Run Forest, Run – Part 8: Holding out for a Guerrero

It’s the end of Matt’s second season in charge of Nottingham Forest. It might be 2007 but he is getting close to restoring those glory days. Catch up with part 7 here.

Hi and welcome back to the final update of season 2 where I’ve time travelled to the future and try and turn Forest into force once more. We were Premier League runners up last year which gave us a place in the Champions League which came and went, but we’re top of the league and into the later stages of both domestic cups, so things are looking up.

We’ll start with some international recognition.

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This recall to the Spain squad is fully deserved and Guerrero celebrates by putting us ahead in the first half against 6th placed Sunderland. Carsten Jancker leads a fight back in the second half, setting up Halsall for the equaliser, but Zizi Debbah and a late double from Inge means this team is purring.

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It’s international break time just before the transfer deadline shuts and Twan Inge makes his debut as a late substitute for Holland in their narrow 2-1 away win over Moldova. Barry Smith also makes his debut for Eire in similar circumstances although his is a losing debut away to Slovakia, but there’s sadness for Julen Guerrero who doesn’t even make the bench for Spain against Austria. Its was a friendly for pity’s sake, have a heart Claudio Ranieri!

Transfer deadline comes and I manage to sign Little Luis Enrique for real this time, for a bargain £1.5m and let a reserve goalie, Jeremy Stuart go to Bury.

Next up it’s the League Cup Final against Leeds United. Leeds have Ion Timofte and Chris Woodcock up front and Thomas Myhre in goal with Patrick Vieira and Nigel Quashie marshalling the midfield in a straight 4-4-2 formation. Manager Alan Little looking to add to last years FA Cup triumph.

New signing Juanmi is cup-tied, for reasons I can’t understand as he’s either played for Forest in the competition on loan or for Las Palmas. In Spain.

Barry ‘Roy Keane’ Smith is suspended, so Steven McManaman comes into the holding role, but apart from that it’s as we were.

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Leeds rigid 4-4-2 formation stifles us and Woodcock draws first blood before Quashie goes off injured. Then towards the end of the half Woodcock sees red and it’s time to earn my corn in the half time team-talk.

Guerrero has a goal ruled out for offside on 50 minutes and we win endless corners but can find no way past Myhre in goal. I bring on Ascencio for Rubini and push Inge forward. My gamble pays off in the last minute of normal time as Debbah rises highest to a corner from Nelo to hammer a header past Myhre finally.

That late goal deflates 10 man Leeds and we score twice through Guerrero and Scottish wingback Hamish Chappell. Tonito gets sent off just before half time and we are almost there. We play out the last 15 minutes and Guerrero gets MOTM. Lloyd Kaye lifts the aloft the three handled cup and shouts ‘Baby, you make me wish I had three hands!’

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The board are delighted, and we’ve won £500k, which is good. It’s not a route to Europe, as you know, but we have other avenues for that, starting with our FA Cup semi-final against Spurs. The other semi-final sees our title challenge rivals man Utd take on Alan Shearer’s Division 1 Liverpool.

We beat Spurs 7-2 last time out, but I am expecting more fight this time around from Kevin Keegan’s team who sold 3 of their best players to Arsenal on transfer deadline day. Best not question Keegan’s transfer dealings.

Juanmi is on for Chappell and Alfonso is on the bench against his old club.

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Rubini decides the first half is a good time to score his 25th of the season, but Kovacevic levels before half time. Guerrero slots in Debbah and we are in control until Janney takes advantage of a defensive slip up and after a dire 30 minutes of extra time it’ll be a replay. In the other semi-final, Liverpool upset the odds to dump Utd out by 1 goal to nil.

3 days later and it’s back to Old Trafford to face Spurs again. I consider ringing the changes as most of my squad are knackered but persevere with the same line up from Sunday and with a little help from Nicky Weaver’s sending off, we run out 4-1 winners and it’ll be a final against Liverpool in May.

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After all these cup exploits, it’s back to the bread and butter of the league and title rivals Man Utd serve up a humdinger of a 3-3 draw where Guerrero cancels out a Noel Whelan winner.

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That point keeps us 2 pts behind Utd with a game in hand, which is against basement club Middlesbrough the following Wednesday.

Just when you think you’ve found some form…

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A crazy middle of the game.

All of which sort of makes our next game away to mid-table Norwich pivotal if we are to sustain a title challenge.

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My team like to put me through the wringer on the final run in, don’t they?

Man Utd draw nil-nil with 3rd place Leeds and we go top on goal difference with a game in hand. It’s ours to lose now with 5 games to go.

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It’s another International Break and a chance for my players to rest up, even Guerrero who is overlooked by Ranieri’s Spain again, which maybe is a good thing.

When we take on Arsenal for our game in hand, its suspensions rather than injuries that force changes, with one of them, Fahlen, grabbing the winning goal to put us 3 pts clear at the top with 4 games to go.

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Those 4 games will be played out in the spaces of 7 days due to the usual bank holiday fixture congestion in English CM world.

Up first are Huddersfield where a 0-0 draw and a Man Utd win do little to calm my fears of a collapse like last season. Then it’s on to Martin O’Neill’s Wolves for the Bank Holiday Monday showdown.

We’re running on empty but I’m loath to make wholesale changes, but Debbah and Fahlen carry us through as worthy winners. Combined with a Man Utd loss to 17th place Burnley, and we’re 4 pts clear with 2 games to go!

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By a twist of fate, or selective algorithms and scheduling, our next match 2 days later is against Burnley at home.

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Rubini and Bogie deliver the goods and its party time at The City Ground as we add the Premier League Crown to the League Cup won earlier this season.

