Right then, I’m back and I am preparing to kick the backside out of FM15 over the next two virtual months. Clapton FC are nicely placed and there is every chance a good eight weeks or so could see us really in the mix for promotion from the Essex Senior League as well as progressing further in the FA Vase.
The alleged packed Christmas schedule was not so packed, as we ended up only playing four fixtures due to the wonderful surface down at The Old Spotted Dog.
Enfield were first up, and we went into the game looking rather under strength. Young Andy Proctor had to start at right back, there was no Stuart Axten and Morrel Jennings got a game at left back. Blake and Carrick were given starts in the midfield, but luckily the front three remained the same as they still had some miles left in their legs. It was a cross from Proctor that Gilfedder lashed in on the half volley that gave us the lead mid-way through the first half, the net bulging from 5 yards. Our second was a beautifully crafted goal. The ball was worked across the back four, played into midfield and then Barney unlocked their back four with a delightful cross field pass to the feet of Gilfedder. He sped away from their full back, drew the ‘keeper out, before rolling it to Nade who tapped into the empty net. Strikerless at it’s very best. Four minutes were left when Gilfedder embarrassed their ‘keeper from twenty-five yards and then a quick break from their corner saw Nade crossing to Barney who volleyed in at the near post. 4-0, another cracking display of football from The Tons.
Bowers & Pitsea were up next, the last game before the big game against FC Romania who we were still trailing by four points. Batti and Hennessy were back in the deep midfield positions, but the back four still looked makeshift. It mattered not though, as we ran out easy 4-0 victors, Osborne rifling home Green’s corner after just 8 minutes and Gilfedder getting a first half hatty, taking his tally to 18 for the season. His first was a wonderful thirty yard strike, curling into the top corner. His second was a far post header from a brilliant Lee Barney cross and his third came from a goal mouth scramble. Another win, a clean sheet and we went to FC Romania in fine spirit.
The trip to the Cheshunt Stadium was going to tell me a lot. A win would really make me think we were contenders. With only one team getting promoted, we couldn’t really afford to lose as I could see FC Romania dropping too many more points this season, and it would leave us seven points behind them. As this is our biggest league game of the season, rather than me ramble on about it, I will let the pictures tell the story.
Well, as you saw, that could have been avoided. Three poor goals to give away, a goal mouth scramble that we could have cleared, two centre backs failing to deal with a cross and then not reacting quickly for the third. As you can see below, we had the possession, the completed passes and the tackles won stats all in our favour, but there is only won stat that really matters and they did us on that one. Realistically, it is too soon to write off our promotion chances, but that would have been a great marker to lay down. Oh well, the FA Vase comes up soon.
We had the league game the following Saturday postponed, due to a waterlogged pitch and then the original date for the FA Vase tie against Oxford City Nomads was pushed back to the Tuesday for the same reason. I wasn’t complaining as it gave the lads a chance to rest and hopefully work hard in training. The Third Round of the FA Vase was already far further than we were expected to go, so every game was a bonus, but I really hoped that, at The Dog, we could push on and get through again. We didn’t disappoint, running out 2-0 winners. The first came at a great time as they were just starting to grow into the game. Gilfedder, dropping very deep, picked out Barney in behind their defence with a Pirlo-esque pass and Barney netted in the corner. Gilfedder settled it himself with twenty minutes to go, winning and scoring a penalty. The guy is on a great goal scoring run currently, and every good team needs someone to finish the chances.
I was delighted with the performance once I looked into it in a bit more detail. That was the highest pass completion I had seen us achieve, and getting nine crosses to connect as well was in line with what I want to see. Surprisingly though, no goals came from crosses today.
That was it for December, and if we thought December was quiet and gave us a chance to refresh our legs then January was going to be hardcore. Six league games and the next round of the FA Vase were scheduled and we were starting the back nine in 3rd place. There was nothing in the fixtures that really worried me, other than the sheer volume of them.
We started the year brilliantly, hammering Barking 6-3. Gilfedder scored another hatty, taking his tally to 22 for the season. Amazingly, it was only 1-0 at half time! Barney sneaked up to 14 for the season with a cracking finish, and defending aside, we were electric going forward again. Moving Nade into the Treq role full time has been a great move, and he is pulling the strings.
Our next two games were away to Tower Hamlets, then Southend Manor. Sadly the wheels came off the Clapton bus in rather disappointing fashion, as we lost both games. Tower Hamlets was a kick, as I really thought Dolby could have saved the winner and Southend Manor was just annoying as we led 2-1. In both games, we ran less distance than the opposition, which was something for me to take a look at. Fortunately, FC Romania also lost a game so the gap didn’t widen anymore than it could have, but we need to pick things up again and fast.
So we took our frustration out on Haringey, the tail at The Old Spotted Dog started to wag as we hammered them 5-2. Lee Barney scored one of the best volleys I have seen at this level, connecting with a Gilfedder cross and striking it clean from 25 yards. Gilfedder’s brace took him to twenty five for the season, and we finished the game with ten after Adesina was sent off. Hopefully this win will calm the storm again and we will push on.
No such luck, as Basildon brought us crashing back down to earth with one hell of a thud as we lost 3-2 at their place. It was frustrating, as we were the better team, but some completely abject defending allowed them to take all three points. The gods smiled on us though, as results around us went our way and we were still in touch, kind of, despite dropping to fifth.
The marathon month was nearly over, just Takeley to come to us in the League, before we ended January playing the 4th Round of the FA Vase. Takeley were seen off 4-1, a very confident performance considering our up and down form of recent weeks. Gilfedder nailed a worldy from 30 yards to make the game safe.
All eyes moved on to the FA Vase. Our opponents were Atherton Colleries, who sounded quite Northern. If promotion was becoming more challenging then I wanted to go as far as possible in this competition. Sit back and watch this classic cup tie.
Well, that was close right?
So that’s it for this edition of Clapton Corner, my FM15 blog. I hope you are enjoying the series and I would really like to hear from you guys in terms of feedback or questions, so don’t read in silence.
There will be another post tomorrow, have a great Friday night.
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FM15 Blog: www.comeontheoviedo.wordpress.com
Author of the “Johnny Cooper, Championship Manager” series
Read the first chapter of “The Second Season Syndrome” at www.chrisdarwen.com