19 January 2021 – Vanarama National League South, Home to Welling
Match squad for today’s game is Team A with a few forced changes and trying to keep the bench fit – Elsworth GK, Tyler DR, Rusby DCR, Cheshire DCL, Byrne DL, Bailey DM, Fischer DM, Hamilton MR (Captain), Fasanmade ML, Seager AMCR, McGrory AMCL, with reserves Cairney, White, Allen, Cannon, Steele. Hodgson is suspended, and Harding is out injured. Also I am keen to try Bailey out.
I think he is marginally better than White at DM so wanted to test this. Neither are in our long term plans so it’s just about what is best currently. I also decide to start with 4-2-2-2-0. I did a review of our results against tactics and squads used, and realised we have only used this tactic for 82 minutes all season. I really need data on it going forward. The data does show that 4-1-3-2-0 is best for Team A and 4-1-3-1-1 is best for Team B.
We go in slight favorites. I tell the lads I have faith in their ability, which goes down well.
A Welling player gets a yellow card in the first 3 minutes. After 18 minutes Cheshire takes the ball on half way and plays it to the right wing to Hamilton who takes the ball forward and then crosses forward to a charging McGrory in the box who hiys a volley into the left side of the net. Hungerford take the lead.
From the kick off we get a turnover in our half. It comes to Fischer on half way who plays a through ball to Seager. He has the keeper to beat and blast it but a great save from their GK.
Just 5 minutes later and Welling pass the ball around in defence. They start to move forward along our right wing but Hamilton intercepts. He runs around the defender and into the box and shoots but the keeper knocks it down. McGrory is first to the ball and puts it in the open goal. 2-0.
And half time comes. I tell the lads to keep in going but watch out for complacency because things can change quickly. The stats favour us at half time not surprisingly.
Just two minutes into the second half and Seager plays the ball to the right wing to Hamilton who runs the ball into the box and he is taken down by the player already on a yellow. A penalty is awarded but no further action against their defender. Seager steps up to take it and bries it in the left side of the goal. 3-0. From the kick off they send the ball forward and it is fielded by us and we pass it around at the back but they get possession and play it forwad to their striker who rounds Elsworth and scores. 3-1. From the kick off they get the ball down into our area again and a through ball results in another goal. Hold on he is offside, the flag is up.
After 77 minutes and the ball is cleared by the Welling defence and falls to Byrne on the left wing and not far outside the area. He runs it into the area and then turns it back to Fasanmade who plays a cross ball to Seager on the far edge of the goal mouth and he steers the ball into the net. Goal. 4-1.
McGrory gets booked after 81 minutes. The referee eventually blows full time. That takes back to the top of the table. I now want to try this tactic for a full game with Team B as well. I tell the boys that was a very good performance and I single out McGrory and Seager for individual praise. We only the one yellow card for this game, and no injuries. Maybe this tactic is better for discipline.
20 January 2021 Squad
After analysing our team and likely improvement I split the squad into 3 groups going forward, offer a new contract, set for release, and still unsure. I leave out the 5 players in U23s as they have already been set for release.
Offer a new contract – by position (16)
Cheshire DC – I know his is on loan but I would like to get him or try and extend his loan for another season.
Whittingham and Byrne DL
Hamilton and Willox MR
Cannon and Wanjau-Smith ML
Bartolo, Seager, and Steele AMC
Obafemi, Harding and Tracey STC
Hodgson and Hughes DR
Set for release (8)
Cairney, Rusby, Bailey, Tyler, Fasanmade, Angell, Allen and White
Already set for release (5)
Emmerson, Willmoth, Jones, Hopper and Partridge
The players we are now looking for are 1 x GK, 1 x DR, 3 x DC, 1 x DM, 1 x MC, 1 x AMC. And maybe 2 or 3 versatile bench players or we keep Rusby, Tyler and Fasanmade.
23 January 2021 – Vanarama National League South, Home to Hemel Hempstead
Match squad for today’s game is Team B – Cairney GK, Angell DR, Berry-Hargreaves DCR (Captain), Hughes DCL, Whittingham DL, Edwards MC, Evans DM, Willox MR, Wanjau-Smith ML, Steele AMCL, Obafemi AMCR, with reserves Elsworth, Rusby, Tyler, Fasanmade, Tracey.
We are testing the 4-2-2-2-0 with Team B. If it isn’t working we will go to Affy’s favorite at half time so he can play STC.
Berry-Hargreaves is booked inside the first 5 minutes. Evans has a go with the resulting free kick but the GK gets to it and holds it. On 12 minutes and Evans infringes in our back right corner, A free kick and they float it in and win the header and it’s into the net. We are down a goal early. They cop another yellow after 19 minutes.
After 21 minutes they play a long ball and it gets their striker one on one with Cairney and he saves it by pushing it away. The striker gets the ball back and centres it and saved again by Cairney but this time he holds it.
Just 5 minutes later and Wanjau-Smith wins the ball back from them in our defensive back left corner. He runs it over half way and beats a defender taking it to the corner of the box. He crosses to the opposite corner of the goal where it is met by Willox to score. We are back level. A great effort from Wanjau-Smith.
They cop a booking just before half time. At half timeI tell the team that I am not happy and expect more from them in the second half. We move to 4-1-3-1-1. Stats are pretty even except for possession which we lead with 59%.
After 48 minutes and Affy is booked followed 6 minutes later by Angell. After 54 minutes they get their striker in behind our defence and he finds the net. The flag is up. He is offside, no goal. At 60 minutes Edwards sends the ball to Wanjau-Smith on the left wing in attack. He is taken down and the defender gets his second yellow. He is sent off. We change to 4-1-3-2-0 to go very attacking. Just 2 minutes later and they get another yellow followed by a further one just 3 minutes after that.
At 79 minutes and Edwards is booked and 5 minutes later they get another yellow card. At 82 minutes we change back to 4-2-2-2-0 to stop any more cards. And finally after 87 minutes Willox wins back possession deep in their half on the right wing. He sends a ball across the goal to the charging Wanjau-Smith who is unmarked on the left wing and he places the ball just inside the far post to score. We finally hit the front for the first time in the game.
Four minutes into injury time and Affy puts it right to Steele on half way with no one in front of him. He runs it down into the area and blasts a shot at goal. Saved. And the ref blows time. An intense game and we just manage to get through it. We win possession with 56%, shots 10-8, on targets 7-6, xG 1.45 to 1.09, corners 6-2, clear cut chances 2-0. A solid win but should probably been a bit easier. We end up with 4 bookings and no injuries which isn’t too bad.
I think I will settle on 4-1-3-2-0 for Team A and 4-1-3-1-1 for Team B, and change to 4-2-2-2-0 if bookings start to mount.
We are approaching half way through the season with 18 of the 40 games complete. We have extended our lead to 4 points over Ebbsfleet, 48 to 44, with a gap of 7 points back to Oxford on 37 points.
McGrory, Seager and Hamilton make the team of the week.
Bartolo, Seager, Cannon and Evans are all contract past the end of this season. So I think I will leave the other contract extensions until we earn promotion and get an increase to our wages budget.
30 January 2021 – Vanarama National League South, Home to Chelmsford
Match squad for today’s game is Team A – Elsworth GK, Hodgson DR, Allen DCR, Cheshire DCL, Byrne DL, Bailey DM, Hamilton MR, Fischer MC (Captain), Cannon ML, Seager STC, McGrory AMCR, with reserves Cairney, Rusby, Tyler, White, Tracey. We are going to run with 4-1-3-1-1.
I tell the lads I have faith in their ability.
After just 2 minutes and their striker gets through one on one with Elsworth but a great save. Fifteen minutes in and Allen is booked. On 19 minutes and Fischer runs the ball in the middle of the pitch in their half and then plays it to the right attacking corner for Seager who turns it back across the goal to Cannon on the left who hits it first time just inside the near post to score his first goal for Hungerford. 1-0.
The stats are pretty even after 28 minutes despite our lead. White plays it left to Cannon who beats one and shoots, beating the keeper but it hits the far post and stays out. From the ensuing play White plays it right this time and finds McGrory who has a crack but the GK saves and holds it this time.
Fischer picks up our second booking just prior to half time. At half time I tell the lads I am not happy and want more from them in the second half. We lead possession with 55%, and xG 0.71 to 0.33, shots 4-2 and on targets 3-1.
We had a number of shots during the first 20 minutes of the second half but just could not convert the opportunities. After 67 minutes Cannon took the ball on halfway and passed back to Cheshire who played a long ball towards the defensive line. Seager got to it first on the left inside the area, beating 3 defenders to the ball. He slammed it in on the near side to score. 2-0.
