Once again, our FA Trophy campaign was frustratingly short. After eventually scraping past Bath City in the first round we got the toughest possible draw in the second round, away at Tranmere Rovers. Although we managed to take them to a replay, they beat us. Again. They’re very good, and will likely be playing league football next season.
In the league, our strikers have both been on top form, and deservedly came first and second in the January Player of the Month.
We’re getting great results. But bloody hell are we dull to watch. I can’t complain, as it’s largely by design! Defensively, we’ve been great.
Three last minute (or later!) goals have made things look even better, nabbing an extra six points that we truly don’t deserve. Worryingly, after the Morecambe game, Gerard Garner transforms from a lethal finisher into a total clown, unable to hit the target with even the simplest chance.
Still, we managed to get more than 1’000 through the turnstiles for the first time at home for the snoozefest with York. They might not come back mind…
And finishing with a 100% league record in February bagged me the Manager of the Month prize.
It’s been another season of almost constant rain in Essex, and we still can’t afford to relay the pitch, which has been “very poor” and subject to media ridicule for over a year. We’ve even had a couple of games postponed due to a waterlogged pitch.
I’m sure it’s not helping our short passing game, but we don’t really have the players to play direct football.
Nevertheless I’ve set up a direct 4123 tactic to build up familiarity in case things get bad. It focuses down the flanks where our best players reside. Even if we don’t use it this season, I suspect we’ll need it next year.
Finally our scrappy performances start to yield the results they really deserve (notice our final league game is on a Tuesday, after yet more rain caused another postponement):
I’m absolutely chuffed to finish 3rd though. We’ve massively exceeded expectations, and no-one seems to mind that we’ve done it playing quite a bit of defensive football. No matter what the results in the play-offs, I’m proud of our season.
Our downturn in results at the end of the season doesn’t give me much cause for optimism in the play-off semi-final, where we face a Boreham Wood team fresh from dispatching Morecambe in the first round (sorry fmtotality), and that only recently beat us at home.
With our poor performance against them last time, we’re lining up with our old, reliable 442 counter. It’s always been successful at home and is also a little more direct. Stupid pitch.
What a turnaround! We had played well, were slightly the better team throughout, but just couldn’t score. When Boreham Wood scored in the 86th minute, I thought our goose was cooked, but a quick counter finished off by Garner in injury time took us into extra time.
Extra time continued much like regulation, until the second half, when substitute Leon Lobjoit broke their offside trap from a Kyron Farrell through ball to put us in front. Despite going down to ten men after an injury to Ben Greenhalgh, Garner added another to seal the win in front of a jubilant record home crowd of 1’397. We’re going to Wembley!
The win wasn’t without cost, we had to face Sutton United without both our best player Ben Greenhalgh and first choice left back Charley O’Keefe. They’re a good side, and have also recently given us a beating, but seeing as the Wembley pitch is in great nick, we’re going with our favoured short passing, defensive 442.
Sutton were the better side for significant periods, but we stayed in touch, going in 1-1 at the half. For once, my half time team talk was encouraging rather than the usual hairdryer, and the players seemed to respond, but we didn’t score, they did…
…until the last ten minutes, when we started to push forward in desperation.
Leon Lobjoit, supersub extraordinaire! Loaned in from Northampton, demanded to go back in January due to lack of appearances, finishing 8… TOTAL HERO.
His first was from another sprung offside trap, after a wonderful Lewis Taafe through ball. The second, a header into an empty net after Femi Akinwande took advantage of a defensive mix up and delivered a pin point cross that no-one
could should miss.
It takes a lot to get me out of my chair, fist clenched, eyes wide and the word “YES!” ringing out to nobody but my deaf neighbours, but Leon Lobjoit’s last minute winner did the job and then some.
There were six highlights in the following five minutes, as FM did it’s level best to induce a panic attack. But we’ve done it!
Nearly nine thousand of the 38’819 fans at Wembley were ours, which gives me hope for the future, and somehow we’ll be playing League Two football next year, with the likes of Coventry, Swindon and Notts County!
Just like last season, I’ll do a season review in a separate post later, with more player stats, financial info and the like.