change things up at half time. I figure they haven’t had much time playing this formation. On the 30 minute mark White sends a through ball to Freddy Tracey who plays it forward for the injured Affy Obafemi who smashes it past the keeper. His pace really created that goal. He left the defence standing. 1-0.
No change to that score at half time. We have had 55% to 45% possession but xG is against us 0.89 to 0.58. I blasted the team. Again most players were inspired by the feedback. We changed to 4-1-3-2 wide and substituted Affy for Steele. I am hoping that these few changes and the talk will get the team focused and dominating the second half.
On the 50 minute mark White sends a ball through to Steele who beats the GK but hits the post. From the goal kick we eventually White gets it forward down the right hand side where Hamilton’s speed gets him to the ball first and takes it to 15 metres out in the corner. His cross finds McGrory chasing through and his first time strike finds the back of the net. 2-0. We are starting to dominate position as well as possession. I will be interested to see if this continues when the reserves come on.
At the 55 minute mark Hughes sends a through ball down the left to Fasanmade playing ML who takes it forward and crosses it in. McGrory is there again to beat the keeper with a first time shot. 3-0.
Just after the 60 minute mark McGrory copped a knock to his thigh so I decided to make the wholesale changes. I left Freddy Tracey out there to help with learning his new position but replaced the remainder. Still on the bench are Ryan Seager and Jordon Edwards.
A corner set piece at 73 minutes. Evans takes it and find Berry-Hargreaves who heads it beating the keeper on the near post. 4-0. This is the sort of victory I was after in this match.
The referee brings proceedings to a halt. We were too big, too strong and too fast for the opposition today. Our xG ended up 1.98 to 1.04. I told the lads I was happy with them and their efforts. This formation is looking like our best option at the moment but I still want the other tactical options in the kit bag.
The fallout from the game is that McGrory’s thigh injury will have him out for 4 to 5 weeks. That is a bit sad after the game he had today, but the good news is that we have plenty of cover at MC, where he played today.
Good news is that Cheshire has agreed to join us. Cheshire moves to DC and Hughes to Backup DC. Still looking for another left winger on loan.
5 September 2020 Pre-Season Game 6 – Away to Bishop’s Cleeve
I have tried to run with the Potential team here. We are playing the 4-2-2-2-0 wide formation. Out of the match day squad are McGrory, still injured, and Hughes and Steele who are getting pretty close to full Match Sharpness.
Not sure how long we run with this tactic before going back to Dragons Breathe. I have given Affy another run at AMC even though he has stated he doesn’t want to learn a new position.
There was almost no response from the pre-game talk. But there were no negative responses. At the 9 minute mark Berry-Hargreaves heads in from a free kick set piece. Offside. We are getting more than our fair share of disallowed goals. I am not sure what to do about that, but hoping it is a timing thing and we can improve on that as the season progresses.
At the next set piece, after 15 minutes, Evans curls the corner into the box and Fasanmade heads it into the back of the net. 1-0. Just after 30 minutes in and Hamilton has missed 2 easy chances and a long ball to Seager on the left, he plays the ball to the centre behind the defence and Affy is quick to the ball and smashes a shot at goal that hits the crossbar and goes over. Beautiful play, It deserved a goal. Despite the score, we are totally dominating so I won’t change the tactics yet.
It was still 1-0 at half time. I told the lads I wanted more in the second half. They were all fired up.
At 60 minutes we went to Dragons Breathe and replaced the full side bar Affy. There weren’t many chances in the last 30 minutes. The commentators said the win was richly deserved. We will need to be much better than this come the start of the season. We had 61% possession, and xG 1.51 to 0.04. We definitely should have scored more goals than that. And I told the lads that. They knew of course, but you have to tell them. No injuries, so that is a bonus and all the squad are getting close to full fitness.
12 September 2020 Pre-Season Game 7 – Away to Sholing
Our 4-1-3-2-0 wide tactic will be used today. Seager and Evans, along with the injured McGrory miss out on the match day squad of 23 for this game. Our 2 main strikers are still unhappy with learning new positions. Only a couple of the players are not holding match fitness at this stage, Angell and Harding. I will assign them to U23s until match fit after this game to make sure they hold fitness.
I have set up training for the season. I have 4 rotational schedules. They all include Defensive Shape and Attacking Movement, we then rotate Match Tactics, Quickness, Teamwork and Corners and Free Kicks.
Pre-match talk was we should be winner this match easily. There were positive responses again.
Our new recruit cops a yellow card after 6 minutes. I tell both DCs to ease off tackles. At the 20 minute mark we are dominating possession and shots. Obalemi gets the ball in the middle of the park and lobs the ball behind the defence, Willox is the quickest to the ball and shoots to the bottom left of the goal to score. 1-0 to the good guys.
After 41 minutes the ball is sent from our back right corner to the right side on half way. Affy picks up the ball and outsprints the defence to 20 metres out and shoots just wide to the left.
Half time we hold a 1-0 lead. I blast the team again. A good response. Go out and finish this off lads.
From a throw in 30 metres out from their goal on the left, the ball goes to Edwards who plays a through ball down the middle. Affy uses his pace to get to the ball first and takes it to the 18 metre line before shooting past the keeper to the left. Goal, 2-0, just 2 minutes into the second half. Affy Obalemi’s size and pace are dominating today. I am sure if this form continues he will come to love the new position.
A minute later and the same move but the GK saves this time. And one more minute later Affy steals the ball just in their half and runs to the 18 yard mark and smashes it past the keeper off the left hand post and into the net. 3-0. At 50 minutes, a long through ball from deep inside our half, Affy gets to the ball again and beats the keeper, but this one hits the right post and goes behind for a goal kick.
At 60 minutes in Cairney sends a goal kick over half way to Harding who puts a through ball to Affy. Affy’s shot is saved. I take the opportunity to replace the whole team. I am going to persist with the formation and not swap today. Shortly after Hamilton sends a through ball to Fischer who scores. 4-0.
There were many more chances without converting after that including a very close offside against Freddy after he found the net. Finally, Wanjau-Smith crosses from the left and Steele buries the ball in the back of the net to finish off the scoring.
A very good 5 nil win. I had started to think before today’s game that we might be going to struggle in away games after our last match. But this result puts that thought to bed.
Told the lads I was impressed and singled out Affy for praise. The talk went well again. Moral is pretty high now, with perhaps the exception of McGrory and Berry-Hargreaves who are still annoyed with Mike Jones’ treatment. Give them time, they will come around as they get used to winning and staying in the League competitions.
Lead up to the season
The groundsman asked for our pitch dimensions for the season and I went for maximum given our pace. This should create more opportunities for us to run onto.
Our first real game will be the FA Cup Second Qualifier on 3 October. The Board want us to make it to at least the Third Qualifier, so we will need a win there. We don’t know our opponent yet though. Hoping it will be an easy game as we follow up with an away game to Slough on Tuesday 6 October and then a home game against Dorking on 10 October.
I have spent a bit of time thinking about who will be our Captain and Vice Captain. The current Captain is Rusby who is the most influential player in the squad. Best leader is listed as Fischer. I am thinking Ryan Seager as he is influential and has the best teamwork score, and is Fairly Ambitious. I might go for Fischer as Vice.
Also, I have offered all the old guys I dropped to other clubs. I am sure this will be disruptive again but keen to see if we get a bite and can offload 1 or 2 of them before the season starts. I know dropping Rusby from Captain will be disruptive so may as well take all the pain in one shot.
The U23s have been beaten in their 2 trials both 3-1. And none of the dropped players got a run, I think because they are all too old for the 23s.
16 September 2020 Pre-Season Game 8 – Away to Brimscombe and Thrupp
We are going with our 2 DM tactic for this match and pretty much a wholesale change. I have left Affy, Rusby and the injured McGrory out of the match day 23. McGrory is out for another week or so meaning he might just make the last warm up game prior to the season kick off. Fingers crossed.
Interestingly Fischer has been picked as Captain for this match. No much response to the team talk. But they should be winning this game pretty easily.
A throw in from Angell during the 13th minute, finds Wanjau-Smith on the right for some reason. He crosses straight across the face of the goal to an unmarked Harding on the far left who beats the keeper with a header just inside the left post. Goal, 1 nil.
Evans passes the ball in behind and finds the flying Hamilton who hits a terrible shot over the posts.
Half time and no change to the score. We lead possession 58% to 42%, and xG 0.78 to nil. We also have 10 shots to nil.
52 minutes in and Whittingham plays a one two with Wanjau-Smith down the left hand side well inside the opposition half and then smashes a ball past the GK from 20 metres out. Great goal. And then 5 minutes later a beautiful cross from a free kick into the box and we have ourselves a penalty. Deservingly Evans gets to shoot. He lines up and he hits the target to the right. Well taken. 3 nil. Another free kick from the identical spot, this time the ball comes back out to Evans who has a shot from just outside the box on the left. Well saved by the keeper.
It’s time for our reserves to come on at 62 minutes. A pretty uneventful last 30 minutes. Possession finished 59% to us. They had just the one shot on goal to our 19 with xG ending up 2.42 to 0.14 to us. Dominant win but would have liked more goals from the lads. No injuries or cards though so that is promising. Everyone was happy with the match and talk afterwards.
I get back to the club to find out we have an offer of 1.1k for Mike Jones from Slough. I quickly accept. And Mike says it’s his preferred destination. This looks promising. Most of the social media is positive about Jones going. Win win.
Unfortunately no other offers for the remaining 4 players. I am tempted to offer Rusby out to other clubs as well.
And wouldn’t you know it, Jones rejected the offer from Slough, mustn’t have been enough. Damn.
19 September 2020 Pre-Season Game 9 – Home to Poole
For this game we left Rusby, Harding and the injured McGrory out of the match day squad of 23. I decided to start with the team that is close to what I think the Best XI is. At the team talk I said there were spots up for grabs, and show me why you should be in the team. The team was overwhelmingly motivated.
Two minutes in and Whittingham makes a break down the left and crosses the ball into the centre. Poole head the ball to about 25 metres out right in front. Evans passes to Obafemi on the edge of the box who passes to the left across to an unmarked Seager who smashes to the left hand corner of the net. The GK had no chance. It all happened too quickly. 1 nil to the home team.
On 16 minutes White in the middle of the park inside our half plays a ball forward. Jordan Edwards uses his pace to get to the ball and bangs one past the keeper from the edge of the box. Just two minutes later White continues pulling the strings. A one two with Affy and then a through ball to Seager who chips the keeper from 20 metres out. Three nil to the good guys.