Just 5 minutes later and Seager gets a yellow card, closely followed Cannon on 77 minutes. We are dominating the half. After 85 minutes Chelmsford get their first yellow of the match.
The ref blows full time and we walk away with a 2-0 victory against all odds. We dominate the stats winning possession with 55%, xG 1.99 to 0.34, shots 12-4, on targets 6-2 and corners 9-3. I tell the lads I am very pleased with that performance. No injuries, but we did cop 4 bookings. The headline reads: Young Hungerford shine against Chelmsford. And his goal makes Cannon our youngest ever goal scorer.
1 February 2021
I take out the Manager of the Month award. The Board is well pleased with my performance but have one criticism being the heavy loss to Ebbsfleet. I can understand that, so was I.
Seager has dropped his lack of match concerns but it looks like Affy is still going. So I might need to use The 4-1-3-1-1 tactic again for the next match. It is going pretty well so I don’t think it is a problem. Ideally I would have like to keep it for the Chester FA Trophy game but maybe we will shock them by going back to 4-1-3-2-0 for that game.
2 February 2021 – Vanarama National League South, Away to Tonbridge Angels
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, Steele AMCR, Obafemi STC, with reserves Elsworth, Rusby, Tyler, Fasanmade, Tracey.
I tell the lads I have faith in them. We totally dominate the first half but just cant make it count. Berry-Hargreaves gets booked after 3 minutes and they cop one after 35 minutes. Nil all at half time.
We have had 64% possession and 6 shots to 2. I tell the lads I am far from impressed and they go out motivated for the second half. I decide to switch things up so move to 4-1-3-2-0.
After 61 minutes and Hughes gets the ball in the middle of the park and sends it to the left wing to Whittingham. He runs it all the way to the goal line before crossing it towards goal where Edwards meets it almost right on the left post and puts it away. We finally make our advantage count and go to the lead 1 nil.
After 68 minutes they get a second booking. We have had a couple more opportunities by then but nothing of note. And 8 minutes later Edwards gets booked. I tell him to ease off. I replace Affy with Freddy and bring Rusby on for Berry-Hargreaves, and move back to 4-1-3-1-1.
Freddy’s first touch he almost scores but the defender blocks the shot and puts it behind. After 87 minutes they cop another booking. And 4 minutes later Willox is booked and they have a free kick just outside the area. It is floated in and its headed by them for goal. A good save and the ball is knocked away and then behind for a corner by our defenders.
I bring Tyler on for Willox at 92 minutes with 2 minutes of injury time left. Freddy has another goal attempt saved with one minute to go. With just 20 seconds to go and they put an equaliser in. This is heartbreaking. We served so much more than that.
They run the ball out until the final whistle. This will go down as a game we should have won, and is not a good lead up to the FA Trophy game.
The stats easily favoured us. 61% possession, xG 2.04 to 1.11, shots 16 to 5, on targets 4-2, corners 8-4. I tell the lads that I am far from impressed. I hope we can get it together before the next game.
Whittingham is now out suspended for a game and we have another 10 players on yellow card warnings. This is not a great scenario.
6 February 2021 – FA Trophy Fifth Round, Home to Chester
Match squad for today’s game is Team A – Elsworth GK, Hodgson DR, Allen DCR, Cheshire DCL, Byrne DL, Bailey DM, Hamilton MR, Fischer MC (Captain), Cannon ML, Seager AMCR, McGrory AMCL, with reserves Cairney, White, Tyler, Fasanmade, Harding. We are going to run with 4-1-3-2-0.
I tell the lads I have faith in their ability.
Just two minutes in and Seager takes the ball off one of their defenders in our half and runs down into their area and shoots. Saved by the Chester GK. Just two minutes later and Seager takes a free kick just inside their territory. He plays it forward to Hamilton who is unmarked 25 metres out on the right of the area. Hamilton has a crack and it hits the left side of the cross bar and goes in. A fabulous strike. 1-0. A few minutes later and Fischer sends a through ball to Seager who shoots, but a good save.
After 26 minutes and a through ball sees McGrory one on one with the Gk, but a great save denies him. After 40 minutes Hodgson has a throw in deep in Chester territory on the right. It goes to Hamilton who plays it back to Hodgson and then it goes back to Hamilton inside the square. His attempted cross is blocked and goes to Bailey on the edge of the square who smashes it into the net. 2 nil. Two minutes later Hamilton sends in a corner from the right and Cheshire gets above the pack to head at goal and it hits the crossbar and falls to the keeper.
Just before half time and Fischer plays a through ball for Seager who only has the keeper to beat and shoots wide. Half time and it is 2 nil. We lead possession with 60%, shots 15 to 2, on targets 6-1, xG 1.99 to 0.12. I tell the lads not to get complacent.
After 52 minutes Allen is booked. Just one minute later Allen has the ball on the left wing on half way and plays it inside to Bailey who plays it forward to McGrory, He plays a cross ball to the wide running Hamilton who is on the edge of the box on the right and he places it inside the far post and gets his second. 3-0. Only 5 minutes later and McGrory picks up a knock but it looks like he can go on.
On 72 minutes and Hamilton plays a corner in from the left. Cheshire gets a head on it from the near post across the goal to an unmarked McGrory on the far post who puts it in the open goal. 4-0. Just 2 minutes later Elsworth kicks out from our goal to half way and their defender send it straight back. A Chester forward gets the ball inside our area and puts it away. 4-1.
After 80 minutes Chester get their second yellow card. And then after 92 minutes Hamilton with another corner, this time from the left, and he finds Bailey who gets his second. 5-1.
And that’s the game. That was a very impressive win for the lads and I tell them so and tell Hamilton I was delighted with his game. We got just the one yellow card but two injuries. Cannon got a bruised shin and McGrory with a twisted knee. We totally dominated this match. We had 57% possession, 28 shots to 5, 14 on target to 3, xG 4.29 to 0.64, 16 corners to 1.
After the game we find out that Cannon will be out for 2 to 3 days and McGrory for 2 to 4 days.
8 February FA Trophy Quarter Final Draw
We draw FC Halifax in the FA Trophy Quarter Finals. They are in Vanarama National League, the tier above us, and are 9th. We are away so this will definitely be a very big challenge.
9 February 2021 – Vanarama National League South, Home to Slough
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, Steele AMCR, Obafemi AMCL, with reserves Elsworth, Rusby, Tyler, Fasanmade, Harding. Harding is back from injury and I will give him a game when he is back to full fitness.
I tell the lads I have faith in them.
After just 4 minutes and Slough get the first yellow card of the day. On 19 minutes and Allen plays a forward ball from half way to Steele. He plays a one two with Evans and gets the ball back in space and runs it into the area. Steele beats the keeper on the near side to score. 1-0.
At 24 minutes Willox has the ball on the right and plays it across field to Wanjau-Smith who is on the left edge of the area. He plays it back to Evans who smashes the ball into the right corner of goal to score. That makes it 2 nil. After 30 minutes Slough get their second booking.
Just on 41 minutes and we get a penalty for an infringement in the box. Evans steps up and slams it in the left. We go 3-0 up. Just 3 minutes later and Angell has a throw in on the right deep in their territory. It goes towards Willox who leaves it and it falls to Fischer who strikes at goal. The keeper manages to keep the ball out but it drops to Affy who makes no mistake with the open goal to score.
We go into the sheds at half time with a four goal lead. As you would expect we easily lead the statistics. I tell the lads they have done well and to keep it up in the second half. Everyone’s moral is up, no cards or injuries so it is all good.
Just one minute into the second half and Willox has the ball just inside our half on the right wing and plays a through ball towards the middle and Steele gets onto it 5 metres outside the area and behind the defenders. He runs the ball into the area and places it just inside the far post to score his second goal and push the lead out to five.
After 61 minutes they win the ball on half way and send the ball forward. Their striker is to the ball first and smashes it inside the far post to score. That takes it to 5-1.
With not long to go before full time and Willox gets a yellow card. At full time we win 5-1 with an impressive effort and I tell the lads that and single out Evans for praise. We only had 48% of possession but won the other stats including shots 19-11, on targets 10-4, corners 7-2, xG 3.78 to 1.18.
We find out that Ebbsfleet went down 1-0 at home to Chelmsford and we now go 5 points clear at the top of the table.
13 February 2021 – Vanarama National League South, Away to Dorking
Match squad for today’s game is Team A – Elsworth GK, Hodgson DR, Allen DCR, Cheshire DCL, Byrne DL, Bailey DM, Hamilton MR, Fischer MC (Captain), Cannon ML, Seager AMCR, McGrory AMCL, with reserves Cairney, White, Tyler, Fasanmade, Harding. We are going to run with 4-1-3-2-0 and I tell the lads I have faith in their ability.
