Monthly Archives: November 2015

Cup shock and steady progress towards the play-offs

It’s getting tight at the top. I’m on a seven-game unbeaten run in the league, but four of my last five matches have ended in draws. Although I’m currently third in the table, I’m in among six teams that are separated by just three points. Tranmere continue to lead the way.

Anyway, I’m not sure why I’m leading with the league news. The biggest news has come in the FA Cup! After easing past Blyth in the fourth qualifying round, and finally defeating Maidstone in the first round in a replay, we were drawn away at League 1 Gillingham.

The Gills weren’t going too well in the league, down in 21st place, but I still wasn’t given much of a chance. We ended up beating them 1-0, and it wasn’t just the result that pleased me, it was the way we played too.

I’ve eluded to it before on here – about how difficult it is to get more than 50% of the possession – but we achieved 56% in this match, away from home, against much higher opposition. We had a good go, too – it wasn’t just about sitting back and defending. Although I set us up to play more defensive than usual, we were probably the better side in the first half.

That meant I was in the hat for the third round draw. We’ve got Reading at home, who are currently top of the Championship.

Here are the fixtures I’ve played since the last update:

Grimsby Town fixtures on FM16Our unbeaten run in all competitions actually stretches to 12 matches, which I’m pretty pleased with. We did a professional job at Nantwich to progress into the second round of the FA Trophy, so it’s been a good month in the cups.

Omar Bogle has now scored 20 for the season. He’d been a little bit quiet up until his brace in the Bromley match, and then he scored two more at Nantwich. His strike partner Padraig Amond is out for two months, so it’s given Pittman and Cofie a chance to address the concerns they’d each been having about not getting chances in the first team.

Disley was injured in the win over Kiddy, but Clay has returned to the fold after his four-match suspension and Scott Brown continues to do well following a lengthy injury of his own. Alex Lawless has been steady too.

Andy Monkhouse has been disappointing, though. I’ve used him mainly as a sub, for Arnold (who’s now got 10 assists), but he never seems to get more than 6.70 when he starts. Jack Mackreth, on the other hand – and on the other side – has been in fine form. He’s got Mariners legend John McDermott purring.

This is what the latest league table looks like:

National League table screenshotDown at the bottom Guiseley remain helpless. Just above them are Bromley, which is why I was disappointed to only draw 2-2 down there, while Aldershot and Braintree complete the bottom four.

I’m now officially out of beta, and since I’ve not been beaten for a while I’m inclined to say that I can’t find many more faults with the game! Even my central midfielders are popping up with the odd goal and getting the occasional rating of 7 and above. And the early goals aren’t so frequent.

Tagged , , ,

Possession concession – but we’re still scoring plenty and up to 2nd

I’m nearing the halfway mark in my first season in charge of Grimsby Town on FM16 (still in beta, by the way). Despite a mini wobble when I lost two consecutive games against Halifax and Torquay, things are going pretty well. After 21 games I’m second in the table, just one point behind Macclesfield – but it’s congested below me, with Lincoln just four points behind me in 8th.

Any new bugs or weird things to report?

Apart from early goals, low average ratings for central midfielders and ex-players almost guaranteed to score against you… there’s not too much to add to the list. One thing I will say is that it seems remarkably difficult to win the possession game. Despite playing a pretty standard 4-4-2 with the side instructed to keep the ball and pass it short, I’ll typically see my possession hovering around the 40-45% mark, even against the worst teams in the league.

And no matter what you do against some sides, it just seems like they’re conditioned to pepper your goal. I managed to concede 10 shots in my home match against Cheltenham inside the first 10 minutes, which is something I’ve not seen before.

Then again, everything that I’ve flagged up about FM16 so far could well be down to the tactics I’m employing. I’ve never regarded myself as an expert in that department (hence 4-4-2), but when I compare myself to my good friend Stu, who up until recently was playing every match in real time and finishing every season in 15th place with Gainsborough, I could argue I’m prolific.

Decent league form

I’m not keeping as many clean sheets as I would like, but I’m scoring my fair share of goals. Bogle and Amond are winning me games, and even when I’ve introduced Pittman from the bench, or given him a start, he’s contributing too. Although I was outplayed by Cheltenham (one of the clutch of teams hovering in and around the play-offs) I recorded a 2-0 win, which was much needed after that little wobble I mentioned earlier.

So this is what the league table is looking like at the moment:

Screenshot of National League table, Grimsby 2ndOnly Tranmere have scored more than me, and with us both being so strong up front I guess you could say it was obvious that we would both draw blanks when we met at Blundell Park. Anyone who is currently in the top half would say they had a chance of reaching the play-offs at this stage.

Guiseley are propping up the league with 14 points and look good bets for relegation already. Just above them are Aldershot and Bromley on 17 points, with Braintree (21) completing the bottom four. Barrow and Woking are just above them.