White again on 28 minutes puts Hamilton in space but his strike is an easy save for the GK. Should have been a goal. That was a bad miss. But 2 minutes later Cheshire with a ball forward, headed on by Seager directly into the path of Affy Obafemi who makes no mistake with the finish. This is an impressive display from the lads . 4-0.
On 34 minutes, White sends another through ball to the feet of Seager just in Poole’s half at the top of the circle. He outruns the defence and chips the keeper again. That’s his hat trick. Poole might not come out in the second half at this rate. Only 6 minutes later and Hodgson sends a through ball from the right to Affy who runs it into the box and is taken down. A yellow card and a penalty. Seager steps up and sneaks it inside the right upright easily beating the keeper. The would be 6-0.
After a disallowed goal to Poole for offside, Hodgson clears from our defensive right hand corner to Affy on half way. He turns on the afterburners and drops the defenders. From the right hand corner of the 18 yard box he sends a blistering strike to the far left of the net. Sensational. I don’t think Poole have played that badly but they are down by seven now.
That is pretty much the last play of the half. And what a half. We have had more shots than that in other games but the Shadow Strikers are starting to look more lethal, This is what we were hoping for by playing some easier teams in the lead up to the season. We have had 55% possession, xg is 2.29 to 0.10, and 13 shots to 1. But 10 shots on target. I am very happy with the team and tell them to keep it going. All the players are inspired.
There were 3 or 4 easy misses in the second half so swapped the full team out at 64 minutes. The performance was reasonable in the second half but not in the same league as the first half. We finish with a 7-0 victory which is nothing to be sneezed at. Possession ended up 52% to us, xG was 3.31 to 0.39 and 20 shots to 3. We had no injuries but copped two yellow cards this time, Edwards and K-Ci Allen.
Well done lads.
FA Cup Second Qualification Round Draw
We have drawn Walton Casuals away.
26 September 2020 Pre-Season Game 10 – Away to Staines
Well I decided to offer Rusby to clubs. No responses. I have left him out of the Match squad of 23 along with Affy and Hamilton who are both fully fit. I have also made Rusby available for the U23 side. Let’s see how that impacts moral.
There was little impact from the team talk. Pretty much the same side that played started last game. But playing 4-1-3-2-0 wide. We had a disallowed goal for off side in the first minute. 6 minutes late our goal keeper kicks out, Harding heads onto Seager who blasts at goal but its saved. Seager pounces on the loose ball and puts it away.
A couple of decent missed opportunities between the 15th and 19th minute, but then Mcgrory takes the ball down the right touch line and send it forward. Edwards knocks it forward to Seager who takes it towards the GK and puts it away for a goal.
At 31 minutes in, the ball gets cleared by the Staines defence to half way where Berry-Hargreaves heads it back to White who turns it to Seager at the top of the square. Seager plays it across to an a charging McGrory on the right who smashes to the nearside of the net beating the GK. Goal. 3-0.
ON 38 minutes the ball is scrambled away around half way by Harding and falls to McGrory. He pushes it forward to Seager who gathers it between two defenders in the middle of the 18 yard area and strikes it just inside the right hand post. Goal.
We go to half time leading 4-0. 59% possession, 14 shots 10 on target and xG 2.39 to 0.28. Well done lads, keep it up.
Decided to do the swaparoo at 60 minutes with nothing much happening. A pretty even 15 minutes to be fair. At 62 minutes Tyler makes a break down the left and crosses all the way over to Willox who shoots but saved by the keeper, Willox gets to the loose ball first and misses an open goal. Tragic. One minute later Evans fires in a free kick from 30m just right of goal and Fischer gets onto it and buries it into the net on the far side.
On 65 minutes Willox misses an open goal again shooting very wide to the left. Only 2 minutes later Byrne intercepts knocking the ball to Freddy who plays it back to Fischer. Fischer sends a through ball to Steele who beats the defence and puts it into the right hand corner of the net. 6-0.
77th minute our goal keeper kicks out and Steele gets onto it and scores. Tyler knocks the ball down to Freddy and from 25 metres out he puts it away. 8-0.
Well that’s it for our trials. A good lead up to the season I think. And plenty of competition for spots.
Well the decision came and after much deliberation I went with Fischer as Captain and Berry-Hargreaves as Vice Captain. I think it is a good balance with our set sides. I warned Rusby before making the decision and he seemed fine with it.
3 October 2020 - FA Cup 2nd Qualifying Round, Away to Walton
The media make a deal of my competition debut. For me it is business as usual.
I went with the Second Xi for this game. The Team Talk went well. We had 2 shots in the first two minutes and looked all over them. After 15 minutes we had 7 shots and 3 on target and they hadn’t opened their account. And the domination continued without any result. That is until the last minute of injury time.
Byrne on half way down the left hand side plays it forward to Tyler who runs it to the edge of the 18 yard box and centres it to Steele. Steele in traffic with a flick pass to Willox on the right edge who beats the keeper with a shot just inside the right post. Goal. Hungerford 1 nil.
I blast the team at half time, which motivates them.
This seems to have worked. Just 4 minutes into the second half and Evans from the midfield lobs the ball forward to the right where Steele heads to the middle to the Captain Fischer. He takes it forward 20 metres and fires it to the left hand side and into the net. Goal and 2-0.
No wholesale changes for us tonight as we are in a real comp. Evans copped a yellow card half way through the first half and at 65 minutes we have a groin injury to Chekaine Steele. I throw Harding into the fray. And it doesn’t take long before he is in the action. At 73 minutes Fischer intercepts a ball and passes to Harding just inside our half, who sends a beautiful ball through to McGrory who easily beats the GK to score. 3-0.
We have quite a few missed opportunities and then Walton score a goal in injury time from a counter break. A bit disappointing but these things happen I guess. Willox also copped a yellow late. Final score is 3-1.
Possession was 57% to us and xG was 2.90 to 0.56. A decisive and dominant win but not really reflected on the scoreboard. Steele’s groin strain isn’t great, he will miss 4 weeks, so McGrory will be our replacement, being a nack up across just about all midfield positions.
We meet the Board’s expectations for the Cup and now move to League football, which is what we have been building to. Out top team will go out there on day 1 of League football. Bring it on.
FA Cup Third Qualification Round Draw
We have drawn away to another Non- League team in Bury Town. I will probably run the Second XI in that game again. Wouldn’t be the end of the world if we were knocked out, but the money is good for FA Cup wins.
For some reason the Board reiterated their expectations of me after this draw saying we needed to avoid relegation in the League, reach the Third Qualifying Round of the FA Cup (achieved) and reach the First Round of the FA Trophy.
6 October 2020 – Vanarama National League South, Away to Slough
Here we go, the start of the season proper. After 10 pre-season games, it seems like an eternity. There is so much on the line today. Have I made a mistake overspending the wage budget? Was the strategy of going with a heap of pace right? Are we going to be able to stay up in League football? So many questions will start to be answered this afternoon.
I have picked the Best XI of Elsworth GK, Hodgson DR, Berry Hargreaves DCR (Captain), Cheshire DCL, Whittingham DL, White DM, Hamilton MR, Edwards MC, Wanjau-Smith ML, Obafemi AMCR, Seager AMCL, with reserves Cairney, Angell, Rusby, Fasanmade, Tracey. Our best tactic of 4-1-3-2-0 wide.
The scouting says that Slough aren’t great in the air or at heading. Our squad has more than its share of tall players. I hope this helps us. I told the lads to go out there and impress me and that I have faith in their ability. Most of the squad is motivated and inspired. They are all fit and match sharp.
Not too much happening in the first 25 minutes of this match, we just lead the possession count with 51% of the ball, 3 shots to 2 with ours being the only shot on target.
In the 30th minutes Whittingham from our left hand defence sends the pall to Edwards who runs the ball through the centre, holds it up and passes in from of the storming Seager who is unmarked. He takes the ball forward and then smashes it past the keeper on the left. Goal.1 nil.
Edwards went down after the pass to Seager and hasn’t gotten back off the ground. He is injured and has to come off. This is not good news for the team. I will wait to see what my assistant says about his injury and whether he can play on.
A great save just 2 minutes later with a beautifully time strike from Slough. We get the ball down field from the restart and Seager blasts a shot at goal. Good save from their GK. Edwards condition has improved a fair bit so I will leave him out there and play it by ear.
The Assistant Manager tells me the Edwards has a tight hammy but we should be able to nurse him through. I will think about replacing him at half time. Meanwhile Seager is through on goal again and tries to chip the keeper but he just manages to reach the ball and stop it from going into the net. That was a close chance. Hodgson picked up a yellow earlier, so I will tell him to ease off tackles.
At 40 minutes in and Wanjau-Smith plays it forward to Affy who easily beats the keeper on the near side to score. Hold on, the touch judge has his flag up. Offside. Damn.
We hold our 1-0 lead to half time. Slough have 4 players on yellow cards. We lead possession with 51%, clear cut chances 2-0, shots 7-5, on target 4-1 and xG 0.97 to 0.34. At the press conference the reporter said that Slough are another relegation candidate so we really need to win this game. I tell the lads I am not happy with their performance and they are all motivated. I decide to bring Rusby on for Edwards and put him at DM with White up to MC.
We pour the pressure on in the early part of the second half but just can’t convert. We have had 3 more shots on target and an open header just geso over at 60 minutes. And Slough have a 5th yellow. Come on lads finish them off.
They finally get a shot on goal at 70 minutes but another great save. At 85 minutes we have a corner. Hamilton takes it and finds Cheshire who nods it in across the face of goal just inside the left post. I think we can relax now 2-0. Whittingham has a yellow so I get him to ease off tackles.
On 88 minutes and Wanjau-Smith plays a ball behind the defence. Affy runs onto it and smashes at goal. Great save. A minute later and White plays the balls down the ring wing to Hamilton who beats the defence and plays it just past the left post.
A further minute later and Hamilton is taken down in the box. Penalty. Affy steps up and buries into the left hand side of the net. The keeper had no chance there. 3-0. This score is more like what we were after.
Another minute later and Seager takes the ball down the left wing, centres the ball to Rusby who plays it forward for Wanjau-Smith. He passes across to the unmarked Hamilton who puts it away from 5 metres out. 4-0. That was a very good win.
Possession remained at 51%, with xG 3.60 to 0.59 and shots on target 11 to 1. I tell the lads I am pleased and give Cheshire a special mention for man of the match. And good news, Edwards is only out for 2-3 days. Turns out the media prediction for Slough was 6th, so that was even more impressive. We are currently second, behind Ebbsfleet who also had a 4-0 win away. Our next game is home to Dorking who also won their first game and are predicted to finish 4th.