After 13 minutes there is an infringement against one of our players in the box and we get a penalty. Seager steps up and knocks it in just to the right of centre. The keeper goes the right way but just doesn’t get there in time. We have the lead nice and early.
Just on 24 minutes and Dorking get the first yellow card of the game. Only 3 minutes later and Byrne gets our first yellow card. Another minute later and Dorking get another booking. They are coming thick and fast here. We might need to be a little careful.
After 40 minutes and Dorking get another yellow card. Just one minute later and Hodgson takes a throw in just inside their territory on our right wing. The ball comes back to Hodgson who plays a through ball to Hamilton on the right hand corner of the area. He plays it in to Seager on the near post who slots it home. We double our lead. Shortly after and Dorking get their 4th booking of the match.
And that takes us to half time. The statistics are relatively even, but we are shading them in most. I tell the lads not to get complacent. I also tell the backline to ease off tackles given the number of cards floating around in the first half.
After 46 minutes and Dorking get yet another yellow card. And 2 minutes later and Cheshire gets booked as well. The ref is going to run out of ink at this rate, he is spending more time writing than refereeing at present. But he is not done yet, Hodgson gets booked and they take the free kick on the left attacking wing 30 metres out from goal. The ball floats in and their tall left full back beats everyone to it and puts it away. We have a game on our hands here; our lead is reduced to one at 2-1.
After 74 minutes and I replace Tracey with Harding to give him a bit of time on the pitch, and the exhausted Cannon for Tyler.
Just on 83 minutes and Dorking get yet another yellow card.
Well into injury time Fischer gets booked and I sub him off for Rusby. And that’s the final activity before full time is called. A solid win for us but far from convincing after what we have witnessed in the previous two games.
We won possession with 59%, shots 12-7, on targets 5-3, xG 2.38 to 0.44, corners 15-3. We probably should have won by more on those numbers.
Ebbsfleet go down to Slough 2-1 away and we move 8 points clear at the top of the table. Slough is the side we beat 5-1 just 4 days ago. The previously unbeaten Ebbsfleet have now lost 2 straight and appear to be struggling.
Chekaine Steele, Jake Evans and Ryan Seager named in team of the week.
Slough put in a bid for Affy but I reject it. Affy puts in a transfer request. I offer him out to other clubs for 3 times his value but there is no interest at that price. I tell him he will now need to canvas clubs if he wants to move. He is ok with that. His morale is still fine so we will move on just using him until he leaves.
20 February 2021 – Vanarama National League South, Away to Dulwich Hamlet
A few of our normal bench players are losing condition so I decide to play them today, so Rusby, Tyler, Fasanmade and Harding come in for Cheshire, White, Cannon and McGrory. Match squad for today’s game is Team A as they look like they need the match more than the other squad – Elsworth GK, Hodgson DR, Allen DCR, Rusby DCL, Byrne DL, White DM, Tyler MR, Fischer MC (Captain), Fasanmade ML, Seager AMCR, Harding AMCL, with reserves Cairney, Cheshire, Hamilton, Cannon, McGrory.
I tell the lads I have faith in them.
On 10 minutes and Seager knocks the ball down to Harding and from 30 metres out he smashes it into the net. The keeper barely had time to move. Wow, that was some goal.
At 25 minutes and Fasanmade intercepts the ball inside their half on the left wing. He plays it into the centre to Harding just outside the area, who beats the defender and plays it to the far corner of the goal beating the keeper and going just inside the right post. Harding scores his second goal. 2-0.
Just 4 minutes later and Fasanmade again intercepts on the left and immediately plays it back in the centre to Fischer who passes forward to Seager about 10 metres outside the area in the centre of the pitch. He turns and beats a defender and then runs the ball into the area and shoots right and scores keeping his goal a game average up.
After 41 minutes and K-Ci Allen cops a yellow card and just one minute later Hodgson joins him. At half time I tell them both to ease off. So we lead 3-0 at half time and I tell the lads they have done well and to keep it up. On the stats front we lead possession with 52%, shots 11-7, on targets 5-4, xG 0.85 to 0.24. They lead corners 3-1. White has a thigh injury so I err on the side of caution and replace him with Cheshire. Rusby goes to DM and Cheshire back to DCL.
Just two minutes into the second half and a shot from a long way out by Dulwich and our keeper doesn’t move. It’s in and the lead drops to 3-1. Another two minutes on and they get their first yellow card.
On 54 minutes we get another booking courtesy of Cheshire and I tell the whole backline to ease off on tackles. A minute after that and Dulwich get another booking.
71 minutes in and they attack down the left where their forward breaks free and puts it inside the far post. That was far too easy. 3-2. Just 3 minutes later and Byrne gets booked. That is our whole backline.
At 78 minutes in and Hodgson wins the ball with a tackle in our half and plays it to Fischer on the right on half way. He passes forward to Seager who plays it back to Fischer. He takes the ball to just outside the area and plays it in to Seager who passes wide to Tyler. He shoots but it goes wide. He should have done more with that chance.
After 85 minutes I bring Harding off for McGrory because Harding is not long back from injury, and also Rusby off as he is fatigued and Hamilton comes on at MR with Tyler dropping back to DM. They get their third yellow just after that. There are 5 minutes of injury time.
Three minutes into injury time and Cheshire wins the ball in a tackle on the edge of our area and centres the ball forward to Seager. He runs it over half way and sends it down the right wing to Hamilton. He gets it into the area and passes to an unmarked Fischer in front of goal who puts it in the net on the left. A good goal and that should be the match winner. 4-2 to Hungerford. A minute later and Dulwich work the ball around just outside our area and then a shot is blasted in from the left from 25 metres out. The keeper had no chance. Less than a minute of time left and they are back within a goal. But that is the end of the scoring. We take the win in a thriller.
I tell the lads I am pleased with the win and single out Harding for praise. I think he has earned Affy’s spot when he leaves. The stats were relatively even really, we had 53% possession, and won shots 16-13, on targets 10-8, xG 1.66 to 0.55 and corners 5-4. We end up with 4 yellows and White’s injury from the game. That was a costly match.
After the game we find out that White is only out for 1-2 days, which is good news.
Seager and Harding make it into the Team of the Week this week.
23 February 2021 – Vanarama National League South, Home to Bath
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, Steele AMCR, Obafemi AMCL, with reserves Elsworth, Rusby, Tyler, Fasanmade, Harding. I tell the lads I have faith in them.
Just 7 minutes in and Edwards intercepts a pass not far out from our defensive box and gets it left to Wanjau-Smith who plays it forward straight away. Their right full back gets it to their keeper who hoofs it forward where Edwards get it and runs it into their half. He plays it to Wanjau-Smith on the left edge of the box who passes it in to Steele who knocks in inside the left post to score. We take an early lead.
They get the first booking of the match after 16 minutes.
Late in the half and they get 2 bookings at 39 and 42 minutes. We manage to escape the half without a card. Very unlike us.
At half time we lead most of the statistics but have only had 46% possession, shots 7-3, on targets 4-1, xG 1.01 to 0.51 and corners 5-2. Our pass completion rate is a long way down on usual at 68% which I think has contributed to the low possession rate. I tell the lads I am not happy with their performance tonight.
At 55 minutes I decide to throw players forward to try and get a bigger lead. We move to a 3-1-4-2-0 formation. I read about this formation on FM Arena and really want to give it a try, another adaptation of the Waves tactic – WaveZ Tweak as 3-6 by SS rated at 6.4. This is with 3 x DCs, Hughes DCR, Berry-Hargreaves DC and Angell DCL, Evans stays at DM, Steele joins Edwards in MC, Willox stays at MR with Whittingham moving to ML, and Wanjau-Smith moves to AMCR with Affy at AMC.
After 61 minutes and Wanjau-Smith takes the ball on half way and puts Affy through one on one with the keeper who saves the shot. He should have scored there. One minute later and Steele gets the ball on the left wing and plays it through to Affy who again only has the keeper to beat but it is saved. These feels like costly mistakes to me.
After 65 minutes and Angell has the ball down the left wing and plays it forward to Whittingham who centres the ball to Edward in the box who strikes it at goal. Saved again. We are getting a lot of chances but not converting.
At 77 minutes and they get another yellow card. Our discipline tonight has been good so far. After 87 minutes and Wanjau-Smith runs the ball into their half on the right and passes across to Affy who plays it right to Edwards. He runs it down to the edge of the box and passes inside to Affy who blasts it into the net on the right leaving the keeper going the wrong way and stranded. The GK had to move quickly to the right to cover Affy after being on the left to try and cover Edwards and was left out of position as a result. The lead doubles. Two minutes later and a cross into the box sees Affy put it in the net, but he is ruled offside. That’s a shame.
