Monthly Archives: August 2013

The big play-off tease continues

Eight victories, three draws and four defeats since my last update leaves us pretty much where we were the last time I wrote about my third season with Solihull Moors in the Conference North. The play-offs continue to be just out of our reach. They’re teasing me. It’s like the play-offs know that I sometimes put treats under the sofa so the cats can see them but can’t get them, and they’re teaching me a lesson.

The cats always get the treats in the end, by the way. Please take note, play-offs.

An excellent run of just one defeat in 10 brought us to within two places of the top five, but then I only went and ruddy lost at 19th placed Workington, didn’t I? I’d overcome much stiffer challenges in the weeks before, beating Nuneaton 2-1 away when they were pushing Harrogate for top spot, and then I held Harrogate to a 1-1 draw at home. I then stuffed Blyth 3-0 and suddenly we were on a roll.

The problem has been that every other bugger – from Southport in 4th to Gainsborough in 11th – has been getting similar results. There are eight teams pushing for two play-off spots, realistically speaking, and while I still might only be 10th in the league it’s getting tight in the balls department.

League table showing Solihull in 10th place

I lost my FA Trophy second round match 2-1 at Conference side Hereford, although we played well and probably deserved a draw. I thought it was destined to end level since every other cup game I play seems to end in a draw and an energy-sapping replay, but this one screwed me over. The reaction in the league was good, with a 1-0 win at Histon, but then I lost 1-0 at home to Altrincham and then 2-0 away to Tamworth.

That’s when the sequence of one defeat in 10 began. I put my rubbish home form to one side to beat bottom side Redditch 4-0, and a few weeks later I had extended my excellent away record with wins at Stafford and Bedford (also in the lower reaches of the division).

The defeat came at home (surprise, surprise) to Halifax, who turned us over 2-0. But a 4-2 win at home to mid-table Worcester was followed by that great win at Nuneaton and home draw to Harrogate.

My last game of this recent spell, which leaves us in mid-March and with just seven games left to play was a 3-0 home win over local rivals Hinckley. It saw a return to form of striker Stephen Reynolds, who hadn’t really been out of form for long if I’m honest. He scored his 20th and 21st goals in all competitions in a game that we dominated from start to finish.

The central midfield area still gives me cause for concern, as does the right wing, but in recent times I’m beginning to rely on Will Roberts and not-so Junior English. Jay Denny has done ok on the wing, even though he prefers a more central role. Alex Price has been shocking in the last five games, while I’m pleased to say that Ricky Fletcher has returned to form in central defence alongside Roberts-Nurse. Stuart Pierpoint had done well in his absence, but he had two crap games and deserved dropping.

Ben Montgomery – a fairly talented right back who I signed from Hinckley at the end of the first season – has also come back into the side after a couple of months on the treatment table. His replacement in that time, youth player Maxwell Ibrahim, did very well and played above expectations. So much so, in fact, that he somehow managed to secure himself a move to Kilmarnock in the summer.

Ibrahim was probably my one and only youth team player worth anything to the side (either this season or next) so I’m sorry he’s going in this fashion. I would’ve done more to keep him at the club but from the moment I clicked ‘continue game’ to the next moment it let me re-enter the managerial world, the approach had occurred and the contract agreed and finalised. I thought the game would stop to let me know this was happening, but it didn’t. In truth I don’t think I could’ve stopped it.

As he’s only 19- years old I’m expecting some kind of compensation. He’s out of contract in the summer and I can’t offer him a new deal since he’s already got his next one lined up. I’m still trying to work out why Kilmarnock were allowed to offer him a deal when he was under contract with us. I’ve tried poaching someone else’s 19-year old right back when they enter the last six months of their contract and for some reason I’m asked to offer a transfer fee first. It’s a bit odd.

But I refuse to make out the game is against me. Ibrahim’s talent was obvious – not just from the four-star report from my first team coach, but also by the way he’s been representing the Nigerian under-20s recently. He’s not been playing well, but at least I can say I’ve got an international player on my books.

When Tyler Collishaw got injured and my regular left winger Tommy Taylor played poorly I decided to bolster that side of the team with the signing of ex-Bristol City winger Lewis Hall. I brought him on with less than 10 minutes to go in the 0-0 draw at home to Boston and he managed to get injured immediately for three months. Thankfully Collishaw recovered quite quickly (although he’s got no match fitness and has had to play a few reserve games.

