December is here far quicker than expected, I am very lucky to have so much time to dedicate to playing and writing about FM15 currently.
The bad news from the end of November was Barney and Hennessy both being ruled out for 5-6 weeks.
They are two massive players to us, but it will give chances to the likes of Adams and Cookie, who to be fair to him, did ok when he came off the bench last time out. I also offered a deal to another striker who I am going to train to play deeper, Charlie Stimson – hopefully he will join up with us. We finally had a midweek off, giving the lads time to recharge their batteries a little. The first game in December was against Wroxham, without a win in ten and still smarting from a 6-0 defeat the week before. Batti was back in, Cookie started and Adams came in for Barney, with new signing Stimson on the bench. Five minutes in, Gilfedder opened the account – battering home an Ebsworth cross. Two minutes later he was the provider, sprinting down the left and crossing for Ben Adams to get his third Clapton FC goal. Moloney made it three after 11, picking up on a bad back pass. We fell asleep though, allowing them to score from a corner after 25. Ebsworth then foolishly picked up a second yellow card, so this, again was going to be more difficult than it needed to be. Moloney was sacrificed. Second half, and Cookie bundled hoe our fourth after good work from Gilfedder. The goals kept coming, and they hit a wonder goal from the left hand side, beating Heathy from 30 yards. Cooper got lucky, a misdirected cross confused their keeper for our fifth. I gave Stimson a debut, resting Gilfedder who had been superb again. Job done, another three points and another pleasing attacking display.
We had a weekend off, for an unknown reason, and we were back in action against Great Wakering. Herron was in for Ebsworth, other than that I left it as it was from the Wroxham win. Great Wakering were 6th, so I was expecting a tough game. We were all over them in the first ten minutes, but couldn’t find a way through. Battipiedi was carried off on a stretcher after 15, which could be key, and then Heathy made the save of the season to keep it at 0-0. Half an hour, and Nade got the break through, a wonderful curling strike into the right hand corner from 25 yards. Second half, and their keeper produced a wonder save from 3 yards from Gilfedder. Stimson came of the bench, and hit the post. Fifteen to go, Gilfedder hit the post from a Herron cross. It was starting to feel like one of those games where we would let a late goal in, but we defended really well and held on for the 1-0 win.
Billericay away was next on the fixture list. Billericay are a club that I seem to have to pronounce in a “Bianca from Eastenders” kind of way each time I see their name. Nothing more to add to that really, just a little fact for you. We were in the middle of another run of midweek-Saturday-midweek games, and already it didn’t matter that we had had time off before the Great Wakering game as I could see we had some tired legs in the squad. Tired legs meant Pulford in for Herron and Kieron Osborne in for Cookie. With this, then Brentwood coming to The Dog on Tuesday, I was going to have a very tired group very soon.
The game started with us on the backfoot, Billericay peppered our goal with shots. Luckily, none were on target until the 30th minute when one crashed in off the bar. Gilfedder hit the bar from close range with a header just before half time, but we really had not been at the races. It was the first time in a long time that I felt the need to tear into the team at the break. I have to admit, I was aggressive. It had zero effect, 52 minues and we fell asleep at the back post allowing them to nick a second. Our finishing had been terrible up to this point, so I hooked Gilfedder, to make a point, and threw on Stimson. Nade pulled one back, following up an Osborne shot that hit the post. There was to be no late charge though, we didn’t threaten again and came away defeated.
The team look shattered. I might have to make sweeping changes for the Brentwood game, nearly everyone is still under 80% and the game is tomorrow. I’ve just had my biggest job offer yet, Barnet. They were the team I managed in my very first football management expedition, Championship Manager, back in 1992. I reluctantly turned this one down.
Wholesale changes were made, too many to list here, you’ll see them in the post-game photo. We need a win here, our lead is only two points even though we have a game in hand. Defeat could see us lose top spot for the first time this season.
Forget everything I have been saying, the game has been postponed due to a waterlogged pitch! The next game is now Romford on Boxing Day.
All sweeping changes were removed, and I went into the game with my strongest available line-up as legs seemed to be fresh once more. Our luck changed in the 8th minute, when a cross from Ebsworth sailed over their ‘keeper and in. Ronnie Green marked his return from injury with a goal following a scramble. Second half, and we won an early disputed penalty that Gilfedder fired home for his first goal in what felt like a while. Hennessy slammed in number four from Gilfedder’s knock down. He was then taken off injured, leaving us with ten men yet again. The final score was 4-0, and it had been a while since a win had felt so convincing, Father Christmas must have brought the lads some confidence in his sack. Thurrock dropped points which meant we had a four point lead with two games in hand. If we can go on a run we can really put daylight between us and them.
The last game of The Ton’s terrific 2015 was away to Potters Bar. Hennessy was out injured, so Cookie was going to get a rare start. It was hopefully going to be the perfect end to the year! That was until the weather got hold of us, again, and Potters Bar’s pitch was deemed unplayable.
So, 2015 came to an early end for Clapton FC. I know football season’s don’t follow the calendar year, and I have never understood awards that have considered the calendar year, but I still took a bit of time to reflect. 2015 had quite a few highlights, thinking back to our incredible run that saw us win the Essex Senior League. Although the FA Vase ultimately ended in defeat, it was a really fun run and I got a lot out of it. Naturally, the start to the Isthmian season was brilliant and to get to the FA Cup first round was one hell of an achievement. I haven’t worked out how many goals Ross Gilfedder scored in 2015 but it has to be a truck load!
On to 2016 and what will it hold? Hopefully, promotion to the Isthmian Premier – we are in a fantastic position to achieve that. The extra challenge I am setting the side is to be still in the FA Cup come January 2017… Can we do it?
Back soon readers, back soon!
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FM15 Blog: www.comeontheoviedo.wordpress.com
Author of the “Johnny Cooper, Championship Manager” series available on Amazon here
Read the first chapter of “The Second Season Syndrome” at www.chrisdarwen.com