Starting from Scratch – Part 14

Twitterless Tuesday is upon us as Matthew Cooper resumes the hotseat at Altrincham. Can he turn a good season into a great one? Catch up with part 13 here.

Hello, last time was a bit of a rocky road with a bit of a losing/drawing streak eating into our lead at the top. The goals dried up and the goalkeeping situation was concerning, so let’s get to it and try to change our fortunes.

By chance, I noticed that several clubs had bid for the positively singular John Barnes. I don’t really need him but I couldn’t help myself so I threw my hat into the ring.


7 grand? Nah. I can’t really justify that on a player who’s not going to be in the team every week , besides which his desired contract would take him into his 39th year so I bid him good luck and end negotiations there.

The opening game is our FA Cup 3rd round at home to Huddersfield, in the division above. We’re not exactly flying high right now so I’m not too confident things will go our way today.


Well that shows what I know. We didn’t just win, we completely obliterated them and were well worth the margin of victory. Gattuso has an effort ruled out so it could have got even worse for them. Most pleasingly, Roberts repelled every effort when they broke and looks back to his old self. Allardyce’s finishing highlights just how much we missed him during his suspension.

Only 2 days later we’re back in action again, away at Wycombe. They’re down near the bottom but the squad is collectively shagged out from the cup game. I switch things round as much as I dare but there’s only so much I can do and it’s a very tired team I put out.


We’ve got enough in the tank though and it’s comfortable in the end. Roberts has another solid game and Allardyce gets MotM as we look to have gotten over the recent hump.

We get a comparatively luxurious span of 5 days to prepare for our next match, away at another struggling team – the mugs who sold us their keeper, Torquay. Ferguson’s back from suspension to further freshen up the team and I’m feeling confident.


Not amazing by any means but we won and that’ll ding dang do for me. Allardyce makes it 3 out of 3 but Tomlinson draws a blank again. It’s disappointing compared to his stupendous early form but I have faith he’ll come good again. And then get sold to bloody Bolton, who are collecting our players to build some sort of human effigy or something – whatever they’re doing, they’re not bloody playing them so they must have some ulterior motive.

The following Monday we’re at home to Portsmouth in our game in hand owing to our cup run. Browning’s the latest player to join the cool kids behind the bike sheds with a suspension so Zerrouki’s back in.


It’s a workmanlike performance for our latest win, with a host of chances but only Ferguson can put one away. Ferguson really has been a solid purchase since he came in and he’s good enough for at least one more division, unlike Gattuso and Zerrouki who I expect to have to jettison if we escape the league this season.

I’d expected to face first division WBA for the 5th round, but Oxford in the basement league pulled off a shock in the replay and have got through to face us. This is a great opportunity to at least match last season’s cup progress so I’m looking forward to the game.


The third struggling team in a row meet us for the weekend game, as we’re at home to Grimsby. N’diaye needs a rest so Zerrouki swaps him for his bench spot but it’s pretty much the same team otherwise.


Argh, the annoying thing about teams near the bottom is that their keepers are invariably in brilliant form so chance after chance is repelled and sometimes they keep it up for 90 minutes. Tomlinson misses 4 clear-cut chances so I try Harris for the last 20 minutes but we can’t find a way through. Zerrouki hobbled off after a quarter of an hour so he might be out for a while.

It’s not as bad as first feared and he’ll only be out for a couple of weeks. Browning’s suspension has just ended so it’s no biggie.

I did a double take as this transfer flashed up, I bet this poor lad didn’t have a childhood free from name-calling in the playground. I checked and he’s not a regen, this is a real person


The cup game is upon us already so Browning comes straight back into the side for injured Zerrouki and everyone else has a clean bill of health so I put out a full-strength side to blow Oxford away


It doesn’t quite work out that way but we’re good enough and go through to the 5th round. Tomlinson gets the monkey off his back and a chance finally goes in, but he picks up a worrying injury late on so I face an anxious wait to see how bad it is.

At least we’re not going to be facing Darren’s dad in the next round


Ah, big hairy bollocks


He’ll be missed, Harris isn’t the reliable goalscorer I’d envisioned. Still, as long as Allardyce keeps firing we’ll be alright. Sod off Bolton, let us keep one!

The fifth round looks pretty interesting


Zerrouki’s back from injury but Browning does his leg in and is laid up for a week, our midfield injuries situation is like musical bloody chairs.

After the excitement of the cup it’s back to usual business with a league game – but it’s a big one. We’re at home to 3rd placed Chesterfield who are still 5 points behind, a defeat would be potentially pretty damaging


N’Diaye volleys home on 6 minutes but it’s ruled out by a linesman’s flag. We’re well on top but Harris is getting the majority of the chances and putting them any which way but the net. I considering hauling him off for the last 20 minutes for McGarrigle but then out of nothing, he hits a 30 yard scorcher into the top corner. I guess you’re forgiven, Jason.

Well it’s about bloody time!


England’s next World Cup qualifying group has a very Eastern Bloc feel to it. It looks navigable but then again, they always do don’t they? It’s the finals we cock up rather than the qualifiers.


We’re only given 3 days to rest before we find ourselves rocking up to Carlisle to play yet another game in hand due to our cup exploits. Palmer picked up a knock in the last game and is unavailable for now, so I hand David May the captain’s armband. Since he joined us he’s hardly put a foot wrong


Palmer will turn 32 next month so I expect May will take over the captaincy full-time at the end of the season. Bound is recalled in the defence but N’Diaye’s fitness is holding up well for once so starts his second match this week


We hammer them for the entirety of the first half but can’t score (I feel like I’ve written that in nearly every match this season). Allardyce makes the breakthrough shortly into the second half, but it looks like the curse of the crappy team is going to strike again as they get a completely undeserved equaliser on around the 70th minute. N’Diaye rescues us though, blasting it past the keeper after a defensive error and justice is done.

There’s no upset this time and it’s confirmed that we’re at home to Newcastle in the 5th round. I briefly get excited at the prospect of Alan Shearer visiting Moss Lane before remembering that he moved to Man Utd in preseason. In some kind of striker job swap they do have Andy Cole though, so David May will have an old pal to chat with throughout the game at least.

We go to Reading for the last game of the update, with captain Palmer restored and Zerrouki replacing Gattuso


It’s a bit of a fortunate win as we’re on the back foot for most of the game. Harris comes good with half an hour left and we hold on despite heavy pressure. Our last six wins have been by a single goal, I’d like us to be more prolific but at least we’re getting the results.

It’s time to wind it down so let’s just check the table:


Those 1-0 wins have widened the gap between us and second place to 6 points, and we’re now 10 points clear of the play off places. It’s looking very good for another promotion but there’s still work to be done.


Colwyn Bay have slipped a little since we last looked in but they’re holding on to the last play off place. Scarborough are a further two places down but remain in the hunt.


It’s getting very interesting at the bottom as Darlington have made up the six point gap and are out of the drop zone on goal difference. Only 3 points separates the bottom 9 teams so it’s a lottery as to who’s going down right now.

Please join me again next week to see if we can maintain the lead and get closer to a second successive promotion.

2 thoughts on “Starting from Scratch – Part 14

  1. What physical condition percentage point would you normally leave a player out at? I hover around the 95% mark, and assume injuries are more likely to players with a lower percentage-case in point for Graeme Tomlinson, maybe?


  2. Pingback: Starting from Scratch – Part 15 | CM 97/98

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