Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome back to #FordFocus the latest in a long-line of saves I have written about on #FM15. As the god of Strikerless himself, Guido Merry, eloquently put it “man, you have had more saves than my missus has shoes – and she has a lot of shoes!” Well, I am lucky to have enough to time to play and write about this wonderful game and I am very grateful for that. Anyway, I am digressing already. I am picking up the reigns following the first game in October 2014.
Guildford City, or “The Sweeney” or “The Ford” as I prefer to call them, sit in 11th place after 8 league games. We’re not quite gelling yet, neither are we looking like a car crash. I can safely assume that none of the lads have ever played 3313 whilst developing their skills in the English coaching system, so it is taking a little bit of time for their pretty little heads to understand the system. But, we won our last game 4-1 and have won in the FA Vase Second Round 5-0 so there are a few promising signs.
I plan to take us through October and November today, and some of the highlights of the next eight weeks or so include the FA Vase Third Round game against 1874 Northwich, a game with Epsom & Ewell (another team whose kits I used to wash when I ran my kit washing business), a trip to the Queen’s favourite club, Windsor and a game against one of the clubs I played for in youth football, Farnham Town. Thrilling, right? Well there are only so many times I can paint this toilet door for you, it will get better as we move through the divisions.
First up was a trip to Molesey. They had slipped to bottom of the table, so we had to have a chance of back-to-back wins! The only absentees were Nicky, who was serving the second in a three match ban, and Berty who pulled his hammy. Let’s hope that Browny doesn’t get injured or sent off. That reminds me actually, something I have never seen on FM. A penalty given for a player being brought down by the ‘keeper.
Oh, ‘Arry is back in business as well. Mike Ashley, known for running a tight ship at Newcastle, has decided that the best man to work within such limitations is the legendary wheeler dealer.
Anyway, Molesey away. Things got off to a bad start when Joshy was carried off after five minutes. I dropped The Duke back in to the enganche role and brought on Mitch up top. The lad put us ahead after a goal mouth scramble, cracking little finish when crowded by five players. Half an hour gone, The Duke plays him in again and he gets his second. For once we scored from a long corner, thrown into the far post and Reecey out jumped everyone to make it three. We came in at half time looking very comfortable. With Cove coming up at home in three days time I switched to our “contain” tactic hoping to just see out the second half with minimum effort spent. We got an unexpected fourth when Blakey swung in a free kick and Big D appeared at the far post to slide it home. Minutes later Wardie was smashing home a penalty for 5-0, a great job of sitting back and keeping it tight. 5 became 6 when Reecey tapped home from an Ossie shot that was saved and it was a stunning win, even if they were bottom of the league. We stayed in 11th, but our goal difference was up to 11, the best in the division by far. Joshy was going to miss a couple of games with a bruised shin, but The Duke had been brilliant when he dropped back and Mitch obviously got a brace, so it wasn’t going to be too bad.
Cove came to The Spectrum on the Wednesday. They were struggling a bit, down in 18th, but I wasn’t taking them lightly. In the build up to the game I had Turns in the portakabin at The Spectrum moaning about his lack of football. If he wants to go he can. It took ten minutes for us to open the scoring. Mitch ran from his own half, then waited for support. Ossie joined him, got the ball and then laid it off to Reecey who fired home without having to break stride. We dominated the first half and got our reward with another fine goal. Reecey’s cross went past Ossie, he patiently recycled the ball to Blakey, into Mitch and then through to Reecey who again passed it home. 2-0, sheer quality. We let them have a couple of chances in the second half, but we saw it out for another clean sheet. The win saw us jump to 7th, that was more like it. Reecey was banging in goals and we were creating plenty of quality chances, I was enjoying watching us play.
We had a couple of days to work up to the FA Vase game against 1874 Northwich. They were going well in the North West Counties, sitting 2nd in the table. It was going to be a tough game, but it was a fair old trip for them down from Cheshire, not something they would be used to doing every week. My main worry was that the games had been coming thick and fast and we were not looking in peak physical condition. Still, I went with the same starting eleven again and Ossie put us ahead after ten minutes. Crispy thumped the ball forward, their centre back missed it and the lad ran in behind and took the chance in a rather composed manner. Nine goals already for him this season. That was the only chance of the half and I felt we weren’t playing that well. I gave the boys what for at half time and not a lot changed. 15 minutes to go and we Henners, on for Blakey, dispatched a free kick goalwards. Their ‘keeper fumbled and the ball slipped in. 2-0, switch to “contain” and hope we see it out. We did, effortlessly and it was the name of Guildford City going into the hat for the 4th Round draw. The hat gave us Eton Manor, away, they of the Essex Senior League.