Here are our results since the last update:

Screenshot of Grimsby fixturesThe 2-0 defeat at Southport came as a bit of a surprise. I’ve had some excellent results on the road (5-1 at Braintree and 4-1 at Barrow) while there was a comfortable passage into the FA Cup 1st round against Blyth – although they did give me a scare by scoring first (and yes, it was an early goal – first shot on target and all that shizz).

The home game against Maidenhead was ridiculous. I had 24 shots at goal, 13 on target and yet they took the lead in the 70th minute. Luckily Pittman scored near the end to rescue a replay, which was hard fought (but we won in the end through an Amond brace).

Midfielder Craig Clay got sent off in the home Halifax defeat for a two-footed lunge. He was banned for three matches, and then it was extended by another match on review – I didn’t even appeal it. He was fined and dumped in the reserves.

New players

Just the one addition since last time – I’ve managed to bring Luton’s central midfielder Alex Lawless in on loan for three months. He’s sort of a replacement for Matty Dixon, who’s returned to Hull. Dixon did ok (the fans loved him for some reason, despite coming from a rival) but already Lawless looks better. At 30 years old he brings a lot of experience.

And Scott Brown, a midfielder I’ve had all along, has begun to get back into the side after a long lay-off (basically since the game started). Another one who’s integrating back into the starting XI is right winger Marcus Marshall. He went out on loan to Solihull Moors to get some match fitness and has done well when given a chance in the first team (albeit against Maidstone).

Here are the squad stats so far this season. Clay isn’t included as he’s still being punished in the reserves, and I forgot about that when I took the screenshot:

Screenshot of Grimsby's player statsThe only ever present this season is keeper James McKeown, although left back Gregor Robertson has featured in every match so far (with one appearance coming from the bench). I could do with some back-up in that department as Danny East plays much better at right back. Arnold has impressed with 8 assists from the left wing, and Mackreth has weighed in with 5 from the right. Monkhouse and Cofie remain useful from the bench.

I’ve got a couple of tricky league games up next, and then a tough FA Cup 2nd round match at League 1 Gillingham. The next time I play the game it’ll probably be in the full release, as the game is officially launched tomorrow (Friday 13th November).

Tagged , , , ,

Early goals, average ratings, curse of the ex – but we’re still up there!

Well, I’m 11 games into my first season as Grimsby Town boss and we’re 4th in what 99% of us still call the Conference. We’ll have none of that ‘Vanarama National League’ rubbish round here! Things are going steady. We’ve won six, drawn three and lost two, scoring a healthy 21 goals and conceding 12. Tranmere lead the way with 23 points, then it’s Torquay (also on 23), Lincoln on 22 and then us on 21.

Are there any bugs in FM16?

As this is the beta version it’s almost expected that one or two oddities will be in the game. The only things I’ve noticed so far is that central midfielders tend to get very low ratings (Disley and Clay are averaging 6.55) and there tends to be an early goal scored in just about every match I play – but these things may be down to the way I set my teams up, so it’s difficult to say one way or the other.

I’ve also noticed that ex-players are almost certain to score against you. While we’re having a good season, it hasn’t stopped Richard Brodie, Ross Hannah and Connor Jennings finding the back of our net (and there was an assist in there for Sam Hatton too). But when you’ve used as many players as Grimsby Town have over the last few years the likelihood of a former Mariner coming back to haunt us is higher than with most other teams.

Season 2015/16 season results so far

A Kidderminster 3-1

H Barrow 2-2

H Bromley 2-0

A Altrincham 3-0

H Torquay 0-1

A Lincoln 0-2

H Macclesfield 3-1

A Boreham Wood 3-1

H Aldershot 3-2

A Chester 1-1

H Tranmere 1-1

Following an injury to Toto Nsiala I brought in young Doncaster centre back Ben Askins, but he had a nightmare debut in our defeat at Lincoln. Luckily Shaun Pearson was back from suspension for the home game against Macclesfield – a game we won comfortably after falling behind to one of those early goals I mentioned.

We continue to look good going forward

The partnership between Bogle and Amond continues to flourish (as it does in real life), which means John Cofie’s appearances have mostly been from the bench. He did start the last two games, however, after Bogle picked up a niggle. Jon-Paul Pittman opened his account for the season coming on as a sub against leaders Tranmere, netting late on. That game claimed I had just 24% possession, despite playing 4-4-2.

Bogle has nine for the season, Amond five and Arnold two (plus five assists). Bogle has the highest average rating (7.90), then Arnold (7.16), then Pearson (7.06). As mentioned earlier, Disley and Clay have the worst average ratings.

Transfer dealings

Askins’ loan has expired (he made just one more appearance as a late sub) so I’ve moved to replace him with another Donny reserve player – Paul McKay, who my bald scout reckons is a quality player. The fans have been excited by the loan of Matty Dixon from Hull, by the way. With an average rating of 6.6 I’m not sure I get why they’re so excited.

