After the serie of home games I prepare for the away match at Barnet. In the meantime, I get an offer for Sertori, the financial situation is quite disastrous, but I cannot deprive myself of the best defender in terms of tackles and headers. I refuse it. Given the economic situation, I renew Marshall, Hope and Ormondroyd who were among the players having a contract shortly expiring. I can’t lose them. There are still 5 players with a short expiring contract: Walker, Clarke, Housham, Wilcox, Shakespear. Clarke and Housham will certainly not be renewed. Wilcox certainly deserves it, but it’s really getting old (now 34) …
The game with Barnet is a disaster, we suffer continuously and we create very little the result is the only thing that can be saved: 2-2. Not a big viaticum in view of the next match at Peterborough. With D’Auria’s return behind the strikers, the first line attacking duo becomes Harsley-Mainwaring. We deservedly win 1-0 with a goal from Harsley. After two months playing every three days there is finally no midweek schedule. We host Darlington and Mainwaring shows up the first hattrick of his young career: it finishes 3-0 with the first MoM. Another week and we face Cardiff away and it ends as it often happened in the past months: 2 shots 2 goals for them and we waste too much. The following Wednesday in the second game of the Windscreen Shield we get a nice 2-2 on the Grimsby field which allows us to leading group. Three days later we play the first round of the FA challenge at home against Altrincham, the game is very closed and there are not many chances: it ends 0-0 after the 90 minutes. It will have to be repeated in a week.
On November 14th we host Northampton just above us in the standings, it is one of those matches where you need to make points for a thousand different reasons. After three minutes, Mainwaring collapses: shin splints. Northampton dominate and win 4-2. The bad news after the game is terrible: Andrew will be out 4 months…
The next match is the repetition of the match against Altrincham. Preece has just returned from injury and still not in condition. On the left, I give McAuley a rest and promote Akhmedov. The first half flows without much emotion. At 60′ Marshall leads us ahead. At that point, the Altrincham tries the reaction and a couple of good saves by Colgan lock the final 1-0. The draw for us will face the Stalybridge team of the minor leagues: the third round is within our reach.
On September 26th we host Lincoln fifth in the standings. Not an easy match, but after two wins in three games it would be important to line up two straight wins. The match remains in balance, but at ’72 we go under and we are not able to equalize. Ormondroyd as attacking midfilder is too far from the goal. Mainwaring plays a good half an hour without producing much. We are playing every three days and therefore on the following Saturday we go to play at York. It ends in a goleada, all the attackers score, Harsley even signs twice and Preece is MoM. Mainwaring also scores his first goal as senior player. We are now back to 13th position. The following game on the group of the Windscreen Shield trophy takes place on the following Wednesday and we play against Preston, a second division’s team. Due the lower importance of the tournament compared to the championship, I make some changes: I place Hope in place of Wilcox and Mainwaring from the beginning to team up with Harsley. We dominate the match and above all Mainwaring scored both the goals in the final 2-0. A star is born? The next match is on Mansfield. After the break, I put Ormondroyd back in the middle of the attack with Harsley and I keep Walker in midfield opting for a classic 4-4-2. After 2 minutes, Ormondroyd was injured and it was therefore up to Mainwaring to take his place. We win 2-1 with Mainwaring’s decisive goal, the MoM, however, is Colgan. Third victory in a row between all the competitions above all 5 victories in the last 7 matches and tenth position in the standings close to the playoffs area. Does the turning point has finally come?
