We’ve had a very good start to life in League One. For more, see Flight Of The Concords: Part 17. It’s early yet, but our ability to bang in the goals has me optimistic that a play-off push is a possibility. I’m very interested to see how we perform against the bigger guns in this division. I’ve got an eye on two games against MK Dons in particular, as they’ve had a very good start too…
As things have started well, I’m going to continue with our well practiced 442. However, inspired by Gareth Southgate’s England, and their recent success with set pieces, we are going to make a few changes under the hood.
Firstly penalties. We’re missing about half (either wide, or saved straight down the middle), so after a grumble on Twitter, I no longer have any designated takers. This will also apply to direct free kicks. Gamey? Maybe, but in competitive football our main taker has scored just one in over 200 games, so it can’t get worse. I think I would’ve scored one by now.
Perhaps more importantly, I’ve spent a little time tweaking our set pieces. Nothing very imaginative, keep throw-ins short, aim all corners at Manny Monthe’s near post charge, try some wall disruption on direct free kicks… but we’re now going to spend a lot of match preparation time on them. Sod teamwork, everyone knows the system and the squad dynamics are through the roof. We’ve got good takers, good finishers and a big unit, so now I’m actually paying attention, we should score from more. Right? To football!
First up, we’ll cover the cups so far:
Even now, in season 5, Mesut Ozil plays for Arsenal U23s. Didn’t make a lot of difference, they were rubbish. I don’t know why the lads stopped playing after 16 minutes, but three goals were enough.
The first of the MK Dons games was tough. They had us on the ropes until Joey Stevens came off the bench and changed the game. In what’s becoming an unfortunate pattern with him, he came off the bench, scored, and got injured within fifteen minutes. By January 1st, that’s happened three times.
He started, survived and thrived in the Colchester match, leading us to a comfortable victory.
We’ve won a penalty shootout! A two-all draw was probably a fair result against Tottenham U23s, we were good at the beginning and end, but terrible in the middle. Ryan Longman had one of his clinical games. Next up we face AFC Wimbledon away…
In the 1st round we faced bloody Crawley, who robbed me of Marc McNulty on deadline day. Despite being in the division below us, the bookies have them as favourites.
We were pretty hopeless first time round, nabbing a three-all draw we didn’t deserve with a second half penalty (hooray!). But we completely dominated the replay, missing seven clear cut chances, four half chances and seeing twenty shots fail, only scoring through an own goal. Fortunately we once again won on penalties. Then we absolutely destroyed Vanarama National Leyton Orient:
The game featured two goals from corners for us, and so far we are seeing more success from them since our tweaks. I’ll be interested to compare the stats from this year and last.
We have once again pulled the Premier League’s bottom side out of the hat, so in the 3rd round we’ll be away at Southampton…
Sky Bet League One:
We started off October continuing our good league form, with comfortable victories over Swindon and Mansfield:
Getting nine points from the following four games was practically a miracle. Although we impressed against Wycombe (it could’ve been six or seven nil), in the other three games we were poor. MK Dons in particular must be sick of us. They’ve been the better side against us twice, but encountered us on good finishing days.
But ultimately it’s a results business, and I beat two former Dutch internationals to the Manager of the Month award.
Our good results have continued through November:
We were truly unstoppable for about ten minutes against Charlton, really at our best, with Gumbs grabbing a superb hat-trick. The rest of the month was OK performance wise, but wouldn’t have looked as good if not for Broughton and Mellor scoring a spectacular goal apiece:
I didn’t even realise there was a Goal of the Month award. How has it taken this long for us to have an entry!? [Insert obligatory joke about two buses here]
And so, on paper, a very dull December:
Actually, all the games were pretty good. Bristol Rovers were our equal in an end to end encounter which belies the nil nil scoreline. We once again failed to beat Southend after kicking their asses for ninety minutes, but Ryan Longman’s last gasp winner against Northampton really cheered me up. We look pretty solid defensively, which is making up for our less than clinical finishing at the moment.
Despite a real mixture of performances, we’ve only lost once in three months! We’ve shown a real strength to repeatedly gain results from our poorer performances, whilst scoring plenty of wins when we play well.
There’s no doubt that Denville Gumbs is our top performer. He’s already got 26 goals and 8 assists, and seems to be a big fan of scoring goals in bunches. If I’m being hyper critical, he does seem to either be brilliant or invisible, but he’s only 18 years old. We’ve managed to increase his minimum fee release clause to a million pounds, but as his value is already hovering around the £300k mark, I don’t know how long we’ll be able to keep him.
His main strike partner has been Ryan Longman, who continues to outperform expectations, he’s bagged 16 goals and provided a fantastic 13 assists, mostly for Gumbs. By contrast, John English is out of form and though Joey Stevens is playing well, he can’t stay fit.
Max Broughton continues his marvelous right wing exploits, scoring three, assisting nine and averaging a preposterous 7.73. He’s added “Hugs Line” to his player traits and is easily our most dangerous midfielder.
In defence, Manny Monthe has been immense, and has banged in four goals from corners too. Kelvin Mellor has excelled at right back, finally we seem to have replaced Mr. Reliable, Perry Cotton, with someone a little more dangerous going forward.
Kieran O’Hara is making strides developmentally between the sticks. He has been solid, but more than that, has made some serious saves when needed. He’s even been called up for the Ireland squad.
Bizarrely, the chairman doesn’t want to extend my contract at the moment. As a result I’m being linked with jobs in all four top divisions, including Southend…
No bloody chance.
With the transfer window opening, I have some fears. 1) Max Broughton is finally getting the attention he deserves. We’ve got him on loan for the season, but if Bolton sell, I’m unsure whether their transfer would respect that. 2) Kieran O’Hara continually refuses to sign a contract with a bigger minimum fee release clause. It currently stands at a meagre £150k… 3) How long will Gumbs remain free from the jaws of bigger clubs?
The league table is looking marvelous:
Our solid home form combined with our much improved away form has us at the summit and looking pretty comfortable. There are some decent sides below us, and I feel we’ve been a little fortunate at times, so I’m not as confident as I was during last season. Having said that, I have got to be very happy with how things have gone as we continue to exceed expectations.
Next time out we’ll cover any transfer window shenanigans, the vital middle months of the season and take a look at youth development over the last year, along with our latest youth intake… Thanks for reading!