Nottingham Forest are league champions for the first time since 1978.

It’s a complete change of line up for the final game to save players for the FA Cup final and Aston Villa show no mercy to demolish us 4-1, but it’s a carnival atmosphere as the Premier League Trophy is paraded around the ground.

Conformation of our achievements below, with man Utd sealing the second Champions League spot. Last years winners down to 5th, leapfrogged by our limp showing against Villa.

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At the bottom, Ipswich trying to pretend they aren’t gong down with Middlesbrough and Hull.

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Leeds finished 3rd and qualified for Europe, but lose another final this season…

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We now have a chance to do what in reality would be a historic domestic treble but Man Utd achieved that feat in the very first season of this save.

It’ll be champions of the Premier Division vs Champions of Division 1 as Liverpool and Chelsea finish in first and second respectively.

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We show Liverpool what they will be in store for next season, and in truth the game as a contest was effectively over in the first 15 minutes.

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It’s a rout and we’ve done the treble, amazing scenes. Debbah with a double to add to Nelo and Rubini. In the end we were too much for Liverpool and I give some fringe players 5 minutes on the Wembley turf to start the celebrations. Liverpool will be disappointed, but they will be back in the Premier League and into Europe, where we’ll also focus our attention for the final season of this save.

Stats time:

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Debbah and Rubini plundered 65 goals between them across 4 competitions. Alfonso got a big fat zero in his 9 outings and I’m glad I paid £750,000 for him and not the usual £15,750,000.

You’ll see Guerrero 3rd in the top scorers list and let’s dwell on this veteran Spaniard for a moment.

You’ll recall he joined us late on in the first Season, having been rescued from Sheffield Wednesday in Division 2.

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He scored 4 goals in 8 games for us as we came close to sealing the title, but this season he has been amazing, even at the age of 33. He left Athletic Bilbao in the second season of this save for Valencia but rarely featured and a bargain move to Sheffield Wednesday saw consistent performances for 3 seasons in Division 1 until they were relegated to Division 2 in 04/05, where they still reside, having finished 18th under the stewardship of Jason Cundy – says it all really.

Ever dependable, match winner and game turner, I have come to love this Spanish playmaker and I hope he’ll keep his boots on into his 34th year as we push for European Glory and try to emulate Cloughie.

Awards confirmation:

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A nice symmetry with Alan Shearer getting Div 1 Manager of the Year and his regen getting PFA Young Player of the Year. Blog favourite Tomlinson doing well for Crewe in Division 3.

A quick chance before we go to round up the other teams that were an option at the very start of this blog:

Liverpool – Division 1 Champions and FA Cup Runners Up – we’ll be seeing a lot more of Alan Shearer’s side next season.

Lazio – Escaped relegation by 3 pts in Serie A where Milan were champions by a whopping 17 points. Milan also picked up the Coppa Italia to complete a dominant double.

Espanyol – Heartache in the league as a late season loss to Deportivo allowed Real Sociedad to claim the title by 1 point, but Espanyol had their revenge on Deportivo in the Champions League final, beating them 4-2.

See you next week for the start of our third and final season!

You can follow Matt on Twitter @Matt_C_Wills

Starting from Scratch – Part 12

Twitterless Matthew is here to brighten your Tuesday. Altrincham are now an established football league side, so much so they are buying players from Borussia Dortmund. Catch up with part 11 here.

We’re into the fourth update of season 2 and it’s a case of so far, so good. We’re flying high in the league and shortly due to kick off our FA Cup campaign. Two of our strikeforce from last season have left us for Bolton, however the new recruit Tomlinson marked his debut with a hat trick so the omens are good up front.

Ferguson has been a bad lad and starts a 3 match suspension for accrued disciplinary points. In addition, N’Diaye is knackered yet again as we face Bradford City at home. N’Diaye is at 82% fitness but Zerrouki is only 6% better off so I decide to stick with it and sub them later on if necessary.

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Tomlinson continues his dream start with another 2 goals either side of the half, and Browning makes it 3 with 25 mins left to play. Watson pulls one back for them in the last few minutes but we’re fully in control and close out a very comfortable win.

Old man Wilkins decides he wants to move, and I’m not going to stand in his way. Good luck finding a club that want a 37 year old who’s out for 3 months with a damaged spine though.

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The midfield are well rested for the trip to York, who came up with us last season but haven’t shared the same sort of success as they’re currently 20th. It’s another assured performance and we run out easy 2-0 winners, though I am still concerned with Roberts. His form has dropped from superb to average and he actually went into half time with a rating of 4. I’ll give it another few games before jumping into action on that front though.

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The fixture list is pretty relentless at the moment, and we’re back in action the following Wednesday as we travel to midtable Wigan. There are no fresh injury concerns so I keep the same 11 that started at York.

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It’s a hard-fought game, and a glaring example of a game of two halves. We start dreadfully and are under the cosh for the entire first half, going in with a fully deserved 2-0 deficit. This isn’t the fault of Roberts though, as he’s made a couple of smart saves to limit the damage, it was simply the relentless attacks that had been the problem. We’re completely different after the break though, and Browning gives us hope 3 minutes in. It’s then the Graeme Tomlinson show as he grabs a brace to turn the game around and further endear himself to the Altrincham support. Wigan have a couple of chances to level it up after that, but Roberts does commendably and keeps them out. Duncan is sent off in the 86th minute for a professional foul but it’s too late and we take maximum points home. I don’t know what Bound did for those final 4 minutes but it can’t have been good – I’ve never actually seen a 3 rating before.

