As it stood, we were halfway through January and are leading League Two by six points, and even have cup ties remaining. Also, deadline day approaches…
Surprisingly, we dispatched Tottenham U23s with very little fanfare. The 2-1 scoreline actually flattered them. And then, for the fourth time in three seasons, we pulled Southend out of the bag.
We played really well, under another Canvey deluge. We were on top for the majority of the game, but unfortunately just couldn’t get a winner. Then they robbed us on penalties. They’ve knocked us out of four cups in three years now, and while the game might not consider them our rivals, I hate the bastards.
The Transfer Window:
James Clarke went back to Burnley. He wasn’t satisfied with his playing time after falling down the pecking order. We have signed Keith Buckland (DLC) on loan from Everton as a decent looking back-up option instead. He’ll only feature if we have injuries.
I tried to strengthen the squad in a couple of places, left-back (again…) and central midfield, where we’ve lost Robbie McKenzie to injury for three to four months, but both of my targets went to Notts County instead. We’ll try and get by with the squad we have.
Interest in John English was high, with six separate clubs bidding for him. Early in the window, my negotiated bids were enough to put teams off, and on deadline day itself, I just ignored the bids until time ran down. I think we’ll probably lose him in the summer. Hopefully I can secure a large sell-on clause rather than just losing him for his £400k release clause (he won’t sign another contract).
Here’s fantastic news:
That money is a Godsend. And even better is our comeback from 2-0 down! We weren’t playing too badly with our old defensive 4141 system, but their finishing was too good, Juan Hernandez banging in both. The very next minute after their second goal though, John English took advantage of the shop window of a nationally televised game, and curled in a beauty from just outside the box, into the top corner.
After 60-odd minutes, we switched to our favoured 442, and brought on Joey Stevens. We were playing better and started dominating the highlights. And then, in the 96th minute, Joey popped up in the area to finish after a quick counter down the left! We’d stolen a draw from the team in fifth place in the Premier League!
Unfortunately, John English was injured in that game, and will miss the whole of February. And the romance of the cup was done with us. Watford beat us comfortably 3-0 in the replay in a game that could’ve finished 8-0. But getting to the fourth round and drawing with a Premier League team is a fantastic achievement and the money we’ve earned will help us grow.
Not everyone’s happy though:
Elsie Burt, maybe you should just support Man United or something.
As a result of TV, prize and attendance money from our forays into the mid-rounds of the cups, we are back in the black, and although it’s temporary, the Chairman and the board continue to agree to my asks. Because they are great.
We’ve also added Bishop’s Stortford as an affiliate club. I hope they can bounce straight back into The Vanarama South, as it’d be good to be able to loan players out to a playable league.
Sky Bet League Two:
Our final two league fixtures of January finish as 2-1 wins, so we won five out of five:
John English has been on fire, and deservedly wins himself a prize:
Quite how he wasn’t in the running for Player of the Month, I don’t know. I’ve got my third Manager of the Month award from the season that keeps on giving:
After John English’s cup injury, we must face February without him, as well as Ryan Longman who got injured against Tranmere and then during the Watford replay, Kameron Stanley got injured too!
Fortunately, Joey Stevens chose this moment to start banging in the goals. I may have a selection dilemma on my hands if and when all the strikers are fit… It also really helped that our defence stepped up their game. We’ve continued our good form and are now up to eleven games unbeaten in the league.
Have some of that! Our transformation from last season has been incredible. We now sit fifteen points clear at the top, and with ten league games remaining, it would take a remarkable slump for us to fail to win the title. It’s also been very helpful that of our potential promotion contenders, most have fallen away with patchy form.
In the next part, I’ll cover the (hopefully not too exciting) end to the league season, look at the forthcoming youth intake, see how our players and tactics have developed over this year and look to the future…