Matt’s reached October and Stockport are performing well above expectations. Can they keep it going as the dark nights draw in? Catch up with Part 6 here
It’s the 15th of October and game day today, the first of an eye watering 5 games remaining this month which climaxes with the cup clash against Plymouth. That is a long way off yet though as we look to continue our unlikely push for promotion to the Premier League away at Tranmere who are just one place behind me in third.
Although there are a few players around 90% fitness I can’t rotate too much as I am missing a fair few players with injury and also Martin McIntosh is suspended, so Jim Gannon comes in for the crocked Tommy Smith with Tony Dinning returning to the midfield in the only change. Neil Edwards isn’t quite fit enough to be considered for this one, but I will have an interesting selection dilemma next match in goal.
Our previous meeting was an interesting one, neutrals will be hoping for a repeat…
Today’s team however:
Another cracking first half! We are the better side and Tom Bennett deservedly puts us ahead, but then we go to sleep for a while and Lee Jones once again hits a brace against us and if it wasn’t for a superb Nash save would have had a hat trick. Going behind galvanises us however and Alun Armstrong equalises on the stroke of half time, I am amazed there is no interest in him from bigger teams really, and Danny Coyne does brilliantly to thwart us on 3 other occasions.
The second half is another thriller, and we come through it to win 3-2. Graeme Tomlinson puts us ahead early in the second half and we could have had a fourth but then Tranmere find another gear and put us under the cosh. There are a fair few heart in mouth moments and I finish the game with a flat back 5 protested by two defensive midfielders, but thanks to some stout defending and another great save from Nash we hold on.
We are top of the league, say we are top of the league! Sheffield United could only draw at home to Reading, so we are in poll position, no one predicted this. Over a third of the way through the season and it’s probably around now that Robbie Savage will say ‘I always fancied Stockport’ even though he was predicting we’d finish dead last just a couple of months ago.
No time to rest on our laurels as we face Reading next who frustrated Sheffield United midweek. I once again have a few players who are quite tired but I cannot afford to rest them as I just don’t have the depth, however Connelly and Lauchlan are knackered so in come Woodthorpe and McIntosh. I also have the big call to make in goal and just about on balance go with Neil Edwards who hasn’t done much wrong this season, harsh on Nash who has saved us 2 points in each of the last 2 games, but he’ll bounce back I’m sure. Ian Gray meantime has been loaned to the chippy across the road, his loan fee being a chippy tea for me and the opposing manager after the match. Great money saver and let’s face it he’s doing bugger all football wise.
Edgeley is bouncing with the chant of ‘we are top of the league’ echoing around as the players warm up, no sign of nerves though, just confidence throughout the side.
That was a really frustrating first half. We had a superb start with Tomlinson putting us 2-0 up inside 12 minutes and we were cruising, the fans were in great voice and Reading were doing nothing. The first set back came with Tom Bennett stretchered off after 18 minutes, a real blow for him as it’s only his third game back after serious injury and he’s been superb in all of them. Despite this though Reading do absolutely nothing and we are comfortable until a few minutes before half time Kevin James under no pressure plays an atrocious back pass and Reading home grown player (or at least I assume home grown from his name) Dimitriadis runs on and accepts the gift. This game should e over but instead Reading have the momentum, I remind the team they have been far better and to keep it up. I am slightly concerned at our inability to keep a clean sheet, 6 games without one now and Micky Flynn is still 6 weeks away from fitness.
Argh so frustrating! That was inevitable after Kevin James’ lapse…. We were poor in the second half but we did limit them chance wise, but having been denied by the bar Dimitriadis made no mistake and equalised. Our first chance came in the 89th minute thanks to a beautiful through ball from Matt Bound and sub Charana did everything right only to be denied by Mautone in the Reading goal with what was probably his first touch of the half. Frustrating but not the end of the world, however the leaky defence and the fact we are always exhausted in the second half of matches is starting to really bite. I may have to move into the transfer market. The man of the match also catches my eye as a Bolton fan, I reckon he’ll make a decent manager himself one day…
Tom Bennett is thankfully only out for a couple of weeks, and Cavaco and Heidenstrom are almost fit again. Sunderland rolls around quickly and most players are fit enough, Heidenstrom comes back maybe a little too quickly but I want to regain some momentum and Connelly comes in for Kevin James after his horror show.