N’Diaye simply can’t handle 2 matches a week in that central role it seems, and he’s benched for the home game against 4th-placed Brighton due to fatigue. Zerrouki takes his position and Ferguson returns from suspension in place of Gattuso.

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We find ourselves behind after a fairly even first half, with Roberts having another good game for us. The game turns when Brighton go a man down however and Tomlinson levels it up a few minutes later to improve his ridiculous record to 8 goals in his first 5 appearances for us. We push for a winner but can’t find a way past Ormerod and have to settle for a point.

There’s trouble brewing with Duncan as he’s finally decided that he’s too good for us. I’ll have to look for another centre back after our next game as I don’t think he’ll be with us much longer.

Our second Windscreen Shield game is at Scunthorpe, who we also shared a group with last year. Roberts is a cup-tied so Hammond gets another chance to impress and N’Diaye is rested in anticipation of a game that actually matters.

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It’s an understatement to say that Hammond doesn’t take his chance to regain the number 1 spot as he lets in Scunthorpe’s only chance of the first half and goes in with a rating of 4. We rally for the second half though and Tomlinson scores yet again before Harris opens his account for us in an impressive 20 minute cameo. As embarrassing as it would have been, a defeat would have knocked us out of this Micky Mouse trophy but it wasn’t to be and we’ll have to suffer through at least one more round.

We’re not back to the league yet though as the next game is the opening round of the FA Cup against Bristol City at home. They’re second from bottom in Division 2 and their keeper is out with fractured ribs, leaving an autogen in goal. Tomlinson may well improve his goalscoring record even further in the next 90 minutes. Hunter is struggling with his fitness level which draws attention to the fact that I only have one right wingback – I’ll remedy that after the match.

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It’s a frustrating first half as my team fail to realise the ease at which they could score with an autogen in goal if only they actually tested him. I’m shouting “JUST GET ONE ON TARGET YOU TURDS” futilely at the screen as chance after chance is deflected wide or flies over the bar, but Tomlinson finally gets his act together in the second half and bags yet another brace. It’s now 11 from 7 and I suspect he may catch the eye of one of the bigger boys soon, as he has a big club release clause sadly.

I can’t find a suitable right wingback on a free so I move instead for this German regen, who looks pretty average but will do fine at filling in for Hunter in the odd game and won’t break the bank at £42k

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The hairy-faced madman is out for a couple of months, which is a shame but he’s become a bit-part player recently so it’s not a huge spanner in the works

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Heinrich is happy to sign so we finally have cover for Hunter

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The defence takes a hit for our next match, which is away at Stockport. Duncan is suspended following his sending off at Wigan and Taggart is away with NI so we’re two players down. Stockport are one place above the bottom though with a solitary win in their last 15 matches and they’re also facing an injury/suspension crisis of their own so I’m hoping the damage is minimal. Young John Butler makes his first appearance at the back and new signing Heinrich takes to the bench.

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It’s a very routine win, and we do the damage early before sitting back and riding it out. Butler tries a little bit too hard on his debut, picking up a booking and later injuring Stockport’s Parker with an over-zealous lunge, but all in all it’s a good performance from the lads.

England, Wales and Scotland have qualified for this Summer’s European finals, all as best runners up, but this evidently is not good enough for the FA who expect first place or NOTHING

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The final game of this update is (sort of) a top of the table clash between us and Peterborough, who are currently third. Duncan is back from suspension and Taggart from international duty so it’s a much more familiar defence.

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We end up on the wrong end of the result in a game of few chances. They get a quick couple of goals after the break and although Browning pulls one back with 15 minutes to go, I never really feel like we’re going to level it up and so it proves. So our first loss in quite a while puts a dent in what’s otherwise a really good set of results in this update.

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Ah, stop rubbing it in! They really know how to kick a man when he’s down, jeez…

Anyway a quick look at the tables, as is customary:

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The loss lets Peterborough make up some ground but we’re still 6 points clear at the top as we approach the midway point in the season – a pretty damn fine place to be.

As for Colwyn Bay, They’re still enjoying their first league season sitting in tenth place and, like last time, just a point off the play off places. Promotion of these non-league sides usually happens 2 or 3 seasons in, but it’s pretty rare to achieve it in the maiden campaign. Scarborough have gone from strength to strength and are knocking on the door of automatic promotion places, which is quite a turnaround from their last two consecutive 23rd placings.

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The race to avoid the drop into obscurity is very, very close this year and Darlington are currently at the bottom of the pile. No doubt more twists and turns are on their way as only a point or less separates each team all the way up to 14th, so a win or two can massively change a team’s fortunes.

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The B’s of Manchester – Part 8

It might be Easter Monday but that won’t stop @SupernovaDragon bringing you the latest from the Man Utd B team. They narrowly missed out on promotion in season one, how is season two shaping up? Catch up with part 7 here

Hello and welcome back to the B Team of Man United where the youngsters come together to form a team. In case you have missed it, we have yet to get out of division 2 and are now on a patchy run of results. Even the elder statesman of Eric Cantona can’t keep us going.

Anyway, our first game of this update is at home to Oldham Athletic. I tell everyone in the dressing room that, with Oldham in 20th, I expect nothing less than a win!
At half-time we are 1-0 up thanks to Nevland pouncing on a ball dropped by the keeper from a Cooke cross.

At full-time it’s our best 45 minutes for a long time:

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Cantona finally netted his first goals for us and Tomlinson also scored. My nemesis from Oldham, Jepson, netted twice also.

