Twitterless Matthew Cooper is here with the penultimate update of his first season as Altrincham manager. He’s built this from nothing but are they closing in on promotion? Or will Rotherham ruin it? Catch up with part 6 here.
Hello, welcome back. It’s the business end of the season and we’re on course for a back to back promotion, so long as we can navigate the final 14 games of the season. To recap, my playmaker Zerrouki was ruled out for the rest of the season with a broken pelvis and my star midfielder Jermaine Wright has just been sold for £1.2m to balance the books. I had settled on another Algerian as a replacement, however I changed my mind at the last minute and made an approach for this guy instead:
He’s had two seasons of excellent match ratings in the league above us so he just seems like a safer bet than my previous choice, though he’s much pricier at £475k. I could have had them both, but I’d then have 3 non-EU midfielders and I didn’t want to be effectively forced to play all three for most games to avoid work permit issues. There’s still a space for another midfielder, and my eye is caught by a familiar face
It’s Sir Alex’s son, Darren. He was a pretty average player but made a decent manager in real life, however he can do a job for us in Division 3 and won’t break the bank at a little under £50k. I put in a bid and hope he’s willing to take a step down 2 divisions for more game time. There will still be over £500k left after these purchases so we’ve got room to manoeuvrer if another injury disaster befalls us. I’ve also approached a young Barnsley midfielder on loan just for some cover.
We’re away to Man City for the FA cup 5th round, and we’re predictably outclassed. The scoreline is extremely flattering, as they had two goals disallowed before their third finally stuck. I’m pleased nonetheless with our run this year and now we can concentrate on getting over the line in the league. A full round of fixtures are played along with our cup game, so we’re knocked down to third but with a game in hand.
N’Diaye and Ferguson agree terms and are welcomed into the squad, however it’s a less happy day for his dad as Man Utd are dumped out of the league cup at the Semis to leave Villa v Blackburn in the final of the competition that no-one cares about.
I sodding hate Rotherham.
On the plus side, N’Diaye has a great first game for us and we seem to be just as fluent as we were before. Our game in hand is up next against 3rd from bottom Notts Country, Gattuso is suspended so Ferguson makes his first start.
What was I saying about fluency? I may have spoken to soon as we do just about enough to scrape a win against a pretty poor side, but at this stage the result is all that matters and we’re back up to second, restoring our 4 point cushion to the playoff spots.
The cup run is starting to take its toll, and there are some pretty tired legs in the side as we travel to Macclesfield for the next game. I’d love to rotate but we simply don’t have enough strength in depth and I field the same 11 from the last game, intending to swap out a couple of fading players in the last half hour or so. Their keeper is annoyingly in Teflon mode, stopping everything we throw at him, but we take the lead with Ferguson’s first goal for the club. They equalise through a corner and then a rare Hammond error sees him punch it to their forward for a tap-in. It’s starting to feel as if the wheels are coming off, but we find another gear and Williamson comes to the rescue, scoring two and creating another to put us out of sight. I would have been pissed off to lose this one, considering the chances ratio
It’s three months in a row!
Oh…shite. I wasn’t prepared for this
I scramble to find a replacement, Exeter’s Cyrus appearing to be the best option, so I hastily put in a £200k bid.
Watford also come in for Strong after I make him available to bump up his price , the cheeky gits, so I tell them where to shove their £1m bid and refuse Man City too, hoping the tribunal ups the price slightly in light of his £1.3m value.
Eugh, nope. Man City get a bargain and I’m left without a competent wing back until Cyrus signs. It’s a case of fortunate timing though as the next game is against perennial punching bags Doncaster Rovers. I bring in Lou Kidd for the departed Strong and swap in Gattuso for the suspended Browning. It’s not exactly a dream start as Allardyce is sent off after 2 minutes, but Doncaster are so utterly dreadful that it doesn’t affect us at all. We race into a 2-0 lead by half-time and add a third towards the end for the most routine of routine wins
Allardyce picks up a three match ban for violent conduct, but Tokely is a good enough replacement so whatever. Annoyingly the Cyrus transfer is no closer to completion by our next game, away to the Orient. I needn’t have worried though as Kidd has another mystifyingly solid game and we run out easy 3-0 winners, dominating to such an extent that even Heidenstrom has a quiet game
I’m beginning to re-think if a replacement wingback is even needed now. I decide to withdraw the bid and leave it until the summer, hoping that Hansen is wrong again and we are able to win something with Kidd(s). Our win puts us back into first place and the gap extends to 9 points with 9 games left to play. Meanwhile, Donny go down 6-1 to Cambridge to bring up a century of goals conceded in some style
Arsenal recall Gislason for some reason, which is annoying but we should be okay with what we’ve got for the rest of the season so I don’t intend to bring in any more cover
A home game against 22nd placed Shrewsbury is next up, and Allardyce’s 3 game suspension starts. Tokely takes his place and performs admirably, as both strikers get a goal along with Ferguson’s 3rd goal in 6 games. I wasn’t sure it would work out but he’s turning out to be a very handy player for us – I’m not sure there’s going to be a place in the midfield for Zerrouki to return to when he’s back to fitness at this rate, as N’Diaye has been a revelation in the playmaker role and aside from sentiment I can’t really make a case for replacing him.
I was hoping to finish off the season in this update, but a quick glance at the word count confirms that’s clearly not going to happen. I’ll stop it here to leave the final 8 games for next week. Before I wrap it up, here’s the tables:
10 points now between us and 4th place, it’s going to have to be a pretty drastic loss of form to deny us automatic promotion now. That’s also the gap at the bottom, as Scarborough’s win in the most recent round of fixtures has put them above Shrewsbury and further towards safety. Donny are pretty doomed at this stage – conceding goals at almost twice the rate of everyone else has a tendency to do that to you.
So, the final update of the season is going to be next week. Join me to see how the season finishes and who gets their hands on the various cups amongst other stuff. See you then.