And the refs whistle brings proceedings to a close. A good 2-0 win and I tell the lads that. Possession remained against us at 45%, we won shots 12-5, on targets 8-1, xG 2.26 to 0.91, corners 6-4. We had more fouls but didn’t get any bookings which is strange. Our pass completion rate was better in the second half and finished at 71%.
27 February 2021 – FA Trophy Quarter Final, Away to FC Halifax
Match squad for today’s game is Team A – Elsworth GK, Allen DCR, Rusby DC, Cheshire DCL, White DM, Hamilton MR, Bailey MCL, Fischer MCR (Captain), Cannon ML, Seager AMCR, McGrory AMCL, with reserves Cairney, Hodgson, Tyler, Fasanmade, Harding. We are going to run with 4-1-3-2-0 and I tell the lads I have faith in their ability.
After 12 minutes they cop the first booking of the match.
On 14 minutes in and Cannon gets a foot injured, so I send Fasanmade on to replace him. After 27 minutes and Fasanmade throws in on the left in attack,and then it is passed around between White and Bailey before Fasanmade slips a ball into the area for McGrory who shoots wide.
A minute later and Rusby plays it through the middle to Fischer who runs it into their territory and plays a through ball for Seager. He runs it into the box and blasts it at goal. A sensational save there as the keeper deflects it behind. We are winning the stats but can’t convert our chances so far. It is 3 shots to 1 so far.
And that takes us through to half time with the score level. We have had 52% possession, 7 shots to 1, on targets even at 1, corners 5-1. I tell them I expect more from them in the second half.
At 54 minutes after playing the ball around in their midfield, Halifax send the ball forward to their striker who is alone against our keeper. He places the ball straight at him. An easy save. He should have scored.
Hamilton has a throw in on our forward right wing after 61 minutes. It is intercepted by Halifax who plays it forward. White fields the ball on half way and passes forward to Fischer who plays a through ball for Seager just outside the box. He runs it inside and rounds the keeper on the left before placing it in for the first score of the match. We go up 1 nil.
After 67 minutes they incept our last pass on attack and hoof the ball forward to their striker. He only has the keeper to beat has places it past our GK but it hits the left post and is played into touch by our Rusby. That was a slice of luck.
We get our first yellow on 69 minutes to White and they get one a minute later. Seager is booked after 73 minutes. Straight after, they win a throw in our defensive left corner. It results in a cross coming into the area and their striker gets above Allen and heads it into the net. They have levelled the game with just 16 minutes to play.
They get another yellow at 84 minutes. Full time, 1 all. McGrory was through on goal twice in the last 10 minutes and forced great saves by their keeper.
So we go into extra time. Stats, we have 49% possession and lead shots 17-6, on targets 9-3, xG 2.80 to 0.67 and corners 7-2. I tell the lads it has been a good performance but we need one more goal.
They use their remaining replacement prior to extra time. On 102 minutes and Allen heads it away from goal from a Halifax attack. It lands to McGrory who runs it over half way before playing it right to Seager. He quickly gets it to Hamilton on the right wing. Hamilton floats it in towards goal and Bailey gets above the defender on the far side to head it back across goal and just inside the right post for a goal. We take the lead for the second time.
Cheshire gets booked at 104 minutes and is really looking fatigued. At half time in extra time we swap to 4-1-3-1-1 and bring on our 3 remaining replacements. Off come Cheshire, White and Hamilton. On come Hodgson, Tyler and Harding. Hodgson goes to DR, Tyler to DL and Harding to STC.McGrory moves to MR and Bailey to DM.
Fasanmade gets a yellow card after 107 minutes and Fischer joins him in getting booked in the 115th minute.
At the end of extra time and we have won 2-1. This is a huge upset and puts us in the semi-final. Not only an upset but we really deserved it. The stats were us getting 49% of possession, 23 shots to 10, 11 on targets to 4, xG was 3.34 to 0.87 and corners 8-5. Even our pass completion rate was 75% to 74%. So we end up with 5 yellow cards and an injury to Cannon. I tell the lads that was an amazing win as no one gave us a chance.
We find out that Ebbsfleet has drawn at home to Dorking taking our margin at the top of the League to 12 points after 24 games. There are still 16 games to go though. And the diagnosis on Cannon’s twisted ankle is 3-4 weeks with the Physio to look after him. That is a shame for the young fellow, but he will be back to finish the year off for us. Cheshire gets a one match suspension for reaching the yellow card limit.
1 March 2021
I win Manager of the Month again. We are back in the red with the finances but I am sure the Board will be ok given we are headed for promotion.
The semi-final draw for the FA Trophy is on today, and we will definitely be playing a Vanarama National League side as they are the other 3 teams in the draw. Barnett (11th), Dag & Red (15th) and Stockport (7th). Given we just beat the team that is 8th, maybe we aren’t without a chance. I am hoping for a home game.
A win in the semi-final would be a huge financial boost because we would be playing the final at Wembley in front of a decent crowd. So we are hoping for a home game against Dag & Red. The first game is drawn and its Barnett v Dag & Red. We will play Stockport, the strongest team left. Now we wait to see who gets the home ground. And it’s Stockport. That is our worst way. Anyhow, it is what it is. A win would give us confidence for the final.
The Board continues to be impressed with my performance. They are disappointed with Hodgson of late and the loss to Ebbsfleet, but these don’t appear to be big issues.
Conor Lynch returns from loan to the U23 side. He is a good size at 182cm and 77kg, 22yo and Pace is 12 and Acceleration 8. He is a Striker and he is big and strong with a good work rate. I might bring him into the main squad so I can look after his training and see how he develops. He won’t be playing in the senior squad unless we run out of forwards or we have a game that doesn’t matter late in the season. I will make him available for the U23s permanently at this stage.
6 March 2021 – Vanarama National League South, Home to Oxford City
The bookmakers are starting to take notice. We go in favorites for this game and Oxford is third on the table.
Match squad for today’s game is Team B – Cairney GK, White DR, Berry-Hargreaves DCR (Captain), Hughes DCL, Whittingham DL, Evans DM, Willox MR, Edwards MC, Wanjau-Smith ML, Steele AMCR, Obafemi AMCL, with reserves Elsworth, Rusby, Tyler, Fasanmade, Harding. I tell the lads I have faith in them.
At 10 minutes and they have a free kick just inside our half. They play it through the middle and after 2 passes their striker only has Cairney in front of him 15 metres out and shoots wide to the left. On 25 minutes and they get their other striker through on goal and it is a terrible shot and easily saved by Cairney.
After 38 minutes they try another through ball but Berry-Hargreaves heads this one to Willox on the right and he immediately plays it forward to Affy. Affy runs it up over half way and plays it forward behind the defence to the oncoming Steele who gathers it on the edge of the box and runs it to 10 metres just to the right of centre and puts it in on the near side. Nice placement. Steele scores to put us in front. Just one minute later and Berry-Hargreaves gets the first yellow card of the match.
Their keeper kicks out from their goal on 44 minutes, over half way where Evans heads the ball to Willox on the right just inside their half. He crosses the ball to the left wing where Wanjau-Smith fields it in space. He runs it deep into their territory before sending it back to Whittingham. He crosses the ball to the goal mouth but it is missed by the defenders and falls to Willox on the far post who buries it in the corner. The lead doubles.
At half time we lead 2 nil. The statistics are pretty even though so we might be lucky to lead so well. We have had 48% of possession, they lead shots 6-3, xG 0.93 to 0.82, corners are 3 all and we lead on targets 3-2. I tell the lads not to get complacent.
On the hour mark and Evans takes a free kick just inside their half and floats it into the box. Edwards goes up but the keeper just gets there. A touch from Edwards there and we would have scored.
After 64 minutes White takes a throw in on the right wing and finds Willox who crosses toward goal. Affy is lurking and smashes it just inside the far post. The keeper had no chance there. We move three goals clear.
Oxford take a throw in deep in our left defensive corner on 77 minutes. After two passes the ball is crossed into the area and falls to one of their players on the far post who converts his chance. They are back in the fight with a glimmer of hope.
Oxford get their first yellow card in injury time, and only the second in total for the match.
Full time is signaled and the game finishes 3-1 to the good guys. We finish with 48% possession. We win shots 12-11, on targets 8-4, xG 2.58 to 1.39 and corners 10-4. That was a good win for us and I tell the lads that. Only one yellow card and no injuries. Ebbsfleet are smashed at home by Dulwich Hamlet 5-2. We increase our lead at the top of the table to 15 points with a further 6 points back to Oxford City.
Affy is named in the Team of the Week.