By the next match, which comes after an U21 Norway game, Nevland gets injured on duty and both McGibbon and Duncan are suspended. The B’s have now also brought in some schoolboys to play slowly devlop and try and keep the Man United youth team building:

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All of these may end up featuring at some point just not straight away. Maybe in the Windowless Shield.

Our next match is away to Oxford, with Duncan suspended and McGibbon I have to make a couple of changes. The timing of McGibbon’s suspension actually works out as he would have been missing anyway due to being on international duty.

This match was a little dull with not a lot of action, however the 1 goal that won it came from a scramble in the box after Tomlinson set up Macken who hit the bar, Tomlinson’s shot was blocked by the keeper and Macken finished it off.

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Next up is a home game V Wigan. I decide to make the odd change, Trees gets dropped and Duncan comes back in with Appleton back in midfield.

At half-time we are 2-0 up thanks to Tomlinson getting both of them. First was in 8 minutes when Macken played him through and the 2nd was after Appleton passed it from deep into Wigan’s half, Macken shot and the keeper parried it and Tomlinson finished it easily.

At full-time it ended 2-0 as Wigan had a few chances but we held out to win. It feels like we are playing like a team again.

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As the games start to come thick and fast now, we’re away to Portsmouth. I do make the 1 change as Appleton is getting a little tired, Trees comes back in for him.

At half-time we are 3-1 down, we was 2-0 down after 10 minutes as our defence has been awful. Miskicks and fouls all over the place. We were lucky to net 1 just before half-time.

Second half just petered out to nothing and the end of the day it just wasn’t our day. This match was just depressing after the way we seemed to turn things around recently.

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Some good news after the last match:

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It was only the last match it felt like we really missed Nev. Be nice to have him back though.

Really, a strained wrist?

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1 last schoolboy joins our B team and he has a name I enjoy:

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He’s not brilliant at the moment admittedly but his tackling could be useful and we’ve been needing someone else who could play wing back for if we go back to 5-3-2 attack again.

Going out of the club on loan is Wellens as he was not getting near my starting line-up anytime soon.

Next up is the League Cup 1st leg against Wrexham at home. I change things around a little, rest some players as I’d rather concentrate on the league.

At half-time we’re 1-0 down and surprisingly De Bont has been our most creative player. Maybe he could prove to be a good signing.

At full-time it ended 1-1 thanks to my 16 year old sub Derek Langley coming off the bench for Macken, latch on to a pass from De Bont and finished with ease. He definitely has a bright future.

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Well, Dundee United have pulled off a managerial coup:

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Not Michael:

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My main defensive midfielder, I could have done with him.

We have not been performing well in the league and it appears even the board are starting to lose faith in me:

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We finally arrive at our next match, at home to Carlisle. I go back to full strength and I tell the team to go out there and perform, not just for me, but for the fans.

At half-time it’s 3-0 to us after we took the lead thanks to Nevland’s cross and Tomlinson heading home, within a minute we went 2-0 up after Tomlinson’s shot was parried and my lovely Tree finished it off and later in the half Tomlinson set up Nevland to finish. I tell the lads in the dressing room that I am very happy.

Not much else happened in the second half except for Tomlinson being put through by Cantona and he finished it nicely, only for it to be ruled out for offside.

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Great signing by Barcelona:

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Meanwhile our parent club also made a new signing:

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It looks like my only right sided midfielder is getting promoted to our parent club. This is now the only club I will be accepting bids from:

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Bye bye Cookie.

At home to Fulham next and what will most likely be Terry Cooke’s last game. We leave the starting line-up as it is and I tell them to play as they did last match and give Terry a great send off to our parent club.

Within 3 minutes, Nevland plays Tomlinson through to put us 1-0 up and by the half hour mark we have made it 2-0, thanks to Tomlinson repaying the favour and setting Nevland up. I have also noticed that currently Cooke is on an average 6, his mind is on other things and I go over and quietly say to him that he should say goodbye in style.

At full-time Cooke had turned on the style by setting up Tomlinson for his 2nd and he ended up with an 8. Nevland took the MOTM prize though and he fully deserved it. I will miss the Cookie as we seem to, most of the time, play this good.

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As the month ends, the board are very much at the pre-meh meh point with me:

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Next up is our 2nd leg against Wrexham. After the 1-1 draw from the first leg at home, I decide to, once again, change the team to concentrate on the league. I keep Cooke starting, for what I just know will be his last game.

At half-time we have been extremely poor. I mean, almost us v Portsmouth poor. 2-0 and barely creating a thing, which is hardly surprising considering the line-up.

At full-time we lost 3-2 and despite what it may looks like, we were never in this game. We got what felt like a consolation in the 89th minute and then we went straight back up and got a 2nd and then the whistle went. We didn’t deserve anything from this match and, to be honest, I’m glad to be out of this cup anyway.

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Even if the board wanted to be in it:

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They’ll change their minds if we got promoted at the end of the season.

Officially promoted to our parent club now Cooke:

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We end up with McClair who I never really wanted but they relegated him to our B team and, to be honest, I cannot see him playing many games for us.

We get the FA Cup 1st round draw:

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If we play what we are capable of this should be a bit of a breeze.

We have had to replace Cooke and bring in, for free:

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He’s not a patch on Cooke of course but he looks useful. He’ll be starting the next match as I don’t really have many options down the right.

Talking of which, we are at home to Blackpool. I tell the team to prove how Cooke didn’t make the team and we can win without him. At half-time the half barely had much in the way of chances from either team until 43 minutes when Nevland put Tomlinson through who slotted the ball beyond the reach of the keeper.