Carlo Nash stands and applauds his rival for the number 1 shirt after that first half display, and well deserved it is for 2 outstanding saves which preserve a 2 goal lead we gain early on. I was glad to see Kevin Phillips only on the bench as he would surely have buried the chances. At the beginning of the season Sunderland would have been clear favourites for this game but not anymore, not at the Edgeley fortress. I realise saying this at half time may be a little bit premature, but I’m never one for planning half time team talks in advance and I couldn’t think what else to say, and it seems like a good motivational tool, although want away Jim Gannon seems to be deep in thought, maybe off to chat with their gaffer afterwards to get a move. Not on my watch Gannon, get out there for the second half.
For a while in the second half we are absolutely battered, they hit the bar, miss a couple of sitters, but somehow we hold on. I pull my wing backs to full backs and put a defensive midfielder on for a striker and then hold my breath. Sunderland can’t find a way through and FINALLY we have a clean sheet, and a very welcome 3 points.
That was the game in hand sorted so everyone on the same games played now, and the table looks very healthy, especially our goals for. I had temporarily forgotten, but goals scored and not goal difference split teams level on points, and we are 10 goals better off than everyone else, but more to the point we are on top of the pile. Take that Megson.
QPR away is the next match and bizarrely only my 3 centre halves are tired, which is annoying as I only have Kevin James in reserve. Sean Connelly is the most tired so he drops to the bench, and I’m all of a sudden in the market for an extra centre back. Better news though is my Portuguese maestro Luis Cavaco returning from injury and replaces the unfortunate Nick Wright.
QPR bizarrely line up with Kevin Gallen in midfield, but they have some serious firepower, I hope my tired back line can cope later on.
The first half finishes goalless but we are once more indebted to our diminutive goalkeeper after being under the cosh for the first half an hour, but we come back into the game towards half time so I’ll keep things the same.
On a side note, I have caught myself calling Neil Edwards short quite often, so I thought I’d get the tape measure out at half time, and I’m not wrong:
A very even second half and an entertaining nil nil until the 83rd minute when Tomlinson goes clean through and is wiped out by the American goalkeeper Sommer who is duly sent off. The substitute goalkeeper Roberts can’t keep out the penalty, and then Nick Wright nicks a second right at the end. Another win, who cares how we get it, and the Stockport fans will go home happy, except for having to pay for a pee on Euston station on the way back, chargeable toilets haven’t made it up north yet…
Spare a thought for Bury at the bottom…
A break from the league to finish off the month, Plymouth in the League Cup. I am going to play a fairly strong team but I do need to rest some players, Gannon, Bound, Armstrong and Tomlinson drop out and in come Da Costa (yes really), Connelly (the eternal rotation), Mutch (because I’m the king of second chances) and Wright (because I’m the boss). I’m also going to give Carlo Nash a runout, in goal unsurprisingly (although I believe he was on the books of Man United as a child as a striker, worth knowing).
Well I forgot to screenshot the beginning of the game, and the first half was poor, and we are up against it, 2-0 down in an open game, but they are down to ten men so we have an outside chance of getting back into it.
Better second half but not good enough as we lose 2-1. The boos ring out for the first time in my reign, I’m not gonna lie I don’t like it, but I can’t disagree. That’ll be the last time I make so many changes, as Brian who spends his days changing tyres shouts at me on the way to the dressing room, ‘what the fuck was that Matt?’ At least there was more questioning than vilification at this stage, when they’re using my surname and using the ‘P’ as an excuse to spit then I’ll worry, but I have plenty of credit in the bank.
Well the end of the month comes and the board are still delighted with my performance, and reckon our financial position ‘could be better’, well it’s a damn sight better than it was when I arrived!
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