Starting from Scratch – Part 4

Here’s Matthew with the latest from Altrincham. For a club that started with no players, they’re making a good go of making a team. Catch up with part 3 here.

Hello once again, welcome to part 4 of premature ageing simulator 97/98. We concluded last time with a string of decent results, but a potentially damaging injury to main man Jermaine Wright, our midfield dynamo. You may recall I put in an approach for a replacement, however the negotiations went pretty poorly


I politely, but firmly, tell him to sling his hook and move instead for my number 2 target. He actually has more promising stats than Turner but he’s unfortunately out for 2 weeks injured which in some ways hinders his primary purpose of filling in for Wright. He’ll be fit for the last two weeks of Wright’s lay-off though so it’s not a total loss. Until then, I fear old man Wilkins may have to be roused from his rocking chair and plopped onto the bench.


We’re at Mansfield for our next fixture and I spare Wilkins the indignity of changing out of his pajamas as my underperforming wingback West takes the bench. Allardyce is rested for my backup striker Williamson and Browning takes the field in place of Wright. We kick off and….what the hell is happening?


A few weeks ago we couldn’t win our way out of a paper bag and now I’ve just witnessed one of the most dominant first-half performances in my entire CM career. Both goals are taken by Williamson and we look unstoppable. Naturally, my team desperately contrive to cock it up as captain Palmer elbows someone in the face and gets shown red. Despite his best efforts at sabotage though, we easily see the game out and chalk up yet another win.


My mobile buzzes on the way home, it’s a text from the board:


Oh you are, are you? Well that’s alright then, your satisfaction means everything to me. Whatever, at least I’m not in immediate danger of the sack anyway. McCarthy hobbles in to sign terms with us and then immediately gets better, good lad.


We’re at home to Torquay next, who are languishing in 15th place. An easy 3 points, right?


Nah. It’s a very flat performance and we’re lucky to draw to be honest. Post-match I notice that Williamson has caught the eye of Bristol Rovers, but with £67k left in the coffers I’d welcome an approach at this point. My other striker McGarrigle knackers himself in training and is ruled out for 6 weeks, but as he sits on the treatment table moaning I sternly tell him that it could have been worse:


The deadest of dead rubbers is next as our pointless second game of the windscreen shield takes us to Macclesfield. I couldn’t give a flying toss about the result, but we win anyway


On the bright side, we’ll at least finish first in one table this season, eh?


We’re drawn against Hull, who are second in the division above us, for the second round, so at least we won’t have to suffer through this competition much longer. Old man Wilkins does his back in stretching for the remote, what is he like:


The FA cup is up next, and we travel to Leyton Orient with a bit of a defensive crisis. Both loanees are ineligible and Palmer starts his two-match suspension so I have to put Duncan straight back in at 70% fitness alongside Hart, a very average squad player. Oh, and our right wingback is also cup-tied to add insult to injury.


We have yet another game in our packed schedule to look forward to after a no-score draw with a very familiar man of the match. Williamson gets injured to cap off a miserable day. Oh wait, it hasn’t quite finished yet


Sigh. He was performing well for us and my existing wing-back is, to put it mildly, shite. I’ll have to go looking for a replacement for my replacement. It’s pretty slim pickings by this point in the season, as anyone half-decent has been signed already. I finally settle on this best of the rest selection – as mediocre as he appears, he’d have to be pretty damn bad to end up being a worse option than what I have already


We’re essentially handed a free pass to the third round if we can overcome Leyton Orient, as we’re drawn to play against one of two non-league sides


We’re at home to Notts County next, and it’s fair to say that with injuries, suspensions and under 21 call-ups, my squad is somewhat below optimum staffing levels. It’s funny how circumstances can sometimes combine into a perfect storm of awfulness in this game.


It’s a struggle to actually name three subs and I have to use central defender Luis as an emergency striker but on the plus side, Notts County are 21st and have 1 win in their past 10 games. I sense a draw is on the cards.


Yep. Allardyce puts us in front midway through the first half but we can’t hold on and Notts get a deserved equaliser 15 minutes before the end. I can’t say I’m too disappointed, considering the number of players I had out. Immediately after the game I get some good news for a change


It’s a much more familiar line-up for our next game against Scarborough. Captain Palmer returns from suspension, Tokely is back from international duty and our new right wingback takes the field. Wright makes the bench as he’s still not fully fit yet. Well, you can see why they’re 23rd in the table. Browning puts us ahead after only 2 minutes, and Allardyce doubles the lead soon after. It should have been 6 or 7, but we have to settle for 2 as Scarborough can’t muster even a single shot on target.


The strangest things impress the board sometimes


The replay against Leyton Orient is next up, and the prospect of posting a cricket score against our hapless non-league opposition in the next round galvanises the team into an impressive showing. Tokely pounces on a defensive error just after half-time to put us in front before we do our usual parlour trick and concede an equaliser out of nothing. Extra time looms so I throw Wrighty on, and barely 5 minutes after his introduction he powers home a rebound to nudge us back in front. I love that guy.


The procession of crap teams in the fixture list continues as Wrexham are next to visit our Moss Lane fortress. We’re all over them from the get-go but can’t find a way past Dearden in their net. I enact another inspired substitution as I throw Williamson on for the ineffective Tokely around the hour mark and he scores with his first effort. Strong puts in a man of the match performance and our other wingback has settled in quickly. I’m beginning to suspect that the wingbacks are actually crucial to your team’s fortunes in a 5-3-2, as when our wingbacks were dreadful, our performances and results followed suit. Now that they’re playing well, we look like a quality side.


Next up is our trip to Hull for the windscreen paperweight trophy second round. Their higher division placing shows immediately as they absolutely batter us, and we’re lucky to escape with a 3-0 deficit to be honest. Only goalkeeper Hammond’s heroics prevent further damage as his counterpart, the delightfully named John Cheesewright, is a virtual spectator. Ah well, at least we’re out of that sodding competition.


The FA cup second round game against Welling Utd is upon us now, and I’m expecting a comfortable victory by a 3 or 4 goal margin. I rest Palmer and Zerrouki as they’re showing signs of fatigue, but I don’t expect that to matter against such lowly opposition.


Well, that was humbling. We barely threaten their goal despite their keeper’s MotM award, and they force a replay. At least the gate receipts will help our dwindling bank balance. A rather unappetising game at home to premiership team Sunderland awaits us if we can win the replay.


I’m finally getting the recognition I deserve, and we even scrape a profit this month! I can’t believe the turnaround from the second update which saw us go at least 10 games without a win.


Next we travel to Chesterfield, who languish in the lower half of the table. We absolutely blitz them, racing into a 4-0 lead until our customary slacking off sees them pull 2 goals back. Even so, it’s the most comfortable victory we’ve had in quite a while.


Well, it’s time to draw this update to a close and as usual we’ll look at the standings.


In case you’re curious, it’s still Doncaster that occupy the solitary relegation place, though they’re only 3 points adrift. You know your team is absolutely dire when you can’t even keep up with division 3 whipping boys Scarborough:


Exactly half the season has now elapsed and our excellent run of results has amazingly put us just outside the play-offs in 8th. I really couldn’t have foreseen this during our run of 5 or 6 straight draws early in the season but things seem to have just clicked with the team and we’re on an undeniably upward trajectory. Come back next week to see if we can keep it up and maybe start to look at securing at least a play-off place in the second

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