At full-time we won 4-0 thanks to Nevland jumping on a loose ball after Tomlinson hit the woodwork, Brebner headed in a Cantona corner and sub Twiss got put through by Tomlinson and he rounded the keeper to score. All in all, a very good team performance.

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Next up is, again, Wrexham away. This time in the league. Considering where Wrexham are in the league, they are bottom, I tell team to go out and do what they did last match. However, I have had to drop 3 players due to them being with the under-21’s. So out goes Clegg, Duncan and Nevland. I decide to give McClair a run out for his debut.

At half-time the only thing of note to happen is Greening picking up a knock but it’s not too serious currently. At full-time it was disappointing 0-0 with nothing happening at all. So far, if there was an award for most boring match of the season, this would be up there.

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Our next match is at home to Bristol City. We make several changes to our line-up. At half-time we are 1-0 up after Cantona’s header down to Tomlinson who rounded the keeper and put us ahead, the rest of the half petered out.

By full-time we have been dominant and run out 3-0 winners. We hit the woodwork several times, one of them leading to Tomlinson’s second. Cantona finished the scoring.

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A bit of managerial foreshadowing going on here:

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Next up we are away to Lincoln in the Windowless Shield. I make several changes as I really do not care about this thing. At half-time we are 1-0 down after a cross into the box and Thornley headed the ball back to the debutant keeper and it ended up in the back of the net. By full-time we have lost 2-1, at least Langley come off the bench to net one.

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Let’s just get back to the league, we have Exeter away. I bring back my main line-up of course. At half-time we are 1-0 down and Clegg has picked up an injury just as Greening come back from his, I don’t need this.

Full-time and we lost 3-0 and this was a very poor showing from us, though I don’t blame the defence for the off day, the injury helped with that.

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6 weeks is too long, we will miss him.

Next up in the league is away to Crewe. A couple of changes and back on the pitch we go.

At half-time we are losing 2-0 and not 1 player is playing that well. I blast them in the dressing room, telling them to get a grip of themselves. By full-time it’s ended 2-2 after McGibbon scored with a bullet header from a corner and Cantona put Twiss through and his shot got parried and Nevland finished. The comeback was great and I was just glad not to get beat.

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Up next is a home match with Leyton Orient. I sit the team down and tell them they have to win to get us back into the battle to get promoted. At half-time we are 1-0 up thanks to Nevland slotting the ball home from close range. At full-time we won 2-1. I am very concerned at the rate we concede goals but at least it’s another win.

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Up next is away to table topping Luton Town. Considering the rate we concede these goals, I am a little fearful. I don’t let onto the lads, I tell them this is their chance to ruin Luton’s run and spearhead ours. At half-time it is 1-1. For the first goal, Tomlinson got put through by Nevland and he brought down, penalty. Tomlinson took it and smashed it into the corner, only for the referee to order a retake and Tomlinson did it again. After that, it was all Luton and then Luton drew level after a mix-up in the box. I tell the team that they can still win this and send them back out.

By full-time we have won 3-1 after Tomlinson rounded the keeper to score his second and Nevland put Cantona through to net the third.

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As we head into the final match of the month and this part, the board are just satisfied.

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Our final match of the month and this part, is away to a table topping team (sound familiar?) We take on Swansea this time. At half-time it is 0-0 and quite a few chances have been wasted by both teams. I talk to my front 3 and tell them to get their shooting boots back on and send the team out with my words of encouragement echoing in their ears.

57 minutes in and Tomlinson plays Nevland in who put us ahead. For the next half hour we end up backs to the wall job and just about keep them out. With 3 minutes left they finally break through after a corner and it ends 1-1. We could and should have won this.

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This is the table at the end of this part:

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As you can see, we are 5th but still only 3 points behind top and we now have a 3rd different leader of the division in 3 games. Worth nothing David Brown has just gone on loan to Portsmouth so I am interested in seeing how he performs for them.

As a new feature, I’ve decided to do a WHAT HAPPENED TO feature where I go via Wikipeadia and find out just what did happen to the players in real life that I started off with. To begin, the goalkeepers.

Kevin Pilkington:

He was at Manchester United until the summer of 1998 where he left and signed for Port Vale on a free transfer. Fun fact, Kevin Pilkington was in goal for Man Utd when I went to my first ever football match with my dad and uncle where they beat Sunderland in the FA Cup. Anyway, he barely played for them for 2 seasons and left for Aberystwyh Town, played 1 game then went to Wigan, played no games and ended up at Mansfield Town. After 5 years, he signed for Notts County and went to Luton on loan, signed for them, went on loan to Mansfield Town and in 2018 ended up at Cambridge United and is their goalkeeping coach.

Nick Culkin:

He was at Man United until 2002 and made 1 sub appearance where he came off the bench and played about 10 seconds against Arsenal after Van Der Gouw got injured at the end of the match. During this time he spent time on loan of course and eventually signed for QPR where he played 22 times. However, in 2005 he retired due to a knee injury but did come out of retirement after 5 years in non-league and eventually played for FC United.

Anyway, that’s it for this part and until next time…goodbye from the B’s

Building Brazil – Part 15: O fim da linha

It’s the final ever update from Rob’s Brazil series. Over the past 15 weeks, Rob has shown you how difficult it is to build an all Brazilian team but also how good it can be. Can he finish with a flourish? Catch up with part 14 here.

So we have reached the final part of the Samba story, what started as an idealistic adventure in Madeira will end as a three part Blue Peter special starring “The Real” Ronaldo and an excellent regen of Aldair attempting to win the Champions League after missing out in the final a year earlier. Part two ended with Sporting Brazilians (we are a well groomed side) six points clear in the league with twelve left to play and the Taca and Champions league trophies there for the taking. Without further waffle here we go.