Theoretically the calendar is good: we have 4 home games in a row and with we could really put in a good pace and stay in a good ranking position. The first is against the penultimate Rotherham and therefore designated victim. We go under almost immediately, Harsley equalized in the 70th minute but 5 minutes later Walker committed the most classic of own goals and instead of three easy points we ended up with nothing at all: 1-2. Three days later, it was Brighton current at the seventh place. Game of great balance like the one with Rotherham and also here we go below, we come back with Ormondroyd but it is not enough and we suffer a 2-1 defeat in the final. The third match is against Shrewsbury sixth in the standings. It ends up 1-1 with the opposing goalkeeper taking 9 as rating! On the positive side, Mainwaring still hits the goal. The latest in the home game series is against Swansea above us by a couple of points in the standings. It is almost the same as in the other matches: it ends 0-1 after having also some good opportunities, probably 1-1 would have been a fairer result but their goalkeeper Jones is MoM. So after one point in four games we find ourselves back in 13th place in the standings. Shit!!!
We finally hope to begin to grind some good win and maybe keep in the upper part of the board close to the playoffs zone. The following game is away to Rochdale: a good test. We literally dominate the match but we don’t hit the goal: 11 shots but just one on goal. It ends 0-0… The attack was really poor performing. It is clear that a greater impact is needed in this role. I have to find a good striker. The problem is the money, almost none.
The following Wednesday we host Harlepool and it is still 0-0, while the next game is another 2-1 defeat at Bournemouth where we lose again Preece this time due to an injury. The trend is quite bad in the last 20 days in which we played every 3 day for a total of 7 matches, we lose 4 time and won only one. This is how an almost grotesque match against Altrincham is staged. We lead with 18 shots to 3 but ends 1-1 cos in the only shot on goal they score while we waste the impossible and only the eternal Ormondoryd avoids us a real hoax. One shot one goal we said and unfortunately on goal there is who I had identified as the future of the role in the team: Colgan. Obviously it was not an good choice. Anyway the message is clear: I need someone to score more goals. I begin to search among the cheaper beacuse of the low money availability. Then I come across Andrew Mainwaring, with excellent technique and good shooting. He has no team and therefore I can offer him a poor contract.
Meanwhile we go to play on the Notts County field in 4 positions and with very different ambitions from ours. We dominate the match and, thanks to the opposing goalkeeper being sent off, we do not run in big dangers. A good 2-0 that makes us breath again. Ormondroyd is the Man of the Match. Motivated by this win we receive the Leyton Orient and Mainwaring joins the team as soon as the contract is signed. And once again another cold shower: it ends 3-4 and after conceding 3 goals in the last 5 games we take 4 just this match, this time there was Evans on goal but … the problem of the goalkeeper is still big. At the end of the match, I made in Mainwaring but only for few minutes without leaving a trace. The next race is what I can call one of the most absurd I have ever played: we win it by finishing the game in 9 players and with the opponents wasting two penalty kicks. Evans gets kicked out in the fourth minute and since I have no other goalkeepers on the bench, I line up Forrester’s. Ormondroyd takes us forward and Harsley doubles, when, however, at ’74 we remain in 9 I start to despair, fortunately Steiner kicks out also the second penalty. It ends 1-2 with a some worries… A crazy game!!!
Fully aware of the bad situation in a bit ‘all roles but in particular the defense I concentrate in the search for a valid defender and a goalkeeper. Unfortunately there is no much money and I need to do some saving. From the free market I can take (naturally with 0 money) an lateral defensor Nathan Blamey that I hope can give an improvement to a role where I often had to play Hope (a central defender) for Neil’s poor performance and injury problems.
A week later it’s time for the goalkeeper, the worst part of the whole defense. Last year I tried all the roster’s goalkeepers in a all the possible ways, and then ended the season with two young goalkeepers on loan. So, given the financial constraints I can only buy from Chelsea who was probability the 4th goalkeeper for them: Nick Colgan. £59K is still a important effort for the club’s bad finances, but a change is also needed in that role. Signed a crazy contract (until 2006 !!!) we can face the last days before the start of the season. For the moment, although I have 7 players who are about to expire at the end of the next season, I am not proceeding yet with any extension. There are no untouchables, the refoundation keep going. Stamp contract is expired: the player has never convinced, but for the moment I decide to keep him in the team. I must also look for an attacker, possibly a good and cheap one.
