Tuesday is Matthew Cooper day. He started with no players and now his Altrincham side are starting to gel. Can they make a charge for the playoffs with a cup run to boot? Catch up with part 4 here.
Hi, welcome to part 5 of our lower-league adventure. After a rocky start, we’ve hit a purple patch in the league and are on the verge of breaking into the play-off spots. I really believe that form and momentum play a big part in this game – once the team gel and get a few positive results, things just seem to go your way – for a while anyway. When will the bubble burst? Not for a while yet, hopefully.
We’re off to Welling Utd first up for the replay of the FA cup 2nd round game after we fail to dispatch them in the home game.
We get the routine win that we should have got last time, Gattuso and Hunter bizarrely scoring in the same minute in the first half. We now face premier league Sunderland for the third round, where we’ll most likely get mullered.
Next up, a challenging game away at play-off rivals Darlington. Our midweek antics have left a few players pretty tired, so captain Palmer makes way for Duncan and Wright swaps the bench with Browning. Darlo were actually our very first league opponents (which, with us being exactly halfway through the season, makes a lot of sense now I think about it…) and they completely dominated us in that game. This will be a nice yardstick for where we are now from that terrible beginning.
They are in control for the first 20 minutes, but goals win games and we score against the run of play through Zerrouki after half an hour. From then on we’re the better side and we double the advantage when Allardyce prods in a rebound on 66 minutes. The run continues with a pleasing mirror-image of the reverse fixture and I’m very pleased with how things are working out at the moment.
Yes, yes it was. Thank you for noticing. Hammond then overdoes it at the charity wank-a-thon and puts our next result in jeopardy, as his understudy is some kid that’s never played a game. We’ll be fine as long as the opposition doesn’t put any attempts on target.
It’s against Brentford, the first team we ever beat, so that gives us a fair chance at least. Palmer and Wright are recalled and I cross my fingers as the kick-off is taken.
The first part of the plan is executed to perfection, as at half-time they have had precisely 0 attempts on goal of any kind, and as a bonus we’ve taken the lead through Williamson. We then get a soft penalty which Williamson blasts over the bar, the tit. Zerrouki makes it 2 around the hour mark, and that proves to be just enough as they pull one back with their only shot all game. Come back soon Hammond, we bloody need you.
Argh, what is with this strained wrist epidemic? I put the family filter on the club Wi-Fi and block the babestation channel at the training ground’s lounge as a precaution.
Hammond and Strong make a quick recovery and are fighting fit for our next game, at home to Gillingham who did us 1-0 in the last minute the last time we met. They currently sit 4th in the table so a good result here is highly desirable.
In contrast to the first meeting in which not a great deal happened, this was a frantic game with plenty of chances. We lead through Williamson after only 2 minutes, but are quickly pegged back. Williamson is in red-hot form though and grabs a second after half an hour, rounding the keeper and sliding it into the net to give us a 2-1 half time lead. Soon after the restart, Andrews trips someone in the box and it’s all square again. We’re not to be denied though and my man-crush Wright gets the decisive goal from a corner, allowing us to come out on top in a a 5 goal thriller.
The board are understandably thrilled at the recent turn of events but the financial situation is getting serious. We bleed another 70k this month and we’re going to need to sell soon to get out of the red.
This is nice though.
It’s time for our scheduled arse-wupping as Sunderland come to town for the FA cup third round.
Alright, this is getting a bit ridiculous now. Sunderland turn out in a stylish vomit-coloured kit that was briefly in vogue in the late nineties, but they have an off day and fail to assert their dominance at any point in the game. Williamson bundles in early in the second half and we hold on for a famous victory. They were the better side, but if you don’t score you don’t win and we’re somehow through to the fourth round. Annoyingly the attendance is a bit over 12,000, so those extra seats are actually of some use. I can picture the smug nods from the board members already. I’ve evidently embarrassed the premier league fraternity, and retribution is swift:
As you can see, he’s been playing his socks off for us so this is a cruel blow. I have cover and another loanee to throw into the side but I’m once again reminded of the folly of relying on loan signings in this game when they can be recalled, seemingly on a whim, at the drop of a hat.
We’re drawn away at Nottingham Forest for the fourth round, which should be a walk in the park after our famous victory over the Mackems. Just kidding, we’ll get the overdue hiding that we should have received in the third round. I forgot to take a screenshot, but Sunderland’s humiliation is clearly the final straw for their board and two days later Peter Reid walks out of the Stadium of Light with his belongings in a cardboard box
Old man Wilkins gets yet another injury and is laid up for a month. At this point I’m not sure if he really is injured, or if he’s faking it just to have someone to talk to. I make a mental note to sign him up for the meals on wheels service in the near future.
Wright’s heroics have put him on the radar of a bunch of clubs, so I can’t see him staying much longer. On the plus side, his value has soared so it will take care of all of our money troubles. I am touched that despite all the interest, he’s still happy to be with us.
It’s a crunch match next against 4th-placed Exeter, and things are bobbing serenely along towards a 0-0 draw with us in total control. We’re a different animal now though, and games that we would drawn for sure earlier in the season are turned into scrappy wins. Allardyce races through and calmly finishes in the 87th minute to give us the 3 points that our performance merited. Incidently, notice on the lower screenshot that Exeter took off one player on 55 minutes but brought two on? This seems to be an occasional occurrence in cm97/98, the AI somehow sneaks an extra player onto the pitch without the ref noticing. It doesn’t actually seem to help them though, so it’s hardly game-breaking.
Our form is beyond belief – I honestly can’t remember anything like this in all the games I’ve played, so I’m pretty chuffed that it’s happened in this particular save. Take a look at the form table, which only tells some of the story as we’ve won every recent cup game as well
We travel to mid-table Cambridge for the final match of this update, and it’s fair to say that we get off to a difficult start, as we concede in the 2nd and 3rd minutes. We briefly threaten to rally when Allardyce halves the arrears just after the restart, but it’s not our day and they restore the 2 goal cushion with half an hour left. So, the first loss in bloody ages but in a way I’m relieved,as I was beginning to think I might have somehow broken the game or something.
Despite the result we’re still very handily placed in 5th with 18 games left to play. We’re only a point off the automatic promotion places, so if we can keep winning we may very well end up there by the end of the season.
Down at the bottom, Doncaster still bring up the rear with a truly frightening number of goals conceded. Amazingly despite letting in so many they’re still only 3 points adrift so it’s not over by any means.
See you next week, when we’ll try to wash the bitter taste of defeat from our mouths.