10 October 2020 – Vanarama National League South, Home to Dorking Wanderers
The scouting suggests that one of Dorking’s weaknesses is pace. I am going to go with the fast team. Elsworth GK, Hodgson DR, Allen DCR, Hughes DCL, Whittingham DL, Tyler DM, Hamilton MR, Willox MC (Captain), Wanjau-Smith ML, Obafemi AMCR, Tracey AMCL, with reserves Cairney, Angell, Evans, Fasanmade, McGrory. Our best tactic of 4-1-3-2-0 wide.
I tell the lads that we are longshots so let’s see if we can get an upset. Goes down well again. Just on 7 minutes in and Hodgson has the ball down the right wing and gets just over half way before centering the ball to Willox, who plays it forward to Affy who runs around a defender and into the box and blasts it past the keeper from 10 metres out. We have an early lead.
Just 2 minutes later and Whittingham dispossess a Dorking forward in the left side of our box and passes down the left wing to Wanjau-Smith. He plays it forward to the middle of the park to Obafemi. Affy runs it down the left wing to just inside the penalty area 5 metres out and centres the ball across the goal mouth past the marked Willox to an unmarked Hamilton who hits the ball first time at goal, but saved. Hamilton gathers the deflected ball and passes in to Willox whose shot is blocked but it falls to Tracey on the left of the goal mouth. Freddy puts it into the open goal. 2-0.
At 25 minutes Dorking take the ball into our box but the ball is dispossessed and falls to Hamilton, 20 metres out from our goal on the right. He runs straight through the defence over half way and takes the ball down to 10 metres out before placing wide of the GK just inside the left post for a goal. Sensational. 3-0. Meanwhile they have had 3 yellow cards already.
On 39 minutes Wanjau-Smith makes a tackle on the left wing inside Dorking territory and passes forward and into the middle where Affy takes it. He plays a through ball to Freddy who beats the defence and cracks it past the GK. 4-0. The boys are on fire today. That was very close to offside but just ok. And that’s the score going into half time. Wanjau-Smith picks up a yellow just before the break.
I tell the lads I am very pleased with them and to keep it up. I also tell Wanjau-Smith to ease off tackles.
The second half was a fair bit tougher. We copped 4 yellow cards, they copped a red card but scored the only goal of the half on 76 minutes. Still, it was a good enough performance to beat one of the favoured teams. Final score 4-1.
Possession was 54% to us, xG was 2.06 to 0.33, clear cut chance 3-0, shots 12 to 5 and on target 8 to 2. A good win sees us on top of the table on goal difference, with only 2 sides having won both games. This has been a good start to the League season so I might try and buy the young Left Winger again.
Yellow cards went to Hughes, Whittingham, Hamilton and Wanjau-Smith. There were 6 key passes to Hamilton and 4 to Affy. Just 2 days to our next game against Bury Town away. I will rest most of the team from today. They will mostly line up again against Bath away in a week from now. Bath were predicted to finish 8th. The game after that is home to Dulwich Hamlet who are the other equal leaders currently.
Four of our players made the team of the Week – Anthony Cheshire, Louis Hamilton, Freddy Tracey and Affy Obafemi. There were only 2 players from Dulwich Hamlet, their GK and Striker.
13 October 2020 - FA Cup 3rd Qualifying Round, Away to Bury Town
No real intel on Bury. I just decided to play our Second XI with a couple of minor adjustments to remove heavy workload from players. Today’s line up is Cairney GK, Angell DR, Allen DCR, Rusby DCL, Byrne DL, Evans DM, Willox MR, Fischer MC (Captain), Fasanmade ML, McGrory AMCR, Harding STC, with reserves Elsworth, Hughes, White, Tyler, Seager. I have modified our tactic that has Strikers to Waves AF which is the new top rated tactic with a Striker in FM Arena with a rating of 7.0. I changed the DM to RPM Support to align with Dragons Breathe.
In the team talk I tell the lads I have faith in them and expect nothing but a victory today. All of the team is motivated. A slight risk running with a tactic we haven’t trained or played before, but this is the right time to test it. Let’s see how it goes.
At 5 minutes in and they already have one yellow card. We take it down the right wing and Willox brings it into the area and blasts at the goal. Fabulous save by their GK. Should have been a goal. Just 2 minutes later and Angell takes the ball down the right wing and into the area only to be knocked over. Penalty. Evans steps up, and knocks it is to the left. GK goes right. Goal. 1-0.
On 19 minutes and K-Ci Allen gets a yellow. I tell him to quieten down. Eight minutes later and Allen intercepts in our box and sends the ball forward to Harding in the middle. He avoids a tackle and runs it well into the opposition half and then passes to McGrory in space. He shoots but it clips the far post and goes behind for a goal kick. A good chance goes begging there.
At 27 minutes Fasanmade cops a yellow. I tell him to ease off. Four minutes later Rusby gathers the ball in the middle and sends it forward to Evans who puts it behind the defence to Harding. With defenders all around him Harding shoots and a great save by the GK. Corner to Hungerford. The cross goes to Rusby who heads over. We get to half time with no change to the score. Hungerford 1-0. Bury have had 3 yellows to 2. Bury lead possession 52% to 48%. We lead xg 1.63 to 0.24, 7 shots to 1 and on target 4-0. It should be a bigger lead than this. I am not happy and I tell them, they are all motivated.
After 59 minutes Evans gets the ball in a tackle 30 metres out from goal in the middle of the pitch and plays it to Harding on the edge of the box. He holds it up and plays a through ball to the right for McGrory who loses it but it falls to the middle to Harding who blasts it to the right to score. 2-0.
After 66 minutes it looks like Willox and Allen have had enough. I send out Tyler and Hughes to replace them.
The ref blows full time. Hungerford 2-0. Stats didn’t change substantially in the second half. I was happy to give the new tactics a work out. We are through to the next round.
We ended up with 4 yellows with Rusby on 86 minutes and Evans deep into injury time. And that means Evans has reached the yellow card limit and will miss a game. But no injuries.
FA Cup Fourth Qualification Round Draw
We will be at home to Yeovil Town a Vanarama National team They are currently 7th in the League so a very tough assignment. We should draw a bumper crowd though so hopefully it boosts our coffers a bit. And do remember we beat a side from that league in the pre-season, Aldershot Town who are 6th in Vanarama National League at present.
Our finances have dwindled away a fair bit, we are down to just 10k. We look like we have a massive loan that is being repaid. I am not sure how we are going to go for the full year. This seems a bit scary. Might need to push the team in the FA Cup to try and get some more funds in.
17 October 2020 – Vanarama National League South, Away to Bath
The scouting suggests that one of Bath’s weaknesses is pace. I am going to go with the Best XI team which has plenty of pace. The match day squad is Elsworth GK, Hodgson DR, Berry-Hargreaves DCR (Captain), Cheshire DCL, Whittingham DL, White DM, Hamilton MR, Edwards MC, Wanjau-Smith ML, Obafemi AMCR, Seager AMCL, with reserves Cairney, Angell, Rusby, Fasanmade, Tracey. Our best tactic of 4-1-3-2-0 wide.
I tell the team that we are underdogs but I have faith in them. Moral is high after that.
In the first 15 minutes we get one shot in each pretty tight game with neither side giving much in the way of opportunities. We get a corner after 16 minutes. Hamilton crosses it in, and Cheshire gets up on the short side and heads it across goal and just inside the right hand post. 1-0 to Hungerford.
Just 4 minutes later and Wanjau-Smith gets the ball down the left wing and centres the ball to Seager who makes a meal of it and ends up losing possession. Chance goes begging.
No further scores before half time. We have copped two yellows late in the half to Berry-Hargreaves and White. And Berry-Hargreaves has picked up a leg injury. I decide to replace him as its not worth the risk to a key player. Rusby comes on.
We have dominated possession 57% to 43% and the other stats are pretty even xG to us 0.48 to 0.44 and the shots are even with on target 3-2 to them.
I tell the lads I am not happy with their performance in the first half and expect a better performance in the second half. It motivates the majority of them.
The second half is both sides exchanging the occasional blow but pretty quiet. On 66 minutes a through ball from White to Seager who is one on one with the gaol keeper but hits it straight at him. Just 3 minutes later and a left hand corner for us. Hamilton floats it in and Rusby outjumps the opposition but it goes over. The GK is nowhere to be seen Unlucky.
A further 2 minutes later and Hamilton gathers up a loose ball on the right wing, runs it forward to Affy who only has the keeper to beat. Great save. We just can’t finish this game off at the moment.
Wanjau-Smith has had enough after 85 minutes so I send on Fasanmade to play ML. And 5 minutes later we seal it. One of their defenders plays around at the back, and Seager takes the ball off him. He passes to the unmarked Affy who this time places the ball nicely just inside the far post. Goal. 2-0. Game, set and match.
Hold on, 2 minutes later and from a free kick Bath send the ball into the box and their player gets there first – goal. 2-1. But that’s the game. Time called by the ref. I feel like we should have won by more, but it wouldn’t have given us any more competition points.
We won possession with 53%, xG 1.36 to 1.33 and 11 shots each. A good win for us and I tell the lads – they are all motivated and inspired. We hold top spot on goal difference with Dulwich winning again too. Berry-Hargreaves is only out for 1 to 2 days. Good news
24 October 2020 - FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round, Away to Yeovil Town
The scouting highlights that Yeovil isn’t a very fast team, a large proportion of their goals conceded come from through balls and most goals against have come from down the right hand side of the pitch. So I think we will pick our Fast team, Dragons Breathe that uses through balls and start by focussing attacks down the right, which is Hamilton, our fastest player. I think this will give us our best opportunity. Selecting this team leaves us a bit open in 3 days time when we are up against the joint leaders of the comp. I am willing to take the risk to try and win some money by going through in the FA Cup.
The match day squad is Elsworth GK, Hodgson DR, Allen DCR, Hughes DCL, Whittingham DL, White DM, Hamilton MR, Willox MC (Captain), Wanjau-Smith ML, Obafemi AMCR, McGrory AMCL, with reserves Cairney, Angell, Rusby, Fasanmade, Tracey. Steele didn’t quite recover enough to play this one.
I told them in the shed to keep our run going and that I have faith in them. Oh dear, 2 minutes in and they are all over us. This doesn’t look good. A through ball and they score. We almost hit back with Affy missing from point blank when the ball ricocheted around in the box and fell to him. There weren’t many opportunities in the half after that. They looked like they shut down and were happy with the lead. In the 37th minute we had a great chance but it hit the crossbar.
