Tag Archives: unbeaten run

Part IV: The unbeaten dozen (and the surge into mid-table)

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:

Last 10 fixtures screenshot (5 wins, 4 draws, 1 defeat)

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:

National League North league table screenshot, Kidderminster 10th

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:

Kidderminster tactics screenshot of 4-3-3 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:

Screenshot of Kidderminster squad

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.

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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.

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