The first game of the season is away against Cambridge United, Preece has been suspended for 4 matches from last season and therefore I have to put Housham on the pitch one of those who needs the contract renewal at the end of the season. We lose quite deservedly. The best one is Harsley who thus marks the first goal of the season while we start the season with a red card, for Housham … It doesn’t seem much changed since last year. And about the newcomers? Colgan is not in game, with a form that is certainly not the best having he played an official match only since 1992. Blamey’s performance is quite good. Not even the time to recover from the first defeat of the year that Glanfor Park has to dress up for the first leg of the League cup. Facing a great audience (9036 attendace) we lose quite clearly: at 24′ we are already 3 goals under. Ormondroyd scores the goal of the flag. Colgan takes 3 goals on his first game. Housham also failed the second chance… Fortunately the second league game is at home against Torquay and it’s time to make some points. The game is played in a practically empty stadium (880 attendance). I keep using the classic 4-4-2, Evans is back on goal. On the right defence, I put Hope in the absence of alternatives, seeing McAuley still injured. After 8 minutes, however, Hope must leave the pitch and Akhmedov replace it. It’s a fairly balanced game: Harsley and D’Auria take us on 2-0 but 83′ Watson shortens. But we close it 2-1 and Wilcox is the best on the pitch.
Walker was suspended for a game: I have to review the set-up. Before the closure of the market window I managed to sign for a player with the contract near expiration: Roger Preece. He seems to have good skills and could be a good midfielder for the diamond schema.
Wilcox is back from the injury but the condition is too low 75% so I keep the same schema of the previous match. The opponent is the first in the standings, really challenging … After 20 minutes we are under two goals and we struggle to get out of our half of the pitch. At 22′ Davison does a handball in the area, the referee commits a penalty kick and sent out him. D’Auria however shoots badly and has it parried. Bad … After a few minutes we also take the third goal and in the second half Roberts is sent out leaving us in 10 and without goalkeeper … 1-6 a real disaster … The next game we play against Barnet, I promote Hope and in attack I keep Forrester and Harsley in front of. The first half flows with several chances for Barnet which never hits the door. In the second half I move the center of gravity a little forward opting for a classic 4-4-2. The game changes, we are handling the game and at 55′ Harsley scores for us. From then on, we have numerous opportunities but we never manage to double. At 70′ I try to give Akhmedov a chance by putting him in O’Shea’s place on the left … It doesn’t shine much. As the game ended at 90′ Forrester makes 2-0. The diamond pattern against this opponent did not work that much, the 4-4-2 much better.
The next game we receive the Hull third in the standings, Roberts is suspended and I put Evans back on the field after months. Wilcox is recovered and consequently I put him back in the center of defense to team up with Sertoni. I leave Ormondroyd on the bench again for the third time in a row. Its shape is not that great. Like all the games played with the top teams of recent times it is another bad defeat: we lose 3-0 playing most of the game in 10 beacuse of Neil being sent off. Hope as a lateral defender plays a fair match. To be taken into consideration for the future.
From here to the end of the season we lose badly all the matches with stronger teams, like Exter 0-5 and Chester 1-6 (at home). To be noted only the 8-1 final on the pitch of Scarborough already widely demoted. We end the league at the 15th position with 59 points and the second worst defense fo the whole league, a sign that it is clearly the one we must work on, 17 points far from the playoff area.
We return to play at home and the next match is with Rochdale which is 50 points, only one point above us, the playoff area is still 8 points away but with 10 games and 30 points available everything is possible. Unfortunately Wilcox got injured in mid-week and therefore a place as a central defensive opens … Akhmedov or Hope? Go for the Armenian.
