We’re on the brink of making the FA Cup first round “proper”, for the first time under my leadership at least, after winning our second and third qualifying round games against Chester and Shepshed Dynamo. But my squad is knackered because we needed replays and extra time in each of those games to make it this far. I’ve already had three league games rearranged for later dates as a result of this cup run, so it’s two games a week for the foreseeable future.
And with a squad as thin and part-time as mine, that’s going to be a major obstacle in our quest to at least make the play-offs this season.
I feel I should say at this point that we have been taken over by a consortium that have effectively wiped out our £250,000 debt. The takeover was rumoured in the press, the chairman said he’d be willing to listen to offers and the club was placed under a transfer embargo. I was just about to swear, but the takeover happened within two days. That’s about as swift as consortium takeovers come.
Nothing has changed, in reality. I still have the same shit wage budget of £2,600 p/w and no transfer kitty. No players had to be sold, and none have been bought (unless you include the loan signing of a very decent looking left back by the name of Euan Murray, from Lincoln – I didn’t need him, really, but Gainsborough were in for him and so I thought I’d throw my weight around. I didn’t actually expect him to choose me over them, though).
So then, this cup run. We laboured to a 1-1 draw at home to Chester after conceding early. Although we equalised almost straight away, it was, well, a shit match. I didn’t really fancy our chances in the replay, but Dominic Langdon (filling in for Ricky Fletcher at centre back, who was being rested) gave us the lead on 65 minutes. Chester equalised six minutes later and the game went to extra time and penalties, which we won 6-5. Langdon missed a penalty but still got man of the match.
So with my entire squad’s condition unable to recover from somewhere between 80% and 90% over the next couple of weeks, we went into the away game at Shepshed feeling a little bit leggy. Still, we were the better side and deservedly took the lead six minutes from time, but the sneeky Shepshed buggers equalised in injury time to force another replay. We should have absolutely battered them at home but could only manage 1-1 after 90 minutes, and so we went into extra time with players having to play on close to 50% condition. It didn’t seem to matter though, as we scored twice to win 3-1 and at least avoid the potential embarrassment of losing on penalties to a side that sounds like they play their game at a recreation park on a social housing estate (while Solihull Moors doesn’t conjure up that imagery in any way, shape or form).
We’re 10 games into the league season and we’re presently occupying sixth spot, just one point out of the play-offs. My two central defenders have been outstanding this season. Connor Roberts-Nurse has an average rating of 7.45 after 13 games, while his parter Ricky Fletcher has 7.20 from 11.
Up front Stephen Reynolds has nine goals from 12 starts and one sub appearance, while Ross Wilson – back on loan for the season from Hereford – has five from eight starts and six sub appeatances. It’s in these areas that we’ve impressed most this season, but we’ve missed the creativity of Will Roberts in central midfield, who’s only just come back from injury. Ben Montgomery continues to be consistent at right back but the usually dependable Tommy Taylor on the left wing has been a bit wobbly.
One positive to come from the youth team is left winger Aidan Sargeant. Anyone who has ever played lower league management (LLM) will know that youth teams at this level very rarely produce any players with even a smidgen of talent. I’ve always liked the idea of developing at least one player to come through the ranks, and while this 17-year old doesn’t appear to have any great attributes, he’s done well when I’ve used him. I’ve also got someone by the name of Maxwell Ibrahim as an up-and-coming right back, but apart from that it’s all a bit rubbish in the reserves.