Ronny and Co. continue their fantastic league form with a clinical home victory against Leiria.

1

It was exactly what we needed before hosting the always tough Manchester United in the Champ league quarters. United are playing Stefan Klos in goal who gets MOM but it is not enough to deny us a 2-0 victory. I feel like we have one foot in the semis but we would be silly to underestimate them.

2

As if to prove to ourselves how it could all go wrong we are terribly inaccurate away to Leca and despite out clear dominance of the match we drop two points. Denilson with an 83rd minute equaliser spares a few blushes and that annoying message from the board.

3

Only two days later we are away to Porto in the Taca semi final (they don’t do neutral grounds apparently). In a very even tie Hilario is the difference maker with his MOM performance as we lose 2-1. Annoyingly I sold CM Ledg. Nevland to Porto when I started the whole Brazilian team idea. Would have been nice to get the treble but it was not to be.

4

Five days later and guess what we play Porto again, this time in the league. We are worse than in the Taca, Hilario gets another MOM, Leandro scores again but Mercado misses his 81st minute penalty and we sneak a win, hopefully a momentum changer.

5

The games are coming thick and fast at the moment and we are in Manchester three days later for the second leg. In this gaming world Ferguson managed to secure the services of one Alan Shearer who has currently scored 35 goals in 43 games this season, not bad for 31 year old Big Al. It’s a very even match, we are much better that our previous games hitting the target seven times. Utd are on song too though and they have eight shots on target. Utd win on the night but it is not enough to overturn our lead and it feels like we managed to sneak through 4:3 on aggregate.

6

Our reward is another trip to England and what on paper sounds like an easy tie, however Leicester beat Juve in the last round so they clearly have a little but about them.

7

To make matters worse I get the following information sent through on the pager.

8

9

What the hell lads!

We finally resume some normal service against local rivals Benfica. Not even Scotty Minto’s 68th minute goal can upset us as we run home easy winners.

10

The international breaks see me finally achieve a mini milestone as Sporting Lisbon officially become Sporting Brazil, that’s all eleven players of mine starting. Although if he was using my formation I’m pretty sure we would beat Slovenia by more than one goal.

11

A few days later the lads are back in Lisbon facing Braga. We are cut throat in front of goal and after a seventh minute scare we brush them aside with ease.

12

Semi final time at Filbert Street and Kasey Keller is no match for Fat Ron. What were Juve playing at? Leicester only had one shot on target!

13

A bizarre league affair in Chaves sees us go three goals up in 12 minutes only to concede three in the next 33 minutes against ten men to run in at half time 3-3. Fortunately the L’s were on hand to grab a couple in the second half as we win the eight goal thriller.

14

Finally a week off to rest before we face Boavista and it does us the world of good. Dida has been a bit up and down this year but he is keeps a clean sheet as we run out easy winners in what seemed an even game. Djalminha has been a really good signing and him and Denny have been on fire, so much so that Juninho can’t get into the team.

15

I hadn’t checked the table for a while so I was a little surprised when I found this. Vitty G have had a nightmare with four points from seven games and suddenly we are 17 clear with five to play. Maths tells me that is enough to see us crowned champions! Maths tells the computer the same thing.

16

Ronny and the boys celebrate so hard that Ronny has to call in sick for the next couple of weeks.

17

He’s not needed against Leicester, Renaldo and George Jetson see us through to the final where we face.

18

There is a little bit of history between us, Ajax beat us in the final last year and are going for European domination, a third Champions League on the bounce. It’s going to be tough, and even more so when I find out that Marcio won’t be playing.

19

With the league over I do a bit of squad rotation to try and keep players fit but also in good form as we run up to the Champions League final. Penafiel are beaten 2-0, we draw with Academica 2-2, snatch a 1-0 win at home to Rio Ave and draw 3-3 away to Maia coming back from 0-3 down at half time and despite that being the 2nd eleven playing we will need to show the same sort of spirit if we hope to beat an excellent Ajax side.

20

The 22nd May arrives, it’s final day, this performance is “O fim da linha,” (the end of the line) for my Brazilian adventure, is what I’ve been aiming for and was denied a year ago by the same team. The starting eleven are chosen.

21

It’s going to be a tough match, especially when disaster strikes in the 8th minute. Captain and defensive giant Vinicius (Aldair) goes off injured. Gralak is on in his place. It gets even worse in the 14th minute when Goosens scores. We are not really at the races in the first half but when Ronny’s in your team you always have a chance and he scores in the 40th minute as we go in at the half 1:1. Dida really shows up in the second half with a fine display and I take back all the things I’ve said about him (he is still really inconsistent though). Unfortunately Van Der Sar is equally as good in their goal and despite a strong attacking showing the second half is goalless and we enter extra time. It looks like it is heading to penalties….

22

GRALAK !!!!!!!!!! You beauty, dream realised.

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Oh and we win the last league game to go out with a bang.

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What a year, here are a few stats from the team.

Assists

25

Goals

26

Avg. Ratings

27

These two have been a pretty handy strike partnership over the last three years.

2829

All that is left is to show you is the Annual awards.

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I’m not sure if Ronaldo can win European footballer of the year, but he should have done, 45 goals and a Champions League winners medal. It’s been a fun three episodes, I can highly recommend building your own Brazilian super squad, maybe not in Madeira, unless you have the patience of a saint. Thanks for reading and if I come up with another idea maybe I will see you again (metaphorically of course). Tchau!

