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.