We began the month in 4th and finished it in 5th – clinging onto a play-off position on goal difference. It’s early in the season, true, but I get the feeling that this is the way it’s going to be until the end. Inconsistent results coupled with inconsistent performances will result in a battle to make the play-offs.
Just the one silly scoreline for October, but I’ll give the game the benefit of the doubt here because 4-3s do happen. I just wasn’t happy at the time because we’d done so well to claw it back to 3-3 after being 3-1 down, only to lose it right at the end (against league leaders Torquay).
Here’s how we’ve got on:
I wasn’t convinced with our performance at Dartford but it did the job. It was looking comfortable until they scored with seven minutes remaining. Our 1-1 draw at home to Altrincham was a disgrace. We let a side near the bottom come to Blundell Park and have 20 shots at goal. Sure, only four were on target, but they led for a long time – and would’ve taken all three points had Nathan Arnold not struck lucky when his floated cross drifted over the keeper’s head and into the net.
After scoring that goal, Arnold got injured for three months. I decided to look at my tactics for a tough trip to Wrexham and went 4-1-4-1 since I was again having injury problems. Hannah still wasn’t match fit, Arnold was out for a while and Gilchrist had returned to parent club Burnley, so I was light up front.
It did the trick, though. Wrexham might have had plenty more shots on goal than us, but most were from distance (still a risky strategy, given the game’s penchant for making lots of them fly in). One of our goals was sublime, a proper team goal. Wrexham had a man sent off midway through the first half, when it was 0-0, and my centre back Nsiala got a straight red for a two-footed lunge not long after. As at Dartford, it was looking good at 2-0 but a late goal made for a nervy finish.
Then came the game at Torquay. We went behind, we equalised from the spot. Then we concided twice in five minutes before half time. A rollocking at the break worked, and with a bit of a patched-up side with no attacking threat we plucked two goals out of nowhere. And it looked like we’d hold out for an excellent point, except we didn’t. That late goal hurt.
Disappointed at conceding four goals using a defensively structured 4-1-4-1 formation, I reverted back to 4-4-2 for the visit of Halifax in the FA Cup fourth qualifying round. It was a tight game with few chances, spoilt by a card-happy ref. The draw gave us an unwanted replay in midweek, but to my surprise we played the 4-1-4-1 system like we’d been playing it all season and snatched a 2-0 win. We’ll play Stevenage in the first round.
Here’s what the league table looks like:
Keeper James McKeown made his return to the side in the 1-1 draw against Halifax and then got injured (his third injury of the season) in the replay. Luckily I had Coddington on the bench, but had it been a league game – when I tend not to name a sub keeper – I’d have been in a spot of bother.
Craig Easton continues to impress in the centre of midfield. For someone who was brought in as back-up, it means Scott Brown, Paddy McLaughlin, Jim Stevenson and club captain Craig Disley are all competing for a place alongside him. Stevenson gets in when we go 4-1-4-1 since he’s the only player in the squad who’s capable of playing in the defensive midfield role.
John-Lewis has got nine goals for the season, which puts him on par with the departed Gilchrist. He’s performing better as a defensive forward than as a target man. Cool story, bro.
I brought in 31-year old central defender John Dempster on loan from Mansfield as he wasn’t getting any first team action there and I needed someone to cover for Nsiala, who was banned for three matches.
November has six more league matches as well as that FA Cup tie against League 2 Stevenage, which will test the fitness of my squad.