On 43 minutes one of their forwards is through again and smashes a ball at goal that beats Elsworth but hits the post and comes back out to our keeper. Phew. We look outclassed. Half time and we are down a goal. 0-1. Not great for the 1400 of our fans who have turned up. Not so bad for their 200 fans. No cards. They lead possession with 58%, xG with 0.87 to 0.73, shots 7 to 5 on target 2 to 1 and clear cut chances 1-0. I tell the boys I am far from impressed. Lets see if they can improve and salvage something from this game.
We had two beautiful moves 5-7 minutes in swapping the ball across the wings. The first was Wanjau-Smith intercepted running it into their defensive region and sending a long pass to Hamilton who was unmarked but the goal keeper intercepted. The second Hamilton sent the ball across to Wanjau-Smith who took it forward and then centred to Willow who offloaded to Hamilton in space but a good saved stopped any thoughts of a goal.
Two yellow cards were then given, the first to them on 64 minutes and then one to Allen after 67 minutes. Just 2 minutes later and Wittingham takes the ball well inside our half and sends a massive through ball to McGrory. He just beats their GK to the ball on the 18 yard line and places the ball past the GK to the right. Game on. 1-1.
Two minutes later it is game off. A free kick set piece for Yeovil, passed to a player 25 metres out who blasts it into the net. Fabulous strike unfortunately. 1-2. And we are on top in the xG 1.87 to 0.91, we have had 11 shots to 8 and 5 on target to 3.
They picked up another 2 yellows. Then on 86 minutes Wittingham fires a cross across the face of goal 35 metres straight to Hamilton who is unmarked. He shoots, and hits the crossbar. The GK scoops up the loose ball. McGrory has one last chance just before time is called and puts it wide. We missed far too many chances in that game.
Full time. We are out of the FA Cup. Possession went to them 53% to 47%, xG went to us 2.35 to 1.01, as did shots 14 to 9, and on target 6 to 3, and clear cut chances 2 to 1. I told them that it was just one of those days. And I left it at that.
27 October 2020 – Vanarama National League South, Home to Dulwich Hamlet
I tried to rotate the squad a bit from the last game due to the quick turnaround. The scouting didn’t give me much help in preparation. I decided to go with the Size team for the match. The match day squad is Cairney GK, Hughes DR, Berry-Hargreaves DCR (Captain), Cheshire DCL, Byrne DL, Rusby DM, Steele MR, Edwards MC, Tyler ML, Obafemi AMCR, Tracey STC, with reserves Elsworth, White, Angell, McGrory, Fasanmade and using the 4-1-3-1-1 formation.
I told them we have been on a good run so let’s keep it going and that I have faith in them. It was well received. This game is against one of the fully professional sides in our League. There are e of them with the others being Ebbsfleet and Maidstone.
In the 24th minute Rusby runs the ball into Dulwich’s half in the middle of the pitch. He plays it back to Hughes about 30 metres out, who plays it forward to Freddy. He hold it up on the 18 metre line and then plays it forward to the right for the oncoming Steele who places it just inside the near side post easily beating the keeper. Was he onside? The flag stays down. One of the defenders had his back foot planted just leaving Steele onside. Very close. 1-0. I praise the boys.
Just 5 minutes later Rusby again with the ball in the midfield inside Dulwich’s half. He plays it forward to Affy on the right who centres it to Freddy. Freddy plays it back to Rusby 30 metres out. He picks out Affy’s run forward and puts his pass at Affy’s feet 20 metres out just to the right and he runs it to 10 metres before blasting it just inside the right post and beating the GK on his short side. That was a good goal. And well deserved. We are dominating possession.
Our defence has been solid in the air and strong physically. At 34 minutes in Hughes has the ball 30 metres out in the middle of the park and plays it forward and left to Byrne who plays a first time pass to the middle behind the defence. Edwards runs onto it and strikes it from 15 metres once again just inside the right post. 3-0 to Hungerford.
In the 43rd minute Cheshire cops a yellow card. He will need to ease off tackles now. Half time comes and we hold our 3-0 lead. We also lead possession with 54%, xG 1.29 to 0.37, and clear cut chances 3-0. I tell the lads that they have done well but not to let the opposition back into the game.
After 58 minutes Berry-Hargreaves picks up a yellow so I tell him to ease off. I also decide to replace Steele given he is just back from injury and not yet fully fit. On come McGrory. On 70 minutes and Price, their striker beats the defence and puts it away. He is judged to be offside. Just 3 minutes later McGrory from just outside the box plays it back and to the middle to Rusby. He plays it forward to Freddy who passes right to Affy. Affy holds it up just to the right on the 18 metre line and then plays it forward to the penalty spot for Freddy who beats the keeper placing it just inside the left post. 4-0.
On 85 minutes and McGrory from the right wing plays a long ball right across to Edwards who heads in. Offside. The ref blows full time. That was a win for us over the previous equal competition leader. We won possession with 54%, xG 2.29 to 0,70, shots 11 to 9, on target 6 to 5, clear cut chances 4 to 2. We only copped 2 yellows and no injuries. That was a good return to form for the side after our loss last game. I tell the lads that was a good win. The write up in Goal says we hammered them.
31 October 2020 – Vanarama National League South, Away to Oxford City
The scouting on Oxford says they are not strong and lack a bit in bravery. Ideally we would go again with our Biggest team. But just 5 days after playing them there are a few lads who need a break. I have made a few adjustments to ensure the players don’t burn out. The match day squad is Elsworth GK, Hodgson DR, Berry-Hargreaves DCR (Captain), Cheshire DCL, Byrne DL, White DM, Steele MR, Edwards MC, Tyler ML, Seager AMCR, Obafemi STC, with reserves Cairney, Evans, Angell, McGrory, Fasanmade and using the 4-1-3-1-1 formation.
It was the standard team talk and all seemed motivated. At 14 minutes in and they scramble the ball away from their box and fling the ball forward where Cheshire hacks one of their forwards. Yellow card. I tell him to ease off. We have dominated in every department but they get us on the counter lobbing the ball behind our defence and their forward with a nice finish on 26 minutes. A minute later and we do the same but their goal keeper saves.
They go into half time with a lead 0-1. We are leading most stats including 57% possession, xG 0.59 to 0.24, shots 6-2, on target 2 all, corners 5-4. And Affy picked up a late yellow. I blast them and they knew it was coming. We change to the 4-1-3-2-0. We keep giving away the ball deep in their half. Very frustrating.
A bad miss from Edwards on 60 minutes. He hits it straight to the keeper who was on his line. He had plenty of net to shoot for. Just 2 minutes later Steele dispossesses an Oxford player and runs it down the ring wing. That is the second time he has done that the last one led to Edwards miss. Anyhow, I digress. Steele takes it to the edge of the area and fires a cross in to Seager who is on the penalty spot in the box. He smashes it first time inside the right post for an equaliser.
A couple more chances go begging and they shoot wide for a miss. On 71 minutes I substitute Steele again to ease him back into full time play, Edwards gets a yellow card and I also substitute Berry-Hargreaves who is showing signs of fatigue. On comes McGrory for Steele and Evans for Berry-Hargreaves. I move White to DCR and Evans to DM.
Steele’s last play is a forward ball to Affy who has a crack from 25 metres out. A superb save. That deserved a goal.
Into injury time, Whittingham passes down the left wing to Tyler. Tyler inside to Evans who is 25 metres out, he passes to Affy at the top of the box who straight away plays a through ball for Edwards in the middle just inside the box. He moves right and places it just inside the right post. The quick move to his left made the goal for Edwards. Much better than his last attempt. We definitely deserve to win this but this is awfully late. Great fight back by the lads. The ref blows full time.
We will take that late win. We won possession with 54%, xG 2.10 to 0.63, shots 16 to 8, on target 8-2 and clear cut chances 1-0. We hold onto top spot as well. That was tough to watch. I tell the lads that was a superb effort and great comeback. That makes it 5 straight league games. We are already looking good to avoid relegation. I know, don’t speak too soon. But I am feeling confident after those last 2 wins.
Our next game is home to Eastbourne Borough who won 5-0 today, Followed by last placed Hampton and Richmond Borough away.
1 November 2020
We have a pretty full schedule in November with 3 weeks where we have 2 games. Finance is sitting at 16k. It is still a bit of a worry. Affy Obafemi wins player of the Month with 4 goals and 4 assists from 5 games. And I win Manager of the month. The Chairman goes to the media with his support for me, praising me winning Manager of the month and says he is proud of my work of late and that it augured well for long term future success. It doesn’t sound like he is too worried about the finances.
The Board has given me an A+ and said I am doing an unbelievable job and that I am clearly the right manager for the job. Tick. They are delighted with how we are going in the league but say I am struggling to work within budget. But the budget management didn’t make it to the Criticism list. The only thing there was Tyler’s recent performances. He arrived before I started so not sure they can hold his form against me. They have also reduced the percentage of transfer revenue available down to zero.
Cairney, Byrne and Tracey were all named in the VNS team of the week.
I have had a try at selling the excess players to other clubs with no offers. I then asked each of them to start looking and all are now upset. I set them all for release. I also downgraded Tyler from Star Player and he is now upset. A little bit of grief in the change room. Tyler is the only one in our main squad that isn’t happy.
7 November 2020 – Vanarama National League South, Home to Eastbourne Borough
The scouting suggested they were a bit on the slow side so we are going with our Fast team. The match day squad is Elsworth GK, Hodgson DR, Allen DCR, Hughes DCL, Whittingham DL, Evans DM, Hamilton MR, Willox MC (Captain), Wanjau-Smith ML, Obafemi AMCR, Steele AMCL, with reserves Cairney, Rusby, Angell, Fasanmade, Harding and using the 4-1-3-2-0 formation.
Our standard team talk was well received. We cop a yellow card to Willox after just 4 minutes, and they get one pretty soon after. After 11 minutes we are on the attack and it gets cleared by the Boro out to Whittingham at left back in our half. He centres it forward to Willox in their half who immediately plays it across to the right wing to Hamilton who is around 35 metres out. He runs it into the box and is quickly past their left back and strikes it past the keeper from 7 metres to the back left corner of the net. Great goal. Hamilton is too fast for them. 1-0.
At 20 minutes we get the ball into the box and Hamilton crosses to the middle where Affy buries the ball into the net. Flag goes up. He is offside. Three minutes later Hodgson plays it out of our defence to Affy in the middle of the park who heads it on to Steele. Steele uses his pace to clear the defender and runs 20 metres to 10 metres out and taps the ball to the right and runs round the keeper to tap the ball into the net. 2-0.