So then, seven games remain. I’ll probably write my next update once they’ve been played. Wish me luck – I’m going in dry…

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Loitering, inconsistency and play-off teasing

The Solihell frustration continues.

After a 7th placed finish in my first season (2012/13) and a 4th placed finish in my second season (2013/14), I had ambitions of achieving something similar in my third season. With a slightly reduced budget and the departure of one or two key players, perhaps I was being overly ambitious to believe we could, you know, finish top or something. But play-offs would be good.

Right now I’m into December and we’re 10th. We’ve spent the whole season lurking around the play-offs like an awkward nerd around a girl at a school disco. I may have used that analogy before – my apologies if so). However, the fact – and the cliche – still stands: the only thing that’s consistent about us this season is our inconsistency.

A 1-1 draw at Guiseley, on the face of it at least, was a point gained, but it was yet another draw – my fifth on the trot and sixth in seven matches. The play-offs began to get away from us. Then we drew our next match 0-0 at Oxford City in the FA Trophy third qualifying round, which meant yet another cup replay. Just about all my cup games have required replays, which only succeeds in knackering the condition of my fragile part-timers so they can’t perform effectively twice a week. Hence the inconsistency.

I lost my right winger Tyler Collishaw to a long-term injury, so I drafted in ex-Gloucester winger Matt Freeman. Decent stats and on non-contract terms, he appeared to be a good signing. He’s been rubbish. Well, perhaps I’m exaggerating – but all he’s done since joining is stick a great big orange square with the letters ‘Rst’ in it, to the left of his name on the team sheet. I’d ask him to remember why we pay him his wages, but then I remember we don’t pay him anything.

We won our replay against Oxford City 1-0, before losing our next league game at home to mid-table Gainsborough. Feeling peeved, I decided to go all-out attack in our next game, which was the FA Trophy first round match at Hednesford (who are in the Conference North on my game). A shitty draw, I’m sure you’ll agree.

We won the match 6-3. It was still 4-4-2, and it was still largely the same group of players that had been dicking about against mediocre teams in previous games. It was a big thumbs up for the policy that Kevin Keegan and Newcastle applied in the 1990s.

I was a bit more conservative in my approach for the away game at Stalybridge, which we won 2-1. We then followed that up with an excellent 3-1 win at Hednesford. Feeling confident ahead of our home match against 3rd place Chester, I played the bold, attacking tactics that got us half a dozen goals just three games earlier. The gamble didn’t pay off. Although we managed to scrape a 2-2 draw, Chester had 12+ shots and probably deserved to win.

Not-so Junior English came off the bench to score a late equaliser in that game, so I threw him into the starting line-up for our next match at home to Southport. He got sent off within 20 minutes for two yellow cards. We lost the game 1-0.

It was a game in which I decided to give my 17-year old youth product Maxwell Ibrahim his debut at right-back. Despite the difficult circumstances he put in a solid enough performance and got 7.10 for his troubles.

Now I’ve suddenly realised we have a pretty bad home record. Three wins, three draws and four defeats isn’t good. Our away record is very decent, with five wins, four draws and just the one defeat.

I’ve been running my two strikers – Stephen Reynolds (16 goals) and Ross Wilson (eight) – into the ground. Jamar Dobson does a good job as sub (five goals) but we needed an extra option in there. Enter Scott Spencer – on loan from Conference side Hyde until the end of the season. He looks a good addition – and one I was keen to make after I noticed his tally of 31 goals in 33 games at this level for Hyde a couple of seasons ago. Sadly he followed that up with a season in which he scored precisely no goals in over 30 starts, and has got one in 16 this season, which was probably a factor in why they decided to list him for loan.

The amazing Connor Roberts-Nurse continues to amaze at the back, racking up six man of the match awards and a 7.42 average rating. His central defensive parter Ricky Fletcher has just been injured for a month, so now I’ll have to see whether Dominic Langdon is up to the job. The other option, Stuart Pierpoint, has actually got an average rating higher than Roberts-Nurse with 7.56, but that’s from just four games. Still very decent, though.

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