Our first month in League 2 was a bit of an eye-opening experience, both good and bad. We opened on the road against Cheltenham and the 1-2 final score makes the game look a lot closer than it really was. We got less than half the amount of shots off that Cheltenham did, and a 92nd minute goal by Danny Crow is all we could manage. We bounced back well in our first home league game against Chesterfield.
After surrendering the lead on a 49th minute score, we leveld things on the hour, with Archie Love scoring his first goal for the club. We were then gifted an own goal when Sam Hird cleared a ball off the back of a teammate into the back of the net! We had our first breakout game offensively against Crawley, and our leaky defense needed it. We gave up an early goal only 8 minutes in, but Danny Crow responded 5 mintues later. Peter Bore then scored his first goal for the club in the 27th minute. We held that lead for a while, but gave up the tying goal 38 minutes in. The second half didn't feature nearly as many fireworks, with the only (and game-winning) goal being scored on a penalty by new poacher Adam Birchall. Our next game featured more of the same - strong offense, leaky defense. We held a 2-0 lead at the half against Torquay and looked good doing so. And even after they fired back with goals 10 mintues apart (54', 64'), we retook the lead in the 66th as Adam Birchall was on target once again. All that work was undone late, once again, as we gave up the tying goal in the 85th minute.
We got quite a difficult draw in the first round of the Capital One Cup against League 1 side Swindon. I was happy that it was a home game, at the very least. We played defensively to open things up and did a good job of limiting chances and frustrating the opposing team. Then we gave up a STUPID goal in the 25th minute. Alan Julian thought it would be a good idea to walk down to the right side of the box and clear the ball out to the center of the pitch. Naturally, it was intercepted about 40 yards out and James Collins quickly trapped the ball and rifled it in before Julian could get back for a block attempt. I just about broke my desk when this happened. We opened things up in the second half to chase for a tying goal, but couldn't find a way through a superior defense. Then it happened. In the 81st minute, Adam Birchall broke through on a sublime through ball from Danny Crow and the game was tied. The home crowd was in a frenzy and we kept pushing as time kept ticking down. Who else could it be, other than Adam Birchall again? This time, he latched onto a long pass from Thomas Butler, froze the keeper with a quick stutter, then slammed home the winning goal!
Our reward for such a dramatic finish? Another home game for the second round, this time against Liverpool! A record setting crowd of 5511 were in attendance for David to take on Goliath. We learned a few tactical tricks in our games against bigger teams already, so we set out with an air of cofidence. Would you believe it, we went into halftime tied at zero! We took very few shots, but forced Liverpool into a lot of bad ones. The same pattern followed in the second half and we looked like we would at least stun the world with a draw. Then in the 77th minute, Christian Fuchs got through the defense but he was too far forward. He cut in towards goal but he was left with an impossible angle and no defenders to lay off to. SOMEHOW he gets a right footed shot off that bent perfectly around the keeper and curled just inside the far post. The air left the stadium and the fight left our players as we walked off 0-1 losers.
The Johnstone's Paint Trophy kicks off in September and our first game is against a familiar foe - Swindon. I'm sure they will be looking to get some revenge after we booted them out of the Capital One Cup, but we will be looking to tip the apple cart again. Hopefully we've learned a few things since our first meeting. A boring win will be just fine for me!
With the first four games of the long 46 game season in the books, we sit defiantly in 6th place, tied with 5 other teams that also have 7 points. It's entirely too early to start predicting a run at promotion, but the early signs are definitely pointing towards more positives than negatives. We have six games on tap for September and after these we can start to see where we stack up against the competition a bit more clearly. We will face off against Bristol Rovers (24), Shrewsbury (1), Fleetwood (18), Morecambe (4), Port Vale (14), and Gillingham (2).
The restocking of our roster didn't stop in July as we added five more players in August, all free transfers. All of these signings were also very friendly on our weekly wages so we still have 5.59k p/w to potentially spend (and a 133k transfer kitty) if some outstanding targets become available.
Michael Drennan was brought in because the more I thought about it, the less I wanted to rely on Mehdi Lazaar as my backup trequart.
Brynmor Blain was too promising of a poacher to give up. We don't have the facilities or staff to ensure that he will blossom, but he will be an intriguing prospect regardless.
Chris Todd was signed to give more of a veteran presence in our back four when players need to be rotated.
Nortei Nortey is another prospect for the future. He has ridiculous speed and has the makings of a fantastic offensive threat from the fullback position. That, and he has a badass name!
Jordan Copp gives us more depth at several positions. He will play primarily at midfield, either centrally or out wide and he can also drop back and play left fullback in a pinch.