They pick up another yellow after 25 minutes. This is going well so far and I praise the team. After 34 minutes they get through but the defender stays with their forward and Elsworth saves the shot. Just 3 minutes later and Boro clear the ball out of their defence to around 35 metres on our right wing. Allen heads the clearance in field to Evans who plays a through ball to inside the box on the right. Hamilton comes from a mile back to get to the ball first and shoots on the run to the left top corner. 3-0. I give the whole team praise.
After 40 minutes, it sounds familiar, Allen plays the ball across to Hamilton 40 metres out on the right wing. Hamilton beats a defender and runs the ball into the box, and shoots for the left top corner. The GK knocks it down with a great save but Affy pounces on the ball and slams it into the open goal. 4-0.
About 2 minutes later Boro work the ball into the box and one of their forwards smashes the ball inside the near post but our GK knocks it behind. Great save. And another yellow card to Boro, making it 3 for the half.
We keep our lead of 4-0 into half time. I am not sure we deserve to be that far in front but I am happy with it. Possession has been shared, we lead xG 0.93 to 0.69, clear cut chances are 2-1, shots 5 all, and we lead on targets 5 to 3. I tell the lads that was very good and to keep it going. Atmosphere in the change room is very good as per usual.
In the first minute of the second half a long cross beats out defence and one of their strikers is there to put it away. 4-1. We cop 2 yellow cards to Whittingham and Hodgson. Whilst I am thinking about whether or not to replace Steele again Whittingham cops another card. He is off with a red card after 67 minutes. I move to 4-1-3-1-1. Evans goes back to right back. Hodgson comes off for Angell who goes to left back. Affy takes the STC role and Harding comes on for Steele at AMCR.
The subs go on. Boro take a throw in our back left corner. The ball is cleared to Willox who plays a first time ball forward that Affy wins and runs 30 metres before smashing past the keeper into the right hand side of the net. Goal. 5-1. Who needs 11 players. It was an Allen tackle in our box that got the ball to Willox. Well done all.
Affy misses with an open goal on 71 minutes and then they get it down the other end to score with a shot from 25 metres. 5-2. After 86 minutes Harding picks up a leg injury. I replace him with Fasanmade just to be careful.
And that’s the end of the game. A 5-2 win to us. I tell the lads it was a good win, and tell Hamilton he was very good today. I also tell Whittingham I am disappointed he was sent off. He isn’t happy but I am sure he will reflect on that and be ok. He will have a week to think about it.
Possession went against us with us only having 47%. We won xG 2.12 to 1.64, on targets 8 to 6clear cut chances 5-2 and corner 5-4. I was disappointed with all the cards and the injury to Harding as he hasn’t had many opportunities. Thankfully he is only out for 2 or 3 days.
And the headline is the Crusaders smash Eastbourne Boro as run goes on. Love it.
9 November 2020 – FA Trophy Second Round Draw
We draw Folkestone Invicta away. They are a Non-League semi-professional side and their home ground holds 6500 spectators. Hopefully there is a good turnout for our game.
The Board expectations are that we make the first round so I don’t think we even need to win this, but we will be chasing a victory. I would like to get to play another VNL side in this competition to see how competitive we are. I thought we were a bit unlucky against Yeovil Town.
This week we have another 3 players making it into the VNS Team of the Week – K-Ci Allen, Louis Hamilton and Affy Obafemi.
10 November 2020 – Vanarama National League South, Away to Hampton & Richmond
We have so far been underdogs for all 6 of our League matches and we are again today. Not sure how that is when we lead the comp and they are last, but hey we will give it our best shot again. I didn’t pay much attention to the scouting this week. I decided to go with players that haven’t had many games so far and those that are 100% fit. We have a lot of games coming up thick and fast and need to manage fatigue during this period. If we drop a few points here and there but hold player fitness and moral high it will be a good result.
The match day squad is Cairney GK, Angell DR, Berry-Hargreaves DCR, Cheshire DCL, Byrne DL, White DM, McGrory MR, Fischer MC (Captain), Fasanmade ML, Tracey AMCR, Seager AMCL, with reserves Elsworth, Rusby, Edwards, Tyler, Steele and using the 4-1-3-2-0 formation.
The standard team talk which was received well again. They get an early shot at goal but miss. Cheshire picks up an early yellow card on 5 minutes. I really wish there was a way that you could make it automatic to tell them to easy off tackles if they get a card.
Mid way through the first half and it is pretty even. I decide to switch tactics and move to our 4-1-3-1-1. Freddy moves to STC and Seager across to AMCR. Let’s see how this goes.
On 36 minutes their striker gets behind our defence and scores. 1-0 down. And that’s the score at half time. We have clawed back their possession lead from 62% to 55% with the tactics change but given up the lead. They lead all key stats. I blast the lads for their performance.
Just 3 minutes into the second half and we give away a penalty from a free kick. They convert it and we are down by two. We also concede another yellow to Byrne. This is not a good game for us.
At 70 minutes in and we have another yellow this time to Seager. I replace Evans who has picked up a yellow. On 85 minutes they put another one in the net but thankfully this one is offside. And that’s it for today. A very poor performance. I think Freddy will be spending a bit of time in the U23s. I don’t think he is up to League football at present. They won all the key stats, possession 53%, xG 1.65 to 0.76, shots were 8 all, on targets 4 to 2, clear cut chances 3 nil. We had more corners 5-3.
I tell the lads it was poor and blast Byrne and Angell for their performances – both below 6.0 ratings. Another 4 yellow cards and Fischer injured with a tight thigh. He will only be out for 2 to 3 days though. We seem to be managing injury risks well so far touch wood. And we hold onto to top spot even after the loss. Hopefully the boys snap out of this defeat fast.
12 November 2020 – Match Day Squads
I have decided to split the team into 2 squads, Team A and Team B and try and split the talent between them so that we can compete evenly across weeks where there is more than one game. This leaves 4 reserves and then the GK not playing will be the 5th reserve.
Here are our squads and reserves:
Team A – Elsworth GK, Hodgson DR, Allen DCR, Cheshire DCL, Byrne DL, White DM, Hamilton MR, Fischer MC (Captain), Fasanmade ML, Seager AMCR, McGrory AMCL, with reserves Cairney, Rusby, Tyler, Tracey, Harding
Team B – Cairney GK, Angell DR, Berry-Hargreaves DCR (Captain), Hughes DCL, Whittingham DL, Evans DM, Willox MR, Edwards MC, Wanjau-Smith ML, Obafemi AMCR, Steele AMCL, with reserves Elsworth, Rusby, Tyler, Tracey, Harding
We will start off with Team B in the next game as they have the least amount of fatigue.
14 November 2020 – Vanarama National League South, Away to Maidstone
The match day squad is Team B running our 4-1-3-2-0 tactic. Once again we are underdogs. Normal team talk and all are inspired.
16 minutes in and the ball bobbles around in our box and they scramble it in. 1-0. Edwards picked up a yellow just before the goal. Just 5 minutes later and Affy gets onto a long ball and smash it at the goal. Great save.
In the last 5 minutes of the first half we cop 2 more yellows, Berry-Hargreaves and Willox.
Half time and they have 2 yellows as well. Possession is to us 53%, xG to them 1.15 to 0.76 and they also lead shots 7 to 4 and clear cut chances 2 to 1. On targets are even at 2 a piece. We swap to 4-1-3-1-1 for the second half and I send a rocket up them at the break.
Affy gets onto another long ball on 51 minutes and fires at the top left of goal. Another great save. Just 6 minutes later and Angell centres to Evans who fires a through ball in from the right wing into the path of Affy on the right edge of the square and he buries it the lower left corner. Goal. Wait, the assistant has his flag up. I thought he was onside. Damn.
After 61 minutes its Willox on the right wing passes inside to Evans who gets another ball forward to Affy. Affy centres the ball to the unmarked Edwards 10 metres out right in front and he puts it in the left corner. The GK had no chance there. We have ourselves a ball game here. 1-1.
At 74 minutes it is that man Evans again weaving his magic. He runs the ball down the middle well inside their territory passes inside to Edwards who puts it straight back to Whittingham. He plays it back to Evans 25 metres out who sees the run of Wanjau-Smith coming from the left towards the box and passes the ball to his feet. Wanjau-Smith takes the ball inside the box and blasts it to the bottom right hand corner to score. 2-1 to Hungerford.
Angell copped a yellow at 79 minutes. After 81 minutes they get the ball forward on a counter attack and their forward has a shot from 30 metres out. It was a rocket but Cairney turns it behind. I replace Berry-Hargreaves who is exhausted and on a yellow. Rusby come on. Just 2 minutes later and Whittingham takes a short throw in on the left wing at the half way mark to Edwards, who passes it back to Whittingham. He plays a through ball to Obafemi in the box who manages to get behind the defence to take it. Affy places it just inside the right post from the left 10 metres out. 3-1 to Hungerford. If I rightly recall, this is what we beat Maidstone by in the pre-season.
Just 3 minutes later and Affy gets behind the defence again but another great save from their keeper. He has had a great game. Tyler comes on for Edwards on the 90 minute mark with 4 minutes injury time to play. Affy has two more chance just before that.
The ref calls time. That was a very impressive second half from the team. We win possession with 54%, xG 2.47 to 2.24 and on targets 9 to 7. I tell the lads I am well pleased with that.
I get back from the game to hear that the Board has injected 85k into the club to help with running cost. That’s huge for us.
15 November 2020
Solomon Wanjau-Smith made the team of the week this week. The current League Table:
21pts 8 games 7 wins 0 draws 1 losses Hungerford
17pts 7 games 5 wins 2 draws 0 losses Ebbsfleet
16pts 8 games 5 wins 1 draws 2 losses Dulwich
14pts 7 games 4 wins 2 draws 1 losses Havant
13pts 6 games 4 wins 1 draws 1 losses Concord
12pts 8 games 3 wins 3 draws 2 losses Eastbourne
11pts 7 games 3 wins 2 draws 2 losses Oxford
17 November 2020 – Vanarama National League South, Home to Havant & Waterlooville
The match day squad for this game is Team A – Elsworth GK, Hodgson DR, Allen DCR, Cheshire DCL, Byrne DL, White DM, Hamilton MR, Fischer MC (Captain), Fasanmade ML, Seager AMCR, McGrory AMCL, with reserves Cairney, Rusby, Tyler, Tracey, Harding.
The scout really didn’t find any weaknesses. This is about the longest odds we have been in a League game so far even though we are at home. This could be a tough game.