I’ve also brought in 19-year old defensive midfielder Michael Freiter on loan from Gillingham for three months, given that I have absolutely nobody in my squad capable of playing in that position. My assistant Chris Doig is sounding like a broken record, telling me we’re being overrun in midfield at least three times every game, so I like to have an option of playing a 4-1-3-2 – or even a 4-1-4-1 – in the future.

Defensive death wish

What I have discovered is that there’s little point setting up your team to play defensively. It just doesn’t seem to work at this level. You make them compact, disciplined and difficult to break down, but all that seems to do is invite constant pressure and plenty of shots. The best form of defence, in the Conference at least, really is to attack.

I finish the month of September with away games at Wrexham and Southport, who are both lower-mid table. I’ll be back soon with another update.

 

Tagged ,

Introducing my Grimsby Town save on FM16

FM16 intro screenHello there! It’s been a while since my mood was last affected by electrical impulses, and even longer since I last blogged about it. That’s because, as usual, my enthusiasm for Football Manager wained somewhere between April and June, when the real life football wound down for another season and the real life Grimsby Town failed in the Conference play-offs for a third consecutive season. But I’m back with a bang! That’s because FM16 entered my life yesterday in the most unexpected way when I discovered my wife had ordered it for me as a gift through Steam – and, as most seasoned campaigners will know, pre-ordering the game allows you to play the beta two weeks before it’s physically released.

The beginning of a beautiful FM16 campaign

Let’s get straight into it. I’ve begun, as I always do, by taking charge of Grimsby Town. As an incredibly slow player at the best of times it saves precious hours learning who the hell is in my squad and working out their strengths and weaknesses.

I’ve also chosen to run the ‘Touch’ version – what was previously termed the ‘classic’ version (or FMC) – rather than the ‘full fat’ version, again to give me as much assistance as possible to whizz through the seasons. Tunnel interviews and team talks are enjoyable until the novelty wears off, and then I find them tedious obstructions.

There’s a nice little option when setting up a new save that allows you to begin your campaign at the end of pre-season (for those who can’t be arsed to deal with all those friendlies). For me that’s wasting precious practice time, when I can build an effective formation and develop decent tactics.

I’ve also decided to use the dark skin option on Touch (or FMT, which it’ll no doubt be called) as this makes it feel a little less childish than previous versions. A cynic might be tempted to suggest this slimmed down, stipped back version is becoming cluttered with information, but crucially it doesn’t get in the way of you progressing as quickly as you’d like.

Getting stuck into it

Grimsby Town squad screen on FM16When I meet my players for the first time there are three long-term absentees – Scott Brown (ankle), Marcus Marshall (medial ligaments) and Jon-Paul Pittman (thigh). None are expected back any time sooner than mid-September. That left me with just two fit strikers, Padraig Amond and Omar Bogle (who I’d previously managed on FM13 during my Solihull save), so I set about finding a new striker.

That’s when I realised I didn’t have a scout. There are no decent ones out there. The best I could find was some slaphead who had 8 for judging player ability and naff all else. He did help me find John Cofie, though. He scored just 56 seconds into his debut (which was a friendly at Belper, so not strictly his debut, but you know what I mean).

The squad is just about there, although a bit thin in central midfield beyond the two Craigs, Clay and Disley. I manage to bring in Matty Dixon on a three-month loan from Hull, to cover in the centre and out wide on the right, then discover he’s injured and won’t be back until our first game of the season at Kidderminster.

Pre-season

Grimsby Town fixtures screen on FM16My first match is a comfortable 2-0 home win over Grantham, followed by a 6-1 demolition of Belper where Cofie scored two goals inside the first five minutes. Things went a bit awry at Harrogate, where we lost 2-1, and we did well to limit a strong Sunderland side to just a one-goal victory. It was looking really ropey when 2-1 down at Mossley with just 15 minutes ago, but we came back to win that one in a game where we created more than enough chances to win very, very comfortably.

Disley had a poor pre-season, but Danny East, Nathan Arnold, Bogle and Amond all did well – as did Nathan Arnold and young prospect Harry Clifton, who scored in the 3-2 win at Mossley. Cofie scored three in two starts but picked up an injury that meant he wasn’t quite ready for the curtain-raiser at Kiddy.

The 2015/16 season so far

Conference table screen on FM16As you can see, I’ve only played three games. I was pretty happy with the 3-1 win at Kidderminster in what was a fairly even game, but we really cocked things up at home to Barrow. The visitors were reduced to 10 men just before half time with the score at 1-1. Bogle made it 2-1 and it should’ve been a routine win, but Clay picked up a second yellow and we conceded an equaliser late on.

That was all rectified in what was a dominant performance against Bromley, who currently sit bottom of the league. Bogle has three in three, and Amond scored on his debut at Kiddy, so we’ve been good going forward. We’re not watertight at the back by any means, but I was pleased to record our first shut-out against Bromley before it became a bit of a niggly nuisance.

I’ve managed to achieve all this in one lazy Sunday afternoon. On FM13 I remember completing a full season in just over two weeks, and that for me is incredible pace. I’ll be back soon, no doubt, with another update.

Tagged , , , ,