Tag Archives: Workington

The big play-off tease continues

Eight victories, three draws and four defeats since my last update leaves us pretty much where we were the last time I wrote about my third season with Solihull Moors in the Conference North. The play-offs continue to be just out of our reach. They’re teasing me. It’s like the play-offs know that I sometimes put treats under the sofa so the cats can see them but can’t get them, and they’re teaching me a lesson.

The cats always get the treats in the end, by the way. Please take note, play-offs.

An excellent run of just one defeat in 10 brought us to within two places of the top five, but then I only went and ruddy lost at 19th placed Workington, didn’t I? I’d overcome much stiffer challenges in the weeks before, beating Nuneaton 2-1 away when they were pushing Harrogate for top spot, and then I held Harrogate to a 1-1 draw at home. I then stuffed Blyth 3-0 and suddenly we were on a roll.

The problem has been that every other bugger – from Southport in 4th to Gainsborough in 11th – has been getting similar results. There are eight teams pushing for two play-off spots, realistically speaking, and while I still might only be 10th in the league it’s getting tight in the balls department.

League table showing Solihull in 10th place

I lost my FA Trophy second round match 2-1 at Conference side Hereford, although we played well and probably deserved a draw. I thought it was destined to end level since every other cup game I play seems to end in a draw and an energy-sapping replay, but this one screwed me over. The reaction in the league was good, with a 1-0 win at Histon, but then I lost 1-0 at home to Altrincham and then 2-0 away to Tamworth.

That’s when the sequence of one defeat in 10 began. I put my rubbish home form to one side to beat bottom side Redditch 4-0, and a few weeks later I had extended my excellent away record with wins at Stafford and Bedford (also in the lower reaches of the division).

The defeat came at home (surprise, surprise) to Halifax, who turned us over 2-0. But a 4-2 win at home to mid-table Worcester was followed by that great win at Nuneaton and home draw to Harrogate.

My last game of this recent spell, which leaves us in mid-March and with just seven games left to play was a 3-0 home win over local rivals Hinckley. It saw a return to form of striker Stephen Reynolds, who hadn’t really been out of form for long if I’m honest. He scored his 20th and 21st goals in all competitions in a game that we dominated from start to finish.

The central midfield area still gives me cause for concern, as does the right wing, but in recent times I’m beginning to rely on Will Roberts and not-so Junior English. Jay Denny has done ok on the wing, even though he prefers a more central role. Alex Price has been shocking in the last five games, while I’m pleased to say that Ricky Fletcher has returned to form in central defence alongside Roberts-Nurse. Stuart Pierpoint had done well in his absence, but he had two crap games and deserved dropping.

Ben Montgomery – a fairly talented right back who I signed from Hinckley at the end of the first season – has also come back into the side after a couple of months on the treatment table. His replacement in that time, youth player Maxwell Ibrahim, did very well and played above expectations. So much so, in fact, that he somehow managed to secure himself a move to Kilmarnock in the summer.

Ibrahim was probably my one and only youth team player worth anything to the side (either this season or next) so I’m sorry he’s going in this fashion. I would’ve done more to keep him at the club but from the moment I clicked ‘continue game’ to the next moment it let me re-enter the managerial world, the approach had occurred and the contract agreed and finalised. I thought the game would stop to let me know this was happening, but it didn’t. In truth I don’t think I could’ve stopped it.

As he’s only 19- years old I’m expecting some kind of compensation. He’s out of contract in the summer and I can’t offer him a new deal since he’s already got his next one lined up. I’m still trying to work out why Kilmarnock were allowed to offer him a deal when he was under contract with us. I’ve tried poaching someone else’s 19-year old right back when they enter the last six months of their contract and for some reason I’m asked to offer a transfer fee first. It’s a bit odd.

But I refuse to make out the game is against me. Ibrahim’s talent was obvious – not just from the four-star report from my first team coach, but also by the way he’s been representing the Nigerian under-20s recently. He’s not been playing well, but at least I can say I’ve got an international player on my books.

When Tyler Collishaw got injured and my regular left winger Tommy Taylor played poorly I decided to bolster that side of the team with the signing of ex-Bristol City winger Lewis Hall. I brought him on with less than 10 minutes to go in the 0-0 draw at home to Boston and he managed to get injured immediately for three months. Thankfully Collishaw recovered quite quickly (although he’s got no match fitness and has had to play a few reserve games.

So then, seven games remain. I’ll probably write my next update once they’ve been played. Wish me luck – I’m going in dry…

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Laboured draws after FM hiatus

I’ve been on one of those unplanned FM hiatuses, where I hadn’t played or even thought about the game for a little while. So when I finally got back into my Solihull save after an absence of two months I realised I had forgotten all my little tactical tricks. You know the kind – the subtle tweaks here and there that make very little difference, but because they worked once against Worksop you think they’ll work every time.

I had a look at the 4-4-2 tactic which had got us 7th in the table after 10 games but realised very quickly that it wasn’t particularly clever or elaborate. My players were knackered from their exertions against Shepshed Dynamo and were in no state to travel to Harrogate Town, who were sitting pretty in second position with eight wins from their 10 league games so far this season. We laboured to a 1-1 draw, which I was pretty happy with, given that I felt I was coming back into this save relatively blind.

In fact, ‘laboured’ is the word I’d describe my last five performances since re-introducing myself to the Moors. A 1-1 home draw against Workington was followed by a 2-1 away defeat at Tamworth, which dumped me out of the FA Cup in the fourth qualifying round. So I’m yet to reach the first round proper in my three years at the club.

My three strikers of Stephen Reynolds, Ross Wilson and Jamar Dobson were struggling to play twice a week. None of them were able to start games in decent condition. But with no money to bring any other strikers into the club – and seemingly no one available to loan, according to my scout – we just had to soldier on. And it was no surprise when we drew 0-0 at lowly Blyth.

The final game of this little FM spurt came at home to local rivals Hinckley – another side doing nothing in mid-table and one that was asking for a hiding. The condition and morale of my strikers was at such a low and desperate point that I actually dug 38-year old Stern John out of my reserve team for the clash. My assitant manager tells me that, despite his age, he’s still a very good player. I wish he’d show it in games. For the past season and a half he’s been terrible. I had to bring him off at half time in this match because he was so tired.

The game finished 1-1, so that’s four draws in the league and one defeat in the cup. I’ve also got a shitty away draw at Conference South side Oxford City in the FA Trophy third qualifying round, which hasn’t pleased me.

14 games into my third season with Solihull and we’re 8th in the Conference North, with six wins, five draws, three defeats, 22 goals scored and 13 conceded. We’re four points adrift of the play-offs.

I feel like I need to bring in reinforcements but there is literally no one out there who I can afford (and who is better than what I’ve already got). Wilson and Reynolds are two of the division’s best strikers but both have hit bad form at the same time. And my midfield has no consistency. I don’t know who my two best central midfielders are. It should be Will Roberts and Junior English, but Jay Denny, Alex Price and Andy Gooding put in a 7.20+ performance to win their place in the side and then always follow that up with two 6.10 performances.

Left winger Tommy Taylor is permanently knackered. It’s not been a bad season, really, but it feels like things are unravelling a bit. The only consistently good player is Conor Roberts-Nurse, whose average rating is 7.46 after 18 games. Sometimes it feels like it’s just him keeping us together.

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