My thanks to Rob for a brilliant series. He’ll be back in future with more. You can follow Rob on Twitter @Taitanator

 

Run Forest, Run – Part 7: Inge-ing our way to the top

Happy hump day! Here’s Matt with his Forest in the future save. Things have taken a dramatic turn – catch up with part 6 here.

You join me on Boxing Day 2006 in my quest to make Nottingham Forest great again. We’re mid-way through season 2 and out of Europe but keeping pace with the front runners in the league, if only we could find some sort of form…

It’s 4th against 9th on Boxing Day as we take on Bolton away. Injuries have robbed us of some key performers, but I’m hopeful my squad can weather the busy festive period.

We’re not great and rely on Inge to rescue us a point. I think I might be relying on young Thompson in the absence of Debbah a little too much.

1

Some stalwarts are starting to return from injury, but none are fit enough to face Everton at home. We start well through Rubini, then concede immediately. Its back and forth for the rest of the half until Inge pops up in the box to send us into halftime in front. Young Thompson extends our lead and although Everton pull one back, we hold out for a win that keeps us 4th but a point off top spot.

2

Little Luis Enrique is recalled by Las Palmas so I’m short on defensive options at right wingback but keep faith with young Costacurta.

We fall behind to Birmingham away in our FA Cup quest but recover well to seal a 4-1 win. A returning Ascencio helping himself to 2 goals.

3

Staying with cup action, it’s a midweek visit from Sheff Utd in the League Cup Quarter Finals. It’s a tight game, their keeper getting MOTM tells most of the story, but a minute from time young Dutch maestro Inge seals the win and a semi-final spot against Newcastle.

4

It’s a strong statement of intent as we brush aside Ipswich at Portman Road on our return to league action, which is just aswell as the 3 teams above also record wins.

5

It’s tight at the top…

6

Things may change in our next match as we take on first place Watford, who have Figo and Giggs on either wing, but it’s Shay Given in goal who earns them a point in a fairly even 0-0 draw.

7

There’s nothing even when we take on West ham in the FA Cup 4th round, Inge and Debbah combining to devastating effect. Young Inge is growing into a vital player in this team now.

8

Of course, being the team we are, it’s back down to earth with a bump against man City in the league, leaving us 4th and 4 pts off Man Utd in 1st.

9

Maybe we’re just cut out for the domestic cup competition’s like Cloughie’s team of the late 80’s/early 90’s. This is reinforced when we sweep aside Newcastle in the first leg of the League Cup Semi-Final, 6-1. Rubini with 4! Shame we conceded one though.

10

Before the second leg, we’ll stick with the cup and our 5th round tie against Norwich City. Nelo settles the game, it was text book, and we’re into the quarters.

11

We’re even further than that in the League Cup. With a 5 goal cushion, I ring the changes for the return leg and am happy with a 1-1 draw to take us into the final against Leeds United.

12

Back to league action and we brush aside Hull 3-1, but we’re still 7pts off top spot. Ok we have a game in hand, but still.

13

Julen Guerrero has been a real bargain buy for us and has stayed fairly free of injury for a veteran. In contrast, young Brendan ‘Gazza’ Fisher has just recovered from shin splints, only to damage his hip in training and he’s out for the rest of the season. Always seems to be the problem with this regen.

I’m not sure if this signing is really worth it as he’s 34, but he may pop up with the odd important goal in the run in.

14

We’re too strong again for Newcastle at home in the league, Nelo, Inge and Debbah getting the goals to put us 3rd with a game in hand.

15

That game in hand is a midweek trip away to Sheff Utd, and it’s Debbah with a treble to put us 2nd and 2 pts off Man Utd.

16

Its FA Cup Quarter Final time and Rubini puts us in control against Sunderland before Jancker pulls one back. Guerrero makes the game safe and I give his compatriot Alfonso a 20 minute cameo, but no goals on his debut.

17

We’ll have Spurs in the semi-final, a replay of the 91 final, as I expect the papers will caption it.

It’s a dress rehearsal in the league in another midweek catch up game and it’’s action right from the start. Rubini after 5 minutes, then a response from Kovacevic 4 minutes later. Rubini puts us back in front, then Debbah makes it 3-1 before half time. The floodgates open in the second half and it’s a 7-2 rout. Good times!

18

Even though the troops are tired, I send the same team out 3 days later to face Leeds, where a 2-nil win and favourable results elsewhere puts us top of the pile with nine games to go, which seems like the perfect place to end this part. Join me next week where we’ll have the League Cup Final, the FA Cup semi-final and the league run in, it promises to be very interesting!

19

A quick look elsewhere:

Liverpool are up to 4th in Division 1 and looking good for a playoff spot, Czech striker Marek Suchoparek banging in the goals for them.

Lazio have pulled themselves out of the relegation zone in Serie A but are still 1pt from the drop zone.

Espanyol are 2nd in La Liga, 2 pts off Real Sociedad, they’re also in the Champions League quarter-finals, holding Milan to a 0-0 draw in the first leg.

You can follow Matt on Twitter @Matt_C_Wills

Starting from Scratch – Part 11

Twitterless Matthew Cooper has worked wonders with Altrincham. Promotion at the first attempt has been followed up with a solid summer. Can he build on the initial success? Catch up with part 10 here.

Hello, hello. We’ve made a good start in Division 2, but it’s too early to tell if a second (technically third, with the initial promotion from non-league) promotion is on the cards just yet. Let’s see if we can keep that momentum from last time going.

