Starting from Scratch – Part 3

Matthew is back with his cobbled together Altrincham team. Wins were hard to come by in part 2 but what lies ahead? Catch up with part 2 here.

Hello again, and welcome back. We ended part 2, like part 1, with a scrappy victory that suggested things might be heading in the right direction. It didn’t really work out that way last time, but I really feel like we’ve turned a corner with bearded lunatic Gattuso pulling the strings in midfield and I’m confident that this update won’t be quite so disheartening.

First up and yay, it’s a windscreen shield game…said no-one, ever. We’re at home to Scunthorpe, and although I couldn’t care less about the competition itself, it would be nice to get a positive result and try to build some momentum. I decide to bring Zerrouki back into the team as he hasn’t done a lot wrong, and Bradley Cooper might be famous but he’s also a little bit crap, averaging around 6.5 from 7 games. Well, we make a blistering start as Zerrouki celebrates his recall with a goal and Jermaine Wright adds another, giving us a 2-0 half-time lead. We take our foot off the pedal in the second half but Hammond repels everything Scunthorpe throw at him to keep a clean sheet. It’s a great result but I wish it was in the league.


We go to bottom club Doncaster next, and for the first time in a while I go into this expecting a win. We are on the front foot right from the first minute, and deservedly lead when defensive kingpin Duncan powers home a header from a corner on 38 minutes. Jermaine gets his second in two games just before half-time, and we’re cruising. Right after the kick-off of the second half, Hammond displays a touching show of sportsmanship by needlessly fouling their winger in the box and then letting in a 30-yard effort a few minutes later. Zerrouki puts us back in front, only for Tomlinson (yes, Graeme bloody Tomlinson, bane of many a lower league manager) to level things up. I’m about to blow a gasket but then, Doncaster’s Gooding decides to return Hammond’s act of kindness by chipping the ball past his own keeper. Who says that good deeds aren’t rewarded? It’s a messy game but a win’s a win!


This had evidently pleased the powers that be, as I’ve been upgraded from less than satisfied to….satisfied. Cheers for the support lads. The financial situation is a little worrying but I’ve made all my purchases for now and no doubt some bigger teams will come in for my best-performing players before long to balance the books.


I’m eager to keep our good form going, and the fixture list is happy to oblige with a home game against 22nd-placed Macclesfield. The game is fairly even for most of the first half, but we start to get on top and chance after chance seems to hit the post or get deflected wide. We apply even more pressure in the second half, and finally make the breakthrough on 75 mins as Allardyce stabs home in a goalmouth scramble. We see the game out and amazingly, that’s 3 league victories in a row!


Our recent results have propelled us up to 13th place, and things are starting to look a little brighter, thankfully


The FA Cup 1st round draw pairs us with Leyton Orient away. Unlike the other competitions we’re in, I actually like the FA cup and I want to do well in it. It’s not an ideal tie but it could have been worse, they are in our division at least.

A few days later we find ourselves at Shrewsbury, who are a few places below us in the table so present a chance to keep our run going. Unfortunately, it’s another frustrating draw despite our obvious superiority. It could have been even worse but they have a goal chalked off on 80 minutes for offside, to my relief.


Next up are future cup opponents Leyton Orient at home. Blog favourite Bjorn Heidenstrom is still with them, and getting ridiculous average ratings as usual. Things start off poorly as we concede against the run of play, but Tokely is beginning to find his feet with us and scores a quickfire double to put us 2-1 up by half-time. West limps off on 58 minutes, which poses a bit of a problem – in that we don’t actually have a replacement for him. Wright is converted to an emergency wing back for the rest of the game, and Orient predictably equalise a few minutes later. Another game, another draw…


After the game West is ruled out for a couple of weeks, so I move quickly to secure a replacement, making a loan approach for this lad


From my experience of 5-3-2, the best wingbacks are those listed as both defenders and midfielders (i.e. Defender/Midfielder Right), but defensive midfielders can still do an able job if they have decent values in the kind of skills you’d expect them to need (dribbling, passing, pace, tackling, positioning etc). I also move to sign another wingback on a free, he was being watched by Bournemouth which is virtually a guarantee of quality. Whilst I’m at it, I make an approach for a left-sided wing back also as I’ve been pretty underwhelmed with my current choices.

Tragedy then strikes the world of celebrity as Bradley Cooper slips on a piece of red carpet and knackers his leg. Hollywood’s loss isn’t necessarily mine too though, as he’s been consistently crap for me so far. Get well soon Brad.


The replacements for West don’t have time to join us before the next game, and the timing couldn’t be better to be missing a wingback as we’re away to top of the table Peterborough. They boast not only serial fouler and general pain in the arse Jack Lester up front, but also the fox in the box, on loan from Everton:


To contain them, I do what any sane manager would do: I put old man Wilkins, the 36 year old midfielder in a poor run of form, in at wing back and tell him to give it his best. It somehow goes better than expected and we escape with a point. Tokely gets yet another goal to make it 4 from his last 3 games, however Wilkins repays my faith in him by giving away a penalty and they draw level. They batter us for the rest of the game but the defence holds firm and we finish with a gratifying draw.


Tokely’s recent hot streak has somehow skyrocketed his value to nearly £1m, when the vultures swoop for him (as they inevitably will) we’ll be rolling in it


We qualify for the next stage of the Windscreen shield without even playing the second game, to my annoyance. I can only hope we make a swift exit soon, my squad are knackered enough as it is.


The right wingback on a free chooses Bournemouth over us, the git, but we get the loanee and the left wingback in at least. Thank you for your service Mr Wilkins, you can go back to sleep now.

Funnily enough the very next game is at home to windscreen losers Scunthorpe. I hadn’t noticed from being focused on the bottom half of the table up to now, but Scunthorpe are actually 3rd in the table and on a good run. We are nothing if not consistent, and play out yet another draw in a 0-0 snooze fest. Duncan is crocked just after half time, but central defence is the one area we actually have ample cover for so I’m not too concerned.


Jermaine Wright joins Duncan on the treatment table soon after, being ruled out for at least a month. He’s been fantastic for us so it’s a real blow. To make matters worse, I notice that Sheff Utd have their eye on him so he’ll probably be snapped up in the near future. Bradley and old man Wilkins aren’t exactly what I call viable replacements, so I move for yet another free midfielder to provide cover


5th-placed Swansea are the latest visitors to Moss Lane, and we get a thoroughly undeserved 3 points. We go ahead with barely 9 minutes played from an Alladyce wonder goal (“It came out of nothing!”) and the next 80 mins was Swansea huffing and puffing but ultimately failing to blow our house down. After all the late equalisers we suffered through earlier in the season, we are due a little bit of luck so I accept the points gleefully


We’re now up to the dizzy heights of 11th, and I start to wonder if we can maybe break into the playoffs before long


Regardless, we leave this update in a much, much better position than when we started and things are going pretty well. Come back next week to see things inevitably go to the

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  1. Pingback: Starting from Scratch – Part 4 | CM 97/98

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