At 19 minutes in and Byrne gets a clearance ball from Havant at left back and just inside their half. He plays a through ball for Fasanmade in the left corner, who gets behind the defence to take it and crosses the ball to the middle. The defender jumps to head it away and can’t get to the ball. It falls to an unmarked Seager on the 6 yard line directly in front and he places it in the right hand bottom corner for a goal. 1-0.
On 32 minutes and Fischer gets a yellow card. 2 minutes later McGrory makes a break down the left and plays it into an unmarked Fischer who puts the ball wide to the right. Not a good few minutes for the skipper. Another 3 minutes later and some poor defence allows their striker through on the ball to score. 1-1.
We go into half time equal despite totally dominating the game. We lead possession with 59%, xG 1.66 to 0.38, shots 9-2, on targets 4-1, corners 9-1 and passes completion rate 81% to 74%.
I tell the lads I am not happy with that performance. Ten minutes into the second half they go ahead when we lose possession and don’t mark up in defence. 1-2.
After 70 minutes Fasanmade has the ball on the left wing and cuts inside a defender and plays the ball inside to White. He turns and plays a ball down the middle that Seager gets to first and buries it in the left hand corner. 2-2. I bring on Harding for Fischer and move McGrory back to MC and Harding takes McGrory’s AMCL spot. McGrory cops a yellow after 72 minutes.
Only 6 minutes later and their left fullback tries to clear the ball from the left edge of the box to the right and it drops for Fasanmade in the middle of their half. He tries a through ball but it is knocked down by a defender and falls to McGrory who plays it through to Seager on the right in the box. He beats the keeper on the nearside for a goal. That is his hattrick.
At 87 minutes we move to our 4-2-2-2-0 wide tactic with McGrory as the second DM. And 4 minutes later with 3 minutes more injury time to go we bring on Rusby for White and Tyler for Fasanmade due to fatigue. That takes us to full time with no more incidents. Only 2 yellows today and no more injuries and a good fight back for a 3-2 win. It really shouldn’t have been the hard though.
Our domination continued in the second half. We won possession with 59%, xG was 2.69 to 0.81, shots 19-8, on targets 10-4, corners 15-5. I tell the lads they have done well and tell Ryan Seager that I am delighted with his game today, he rated 9.5.
21 November 2020 – Vanarama National League South, Home to Chippingham
I set the Director of football to chase a few of the players I haven’t been able to sign, some for the end of their contracts. Next minute we have Lee Cannon, the 174cm 61kg 18 Acc 16yo ML I was after, on our books for a fiver per week. He wouldn’t take under 200 when I was talking to him. I am very happy with that. Fasanmade now drops back to the bench.
We play Team B for this encounter with Harding to replace Affy to bring his fitness level up and Fasanmade now on the bench because Lee Canon is in the starting line up to replace him in Team A.
Team B – Cairney GK, Angell DR, Berry-Hargreaves DCR (Captain), Hughes DCL, Whittingham DL, Evans DM, Willox MR, Edwards MC, Wanjau-Smith ML, Harding AMCR, Steele AMCL, with reserves Elsworth, Rusby, Tyler, Obafemi, Fasanmade.
The team talk goes well and we start well. At 12 minutes Whittingham cops a yellow card but we are getting to the front on most of the stats. At 23 minutes Berry-Hargreaves incepts an attempted clearance by their right fullback and plays the ball forward to Harding who finds Willox with a first time pass. He immediately plays it forward into the middle of the box to a charging Edwards in space behind the defence. Edwards places it past the GK just inside the left post. Goal. 1-0.
We have a really good period between 35 and 40 minutes with two great saves from their keeper. One from Willox turned away and the other from Wanjau-Smith taken on the chest. The midfield made both chances. Half time and we lead most key stats, possession 60%, shots 6-2, on targets 4-0, xG 1.04 to 0.12, corners 8-1. I feel like we should be at least 2 up. I tell the lads I am disappointed and they respond well.
After 2 minutes and Edwards shoots over the crossbar after we worked the ball into the square. At 80 minutes and Willox plays it out to Angell who crosses into the 6 yard box where Harding nods it just over. It’s a pretty uneventful half so far.
At 86 minutes Evans takes a corner from the left and it comes back out to him. He plays a one two with Wanjau-Smith and then plays it in to Harding in the middle of the square who sets it back to Berry-Hargreaves just outside the square. He smashes it to the left hand side of the goal between players to score. I don’t think the keeper saw it. He moved way too late. 2-0.
We swap to 4-2-2-2-0 wide and bring on Tyler for the tiring Willox and Rusby for the fatigued Edwards.
Time is called by the ref. A good 2 nil win. I tell the lads they did well and tell Berry-Hargreaves he did very well out there. We dominate key stats again. We had 58% possession and won xG 1.41 to 0.13, shots 10 to 3, on targets 6-0, corners 12-1 and pleasingly completed 79% of our passes. All that really meant the opposition didn’t have a chance today. I can’t wait to see Cannon in the next game. We now have our biggest break for a couple of weeks.
28 November 2020 – Vanarama National League South, Away to Concord
The match day squad for this game is Team A – Elsworth GK, Hodgson DR, Allen DCR, Cheshire DCL, Byrne DL, White DM, Hamilton MR, Fischer MC (Captain), Cannon ML, Seager AMCR, McGrory AMCL, with reserves Cairney, Rusby, Tyler, Fasanmade, Harding. The young 16yo making his debut at ML. We are hoping he is up this standard. Time will tell.
The squad was happy after the team talk. After 3 minutes after an attacking throw in the ball comes back to Allen near half way. He plays a long through ball that is taken by Seager on the right who buries the ball into the far corner. The assistant’s flag is up. It is disallowed.
Cheshire cops a yellow card after 11 minutes. We are dominating all the key stats but just can’t make them count at present. Just 6 minutes later and Elsworth takes a goal kick and sends it up towards half way and McGrory fields it. He quickly plays a through ball to around the 25 metre mark and into the line of the charging Seager. He beats the defender to the ball and runs it to the 18 yard line and then strikes to the left to score. Hungerford take the lead.
Cannon has been playing alright but has been dispossessed a couple of times. His rating is average or just above. I think he will grow into the role and standard. At 33 minutes in and Elsworth with another long goal kick finds McGrory in the Concord half. He nods it back to Fischer on half way. He brings it forward and then plays a through ball into the box. Seager is there first again and blasts it immediately to the top left corner of the net. The keeper was stranded and didn’t have a chance. We double our lead. A beautifully timed run from Seager and he now has a brace.
And that is the last of the scoring before the break. We lead possession with 51%, xG 0.81 to 0.07, shots 8-1, on targets 3-0. Concord lead the corners 3-1. I tell the lads not to get complacent as things can change very quickly in football. Just 2 minutes into the second half and McGrory cops a yellow so I tell him to ease off tackles. After 62 minutes they get their first yellow and 2 minutes later we change to 4-1-3-1-1 with Seager to STC and McGrory across to AMCR.
After 73 minutes Fischer gets the ball coming out of our half and lobs the ball over the defence. Once again it is Seager that gets there first and he cuts inside a defender and buries the ball in the net. Offside.
Despite a few more good opportunities late, we can’t get a third goal. Full time is called. I tell the lads they have done well and thank Seager for his game. No injuries and just the 2 yellow cards. We win the possession with 51%, xG 1.21 to 0.11, shots 11 to 2, on targets 3-1. A solid win for the team and Cannon becomes the youngest ever player for Hungerford at 16 and 157 days.
1 December 2020
We have the monthly update, finances aren’t too bad, no injuries, Only one week with 2 matches and that is the first week where we have St Albans today and then the FA Trophy in 4 days. St Albans is the first time we will go in favorites in a League game this season.
I decide to apply for the Forest Green vacant job to test 2 things, firstly the Board’s faith in me and whether they try and increase my contract to keep me and also to see if I would be anywhere near in the running for such a role this early on.
Anthony Cheshire and Ryan Seager make it into the team of the week which is good. We keep getting players into this team. I am runner up in manager of the month this time after our loss.
The Board’s performance review of me gives me an A+. The loss to Hampton & Richmond is the main negative. And the Board go public with a statement saying they are hoping I stay. I guess that will have to be enough for the time being. I won’t look at other jobs until towards the end of the season to try and force them to up my salary.
1 December 2020 – Vanarama National League South, Away to St Albans
Match squad for today’s game is Team B – Cairney GK, Angell DR, Berry-Hargreaves DCR (Captain), Hughes DCL, Whittingham DL, Evans DM, Willox MR, Edwards MC, Wanjau-Smith ML, Obafemi AMCR, Steele AMCL, with reserves Elsworth, Rusby, Tyler, Fasanmade, Harding.
I tell them to keep our run going and that I have faith in them. St Albans cop two yellow cards in the first 8 minutes and then we get one to Affy after 9 minutes. There was another yellow card to St Albans after 17 minutes. A minute later and Evans gets the ball from Angell in the middle of their half and runs the ball to just outside the penalty area on the left. He passes to Wanjau-Smith in the area who takes two steps and then fires the ball at the top right corner hitting the crossbar. The ball bobs up in the air and falls to Willox just to the right of the goal. He places it just inside the left post for a goal. Hungerford take the lead.
At 25 minutes Willox fields a throw in runs the ball down the right wing before crossing towards goal. The ball makes it to the far side on the 6 yard line and is met by Steele who eases it just inside the left post. Goal. 2-0.
We cop 2 yellow cards in the dying few minutes of the first half to Willox and Angell. Just before half time their striker gets through on goal and blasts one at the left side but Cairney turns it behind. Great save. From the corner they head at goal and another great save to Cairney.
Half time and the stats are pretty even but we lead 2-0 thanks to some great saves by Cairney. I tell the lads not to get complacent.
At 53 minutes in and Whittingham plays it forward to Edwards who turns it back to Whittingham. He plays a long ball across the field to Willox who smashes it into the top left corner. Flag is up. No goal. Just 2 minutes later and Berry-Hargreaves gets a clearance ball on half way. He plays it forward to Evans who Finds Edwards in space. He plays the ball through the middle to an unmarked Affy who runs the ball into the box and places inside the left post for a goal. 3-0.
I decide to change to 4-2-2-2-0 to reinforce the defence after that goal to make sure we stay in charge.
At 78 minutes in and Whittingham makes a break down the left wing and gets past their fullback to head towards the box and is taken down. It was Stanley who already has a yellow. The ref calls him over. It’s another yellow and a red. He is off. I decide to change to 4-1-3-1-1 and swap Affy to STC and Steele to AMCR.
