Matt Porter is back with the final update of the year, but can Stockport rediscover some form as they enter 1998? Catch up with Part 9 here
Well the Christmas period was pretty poor, following on again from a poor November, but there were some slight rays of sunshine through it, I feel we may turn a corner. Then again I am pretty confident every year that we will have a great summer, and I live in the north.
First up is Watford in the cup and I am going back to the tried and trusted Keegan way. I shouldn’t have betrayed my belief in attacking football, Terry Mac would not be impressed. A pretty much full strength side against the team from the league below in the hope we might actually start scoring, but I do want to give Carlo Nash a run out, and Sean Connelly comes back in. Matt Bound and Tony Dinning are injured and David Walton is cup tied.
Well the entertainment factor has certainly returned with this formation, half time is one all thanks to a Cavaco equaliser but it is a proper cup tie, which we ought to be winning but we still can’t hit the target with decent chances.
The second half isn’t particularly memorable, Nash makes a couple of good saves to keep us in it, both stemming from Kevin James’ errors so I can only assume the man of the match was given by a sponsor who decided to stay in the hospitality suite for the second half drinking champagne and listening to Elton John records. It isn’t terrible but it isn’t great, our wait for a win goes on and we have an extra game in the form of a cup replay. When they talk about the magic of the cup, that game is not it.
This is however:
A pretty uninspiring 4th round draw, should we get there:
Away at Crewe next, the glamour just keeps on ramping up, and I want to try and keep a reasonably settled side so only make 3 changes. Tetradze drops to the bench for Walton, Nash gives way to Edwards and Tomlinson got injured during the week so Charana gets a start. I could do with a result here, no win in 6. Its cold, its damp, it probably isn’t the best place for pretty football so we are going direct and we are going for the jugular, if my strikers could wear football boots instead of clown shoes it may help.
The entertainers are back! We have a massive 13 shots in the first half after going behind early on. Unfortunately my strikers display all the prowess of a stoned sloth, but Luis Cavaco shows them how its done with 2 well taken goals, and if it wasn’t for the superb (and underappreciated) Jason Kearton we would have more.
Fantastic game, fantastic result, I celebrate a little bit too much, but I don’t care, we’ve finally won a game! 22 shots, a striker who finally scores a goal, what’s not to love? We concede another towards the end but I don’t care, 4-2! I do notice that this win is the first game I haven’t played my two foreign signings, so let’s gloss over that fact, every manager is allowed to sign a crap player or 2.
Well we are miles off the top 2, but we did need that, and there’s plenty of time to chase them down, at least one of them will go on a bad run. Now we have the midweek cup replay and I could really do without that to be honest.
I still feel we are a bit stale, so I decide to make a bit of a surprise move in the transfer window, die hard Stockport fans look away now, but I decide to sell Tony Dinning. You may look aghast but bear with me, he started the season well but has been rubbish recently, he’s valued at about half a million and I get just shy of a million for him, it just makes sense! Now to find a replacement… (forward planning not massively apparent).
A few changes for the cup as there are some tired legs, it would be nice to have a cup run and we have 2 winnable home games which would take us to round 5, but I can’t have a knackered team for Saturday. It’s a juggling act, which ironically would be better than the pre match ‘entertainment’ served up which involves a local boy band (Take Hat, we’re the Hatters you see) murdering songs that are crap even when sung properly. At least the crowd are treated to some genuine comedy in the form of Ian Gray’s warm up routine, please don’t get injured Carlo.
I feel like a man who has just bought a DFS sofa for full price. How the hell did we lose that one? I mean seriously? We absolutely battered them, Chris Day played like a superhuman, we hit the post SIX times, they did absolutely naff all for the entire game except score. Then we get a penalty in the last minute, Andy Mutch puts it over the bar, and yet still has time to miss a one on one before the full time whistle. I hate this game sometimes, but ‘at least we can concentrate on the league’. Urgh, I hate saying that.
No time to delay, we need a boost, and where do second tier managers always go when they need a boost? Well, Angola naturally.
It’s a bit of a gamble but I need something different in midfield, and maybe this is what we need. I have an eye on a couple of other players too, and I know my last two foreign signings haven’t been very good, but I’m going for it.
A reasonably local derby next against Bury, and our efforts in midweek have caused some fitness issues so I have to rest a few players. Thankfully I can recall the fit again Matt Bound though, so it doesn’t weaken us too much. Carlita goes straight onto the bench, and I hope to give him a run out. Bury are still bottom but in recent weeks have improved massively, winning 5 out of 7 and drawing the other 2, so we will have to play well. I am pleased to see them making a fight of it, but hope we can be the blip in that run today. It seems a key game for both teams, there is tension in the air.
Another great first half, only tempered by a sloppy goal conceded and a couple of guilt edged chances missed meaning we only go in one goal in front. I try to keep things relaxed at half time and remind the boys how well we are playing. We also get a bit of a collector’s item for the last couple of months in the form of an Alun Armstrong goal, hopefully this will open the floodgates!
A comfortable win and I’ll take that, a good performance too, although we did take a foot off the gas towards the end which is concerning, but a win is a win so I’m not complaining, we need to keep this up, and we have a fortnight off now to recharge the batteries. No owl sanctuary this time, just a couple of days off training and then back hard at it for the next match on the last day of the month.
We are back within touching distance of the top 2, I’d have taken this at the beginning of the season:
I have felt for a while we are lacking a bit of experience in the midfield, and so I have gone for a bit of a left field signing. He is technically a defensive midfielder and so doesn’t really fit my system, but I think he’ll be very useful, and he’s got into the Arsenal team a couple of times this season so can’t be bad!
I do feel sorry for Kiko Charana, every time he gets a bit of a run of form he gets injured and now is no different, out for two weeks with a stubbed toe. He therefore misses out on our final game of the month, away at playoff hopefuls Sunderland. Apart from Charana, McIntosh and the suspended Andy Mutch I have a full strength squad to choose from, and so Charana aside this is probably my first choice eleven at the moment.
I am so glad to be back to football after a Saturday off, doing all those jobs I’ve been promising to do for months, finally taking the Christmas decorations down, painting the spare room, wishing I’d put a stronger team out for the Watford game so I didn’t have to do all this crap…
Some extremely dubious refereeing in the first half is the main talking point. There are no goals and few chances but Lee Clark gets sent off after 8 minutes for ‘hauling down Martin Lauchlan’, and given that Neil Edwards took the resulting free kick I am guessing it was near our box, so seems harsh to say the least. Tony Coton then ‘takes out Garde when through on goal’, which of course should be a red card and a penalty, but nothing doing, and then Coton rubs salt into the wounds by brilliantly denying Garde and Cavaco before half time. We have to be confident of beating ten men though.
Well that was frustrating. Alun Armstrong again showing he has completely lost his touch since the beginning of the season, I am tempted to drop him but replacements don’t seem too good either. We have a few chances, they muster up one, and bizarrely that gives our champagne swilling sponsors the idea that Neil Edwards should be man of the match. I would probably have taken a point beforehand but playing almost the whole game against ten men makes it seem like two points lost.
So we have managed to steady the ship after a couple of terrible months and I’ve also managed to get my spare room painted, but we are still not where we were earlier in the season. Hopefully we can keep building momentum and take that into the play offs if needs be or else sneak into those automatic spots. February could be key…
Matt is having a well earned rest but will return with The Stockport Diaries in the New Year.
Follow Matt on Twitter @PorterMatt