I’m not completely sure how we’re doing it, but as it stands, we’re 9th, and much closer to the play-offs than the drop.
The plan is to explore some tactical tweaks, as we’re safe, and also very unlikely to be able to keep up with the play-off race, particularly on current form.
I’ve shelved any potential talk of youth development until next time, as though I’ve had the youth intake (spoiler alert: it wasn’t very good), the majority of my most promising players are out on loan, so I’ll wait for them to come back before I go into too much detail.
But first, some bits and pieces going on in the background…
Behind The Scenes:
Now, I don’t ask much of the board. Simply because I know we’ve got no cash. We’ve been in the red for ages, and I don’t see an end to that. Not taking into account any potential prize money, I expect us to be over a million in debt by season’s end. But the board don’t seem to mind too much, giving me a little bit of cash to spend on players, and a wage budget I never meet. So I thought I’d do a cheeky ask, with no expectation of them saying yes…
I’m very happy to be wrong.
We’ve been selling out The Aspect Arena every week, and this potential new stadium will have well over double our current capacity. Exciting times!
I don’t usually include such traitorous acts as attending interviews on here. I’ve stuck this one in for two reasons. a) They’re a Premier League side after me, so I’m showing off, and b) I’ve used it to get even more out of the board, finally getting improved youth facilities approved:
Also, a contract extension:
It really seemed like I would’ve got the Bournemouth job too, as the bookies had made me comfortably the favourite. But how could I possibly leave?
Sky Bet Championship:
Thinking that our season was destined to peter out into a comfortable mid-table finish, I decided last time out to tinker with the tactics a little, especially given our recent poor form.
We didn’t make massive changes, but instead of a classic 4141, we tried an asymmetric version for a few matches, pushing Kevin Brown forward into the AML spot, and getting Danny Pearson further up the pitch too, as a Shadow Striker in the AMC position:
Five points from those three games wasn’t a bad return, but Brown and Pearson didn’t seem to benefit much from the changes, at times being a little ahead of the play. With bottom placed Barnsley next up, I thought I’d give our standard mentality 442 another whirl.
We annihilated them in the first half. That’s a strong word, but it’s accurate. It genuinely could’ve been 8 (eight). Of course, in the second half we were totally useless and they suddenly looked like Barcelona, but it’s three points, and we played some beautiful stuff.
We rolled it out again against Reading, and although it took until the last ten minutes to break through, we were very good again.
At this point, the tactical trials came to an end. We were up to eighth, and with the other teams around us frequently dropping points, I had to play for keeps. There was a proper chance we can sneak into the play-offs. From then on, we kept it tight away (4141) and played more expansively at home (442). Our nil nil draw away at second placed Preston, meant we came through February unbeaten.
With three home games against under-performing sides out of the four matches we had in March, we needed some wins if the play-off dream was to become reality:
And we got them. We showed great spirit to come from one down against MK Dons, hit the woodwork five times against Huddersfield, and were excellent from start to finish against Sunderland.
10 points, up to sixth and:
A quick check of the league table, followed by our results, tells me that we’ve only won three away games in the league this season, and the last one was against Fulham on the third of December. That’s quite a dry spell considering we’ve got four out of six away from home to end the season…
We tried to play 442 away against Charlton, and they demolished us. Birmingham offered very little challenge (back to 4141 for us), they were dreadful and very lucky not to get beat down hard. So we’ve grabbed a first away win in over three months.
The next three games set off alarm bells. We were suddenly incredibly profligate in front of goal. Denville Gumbs, despite his 18 finishing and 16 composure, was missing sitter after sitter, including ballooning a penalty over the bar against Norwich on his way to a 5.6 rating. John English seemed to have contracted the very same affliction too. If not for two penalties successfully converted by captain Luke Dreher, it could’ve been a lot worse, even though we were actually playing quite well!
Our striking woes were compounded by injuries to Ryan Longman and Kameron Stanley, so Gerry Brewitt ST(C) / M/AM(L), got his first call up to the senior squad. He is but 17 years of age and made the bench for the decisive final game of the season against Fulham…
That’s right, 6th versus 7th in the battle for the final play-off spot! A win or draw and we’re in, but a Fulham win ends our season. With our striker problems, poor recent results, and the fact that we only need a draw, we’re going 4141, even though we’re at home.
The first half was a succession of traded long shots. We were perhaps edging it, with a couple of better chances, but in the 42nd minute Lewis Gibson scored from a knock down at a corner, and we went in one down. I tried to pick the boys up, and we changed to 442, with Joey Stevens coming on to partner John English.
After 63 minutes, very little had changed and English was having another bad day. So, on came Gerry Brewitt for his professional debut:
It took him less than a minute to get off the mark, and fourteen minutes later he nabbed a second to get us the win! He got on the end of two crosses from Joey Stevens, first at the back post, then at the front. You’ve just earned yourself a new face son!
As you can see, we’ve started work, training “Likes To Round Keeper” into him. He has some potential. Love that flair attribute. To the play-offs!
So, it’s Palace in the semis. Of course it’s Palace. A team we’ve never beaten and a forward line we can’t usually stop.
Dirty, shithousing Palace. And Mark Hughes loves it the git. They kicked the crap out of us, and John English is done for the season.
We played our 4141 with him as the target man, and now we don’t really have a suitable focal point.
It was a tight game, short on good chances. It took Joey Stevens getting scythed down in the box for us to score from the spot, but unfortunately Palace went straight back up the other end, won a corner and scored from the madness that ensued.
A draw was a fair result on the night, and it means we’re still in it, although that away goal may be troublesome.
I think Denville Gumbs will return for the second leg. Joey Stevens isn’t effective without a strike partner.
The second leg was a rollercoaster of emotions. But not the good kind of rollercoaster with a nice picture at the end, the kind that makes you puke all over yourself.
It’s heartbreak. Again, they gave us a good kicking, and ultimately, the result was probably fair. But with five minutes left we were going to Wembley thanks to substitute Joey Stevens banging in a superb goal after an incisive counter attack.
With 85 minutes on the clock, our playing out from the back cost us, as we gave the ball away in the penalty area and were forced in to extra time. We made our 3rd and final substitution, taking off the knackered Danny Pearson for Toby Edser’s fresh legs. Big mistake.
A minute before the half time interval, our goalkeeper Kieran O’Hara went down clutching his arm. It was a lower arm break.
Another example of dirty Palace? No. He went up to claim an uncontested cross, no-one close to him at all. How on Earth did he break his arm!?
Here’s an image of the moment that his arm apparently broke:
We were forced to put Oliver Younger in goal, and attempt to hold on for penalties. We failed. From yet another corner breakdown, Milivojevic slammed in at the far post and we were done. The boys did their best, and we’ve massively overachieved again this season. I got nothing but pride from their performances.
It’s been a hell of a season, and I need a sit down. There’s plenty I didn’t get to, such as player stats, youth development and who’s staying and going. I’ll have to include that next time.
Thanks for reading!