And that takes us to full time. A solid win and Cairney deservedly gets player of the match. The statistics went our way in the second half. We won possession with 52%, xg 1.74 to 0.46, clear cut chances 4-0 shots 11-5, on targets 5 each, corners 5-3 and pass completions 80% to 72%.
I tell the lads I am happy with that win.
5 December 2020 – FA Trophy Second Round, Away to Folkestone Invicta
We base the match day team on Team A but try and bring the reserves in for a run for this match. The squad is Elsworth GK, Hodgson DR, Allen DCR, Cheshire DCL, Tyler DL, Rusby DM, Tyler MR, Fischer MC (Captain), Cannon ML, Harding AMCR, Tracey AMCL, with reserves Cairney, White, Hamilton, McGrory, Seager.
Seager has complained through the week of the lack of football for a player of his status. I will fix that after this match with a classic hack.
I tell the lads I have faith in them and they all go out motivated. Just 2 minutes in and Hodgson cops a yellow. Ease off lad that’s not what we are after. 10 minutes later I decide to swap to 4-1-3-1-1 with Freddy up front. I really need the forwards to step up today or they will be banished to U23s.
The changes don’t have time to take effect. Tyler at left back plays a ball forward inside the Folkestone half to Tracey who plays it left to Cannon on the corner of the area. He runs it to the edge of the 6 yard box and crosses to Harding who puts it into the open goal. Both Fischer and Harding were unmarked in the area. We have the lead. I decide to persist with the changes.
After 26 minutes Rusby gets the ball in the middle and plays it through for Freddy who runs onto it and shoots, but it goes just wide to the left. A missed opportunity there. After 35 minutes and Rusby cops a yellow card. We really should be winning this game by more than this.
At 40 minutes Fischer takes the ball on half way and plays it forward to Freddy. He plays it right to Hodgson on the edge of the box who shoots and the keeper just turns it behind the right post. We are in control but not capitalising. Just 5 minutes later and K-Ci Allen takes a free kick on half way to the right. He fires the ball towards the box and it is fielded by Freddy behind the defensive line. He shoots nearside and beats the keeper. We double the lead.
Possession is running 63% to us, xG 1.75 to 0.05, shots 11-2, ontargets 7-0, corners 5-1. We deserve our lead, but I tell the lads not to get complacent.
Only 20 seconds in and Fasanmade goes down injured. I will see how he goes as he is out there for fitness. After 53 minutes he signals that he wants to come off. Hamilton comes on. After 70 minutes Rusby is fatigued so I send on White and swap back to 4-1-3-2-0.
After 76 minutes they break our defence and a striker is through on goal and scores. 2-1.
We produce 3 or 4 top opportunities in the last 10 minutes but they are all saved. Cheshire gets a yellow 2 minutes into extra time and 3 minutes later time is called. We should have won that game by a lot more than 2-1. Possession went our way at 56%, xG was 3.36 to 0.64, 25 shots to 7 and 14 on targets to 3.
I tell the lads that it was well done. And Lee Cannon becomes the youngest player in the history of the FA Trophy. Fasanmade is only out for 2 to 3 days and we only had 3 yellows. Not bad despite the narrow margin.
7 December 2020 – FA Trophy Round 3 Draw
I decide to play an old deceptive trick on the players to stop the whinging about not getting enough playing time. It goes like this. I go though and set all players in the top squad that are above Fringe Player to Emergency Backup. I then make them all Star Players, and then down to Fringe Players. It seems to settle them all down and remove their higher expectations.
Luke Cairney is our only member of the team of the week this time.
I go along to the draw and we get Havant & Waterlooville at home on 19 December 2020. That’s a good match up afor the fans, but a tough game to slot into our schedule. We have already passed the Board’s expectations for this competition so there is no pressure. However, I am sure the fans would want us to go further given our position in the League and that we have already beaten H&W earlier this season.
Ebbsfleet come from behind to salvage a draw in their catch up game and remain the only unbeaten team but are dropping away from us. The current table is:
33 pts 12 games 11 wins 0 draws 1 loss Hungerford
28 pts 12 games 8 wins 4 draws 0 loss Ebbsfleet
23 pts 12 games 7 wins 2 draws 3 loss Oxford City
23 pts 12 games 7 wins 2 draws 3 loss Dulwich Hamlet
21 pts 12 games 6 wins 3 draws 3 loss Havant and W
20 pts 11 games 6 wins 2 draws 3 loss Concord
17 pts 11 games 5 wins 2 draws 4 loss Maidstone
I continue to reset the training intensity each day in the game. I go in and select all players and select Training Intensity Automatic and then set intensity to physio recommendations. It seems to be working in keeping injuries to a minimum – touch wood. I also praise any player who has a training rating 9.0 or higher and criticise any player with a training rating below 6.0.
12 December 2020 – Vanarama National League South, Home to Billericay
We go in slight favorites here. That is our second time as favorite. The book makers are starting to take notice of our form.
Match squad for today’s game is Team B – Cairney GK, Angell DR, Berry-Hargreaves DCR (Captain), Hughes DCL, Whittingham DL, Evans DM, Willox MR, Edwards MC, Wanjau-Smith ML, Obafemi AMCR, Steele AMCL, with reserves Elsworth, Rusby, Tyler, Fasanmade, Harding.
The match gets postponed to 22 December 2020 due to a waterlogged pitch at Bulpit Lane.
19 December 2020 – FA Trophy Third Round, Home to Havant & Waterlooville
Match squad for today’s game is Team B – Cairney GK, Angell DR, Berry-Hargreaves DCR (Captain), Hughes DCL, Whittingham DL, Evans DM, Willox MR, Edwards MC, Wanjau-Smith ML, Obafemi AMCR, Steele AMCL, with reserves Elsworth, Rusby, Tyler, Fasanmade, Harding.
I tell the lads to keep the run going and that I have faith in them. Just 7 minutes in and they hit us on a counter and score through a header from a cross. 0-1.
At 18 minutes in and they get a yellow card. We are winning all the key stats but are still trailing. Given how well we are playing I decide to leave the formation as is. After 32 minutes Angell has a throw in almost on their goal line on our right wing. The throw in is put behind by Havant giving us a corner. Evans to take it. He floats the ball in to the near side and Berry-Hargreaves heads it in. Goal. 1-1.
After another 7 minutes and Willox makes a break down the right wing and crosses in to Evans. He blasts a shot from 30 metres out centre field and it brushes the cross bar and goes over. That would have been some goal.
Steele cops a yellow late in the half and we go to half time locked at 1 all. We have won possession with 54%, xG 0.77 to 0.12, shots 6-2, on targets 2-1 and corners 3-0. We should be in front. I tell the lads I am disappointed and expect a better effort in the second half.
We have players through on goal several times but all are saved by their keeper. I bring Rusby on after 88 minutes for an exhausted Evans.
On 90 minutes and Willox switches the ball to the left to Wanjau-Smith who shoots. It deflects off a defender and into the net. Goal. Hold on the flag is up. He was offside. Damn. And that takes us to extra time. I bring Tyler on for the fatigued Edwards and Fasanmade for a tired Willox and swap to 4-1-3-1-1 with Affy up front.
We have a couple more chances in the first period of extra time but they are saved. I bring Harding on for the tired Wanjau-Smith with Steele back to MR and Fasanmade to ML. At 117 minutes and Affy centres the ball to Tyler who strikes it at goal. Great save again. This doesn’t look good for the penalty shootout. Their keeper has been unbelievable. But just 2 minutes later Harding in traffic just outside the box clears it to Whittingham who plays it left to Fasanmade who puts a cross in to the near side for Tyler who slips the ball inside the left post. Goal. We had three attacking players and the keeper wasn’t sure which way to go. 2-1 with just 1 minute of injury time to come. And that’s it here at Bulpit Lane. Another win to Hungerford and we are through to the FA Trophy Fourth Round.
I tell the lads it was a good win and the stats were amazingly one sided for such a tight game. These lads will get some time off now. After the game and Affy has a whinge about being played out of position so I tell him I will give him a bit of a run at Striker.
21 December 2020 – FA Trophy Round 4 Draw
We draw Tonbridge away so another VNS team. This should be a winnable game for us.
22 December 2020 – Vanarama National League South, Home to Billericay
We go in slight favorites here. Match squad for today’s game is Team A – Elsworth GK, Hodgson DR, Allen DCR, Cheshire DCL, Byrne DL, White DM, Hamilton MR, Fischer MC (Captain), Cannon ML, Seager AMCR, McGrory AMCL, with reserves Cairney, Tyler, Rusby, Fasanmade, Harding.
The team talk went well after I told them I had faith in their ability. Just 5 minutes into the game and Byrne takes the ball just inside their half on the left. He plays it for to young Cannon who centres the ball toward goal from the edge corner of the square. Fischer is first to it and places the ball just inside the far post to score. Hungerford have the lead.
After 26 minutes we get a free kick 10 metres out from the right hand corner of the area. Seager takes the set piece and crosses it to the far side of the area where Cheshire meets the ball and places it inside the far post. Goal. The lead is doubled.
Half time is called. We are dominating all the statistics so I tell the lads not to get complacent.
And they continue on in the same vein. They cop a yellow card at 71 minutes. We see the match out with no further issue for the scorer. A solid 2-0 win for the home team. We win possession with 63%, xG 1,22 to 0.21, shots 10-3, on targets 5-1 and corners 16-0. Pretty telling statistics. I tell the lads that was a good win.
26 December 2020
And we have another postponed match due to the waterlogged Bulpit Lane pitch.
28 December 2020 – Vanarama National League South, Away to Braintree
Match squad for today’s game is Team B – Cairney GK, Angell DR, Berry-Hargreaves DCR (Captain), Hughes DCL, Whittingham DL, Evans DM, Willox MR, Edwards MC, Wanjau-Smith ML, Harding AMCR, Steele AMCL, with reserves Elsworth, Rusby, Tyler, Fasanmade, Obafemi.
I tell the lads that they should show people what they are made of here.
At 6 minutes in and Hughes cops a yellow card. Not a great start to the game. On 27 minutes and Whittingham infringes inside our penalty are and gets a yellow card. Great save Cairney to turn the resulting penalty shot behind.
After 33 minutes Braintree get a yellow card. Just one minute later and Steele wins the ball on the left wing around half way and runs the ball deep into Braintree territory before delivering a pass to Edwards in the box. He shoots to the right and scores. Hungerford have the lead.
After 38 minutes and Angell gets a yellow card. I tell him to ease off. And that takes us to half time where we lead most key stats well. I blast the lads and change to 4-2-2-2-0.