13 March 2021 – Vanarama National League South, Away to Eastbourne Borough
Match squad for today’s game is Team A – Elsworth GK, Hodgson DR, Allen DCR, Cheshire DCL, Byrne DL, Bailey DM, Hamilton MR, Fischer MC (Captain), Fasanmade ML, Seager AMCR, McGrory AMCL, with reserves Cairney, White, Tyler, Angell, Harding. We are going to run with 4-1-3-2-0 and I tell the lads I have faith in their ability.
Boro run the ball into our half down our right hand defensive side on 10 minutes. They play it to the centre and then forward. It is played back to our right hand side where their striker has a crack from 30 metres out and scores the first goal of the match. Boro go to the lead. Just 2 minutes later and Boro get the first booking of the game
After 38 minute Boro get their second booking of the match. Thankfully we haven’t had any yet.
We go to half time down a goal. We are winning the stats easily, possession 68%, shots 6-1, on targets 1 all, xG 1.06 to 0.03, and corners 5-0. I blast the team. This isn’t good enough we should be winning this game.
During the first minute of the second half and Allen gets a yellow card. Just two minutes later Bailey is booked. I tell them to ease off tackles. We have enough on our plate trying to fight back from a goal down without running the risk of going down a player.
They get their third booking at 64 minutes. Just 5 minutes later and Byrne plays a ball in from the left wing where Fasanmade heads it back from the edge of the area to Byrne. This time he crosses it to the far side to the unmarked Hamilton who shoots. It just goes over. A good chance goes begging there.
After 73 minutes Hamilton uses his pace to intercept a ball just inside their half on the right wing. He plays it back to Hodgson on half way who runs it back into their half and sends a ball 30 metres forward to Hamilton still on the right wing. He crosses the ball into the box and McGrory gets away from the defence and shoots first time from 10 metres into the left of the net. Great goal and we are back on terms with Boro with 17 minutes to play.
Around 10 minutes later and Hamilton takes a long throw in from near the right hand corner of the pitch. He gets it to the 6 yard box. It is hoofed away by Boro and comes to Bailey just outside the box. He plays it wide to Hamilton who floats it in and Fasanmade gets hold of it on the far post and puts it in to score. Hold on the flag is up. He is judged to be offside.
Full time we have a draw. That is a game that got away. Total domination but nothing to show for it. Possession went 66% to us, shots 10-3, on targets 3 all, xG 1.54 to 0.21, corners 10 nil. I tell the lads that wasn’t good enough, and we should be winning games like these.
16 March 2021 – Vanarama National League South, Home to Hampton & Richmond
I decide to try the 3-1-6-0 again. Match squad for today’s game is Team B – Cairney GK, White DCR, Berry-Hargreaves DC (Captain), Hughes DCL, Evans DM, Tyler MR, Willox MCL, Edwards MCR, Wanjau-Smith ML, Steele AMCR, Obafemi AMCL, with reserves Elsworth, Rusby, Whittingham, Fasanmade, Harding. I tell the lads I have faith in them.
Berry-Hargreaves gets the first booking of the match after 3 minutes. In the 5th minute Willox gets the ball after an intercept and plays it forward into the path of Steele who blasts it at the near corner of the net but a fabulous save by the Hampton keeper. The second booking of the match goes against Hampton after 9 minutes.
After 17 minutes and Wanjau-Smith makes a break on the left wing and centres the ball to Affy near halfway. He lobs a ball forward and Steele uses his pace to get to the ball and shoots for the far post but the keeper somehow gets a hand to it and it goes just over the crossbar. Another great chance saved. We get a yellow card to Willox after 25 minutes. I tell him to ease off tackles
Evans takes a corner on the left after 33 minutes and floats it into the box. It is knocked out by the Hampton defence to Willox who runs down the left wing and crosses a low ball into the area. Once again Steele uses his pace to get there first and this time the keeper can’t get to it. We finally take the lead. Just one minute later and Evans gets a yellow card.
After 41 minutes Hampton get the ball across to our left defensive wing and cross the ball into the box. It is headed by them but hits the cross bar and goes up and back out to play. They head it again and it hits the cross bar again. I can’t believe they didn’t put one of those away. Just 2 minutes later they have a free kick well inside our half. They float the ball to the far side and it is headed back across goal and the next header goes in. They have levelled up before half time.
In injury time they lose a player to a lower leg injury.
At half time the stats are pretty even. We have had 53% possession, Shots are 7 all, they lead the on targets 3-2 and xG 1.24 to 1.02. We lead corners 7-3. I decide to swap back to 4-1-3-2-0 so drop Tyler back to DL, White DR and Willox moves to MR. I tell the lads I expect a better effort from them in the second half.
Wanjau-Smith gets a yellow card in the 62nd minute. We are running up a few cards in this game. At 67 minutes and Wanjau-Smith takes the ball through the middle and into their half. He plays the ball wide to the right wing for Willox who runs the ball into the square and then crosses to an unmarked Edwards who slots it home just inside the left post to put us back in front.
Just 2 minutes later and we attack down the right wing again with Willox drawing 2 defenders before it goes back to White. He plays it forward to Steele on the right edge of the box . Steele then crosses the ball across the face of goal to Wanjau-Smith on the far post and he slots it in. 3-1.
On 78 minutes and Evans takes a free kick just inside their half. He floats it in towards the box where Berry-Hargreaves uses his height to get above the pack. Their keeper had come off his line to try and get to the ball, but Berry-Hargreaves header clears him and goes into the open goal for another goal to us. 4-1.
After 87 minutes and after passing the ball around in the middle in their half, Edwards sends the ball to White on the right wing in the attacking zone. White crosses towards the middle but it goes over the 3 defenders and our attackers in front of the goal and falls to Wanjau-Smith just outside the far post. He places it just inside the left post to score our 5th goal of the afternoon. This has turned into a good win for us.
The statistics well and truly favour us at the end of the match. We had 56% possession, shots 19-11, on targets 9-6, xG 3.50 to 1.58, clear cut chances 3-0,and corners 10-7. Our pass completion rate was also good at 76%.
Our lead at the top of the table is now 13 points with 13 games to play.
20 March 2021 – Vanarama National League South, Away to Havant & Waterlooville
Match squad for today’s game is Team A – Elsworth GK, Hodgson DR, Allen DCR, Cheshire DCL, Byrne DL, Bailey DM, Hamilton MR, Fischer MC (Captain), Cannon ML, Seager AMCR, Harding AMCL, with reserves Cairney, White, Fasanmade, Angell, McGrory.
Cannon is back from injury after passing his fitness test and will start but I will look to bring him off in the second half at some stage. I also want to give Harding another run so McGrory drops to the bench and Tyler isn’t fully fit after playing 3 days ago so he drops out of the squad with Angell taking his place. We are going to run with 4-1-3-2-0 and I tell the lads I have faith in their ability.
Havant have been in pretty good form and go in strong favourites. This will be a tough game for us I think.
After 6 minutes and Bailey takes down their winger deep in our right hand defensive area. The free kick is floated into the box and the whistle blows. Byrne has pushed one of their players. It is a penalty. Not a great start here. The penalty is converted with Elsworth going the wrong way. We are a goal down early. I guess there is plenty of time to recover.
At 13 minutes and Hodgson gets the ball on the right wing and runs it deep into their territory before crossing to the far side. The ball is met by Cannon who volleys a blistering shot at goal. Somehow the keeper deflected it and it goes out on the opposite side touch line. Remarkable save.
There are a few more chances but nothing of note prior to half time. We lead the stats but not the game. We had 51% possession, 5 shots each, on targets 4-3, they lead xG 0.94 to 0.60, and corners to us 5 to 2. Our pass completion rate is a whopping 83%. And no cards. The only difference so far is the penalty.
They get the first booking of the match at 50 minutes. We get the second one after 58 minutes to Bailey. I tell him to ease off and swap to the 4-1-3-1-1 formation with Harding at striker.
At 61 minutes they cross the ball to our left and their striker shoots for the far side and Elsworth comes up with a great save deflecting it over the cross bar at full stretch. The resulting corner is played to the far side and is nodded in to double their lead. It is now a very big ask to come back. At 69 minutes I bring on Fasanmade for the tiring Cannon and drag Bailey who is having a shocker and replace him with Rusby. I tell them to go out there and make the difference.
At 82 minutes I bring McGrory on for Fischer who is also playing badly, and switch back to our normal formation.
The ref blows full time. That was a terrible performance from the team and I tell them. I also get stuck into Bailey and Fischer for their performances. To be fair our side is quite young and it was always going to be hard to hold form late in the season. But I am not happy. Stats I hear you ask. We had 53% of possession, they won shots 11 to 6, on targets 5 to 4 and xG 1.35 to 0.69. We took corners 5-3. These stats are pretty close and don’t really indicate the match performance. If you take out the penalty it is probably fair enough.
