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Through December and January our finances improved, with frequent fixtures bringing in gate receipts. This returned us to the black (albeit briefly) and the board agreed to increase our junior coaching budget and youth recruitment level.
We still haven’t managed to secure a senior affiliate though, which is irritating as we could use both the income and the free loan players. I have extended my contract for another season:
We’ve had a sensational run of league form. I’ve never put together such a run in Football Manager, outside of managing powerful top flight sides.
That took us to 21 games unbeaten! Mostly they’ve been really impressive performances too, the team has gelled and is now capable of convincing attacking moves, and our shaky defence has tightened up.
I feel I’ve got to mention the win at Bath, which was a complete travesty. They totally dominated us apart from a ten minute period in which we somehow bagged two goals to steal the win. I’m used to being on the receiving end of these, it’s refreshing to dole one out.
Our luck in the FA Trophy however, mirrored our FA Cup run, with two comfortable wins followed by a loss to Vanarama National opposition.
3-2 was a generous scoreline against Ebbsfleet (2nd in the Vanarama National), they are a much better side than us and could’ve won by three or four. But we met our board expectation, so no harm done.
Eventually, our unbeaten league run came to an end as Welling turned us over at our seemingly perpetually rainy home ground. We were deservedly beaten, and our performances afterwards tanked. Fortunately, we managed to pick up ten points whilst playing terribly:
Only in the Hungerford game did we deserve victory, but good teams find a way to win when they play badly… right…?
We have made one significant squad addition, picking up Chris Lewington (GK) after he was inexplicably released by Dover. He’s an upgrade on Louis Wells, who, though he has performed well, is 36 years old and beginning to look it. At 29, Lewington should give us a few solid years. He’s already saved our asses with great saves against Bognor Regis and Whitehawk.
Luckily for us, Gloucester collapsed like a flan in a cupboard, and Bath’s form has been very similar to our own, so we were top of the pile with four matches to go:
The first of these games went to plan for both sides, but somehow, Bath contrived to draw at home to bottom placed Hungerford, whilst we beat Braintree, so we went into the penultimate game of the season at home against relegation bound Poole, with the opportunity to win the title…
Bloody hell! 17 year old Jack Renew, brought into the first team for the injured Jordan Cox, in only his second career start, went bananas and bagged four goals! We’ve secured promotion with a game to go, and we nailed the last four games to comfortably finish top.
The final league table makes for very satisfying reading. That 21 game unbeaten league run was fantastic and obviously key to our success. It also came as a surprise to me. I felt I had to keep playing until I lost (superstitious fool…) so it was quite a sesh, and I played through this season very quickly.
We’ve done it! I didn’t think our ceiling was so high. I thought we could grab a play-off spot, but promotion is a great achievement. Though, judging from our cup games against Vanarama National opposition so far, I think next season is going to be tough.
I will do a round up of stats, player information and more, in a follow up post reviewing the 2017/18 season, as this post is long enough already. I’ll also look ahead, as I try to work out how to cope with powerful new foes such as Chesterfield, Wrexham and Dagenham & Redbridge…