We pay the price for finishing with 9 men against Reading as both Hughes and Taggart are suspended, but it’s pretty fortuitous timing as we face bottom club Bristol City at home. They come to our stadium off the back of 9 straight defeats and I’m eager to put that figure into double digits. N’Diaye is too tired to start from the last match so Zerrouki steps in, and there’s a start for newly-signed keeper Roberts. Moyes, my replacement wingback, makes his debut despite apparently being in horrendous form.

1

It’s a very pleasing performance, as Zerrouki nets twice in the first ten minutes and we boss the game. They hit us on the counter a few times but Roberts proves to be the safe pair of hands we’ve been missing lately and we keep a clean sheet. After the game, things get even better as we’re drawn to play today’s hapless opponents again in the first round of the FA Cup

2

Luton are the next team to visit Moss Lane, and they are a bit of a bogey team for me in general. I don’t know why but they just seem to be one of those teams that always get one over on me, regardless of who I’m managing. I have a full squad to choose from as my pair of suspended players are once again available, and N’Diaye is fully rested.

3

The hoodoo is lifted as we prevail after a difficult period in the middle of the game. We go in front after 3 minutes, Allardyce running behind and coolly finishing. They equalise soon after, but we look to have wrested back the lead on 20 minutes only for it to be ruled offside. They literally score 1 minute later and a 2-1 lead has become a 2-1 deficit. I feel the curse of Luton is set to continue, but we keep hammering away and N’Diaye heads us level, before wingback hunter scores a rebound to edge us in front. The score remains the same as we get a fully deserved 3 points. A fairly indifferent performance by both Roberts and our new striker Harris are a slight blot on the copybook, but the victory is more important.

Not content with bagging Williamson earlier in the season, Bolton come back for his strike partner Tokely and lodge a £3.2m bid. Wimbledon also are in the hunt for him but offer a paltry £2.7m, which I plan to refuse. To replace him I’m going to need a proven goalscorer – step forward Mr Tomlinson:

4

He got 19 goals last season, which on the face of it doesn’t sound too impressive but when you factor in that he was playing in relegated Doncaster’s joke of a team, it’s bordering on miraculous. I launch a £825k bid to rescue him from his non-league limbo. I make Tokely available and set his true asking price, which is £3.9m. If Wimbledon get away with their lowball bid at the tribunal I will not be happy.

N’Diaye is fatigued again for the next game, away at 22nd placed Swindon, but I start him anyway with a view to subbing him later on. Tokely is unavailable for what is likely to be his last game as an Altrincham player, as he’s away with the Scotland U21 squad so Harris gets his first start.

5

It’s a disappointing game for Harris as he spurns 3 clear-cut chances in the first half. Allardyce can still be relied upon however, and he puts us in front soon after the restart. I’ll be much happier when Tomlinson is on board as if we keep missing so many scoring chances we’re going to be punished before long.

The transfer drags on and Tokely gets one last chance to say farewell to our supporters, away at Southend. He’s at 76% fitness after his U21 efforts but why should I give a shit? He’s leaving tomorrow anyway so I may as well work him to the bone.

6

It’s not exactly a fairytale end to his time here as he fails to get on the scoresheet but we win nevertheless, thanks to the charity of Southend defender Mark Jones who heads a corner into his own net midway through the second half. Roberts earns his corn with a string of fine saves and I shudder to think what the scoreline would have been if Hammond was still between the sticks.

I’d almost forgotten old man Wilkins was still with us, but he reminds me with yet another back injury

7

Don’t feel sorry for him, it’s his own fault for not doing the decent thing and retiring last season. His contract is coming to an end so he’s out on his arse whatever happens at the end of the season. Tokely chooses to follow Williamson to the Wanderers and the tribunal knocks the sale price up a few notches

8

Tomlinson signs on the same day so we’re back to a full strength forward line at least

9

This seems like a good time to review some of the players that got away, and how they’re doing at their new clubs. Striker Regis Williamson, who went for £3.6m to Bolton at the start of the season, has had limited chances to impress and has scored 1 from 3 appearances. Fan (well, my) favourite Jermaine Wright has been similarly restricted by Palace and has played only 5 times since he moved midway through last season. Left wingback Steve Strong has played 13 times for Man City so far but is failing to impress, averaging around 6 and a half. Probably the most successful export we have is Paul Hart, a central defender who was way down the pecking order here but is a regular for Swindon this season, averaging just under 7 in a struggling team which is decent enough.

Only 3 fixtures take place the following Wednesday, one of which is our away game at Plymouth. Tomlinson’s form is listed as a hyphen, which doesn’t bode well but he needs game time to turn that around so he starts in place of the departed Tokely. Taggart returns following his International commitments and Bound makes way.

10

Despite his form he makes a dream debut, scoring a hat trick and assisting both the other goals in a 5-3 win. There is cause for concern however, as Plymouth score from all 3 of their attempts on target in a real Jekyll and Hyde performance from Roberts considering his heroics at Southend. The match turns out to be our game in hand and the 3 points take us up to joint 1st place with Peterborough, with an equal amount of games played.

11

As I should be wrapping things up for this update, let’s have a quick look at how Colwyn Bay are getting on. Last time we checked they were precariously placed a couple of points above the bottom but evidently something has clicked with them and they’re now in the lofty position of 10th, a point off the playoff places

12

Bournemouth now have the dubious honour of bringing up the rear in Division 3, as Scarborough have finally got their act together after 2 seasons of scraping by and sit in the final playoff place

13

They’ve shed a couple of loan signings and brought in some more on permanent deals, which may have helped with stability and contributed towards more positive results

14

Anywho, that will do it for this update. Come back next week to see if we can hold on to our top spot and if Roberts proves to be a decent keeper or not – we may be dipping into the transfer market.