And then we hear that Ebbsfleet went down to the bottom team 3-0, so we hold our lead at the top of the table.
Berry-Hargreaves, Willox, Steele and Wanjau-Smith all make the Team of the Week this week.
It really looks like only Ebbsfleet and us can win the league from here. We have a 13 point margin. Generally if you get an average of 2 points per game you will be in the mix for winning the league. If we say they can get 26 points in the last 12 games it will take them to 84 points, it means we need 13 to win the comp on for and against. That’s 4 wins and a draw. I am feeling confident.
23 March 2021 – Vanarama National League South, Home to Maidstone United
Match squad for today’s game is Team B – Cairney GK, White DR, Berry-Hargreaves DCR (Captain), Hughes DCL, Whittingham DL, Evans DM, Willox MR, Edwards MC, Wanjau-Smith ML, Steele AMCR, Obafemi AMCL, with reserves Elsworth, Rusby, Tyler, Fasanmade, Harding. I tell the lads I have faith in them.
Maidstone get the first yellow card for the match after 23 minutes.
Maidstone get another booking at 39 minutes. This is closely followed by bookings to Evans and Edwards. I tell them both to ease off tackles.
That takes us to half time. A pretty quiet first half but we lead all key stats and probably should lead on the scoreboard as well. We have had 55% possession, 4 shots to nil, 2 on targets to nil, and 6 corners to 2. I blast them and ask them for more in the second half.
Just 3 minutes into the second half and White heads the ball on half way to Willox on the right wing. He plays a through ball to Affy just on the right corner of the box and puts it into the top left corner of the goal to put us in front.
After 58 minutes Evans plays the ball forward to Edwards who passes to Steele. He runs into the area and shoots to the right but the ball goes over the cross bar. That was a good chance to double our lead. On 71 minutes Berry-Hargreaves cops a yellow card.
After 83 minutes and they play a free kick into the box and a Maidstone player goes down. Penalty. And it was Edwards, he gets his second booking and is off. We are down a man and they level the scores. I bring Rusby on for Evans and Tyler for Willox. They were both fatigued.
And that brings us to full time. We were totally in control of that match until the penalty and send off. We come away with a point. The stats were largely dominated by us, possession 55%, shots 9-4, on targets against us 3-4, xG 0.90 to 1.08, and corners 11-3. We really need to turn this form around and now we have a VNL side in a few days away. And Ebbsfleet will be spurred on by us dropping 2 points here. They play their next league game whilst we are up at Stockport for the Trophy Semi-Final.
We now have 2 players out suspended for the FA Trophy Semi-Final, Edwards and Cheshire.
27 March 2021 – FA Trophy Semi Final, Away to Stockport
Match squad for today’s game is Team A – Elsworth GK, Hughes DCR, Berry-Hargreaves DC, Allen DCL, Bailey DM, Hamilton MR, McGrory MCL, Fischer MCR (Captain), Cannon ML, Seager AMCR, Obafemi AMCL, with reserves Cairney, Rusby, Tyler, Fasanmade, Harding. We are going to run with 3-1-4-2-0 and I tell the lads I have faith in their ability.
Stockport get the first yellow card of the match after just 6 minutes. And 4 minutes later Seager takes a free kick and passes forward to Hamilton who turns and beats the defender before smashing a shot in from 25 metres out. Somehow the keeper gets a touch and deflects it just past the left post. That was some strike and a fine save.
More bookings follow to Stockport after 12 and 14 minutes. And then two minutes later after Hamilton crosses into their box and McGrory doesn’t even jump for it they run it down field and put a striker in behind the defence and score the first goal of the match. 1-0 down.
Just on 20 minutes and Allen clears the ball to the midfield for Affy to win it. He plays to forward to Seager who centres it to McGrory who shoots. Another great save from their keeper. A minute later and the ball is cleared from our goal and Seager plays Affy into space. He shoots and another fine save. This is frustrating. A further 2 minutes later and Fischer plays a through play to put McGrory one on one with the keeper again and this time he beats the keeper. But the ball goes wide to the right.
On 28 minutes and Affy intercepts on half way and runs into the area and shoots but yet another great save. And yet another corner. We don’t seem able to convert corners or general play opportunities at the moment. Another 3 minutes later and Baily passes forward to Seager who plays it wide to the right wing where Hamilton takes it towards the goal line and crosses to goal. It floats over Fischer and McGrory and falls to Cannon who places it inside the left post to score. We are back on terms again.
We get our first yellow card after 35 minutes to Berry-Hargreaves. I tell him to ease off tackles.
No more action before half time. They lead possession with us only having 44%. We lead all other key stats, shots 8-6, on targets 6-2, xG 1.09 to 0.91 and corners 6-3. I tell the lads I expect more from them in the second half.
Just two minutes into the second half and Cannon is booked. After 64 minutes and Fischer tries to tackle their right winger in the area and gets it wrong. They get a penalty and it is converted. We go a goal down despite dominating all the stats. Their right winger gets into the box again and this time Hughes takes him down. Another penalty. And another goal and both times our keeper didn’t move.
After 74 minutes and this time Fischer gets the tackle inside the box rights. He gets the ball and plays it forward to Affy who runs it into their area and he is taken down. Has the penalty shootout started early? That is 3 penalties in 10 minutes. Seager steps up and buries it in the right corner. 3-2 down but back in the game.
We move back to our normal 4-1-3-2-0 after 83 minutes. With Tyler coming on to play DL and McGrory off after all those missed opportunities.
We get to 90 minutes and have 5 minutes of extra time to try and take it to extra time.
The whistle comes and we are out of the Trophy. Stats were 44% possession, with just about everything else our way, shots 14-10, on targets 7-5,xG to them 2.59 to 2.22, clear cut chances 2 each, and corners 13-4. I tell the lads they did well but it wasn’t to be.
And we hear that Ebbsfleet have been held to a scoreless draw at home so we keep our 13 point buffer with 11 games to go in the League.
1 April 2021
Affy has told me he is now happy playing as a Shadow Striker and he has also withdrawn his transfer request. If I can get him to start training harder he might become a very good player for us.
Tommy Rees returns from loan. He is an 18yo GK, 194cm and 78kg. I am not sure he will improve much despite his physical size. I will leave him in the U23s and see how he goes there before making a decision. I might even watch a game or two to see how he is going.
Slough make an offer for Berry-Hargreaves which I reject. I have offered him a 2 year extension and he accepts it.
The Board performance assessment goes well, and I get an A+ again.
2 April 2021 – Vanarama National League South, Away to Chippenham
Match squad for today’s game is Team B – Cairney GK, White DR, Berry-Hargreaves DCR (Captain), Hughes DCL, Whittingham DL, Evans DM, Willox MR, Edwards MC, Wanjau-Smith ML, Steele AMCR, Obafemi STC, with reserves Elsworth, Rusby, Tyler, Fasanmade, Harding. I am going with the 4-1-3-1-1 today and tell the lads I have faith in them.
They get the first yellow card of the game after 3 minutes.
After 15 minutes we get a free kick 25 metres out. Evans takes the kick and has a go for goal. He curls it to the top right corner and the keeper just manages to get to it and save it. A good attempt. I think it was a bit unlucky.
At 19 minutes in and they get another booking. It looks like another game where there will be a fair few bookings. Just one minute later and their left winger gets a second yellow in two minutes. He is off.
I tell the back line to ease off tackles as a pre-emptive move.
At 39 minutes they get their striker behind our defence but he shoots wide. Just one minute later and Whittingham has a throw in on the left wing deep in their half. The ball comes back to him and he crosses towards goal. Steele gets to the header first but it goes just over the cross bar.
Into the last minute of injury time and Evans with another free kick. He crosses it in to the far post and Steele again with a header but same result. It goes just over.
The whistle goes for half time. Scores are level and no one has troubled the scorer so far. We lead most stats as per usual. We have had 61% possession, 7 shots to 4, 4 on targets to 1, xG 0.55 to 0.46, and corners 3-1.
I tell the lads I want more from them in the second half.
From the kick off we get it to the right wing to Willox. He runs it deep and crosses to Edwards on the left who gets a shot in but it is saved.
At 58 minutes and Willox is taken down in the area. Penalty. Evans steps up and shoots wide on the right. We change back to 4-1-3-2-0.
At 75 minutes and Evans gets a through ball to Affy in space. He shoots and it is saved. This is unbelievable. We just cannot convert chances at the moment. Just 4 minutes later and Whittingham has a throw in on the left wing deep in their territory. He gets it to Wanjau-Smith just inside the area and he heads it towards goal and Affy gets to it first and plays it across the keeper and inside the far post. It is finally a goal. We take the lead with just over 10 minutes to go. Can we finally get a win?