At 7′ we are already under Roberts is not perfect on the occasion. The ball possession is mainly of the opponents and the attackers are not in the game (vote 4 and 5) so I try to skip the midfield choosing long ball passes. I take the free kick to D’Auria and try to move it to Harsley. At 37′ it is Harsley who blows the ball to Farrell and score but for the referee the attacker has made an irregularity and cancels. At 42′ the Rochedale scores again but also this time the referee cancels for offside. The first relevant action starts from D’Auria feet but Ormondroyd kicks weakly. The first half ends. I move to use the direct passages to see if we can get closer to the door.
At 55′ Rochdale hides in 5-3-2 moving to the counterattack. I have to dare more, I move Walker forward in the middle of the field and I move slightly forward the wings. At 68′ Rochdale score the second goal. Ok, at this point I play all the cards I have: I take out Walker and I put in Forrester and I play with a very offensive 4-3-1-2. At 74′ we shorten the distances, just with Forrester: let’s try! Nothing happens anymore! It ends 1-2, deserved defeat. The feeling is that the Rochedale is stronger and we end up at 11 points from playoffs area … Game Over …
The management did not like it. The next game is againt the third in the standings. Prohibitive? At 38% possession I try with the long ball. At the 25′ we go below after a short rejection by Roberts. At the 27′ Walker is sent off for a foul as the last man and practically our game it’s over and thus the ambitions to access the playoffs. It ends 5-0.
After get back the leadership of Scunthorpe, I’m preparing for the second away match against Doncaster and based on the motto “winning team does not change” (not sure if it works in english) I keep the same starting eleven. The first half flows away with a couple of good chances but the problem is that we never hit the goal. In the half hour, Harsley wake up first scoring after a goalkeeper’s short rebound and then with a personal action a minute after having almost doubled. The Doncaster changes both external midfielders but the music does not change and at the end of time Ormondroyd takes advantage of a defender mistake and doubles. The Doncaster, however, immediately reopens the game at the start of the second half. The match still seems to be in control and Harsley has a couple of important conclusions. At 79 ‘Robinson saves on Pemberton and is miraculous at 85’ on a head from a corner kick.
We finally achieved the 3 points but the MVP is the goalkeeper Robinson. D’Auria also did well (vote 8) positioned behind the forwards. Unfortunately we are still 8 points far in the ranking from Colchester 7th which is last team in the PlayOff zone. The next match is against Swansea 19th with 9 points from us.
Since we have won two games, I look at the roster a bit and decide to try some alternatives: the left defender that I have O’Shea is on loan and Akhmedov an Armenian bought in January to do the central with no luck could be a good alternative. Unfortunately however in training McAurey got injuried and therefore I prefer not to change too much. I keep O’Shea to the left and I put Neal to the right where he had done well before the injury at the beginning of the season.
The game starts well: at 12 ‘Harsley assisted by D’Auria brings us ahead. It’s a really foulness game, at 28 ‘Swansea claims a penalty but the referee didn’t give it. In the second half, practically nothing happens until 60’ when there are a couple of occasions on each side. Corner kicks never lead to anything: I take them away from D’Auria I try to get them to Sertoni first and then Neal but nothing changes, always poor results. At 71 ‘Sertoni do an handball in the box and this time it drives a penalty a yellow card and above all the drawn. I should try to change something, but honestly I don’t have many options. I then take out Ormondroyd and put Forrester and O’Shea in charge of the corner kicks. At 89 ‘the turning point, O’Shea play a strange corner kick on which Staton does an own goal the winning goal.
The days are all the same in quarantine, thanks God since I’m working from Home in Smart Working as we call it, at least the day is full of meetings and activities that keep me away from the effort of having to fill many hours within the same walls. In the part of Milan where I live outside, everything is very quiet: few cars, few people, nothing more … The temptation to feel dozed off and to be assailed by apathy or worse by the panic of the numbers that continue to report a massacre of deaths (even today more than 900) is really big. We are alone and defenseless. Social networks simply mitigate this situation by mixing nonsense, messages, news in a whirlwind that leads to constant mood swings and enthusiasm. Then I see my mother’s message saying “Look at the Pope’s blessing at 6 pm”. Ah yes … The Pope. Who knows why in these moments faith is no longer just a typo from the past, an old appendix that we all remove but, more than ever, it becomes hope.