Just into the second half and they get their second yellow card.
I decide at the 69 minute mark to swap to 4-1-3-1-1 with Harding up front. After 76 minutes we work the ball into the box and earn a penalty. Evans steps up and shoots left. The keeper moves left but the ball beats him. 2-0. Affy comes on for Harding and Tyler for Willox.
The ref calls time and the away side goes away with a win.
29 December 2020
Anthony Cheshire and Luke Cairney make the team of the week this week.
1 January 2021
United Kingdom leaves the EU and we have new rules.
Dan Bailey returns from loan. He rates ok for DM but it isn’t worth extending his contract beyond this season. I have analysed the team and now how a clear idea who we want to keep for next season.
The Board have stated that I am doing an unbelievable job and now have no criticisms. The fans are also happy with my performance. And the mood across the playing group is overwhelmingly positive.
2 January 2021 – Vanarama National League South, Home to Dartford
We go in slight favorites here. Match squad for today’s game is Team A – Elsworth GK, Hodgson DR, Allen DCR, Cheshire DCL, Byrne DL, White DM, Hamilton MR, Fischer MC (Captain), Cannon ML, Seager AMCR, McGrory AMCL, with reserves Cairney, Tyler, Rusby, Fasanmade, Harding.
I tell the lads I have faith in their ability. 11 minutes in and a throw in to Dartford just in our half on the left gets intercepted by Fischer. The captain runs into their half down the left towards their defensive corner and crosses into the box. McGrory meets the ball on the near side and places the ball into the left corner for a goal. Hungerford go to the lead.
Just 3 minutes later and Byrne throw in on the left wing deep in attack. The balls come out and back to Allen on half way. He plays the ball forward to Fischer who is in traffic with defenders and shoots to the left from just outside the box. Goal. The lead doubles. Four minutes later and Hamilton takes a corner from the left. It floats in to Allen on the near side who heads across goal. White is on the end of it and heads it in far side. Goal. 3-0.
After 34 Minutes and our captain Fischer gets a yellow card. I tell him to ease off. Almost 2 minutes into injury time and we get a free kick 30 metres out right in front. Seager takes the kick and lobs it into the square where Cheshire beats the defenders to the ball and heads it in from the 6 yard line on the left beating the keeper. What a first half that was, 4-0 at half time.
I tell the lads that was very good and to keep it up. As you would expect with the score line we dominated all the stats at half time.
After a couple of chances each way early in the second half, after 54 minutes Cannon gets the ball deep inside our half and runs it down the left wing. He makes it to 10 metres inside their territory before playing it forward and behind the defence still down the left hand side. McGrory gets to the ball first and immediately centres it to the 18 yard line to an unmarked Seager who turns and then blasts it inside the right post. Goal. The lead increases.
At 65 minutes and Hamilton takes a left corner. He finds Allen on the near side who heads it at goal. A great save from their keeper. Just 3 minutes later and Dartford cop a yellow card. After 74 minutes White gets a yellow card, closely followed by K-Ci Allen 2 minutes later. Then Cheshire cops one on 86 minutes, so I decide to bring on the reinforcements. Tyler and Fasanmade come on for Hamilton and Cannon.
Into injury time and we get a free kick just inside Dartford territory. Seager takes the kick and fires it into the box. K-Ci Allen meets the ball on the full to the left of goal on the 6 yard box and taps it in. That makes it 6 nil and brings the game to a conclusion. A great win by the team. We win the possession with 53%, xG 2.76 to 1.11, shots 13 to 10, on targets 9-2, corners 6-0. That was a very solid win and I tell the boys that. I also single out Allen and Seager for their very impressive displays.
That is Hungerford’s biggest ever win and we also broke the record of consecutive wins with 10 in a row. Cian Byrne, Anthony Cheshire, K-Ci Allen and Ryan Seager all make the team of the week off the back of that performance.
5 January 2021 – Vanarama National League South, Home to Welling
Match squad for today’s game is Team B – Cairney GK, Angell DR, Berry-Hargreaves DCR (Captain), Hughes DCL, Whittingham DL, Evans DM, Willox MR, Edwards MC, Wanjau-Smith ML, Harding AMCR, Obafemi AMCL, with reserves Elsworth, Rusby, Tyler, Fasanmade, Tracey.
I have put Harding in the starting line-up and brought Freddy Tracey onto the bench with Steele who is super fit omitted. We are running with 4-1-3-1-1 to give Affy a go at STC before trying to renew his contract.
We go in slight favorites again. And once a again we have a postponed match due to the waterlogged pitch at Bulpit Lane.
12 January 2021 – Vanarama National League South, Away to Ebbsfleet
Our Chairman has come out and rubbished consortium takeover talks. Time will tell if there is any truth to them.
We go in underdogs here against a very good side in Ebbsfleet who are the only unbeaten team in the League and running second to us on the table. They are one of the Professional teams and the scouting report doesn’t throw up much in terms of weaknesses.
Match squad for today’s game is Team A again, I want to keep Ryan Seager happy and give him a bit of game time – Elsworth GK, Hodgson DR, Allen DCR, Cheshire DCL, Byrne DL, White DM, Hamilton MR, Fischer MC (Captain), Cannon ML, Seager AMCR, McGrory AMCL, with reserves Cairney, Tyler, Rusby, Fasanmade, Harding.
I tell the lads I have faith in their ability. After just two minutes and a through ball gets them on the board with a goal. Stats are pretty even midway through the half despite the score. After 35 minutes and Cheshire continues his run of yellow cards and is followed just a minute later by Allen, 4 minutes after that by Cannon. After 40 minutes they fire in a free kick and score a second goal. This game is not going well.
We get to half time, and I give them a piece of my mind. That was terrible and I want to see something much better in the second half. I swap to 4-1-3-1-1 in the hope of changing things up.
We lead possession with 57%, shots are them 7-6, as are on targets 3-2 and xG 0.67 to 0.37.Hardly dominant and certainly not deserving of the lead they have. After just one minute in the second half and Allen fires in a long ball that Seager get to and buries in the left corner to give us hope. But the assistant has his flag up.
We have another 2 or 3 really good chances but can’t convert them. 62 minutes in and Cheshire brings down one of their players and cops another card. He is off with a red card. We swap to 4-2-2-2-0 but drop a DM. And then 73 minutes in and Hodgson gets a red straight up. I swap White back to DR and bring on Tyler. That leaves us with a back 4, ML, MR and 2 Shadow Strikers.
This is a bad day at the office. In the 86th minute they make the 2 man advantage count and score again after 3 saves from Elsworth in the same move. And that’s it for this game, a 3 nil loss to the side chasing us. It puts them on top of the table with us trailing by 2 points but we do have 2 games in hand. We are now due to play our next FA Trophy game in just 3 days.
Tyler has finished the game with a foot injury, Hodgson and Cheshire will miss some matches courtesy of their send offs and Allen and Cannon also copped cards. I tell the team that I am not happy with that performance and tell Cheshire and Hodgson I am disappointed in them.
Tyler is only out for 2 to 3 days and the 2 red cards attract one match bans. Hodgson will still need to appear before the disciplinary committee so could cop a further suspension. Both will miss the Welling game.
16 January 2021 – FA Trophy Fourth Round, Away to Tonbridge
Match squad for today’s game is Team B – Cairney GK, Angell DR, Berry-Hargreaves DCR (Captain), Hughes DCL, Whittingham DL, Evans DM, Willox MR, Edwards MC, Wanjau-Smith ML, Harding AMCR, Obafemi AMCL, with reserves Elsworth, Rusby, Tyler, Fasanmade, Steele.
I have put Harding in the starting line-up and dropped Steele back to the bench. We are running with 4-1-3-1-1 to give Affy a go at STC before trying to renew his contract.
Tonbridge are favorites probably on the basis of our last performance. Just 3 minutes in and Edwards cops a yellow, and just 3 minutes later and Hughes joins him. After 19 minutes they beat our defence and take the lead 1-0. This is looking like a repeat of our last match.
After 28 minutes and Wanjau-Smith plays a one two with Harding down the left. Harding then gets the ball back again before crossing to Willox who heads it to Edwards who puts it just inside the far post. We are back to level scores. Just 2 minutes later and Angell becomes our third booking.
At 35 minutes and Evans takes a corner on the right. The ball is cleared out to Edwards who plays it down the left wing to Wanjau-Smith. He plays it back to Edwards who has moved forward and then it is crossed to Willox on the right edge of the box. He plays a one two with Evans who is behind him running forward to take the return and shoot wide of their GK just inside the right post. Hungerford take the lead. Just 3 minutes later and Willox cops a yellow card.
And right on half time Wanjau-Smith is our fifth booking.
The half time stats are pretty even, we lead possession with 58%, shots 5-4, on targets 3-2 and corners 5-0. I tell them I am not happy. All booked players have been told to ease off. I have also told the whole team to stay on their feet in the second half.
On 51 minutes and Evans, Whittingham and Angell pass the ball around just outside the box in the midfield before Evans sees Harding making a run and plays it through to him, Harding picks up the ball on the right just inside the box and places the ball just inside the far post to score. 3-1.
Five minutes later and Angell takes the ball on the left edge of the area and plays it across to Evans who plays it back to Angell who runs behind him and crosses it to the centre where Whittingham ballast it from 25 metres out and into the net. 4-1. And 2 minutes later he gets a yellow card.
At 71 minutes and it is Angell again with the ball, playing it to the right wing and finding Willox. He crosses into Harding who hits the crossbar and it goes behind. A very close chance there. In the 77th minute and Harding goes down with a foot injury. I send Steele on to replace him.
Affy is booked after a minute of extra time and 3 minutes later we have full time. A 4-1 win sees us into the 5th round. We also end up with 7 yellow cards and an injury forward in Harding. He is out for 4 to 5 weeks. That’s a shame especially with all the bookings we have had lately. Its now time for Freddy to step back up to this grade. And Whittingham reaches the yellow card limit for FA Trophy matches so will miss the 5th round.
The fouls ended up 21 to 16 and yet yellows were 7-0. Anyhow, we dominated possession with 58%, shots 14-10, on targets 7-6, xG was against us 1.56 to 1.50, and corners went to us 8-3. I tell the lads I am well pleased with that performance and tell Evans he was very good out there.
18 January 2021 – FA Trophy Fifth Round Draw
We draw Chester at home in the 5th round. They are currently 2nd in the VNN, so it should be a pretty even match up. A win here would see us into the quarter finals.
And news is through that Hodgson gets another 2 weeks out for his send off.
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