Matt Porter brings you Stockport’s 97/98 season from his view in the dugout. Catch up with part 8 here. I regret doing the titles in Roman numerals…
Well November was decidedly wobbly with only one win from 5, and there is concern from the media that the wheels have fallen off. Mark Lawrenson makes a terrible pun about hats being blown away in autumn winds (we’re the Hatters you see), Robbie Savage acts like the wannabe cool kid at the school disco turned down by the fit lass, ‘I never fancied them anyway’, and Paul Merson? Well Paul Merson didn’t realise we were in this division.
Still we will battle on, and regain that confidence, we are still flying high and I don’t want us to be undone by our own success. We start the month with a pretty uninspiring FA cup draw, but with Watford a division below I would hope we could progress.
Saturday rolls around and we have a huge boost in the return of our club captain Micky Flynn. How long he will be around for I’m not sure, but right now his return is timely given our poor defensive form. I resist making many other changes, just Flynn for Bound and Kishishev for Woodthorpe. I hope we can return to winning ways, or at least keep it tight at the back now, and I’m glad Mike Salmon who was so good against us at Edgeley Park is only on the bench.
Its nil nil at half time but only thanks to Charton being truly hopeless in front of goal. I cannot leave it like this, so I ring the changes and change the system. Christmas tree formation, well it is December….
Well after 5 minutes of constant Charlton pressure I tweak and change to 4-4-2, and low and behold we play far better, we are comfortably the best team, but of course Charlton get one chance and of course Charlton fucking score. We hit the bar twice, are denied two clear penalties and I’m fuming. At least we showed some guts though, and Micky Flynn gets man of the match, but this bad run is in danger of turning into a proper slump.
Having to get back through London and the Blackwall tunnel on a Christmas shopping day does not lighten my mood, especially as the only VHS we have for the return journey is Neil Edwards’ copy of Get Shorty, bought for him by Carlo Nash. The boy will get a complex….
I get the side working on 4-4-2 through the week in preparation for the home game with Oxford. I think we are going a bit stale and it’s time for a change, we’ll go a little less direct as well and switch to a passing style. I bring Matt Bound back in alongside Flynn, and Woodthorpe returns as both McLauchlan and Kishishev are on international duty. Tom Bennett returns to the side in place of the third centre half, and I give Alun Armstrong the week off as he looks absolutely knackered recently, with Andy Mutch coming in. It’s a gamble and could be construed as panic, but at the end of the day its just 4-4-2 so not exactly controversial.
A far better first half for us but once again goalless, we have the better of the game but only one chance of note when Tomlinson forces their keeper into a great save. More of the same lads let’s get that Edgeley roar back.
When it’s not going your way it really isn’t going your way on here. We batter Oxford, by far the better side, and yet of all people Darren ‘clodhopper’ Purse executes a beautiful curling shot from 30 yards to beat us 1-0. Darren Purse. Darren Purse! I am still muttering it in disbelief when I get into bed that night, much to the consternation of my better half who thinks I may be considering a serious lifestyle change. Darren fucking Purse! No chance love, mind you I’d have said no chance he’d ever do what he did today on that pitch. She tells me I need to chill and stop moaning, its only a game after all. I end up sleeping in the spare room.
Well yes it was, thanks for that, I would have been out on the champagne if you hadn’t told me
Underachieving Norwich away next, it is hard to see where our next goal is coming from let alone win at the moment. Extra work on the training ground needed, plus a hope that the week off will see Alun Armstrong return refreshed.
Armstrong and Kishishev are the only changes, coming in for Mutch and Woodthorpe. I would take a point gladly if it was offered now, it’s a tricky place to visit.
Well I forgot to screenshot before the game, too preoccupied with a tough and motivational pre match team talk. Both teams seemed to sense this and were very obliging in doing absolutely nothing in the first half. Literally nothing. Pretty much fell asleep, just one off target shot between them, still as the away team I’m not too bothered by that. The only thing of note is Craig Bellamy being a prick in the centre of midfield for them. On second thoughts, why on earth would that be ‘of note’?
A slightly more lively second half thankfully, but Tomlinson spurns a couple of chances and that’s that, a nil nil draw. We still haven’t managed to score this month and our next game is Boxing Day, but in fairness we have been pretty solid at the back, conceding only 2 goals in 3 games. The Keegan-esque dream is out of the window, this is more like Tony Pulis but at least we have stopped the rot.
We really have faded badly and are looking over our shoulders, everyone has to have a bad patch though, I just hope this is ours and it is about done with.
Not a lot happens in the run up to Christmas, everyone is busy getting ready for the festive season. Ian Gray buys me a set of cut whisky glasses but drops them on his way into my office, ah well it’s the thought that counts. Christmas Day is spent working out how I can pull us out of our slump, and our home game with Huddersfield on Boxing Day soon comes around.
I give the out of form Tomlinson a rest for this game and bring in Nick Wright, otherwise it is the same team from the credible draw away at Norwich.
It’s a game of two halves, we are rubbish in the first half and are deservedly behind 1-0. Sod 4-4-2, I don’t like it, never have. I revert to the Keegan way and instantly play far better in the second half, drawing 1-1 and we should win. Lesson learned, we do not play 4-4-2. Merry Christmas!
Two points from 4 games is a pretty awful December, but we can take comfort in the face that we only lost by the odd goal in both defeats. We need to find a way to start scoring again and fast. FA cup first up in the new year and I will give a few fringe players a chance to impress. Something has to give!
Keep the faith…
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