They get another booking after 88 minutes. On 90 minutes and we have 4 minutes of injury time. I replace the fatigued Willox with Tyler. With 90 seconds to go I replace Edwards with Rusby. Rusby moves to DM and Evans up to MC.
And full time is called. That was not an impressive win. We really played well except for our finishing. It is good to have another win on the board though. Stats -58% possession, 13-6 shots, 8-1 on targets, xG 1.92 to 0.52 and corners 13-1. I tell the boys that was a good win and single out Whittingham’s performance.
Ebbsfleet came from a goal down to win 2-1, scoring their winner at the same time we got our goal. We keep our 13 point buffer.
3 April 2021
I resign Affy for 2 more years from the end of this season. How things change in football.
5 April 2021 – Vanarama National League South, Away to Billericay
Match squad for today’s game is Team A – Elsworth GK, Hodgson DR, Allen DCR, Cheshire DCL, Byrne DL, Bailey DM, Hamilton MR, Fischer MC (Captain), Cannon ML, Seager AMCR, Harding AMCL, with reserves Cairney, White, Fasanmade, Angell, McGrory. I decide to drop McGrory to the bench after his last game and give Harding another run.
I tell the lads I have faith in them.
After 13 minutes it feels like here we go again. Hamilton is given the ball and uses his pace to beat the defenders and beats the keeper with his shot but it hits the fat post and comes out to be played away by a defender.
After 37 minutes and our defender turns his back on their striker who gets past and puts the ball in the back of net for Billericay to take the lead. What a shocker after leading the stats all half.
We go down to the last few seconds of the half and Bailey from the midfield plays it deep to the left wing for Cannon. He runs the ball to the goal line before crossing it back inside. It comes to Hamilton, just outside the far post, who shoots. He hits the post again, but this time it goes in. We level the scores right on half time.
At half time we lead the stats with 56% possession, 5 shots to 3, 3 on targets to 1, x G 0.92 to 0.17, clear cut chances 2-0 and corners 3-0. I get stuck in to the team again. And I notice that Ebbsfleet led 1-0 early but are down 3-1 at half time. A win for us today would be gold.
After 50 minutes and Hamilton makes a run down the right wing and crosses in to Seager who has his shot blocked from point blank range. Just 4 minutes later and Byrne has a throw in deep in Billericay territory on the left wing. He finds Cannon who heads towards the goal mouth and Fischer is to it first and heads just inside the near post but it is saved.
At 80 minutes I replace the fatigued Cannon with Fasanmade and Harding with McGrory. Around 7 minutes later they have a free kick and float the ball into the area and it is scrambled into our goal. We are behind again. And it is down to missed opportunities again. We have made so many chances in the last handful of games but just not converted. I guess it is better than not being able to make opportunities and getting beaten. We will just have to ride out this form slump.
Full time comes and we lose a very winnable game. Stats – 54% possession, 12 shots to 5, 5 on targets to 6, xG 1.39 to 1.11, clear cut chances 3-0 and corners 10-3. That really doesn’t look like losing stats does it. Good news is Ebbsfleet also went down, 5-2 away to Concord. We hold our 13 point buffer with 9 to play.
The good news is that we got no bookings, no injuries and secured a play off spot. Whittingham makes the Team of the Week this week.
10 April 2021 – Vanarama National League South, Home to Concord Rangers
Our annual youth intake arrives. There are a few of them that might have potential. Not a lot of speed which is a shame. I will have a look at them more closely after I watch their game with our youth side.
Match squad for today’s game is Team B – Cairney GK, White DR, Berry-Hargreaves DCR (Captain), Hughes DCL, Whittingham DL, Evans DM, Willox MR, Edwards MC, Wanjau-Smith ML, Steele AMCR, Obafemi AMCL, with reserves Elsworth, Rusby, Tyler, Fasanmade, Tracey. I decided to bring Tracey onto the bench seeing as Harding was in the run on side last time out. I am going with the 4-1-3-2-0 today and tell the lads I have faith in them. I have changed a couple of the roles to see if that helps get us out of our rut.
This game is against the side that hammered Ebbsfleet 5-2 last week. So this will be a tough game. A win would be very helpful for confidence and our League winning aspirations.
During the first 5 minutes of the game we have had 4 shots on goal, 3 corners and 2 free kicks within range, xG is 0.69 to 0.00.
After 11 minutes Affy plays a one two with Edwards and gets through into the box. His shot is block by a defender and goes behind for a corner. We are again making plenty of opportunities but not converting.
At 17 minutes Berry-Hargreaves intercepts a through ball and heads it to Steele just inside their half. He plays it immediately to Edwards who draws a central defender out of the line and plays the ball behind the defender to the unmarked Affy. He runs the ball to the edge of the area and places the ball inside the far post to score. We have the lead.
They pick up the first booking of the game at 20 minutes. After 33 minutes Evans gets our first yellow card so I tell him to ease off. We have had 7 shots so far are they are still yet to get a shot on goal. That changes a minute later when they intercept one of our passes and a through ball finds their striker. He blasts it from 20 metres and a great save from Cairney sees it go over the cross bar.
We go into half time with a slender lead. Stats are our way with 55% possession, 8 shots to 1, 4 on targets to 1, xG 1.17 to 0.25 and corners 7-1. I tell the lads I want more from them in the second half.
At 50 minutes the ball falls to Evans in our half. He plays a through ball for Edwards who runs it deep in their half and then plays it across to Affy just outside the area. He fires a rocket at goal but it grazes the cross bar and goes over. A great move.
On 63 minutes and Evans has a free kick just outside the right hand corner of the area. He floats it in towards the far post and Berry-Hargreaves heads for goal. Just over again.
After 82 minutes and Evans takes a corner from the right. It is headed out to our left by one of their defenders. Wanjau-Smith gets the ball and beats a defender and runs it into the box. He crosses to Affy who heads it over. Did I mention how frustrating having all these chances and not converting was last game. It is happening again. If we ever hit our straps and start finding the net we will have a big win.
I decide to bring Freddy on for the fatigued Willox and move Steele back to MR. With just seconds to go and they get their second shot in and it is a ripper. Somehow Cairney gets down to his left to turn it behind. That was so close to a goal and levelling it up.
And that’s just about the last move of the game. We take another win. It was unconvincing on the scoreboard but a very solid effort. Stats were overwhelmingly in our favour, 51% possession, 13 shots to 2, 4 on targets to 2, xG 2.02 to 0.30, and corners 13-4. I tell the lads that was a good win and single out Affy and Cairney for praise.
No injuries, all the points and only one booking. I would take that every time.
In other news and Ebbsfleet blow another 1-0 lead to lose 2-1 at home to Chippenham. That puts our buffer out to 16 points with 8 games to go. The 84 points I talked about would definitely win the League. We are only 2 wins off that. I am not sure Ebbsfleet can even get to 80 points the way theu are going. And we are 21 points clear of Havant and Waterlooville who are third, so one more win would mean they can’t catch us either.
And the headline says Hungerford cruise to their best ever Vanarama South finish. Affy and Cairney both make Team of the Week.
13 April 2021 – Vanarama National League South, Home to St Albans
Match squad for today’s game is Team A – Elsworth GK, Hodgson DR, Allen DCR, Cheshire DCL, Byrne DL, Bailey DM, Hamilton MR, Fischer MC (Captain), Cannon ML, Seager AMCR, McGrory AMCL, with reserves Cairney, White, Fasanmade, Angell, Harding.
We get the first yellow card through Cannon in just the second minute. That is not a good start. The second booking follows 9 minutes later to Byrne.
After 17 minutes their defender gets their first booking of the match.
They lose their MR to injury in the last minute of injury time in the first half. A pretty lacklustre half of football.
Half time stats – we have completed 88% passes, have had 59% possession, 8 shots to 0, 4 on targets to nil, xG 0.70 to 0.00, and corners 8-1. To not be leading here is embarrassing. I tell the lads that.
After 50 minutes they lose another player to injury and then 5 minutes later get another yellow card.
On 56 minutes and Hamilton takes a corner on the right. He floats it in and a crowd of players go up for it. The ball is deflected to the left and McGrory gets a free header but the keeper saves it. That was a good chance for us.
62 minutes in and Hamilton takes another corner from the right. It floats across to the far side and Cannon heads it back in to Seager who shoots but the keeper manages to deflect it wide.
We get a few more chance but really, it seems like the lads don’t have their heart in it.
Full time comes and that was definitely a game we should have won by a big margin but it ends up 0-0. I think I am going to have to bring a few players in to shake things up. And it is definitely our team A who have had 0-2-3 from their last 5 games. This slump has been going too long now. Some of these lads are going to really have to earn their spot back in the team.