It was back to the Combined Counties League the following Saturday and that trip to see the Queen I mentioned earlier. The league was shaping up to be quite close, after 10 games only six points separated 1st and 12th. Windsor were third, a point off top spot. Berty came to see me before the game saying he wanted to be sold. Well, Browney is my number one and that isn’t changing so I put the lad on the list and waited to see if any bids came in. Joshy was back, so I stuck him on the bench being reluctant to change this winning team.
The first half was terrible, nothing going on at all. The second half, well it started disappointingly. The back three went missing and Windsor broke away and scored. It was only watching the replay that I realised the reason I looked short at the back was Big D was lying on the deck outside their area having gone up for the corner. We couldn’t get a goal no matter how hard we pushed and the mini run was over. We’d dominated the game again, but could not create a single clear chance, and then got slapped when our centre back picked up a knock and was on the floor. It was confirmed after the game that Big D had twisted his ankle, again, and was going to be out for 7 weeks.
Epsom & Ewell were next, who were up the top as well. Nicky was brought into the middle of the back three to replace Big D and I felt a win here would get us back on another winning streak. Defeat however, well that would make it pretty tough to keep believing it was possible to get to the top of the table. I resisted the temptation to bring back Joshy, so the only change was at the back.
Reecey missed a great chance early on to put us ahead. Ossie played him in one-on-one with the ‘keeper but he fired recklessly high and wide. We did score first though, Reecey dropping deep then picking out the run of Whytey. He drew two defenders to him then slipped in Ossie and a little dinked finish put us ahead. We couldn’t keep the big left footer out of the game. Crispy cleared one long, Reecey lent on their right back and powered his way past him, running on and sliding it past the ‘keeper for 2-0. He got his second on the stroke of half time and we were beating one of the top sides 3-0. For once I praised them at half time. I was expecting it to back fire but it didn’t. Whytey found The Duke (or should I start calling him Daisy?) and Mr Versatile smacked home number four. Moments later Ossie was at the wrong end of the pitch, giving away a penalty. Browney turned it away, great save. We closed the game out from there, a top win. It put us back up to 7th, just four points off top spot.
We had a tough trip to Hanworth Villa next. They were level with us on points, sitting 8th in the table. I decided to break my recent habit of not changing a winning team and recalled Joshy, moving Daisy up to the front three. Mitch was told he was on the bench, his morale dropping like a snooker table from a tree. Now, I rarely listen to the advice of my assistant and never set OI’s but I possibly should have had this time. He said mark Will Richards tightly, and after he put them ahead after 52 seconds I could see his point. It was 2-0 minutes later, Crispy’s attempted clearance hitting Browney on the back and rebounding in. Comical. We didn’t crumble though, Daisy squeezed a shot home after 20 to pull us right back into it. Straight from kick off we wont he ball back and charged forward. Reecey covered 50 yards, fed Ossie who played in Wardie. The midfielder calmly rifled the ball into the roof of the net and we were level. In the words of Jeff Stelling “and there has been a fifth goal in the first half an hour at Hanworth, but who has it gone to?” Guildford! Nicky cleared the ball long, Ossie chased it down and nestled it into the top corner, what a turnaround! I switched to contain for the last 15 minutes of the half as I wanted to slow the game down a bit, it was very end to end, even if we were getting the better chances now. I switched back at half time and sent the lads out warning of complacency. Life looked like it might get a little easier when they went down to ten, their lad clipping Reecey for his second yellow and we took immediate advantage. Henners started the move, sending Reecey racing clear. He found Joshy who then fooled everyone, including me, with a reverse ball to Henners who had made up fully 60 yards in about 10 seconds and he found the top corner. What a goal. There was still time for one more when Ossie chipped the ‘keeper from the edge of the area. Considering we had been 2-0 down after 5 minutes, this was our best performance of the season. Suddenly we were 3rd, one point off the top. It was all very tight still, just 6 points between top spot at 12th place. I liked the closeness of the league, it meant everyone was capable of beating anyone, which meant that as long as we kept picking up three wins out of four we were never going to be too far behind.
Hartley Wintney travelled the short journey to the Spectrum next. They were down in 14th, but again could not be taken lightly. Despite Henners being superb when he came on against Hanworth I started with the same eleven. Twenty minutes in Blakey needlessly kicked out the lad he was marking in the box, penalty. We were behind again. We just couldn’t get going, I made a couple of changes and nothing changed. Daisy then got a straight red for a stupid tackle, this looked like another bad day. I couldn’t believe that we had been so brilliant at Hanworth and then so poor at home against this lot. It bumped us down to fifth place, this was becoming like a game of snakes and ladders.
