Tag Archives: early goals

Part VIII: The toys have left the pram

Oh my god, we’re actually awful. I mean, we’re falling to pieces.

That sliding sound is our season going down the pan. You know that really rubbish run of results that got me sacked at Chorley? Well, the same’s happening here.

One win in nine. Six points from a possible 27. And my defence, which knew how to keep the occasional clean sheet to get my strikers off the hook, has dissolved. It’s crumbled. Something has officially ‘gone wrong’.

Queen's Park results - 1 win in 9

We’re now 8th and looking nervously over our shoulders at Stranraer and Albion, who are slowly closing in on us.

Technically, because I’m not getting paid to manage Queen’s Park, it’s not my full time profession – therefore it’s technically not possible to be ‘unprofessional’.

Which is handy, because I’m now going to a) blame my players, and then b) blame the game.

Yes, I’m lashing out.

Right, firstly I think it’s worth pointing out that we scored in our last six consecutive games. Sadly, five of them were defeats, and a four were heavy. We conceded three at home to East Fife, four against Dumbarton and Airdrie, and a magnificent five against Ayr.

In three of those four heavy defeats, their star striker scored a hat-trick, and each of those defeats followed a similar pattern:

No matter what formation, personnel or mentality I start with, the opposition scores from their first attack – normally the player I told centre back Adam Cummins to mark, and normally within the first 10 minutes.

If there’s a danger man highlighted by my scout before the game, he has a worldy. There’s no stopping him.

We miss all the chances we create – which aren’t many, to be truthful. Strikers are missing sitters and the keeper’s having ‘one of those games’.

They’re having ‘four of those games’ in my case.

It’s normally 2-0 before half time when one of their unstoppable wingers (who puts in 430 unstoppable crosses) has a ‘he certainly didn’t mean that!’ moment.

Goals three, four (and sometimes) five follow. With the game well out of sight and, ironically, my tactics all over the place because I was chasing the game, this is when we usually get our goal.

Every goal comes from a cross. I’ve tried marking the wingers, I’ve tried standing off them. I’ve tried closing them down, staying on my feet… nothing works. I am powerless to stop crosses – and my two centre backs, who are decent in the air if nothing else, lose every header.

And those six goals I’ve scored? They’ve all come in the last 10 minutes (81, 83, 85, 87 and two on 89, to be precise).

My latest defeat – 3-1 to East Fife – included everything I’ve just covered. The concession of an early goal; two down by half time; a hat-trick for their star striker who I tried to mark out of the game; all goals from crosses.

We had 17 shots. They had 17 shots. We had 52% possession, and clear cut chances were two apiece.

I’ve played 50 games now, as boss of Chorley and Queen’s Park, and I’ve scored a magnificent total of 41. My win percentage is a rather pathetic 24.

I knew it wouldn’t be long, given that record, before I resorted to a massive, childish whinge. And when I work out how to get my tactics right in the future, I’ll read this article back and probably feel a teensy weensy bit silly.

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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).

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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.

 

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