At 6 PM I’m in front of the TV, I don’t watch the usual daily bulletin and I simply put myself on hold. The show that presents itself is really full of drama the Pope faces a completely empty churchyard and who has been right there know very well how huge St. Peter’s Square is, especially when it is empty. It is he, but it is we, alone and tiny. There is little hope, and a lot of submission, to testify that yes, we are close to the end. The commentator says that it is the first time that the plenary indulgence is given to all those who simply wish it without any of the usual rules accompanying it. Another sign of the total uniqueness and drama of the days we are experiencing. Something epochal, without any doubts.
Some thoughts on the 13th day of quarantine. The situation seems to be all but clear. We begin to see a certain nervousness through social media and in general among people. Yesterday evening Premier Conte announced a live intervention on Facebook and just beeing few minutes late generated a widespread sense of panic and chaos. The striking thing is that this crisis “the most important since the end o World War II” has passed like a tank on what for my generation has been a practically unassailable dogma: the show must go on. Whatever happened, the machine never stopped or if it did, it was for a short period of time, and above all, almost never everything and everyone together. Gulf War, 11th September, The death of John Paul II, Earthquakes, various (including nuclear) catastrophes nothing before today had succeeded like this microscopic being in stopping the car thrown at a thousand on which we were travellling. And one of the biggest paradoxes is precisely that: what stopped everything was not some world war, some atomic weapon but something infinitely small and infinitely simple in front of us and the technologies we manage daily.
And what if we took all of this as a success, as a try to realize that the sophisticated but certainly not perfect machine that we designed, could stop. That we are not slaves to our creation, that we can also choose to turn it off if necessary? Maybe for a short time, maybe planning it in advance and marking it on the calendar. A moment for everyone and if it should be for everyone it could mean that nothing can be done that day: no restaurants, buses, trains, planes, work, shopping, mountains, sea, football, basketball, F1 … exactly like these days … Except for one thing. Being together, on that day you could and should be together but being together just for the pleasure of doing it, without a specific end. Because in this forced segregation that we have been living for weeks, perhaps we realized that they are not the things from which we struggle to stay away. They are the people, who we love. This epochal plague some teaching will leave us and certainly this I hold tight, because when everything will return to normal and will say “you cannot just stop everything” there will be the memory of these days to tell us that instead it is all a matter of want it, first of all put a common good which, hopefully in other situations, can be identified in something other than public health. A hope and almost a certainty. Just want it.
With the help of COVid-19 I have some time to recover an old saved game on Championship Manager 97/98. I joined Scuntorpe for the early season and after a good start I ran in a sequence of changes to the roster that drive me to a difficult situation and then I gave up. The yesterday I had the time to get back to game and analyze a little better the situation: last five matches I got 4 defeat in a row and just one draw scoreing 3 goals vs 13. Definitely to much. For this reason I started reviewing the midfield trying to proctect better the defence. Walker looks to be a good midfielder with Position 20 and Tackling 16 to be put in the low angle of the rhombus an keeping an attacking midfielder on the opposite side. Didn’t change too much in the other side.
The opponent is the Rotherham, not a great team is lower in the table 2 points below us… Fortunately the match starts very well for us and Ormondroyd scored two goals in the first 5 minutes. The first half is not so beatiful actually and no much things happens. In the second half everything changed when the Rotherham starts playing with a 4-3-3. Form now one we take full control of the game and we start a barrage of shooting that didn’t move the score for the ability of them goolkeeper.
Looking wider to the overall performance of the team, probably this is not the match from which have a signal of improvements but definitely it was a good game. The next match, away with the Doncaster (second to last) , may take some further information on the form status of the team.
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