The Kidderminster board decided to offer me a one-year contract extension, which was nice. Strange how it came after a so-called ‘must win’ match against Salford, according to the press. Twice, now, they’ve claimed I was about to get booted out of Worcestershire.
But in all that time the board’s confidence in me has been fine. It’s perhaps evidence of the game’s pre-season expectations not linking up with the current circumstances very well.
Yes, mid-table for Kidderminster Harriers in the National League North isn’t good enough when most expected us to be challenging at the top, but they were in the bottom three in October and I’ve hauled them up the league to 10th by losing just four of my 23 league games.
I’ve played 10 games since my last update, and here are the results:
Stockport, if you remember, were the opponents for my first game in charge. You’ll also remember that they were top at the time, and that we went to Edgeley Park and won 2-0.
I wouldn’t say it was a fluke, but they probably didn’t deserve to lose that day.
They arrived at Aggborough this time round still in pole position, but by slender margins (it’s been tight at the top all season between them, Southport and Blyth).
The 5-3 scoreline flattered them. We blew them away in a first half that bordered on the unbelievable. Joseph N’Guessan scored twice, playmaker Elton Ngwatala also got in on the act from midfield and centre back Tyrone Williams scored on the stroke of half time to make it 4-0.
Charlie ‘he has the edge’ Edge made it five just after the re-start. It couldn’t have gone any better.
However, County pulled two goals back with their first two meaningful shots on target before the hour, which made me both annoyed and twitchy. When their third went in on 84 minutes, I began to wonder if I was witnessing a collapse that would even surpass the worst England batting collapses of the 1990s.
Thankfully the craziness ended and we got the three points without having to lose our fingernails.
A fairly boring match by those standards then followed at Spennymoor, when Hartlepool’s loanee Devante Rodney scored twice – once in injury time at the end of the first half, and once in injury time at the end of the second half.
Draws against Harrogate, Darlington and York were decent in isolation, but had we picked up just one or two wins from those fixtures we could’ve been a credible play-off candidate. As a result, we’re now sitting six points short with four games left to play.
We got back to winning ways at Gainsborough, but we now had Wigan’s Owen Evans in goal for us owing to the broken hand our regular keeper Brandon Hall suffered in the goalless draw at home to York.
The incident occurred in the 59th minute and we don’t tend to name a goalkeeper on our substitutes’ bench. So centre back Bondz N’Gala, on loan from Dagenham, went between the sticks – and he didn’t let the side down, making a couple of decent saves to earn us a point.
I can’t say that’s happened to me many times before, but these are the risks you take when you don’t name a keeper on the bench.
And yes, we do have a lot of players on loan at our club. Evans in goal, N’Gala at centre back, Aaron Simpson at left back, Edge on the left wing and Rodney up front. We also have Gianni Crichlow and Leslie Sackey on loan deals too – although both are just back-ups.
Twice we took the lead at fifth placed Alfreton, twice we were pegged back. It’s been an annoying feature of my tenure, conceding after scoring. I tell my players to play a tighter, more disciplined game in the minutes that follow us scoring, but it seems to have little effect.
I enjoyed the 3-0 win over Salford – who wouldn’t? Remarkably, they’re now top of the division having surged past Southport and Stockport.
Suddenly we had gone 12 games unbeaten. It was to be an unlucky 13th game as we lost a close game at Boston, but showed great spirit to bounce back immediately with a 3-0 win at home to mid-table Brackley.
It leaves us 10th in the league:
Not a bad salvage mission. They were in genuine danger of being sucked into a relegation battle, but after nine wins, ten draws and four defeats in the 23 games since I took the reins, we’ve shown top seven form to climb 21 points clear of danger and sit just six points off the play-offs.
There is no doubt, though, that I inherited a strong squad for this level. How on earth they found themselves in the mess they were in originally is anyone’s guess.
We’ve got out of it by being hard to beat and threatening up front. I’ve never considered myself to be a tactical genius on any version of Football Manager, but these tactics have served me relatively well this season. Here’s a typical line-up and formation:
It feels a very balanced side. I’m not at all convinced by my defence, but Williams is young and N’Gala has done well since joining on loan.
Ryan Croasdale in that defensive midfield role is the unsung hero, though. I reckon I’ve barely mentioned his name all season in these updates yet he’s Mr Reliable. Never gets injured, never puts in a bad performance. He brings stability and consistency to this team.
If you love your stats, here’s a screenshot of my squad – complete with all the stats and information you’ll want to know:
There are four games remaining, and next up is a tricky away tie at Blyth. We finish the season with two games against Bradford PA and North Ferriby – sides that have recently sacked their managers and look all but relegated.
If we can finish 10th or higher I’ll be a happy manager.
Work has already begun on shaping the squad for next season. Sadly it looks like it’ll be without Ngwatala who, despite earning £300 a week, has decided to go straight in and demand £2,300 a week. Those are League 1 wages. So the talks broke down – well, they didn’t really get started.
I also realised that we had an awful lot of shite just hanging around in our reserve team; players with no prospects but who have been draining our club of money (and eating into my wage budget) every week.
I’ve handed it over to our Director of Football to send them packing. I haven’t got time to invite them all into my office, one by one, to break their hopes and dreams.