We travelled down the Hogs Back to Farnham Town’s Memorial Ground three days later, just opposite where my Mum grew up. I’d played for their youth teams for a year and a half as a young goalkeeper in my early teens, so I was keen to get a big win for several reasons. Wardy was out for a few weeks injured and Daisy was going to have at least a one game ban for that tackle. Henners came into midfield and Mitch started up top.
Reecey put us ahead after 20, again racing on to a long clearance by Crispy. It was his ninth of the season, hard to keep him out of the game. A defensive clanger not long after let in Ossie and he finished with ice in his vains yet again. Having played them off the park, it was frustrating to let them back in it just before half time, a goalmouth scramble leading to them pulling a goal back. They came out and got level right after half time, my team talk not having the desired effect at all. Not for the first time this season the players and their manager dug in and showed their character. I threw on Eddie for Mitch and he rewarded me with a fine header to put us ahead once more. Then he got another, come on!! I switched to “contain” and the job was done. We moved up the snakes and ladder board once more, a season high of 2nd place, though Epsom & Ewell could leapfrog (an entirely different game kids) us if they won their game in hand.
A couple of days rest and then we were off to Essex and Eton Manor for the FA Vase Fourth Round. They were sitting in 2nd place, way behind FC Romania who were battering everyone. I made one change, bringing in Eddie to start ahead of Mitch following his brace on Wednesday night. We went one behind midway through the first half, Nicky inexplicably letting a ball run past him and his lad fired it home. It did wake us up though, as Ossie levelled it minutes later, a fine hit from the edge of the box. Nicky was having a day to forget as he managed to deflect a cross past Browney before the half time whistle. Joshy had picked up a knock so I brought on Mitch and dropped Ossie to behind the front three and gave them all a proper boot up the backside. Ossie was still able to create from there and he set up Reecey for an excellent equaliser, the big lad’s 10th of the season. With fifteen to go a massive high punt forward from Pringle (I promise we do try and play a bit of football) came down with snow on it, caused their backline plenty of problems and it bounced in front of Eddie. One touch, bottom right hand corner, a classy finish. I switched to “contain”, time to see this out. They bloody equalised in the last minute, a header from a corner. We so rarely concede from corners. Extra time, and some players were playing on empty. A free kick was launched into our box, Browney came for it, flapped and in the mix-up the ball ended in our net. 4-3. We pushed to get level, they got a fifth. Game over, FA Vase dream dead. The repercussions were greater than the game itself, some players looked dangerously drained. I thought we had a chance of going quite far in the competition, so to get knocked out like that was pretty disheartening. Joshy was out for 5 weeks with a hammy and Browney was on the radio apologising for his error and saying he should be dropped. Something to think about, for sure.
Fortunately we had a week to recover before Mole Valley came to the Spectrum in the last game of November. As it stood, I was down to one fit outfield substitute and he didn’t want to be at the club anymore. With Joshy out, Ossie had to drop back and Mitch was pencilled in to start up top. Mole Valley were down in 17th, so (as ever) I was hoping to get back on the horse quickly with a win. We nearly got off to a great start, Reecey sprinting down the left and crossing, Mitch heading goalwards only to see the effort cannon back off the crossbar. He then had one chalked for offside, a frustrating first half all in all. We remained very patient, and eventually got our just desserts. A very slow build up, starting all the way from the back with Browney saw Henners roll it across the six yard box to Mitch and he tapped home. It was a fine goal. We held on for the three points. It wasn’t our finest win of the season, but it was a good way to end November and this update. It pushed us back up to second place, level on points with Epsom and Ewell. Now I felt like we could do this, the early defeats hadn’t destroyed us and we were very much in the promotion hunt.
What else is happening in the English game? Chelsea top the Prem by two points from Liverpool, but the Reds do have a game in hand. Stoke are not fading yet, they sit in third. Burnley are impressing up in ninth, but at the bottom Hull and Villa only have 15 points between them. As a result, Steve Bruce has just been fired, no replacement announced yet. In Europe, Chelsea, Man City and Arsenal have all already qualified from the group stages but Liverpool need results to go their way in the final round of games to make it a full house. In the Championship Fulham are making the early running, but Derby & Wolves both sit in the relegation zone. McClaren & Jackett have both gone as a result, Mowbray and Nigel Clough replacing them, while Jamie Carragher has swapped working for one egotistical madman for another, leaving Sky and taking over at Leeds.
That’s all for today folks, tomorrow I will aim to get us into the new year.
Go on Guildford!
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