Stats – 61% possession, 19 shots to 1,10 on targets to nil, xG 1.95 to 0.22, and corners 18-2. I get stuck into the team. To not get a goal from all that was really bad. It shouldn’t cost us the title but this isn’t the way we want to win it.
There are 7 rounds left to play. Ebbsfleet lost again at home and our lead in the League is now 17 points to a very out of form but very capable professional team. One more win and a draw would see them off as our goal difference is 50 and theirs is at 21. Havant keep winning matches and are only 2 points behind Ebbsfllet now. Just one more win would see them off. So realistically we can wrap up the title in our next game if Ebbsfleet don’t win and we do.
17 April 2021 – Vanarama National League South, Away 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, Steele AMCR, Obafemi AMCL, with reserves Elsworth, Rusby, Tyler, Fasanmade, Harding.
After 30 minutes Whittingham has a throw on the attack in the left wing corner and the ball comes back to him, he runs it back and crosses to Evans just out from the left corner of the area and it then goes quickly to Angell in the midfield. He plays it right to Willox on the corner of the area and then in to Edwards who runs into the area and places toward the left post and the keeper deflects the ball but it goes across the goal line for a goal to open the scoring.
On 35 minutes and Willox gets the first booking of the match. Just one minute later Evans plays the ball back to Hughes inside our half. He plays a long through ball to the right of the area and Affy runs onto it and blasts the ball across the keeper and into the left corner of the net. We double the lead.
At half time we go in with a good 2 nil lead. Stats- possession 55%, shots 6-4, on targets 2-1, xG0.99 to 0.22, and corners 1 all. That was a pretty good first half. I tell the lads not to get complacent.
After 54 minutes Angell takes a throw in on the right wing on half way. He receives the ball back and balls a long ball through to Willox who is behind the defenders and he runs to the 6 yard line and almost to the keeper before shooting past him and just wide of the left post. A very good chance that one.
Around 4 minutes later and Whittingham and Wanjau-Smith exchange passes on the left corner of the box and Whittingham then drifts a cross to the right. Willox runs on to the ball and volleys it at goal. Once again he hits it just wide of the left post. We have them under a fair bit of pressure at the moment.
Welling have the ball just inside their half on 68 minutes. It is played down our left wing and moved inside before a through ball is played and finds their striker who buries it in the back of the net. The flag is up. It doesn’t count. Offside. Just one minute later and another long ball gets their striker through again. He is onside this time and is one on one with the keeper but shoots just wide of our left post.
The full time whistle is blown, and we take the game 2-0. That was a pretty good match for us. Our best win for a while, only one booking and no injuries. We end up with 54% possession, 9 shots to 8, 3 on targets to 2, xG 1.59 to 0.51 and 3 corners to 2. We have had better stats than this lately and lost or drawn matches. So maybe we have now weathered the storm and can kick on.
Ebbsfleet have also won so we don’t wrap the title up yet. We are still 17 points clear with 6 matches to go. It is now just a matter of time. We will get there in the next match or two as we now need just one point or for Ebbsfleet not to win a match.
This week Hamilton makes the Team of the Week.
24 April 2021 – Vanarama National League South, Away to Dartford
Match squad for today’s game is Team A – Elsworth GK, Hodgson DR, Allen DCR, Cheshire DCL, Byrne DL, Bailey DM, Hamilton MR, Fischer MC (Captain), Cannon ML, Seager AMCR, McGrory AMCL, with reserves Cairney, Rusby, Fasanmade, Tyler, Seager. I have decided to go fully on attack and changed to a 3-1-3-3-0 formation. Seager has been out of form so I have dropped him to the bench and given a few of our backup forwards a run. The out of form Bailey makes way for White at DM, and Byrne drops out of the squad as we move from 3 defenders to 2. McGrory moves to the central midfield position and Harding, Tracey and Lynch come in as forwards.
I am sure Dartford won’t be prepared for this. We need a point so let’s score as many goals as we can and see if they can respond. I tell the lads I have faith in them.
After 11 minutes and a through ball finds their striker just wide of our right defender and he balsts a shot towards goal. It’s there, a fabulous strike. They are up a goal early on. White gets a yellow after 15 minutes quickly followed by one to them. They get another booking at 36 minutes.
After 39 minutes and the ball comes to Husin who strikes it first time from 25 metres. That was some goal and they double their lead. I want Husin in our team.
Just before half time and Hamilton is booked.
We go into half time behind 2 nil with 42% possession, 3 shots to 9, 1 on target to 4, 2 corners to 7 and 0.10 xG to 0.93. Tracey was the worst of the front men so I bring him off and send Tyler on as DL and we move back to 4-1-43-2-0. The only good news is Ebbsfleet are down by 3 goals at half time so we may still win the title today.
The ball skittles around the middles and comes forward to Hamilton who finishes it beautifully to bring us back within a goal early in the second half. However that is the best we can do.
That’s full time, and we lose 2-1. But we are crowned champions and the celebrations begin. I would have much preferred to get the title at a home game and with a win. But we have been the best side this year and I will happily take the title. I praise the lads on winning the title. The certainly takes the pressure off and I can now concentrate on sorting out contracts for next season for the core group I want to keep. Hopefully the Board will give us an increased wage and transfer bill shortly to allow this to happen.
And the Board comes through almost immediately, wage budget for next season is 8.25k and transfer budget is 1.82k. The wage budget is up around 30%. That’s not too bad seeing as we will lose a few players.
25 April 2021
The Board has made a second cash injection towards the club’s running costs for the season, this time 95k.
I have made 13 offers to sign free transfer players for next season, 5 are for the youth side and the remainder for seniors. Although a few of the youth players may well spend a fair bit of time in the seniors like Cannon has done this season. On the youth side we have Bulmer GK 16yo 184cm 69kg, Colin Clarkson DR 16yo 190cm 76kg Acc 10, Mo Clare DLC 16yo 177cm 65kg Acc 13 (will be in the seniors), Christian Schulberg MC 16yo 185cm 70kg Acc 8, Tom Sheppard MC 15yo 163cm 55kg Acc 7, Sean Wilshaw ST 16yo 177cm 61kg Acc 7.
The senior players are Ollie O’Dwyer DC 24yo 199cm 88kg Acc 8, Jordan Corke DC 21yo 180cm 66kg Acc 13, Martin Onoabhagbe DC 20yo 185cm 79kg Acc 13, Luke Lyons DC 20yo 188cm 77kg Acc Acc 12, Pearse Esler DR 17yo 171cm 60kg Acc 14, Sid Kerr DM 21yo 182cm 70kg Acc 13, and Tre Pemberton MR 22yo 181cm 62kg Acc 17.
1 May 2021 – Vanarama National League South, Home to Braintree
We have signed and resigned a heap of players. The Board have given me a ringing endorsement again. Let’s now see out the season and build for next year. This is our first game in front of our fans after winning the title. We are expecting a big turnout today and really need to impress them.
Match squad for today’s game is Team B – Cairney GK, White DR, Berry-Hargreaves DCR (Captain), Hughes DCL, Whittingham DL, Evans DM, Willox MR, Edwards MC, Wanjau-Smith ML, Steele AMCR, Obafemi AMCL, with reserves Elsworth, Rusby, Tyler, Fasanmade, Harding.
They get the first booking after just two minutes. And that is followed by another yellow card at 13 minutes.
After 27 minutes Hughes intercepts a through ball and heads it through to Wanjau-Smith Who runs the ball over half way and plays it forward to Affy who beats the last defender with his pace and places the ball inside the far post. Goal. We take the lead. Just 3 minutes later and Wanjau-Smith is booked.
After 32 minutes Whittingha, throws the ball in from just inside their half on the left wing. Edwards heads the ball forward to Evans who heads it forward to Steele. He takes the ball inside the area and the ball is taken and cleared from the area. Evans plays it back in to Wanjau-Smith on the left who plays it across to Affy in front of goal but he heads to Willox on the far side who puts it into the net. We double our lead.
And that takes us to half time. Stats – possession 53%, shots 13 to 4, on targets 8-1, xG 1.79 to 0.16, clear cut chances 1-0, and corners 6-2.I tell the lads not to get complacent.
In the first 10 minutes of the second half we have three very decent chances that we blow. After 61 minutes White cops card. After 69 minutes and Affy is through on goal but cant beat the keeper. We have total control of this match at the moment.
After 75 minutes they get the ball forward from our throw in and a tackle goes backwards and is taken by their forward who converts the chance. This is totally against the run of play. Our lead is halved.
They cop yellow cards at 86 minutes and the third minute of extra time. We take the game 2-1 dominating all statistics. Possession 52%, shots 22-9, on targets 13-2, xG 3.20 to 0.81, CCCs 2-0, and corners 9-6. I tell the lads they have done well.
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