Happy New Year from the AR Crimea. Yes, it is finally 2015 and the Crimean First Division is moving into the final third of it’s season. With just 14 games to go Chris Darwen’s Gvardiets are still leading the way at the top of the division.
Promotion looks like a foregone conclusion, but can they hold on to their number one spot? Gvardiets have won twenty-one of their twenty-two fixtures, their only defeat coming against second placed Zhemchuznya Yalta who are unbeaten themselves and sit three points behind Darwen’s side.
With Zhemchuznya also knocking Gvardiets out of the Crimean Cup, it is clear that the team from Yalta have a hold over the league leaders, and they will be ready and waiting to take advantage of any slips, but Gvardiets just do not look like losing to anyone other than their rivals.
Playing an incredibly aggressive 3-3-1-3 formation which should, in theory, leave them massively exposed at the back, Gvardiets have racked up a massive 88 league goals and conceded only 20. Having watched every Gvardiets match this season, I do believe some of this is down to the poor quality of some of the sides they are facing in this inaugural season, but by equal measure you cannot deny that some of the football being played is scintillating.
In their 17-year-old striker Dmytro Men’shykov they have the top scorer in the country and his average rating of 8.36 also makes him the leading performer across the four divisions. Considering Darwen picked him up for nothing following a successful trial in pre-season, the young Ukrainian has to be the signing of the season. It is not just Men’shykov however, at the other end of the age spectrum Darwen relys on the 39-year-old central winger Osipov. The experienced midfielder had played most of his football at the two top AR Crimean clubs, Tavira and Tytan but is now enjoying a new lease of life contributing nine goals and seven assists at an average rating of 7.71.
Many thought Darwen would fail when he was appointed manager of the club, based in the RAF town of Gvardeyskoye. He is an ambitious manager that is clearly on how he wants his team to play and if he can maintain this electric form he will not only win the division but the hearts of the young nation of AR Crimea. I do not think I am overstating it when I say I believe that Gvardiets will win the First Division and instantly be challenging for the Premier Division next season.
Darwen will very much deserve a gvard of honour come the 9th of May.
Tom O’Shea – AR Crimea Chronicle