Free for All Episode 4 | The Dip | @CornishZak

Happy hump day! Here’s the Zak Attack with more from the Free Transfer database, where carnage is the optimum word…

Hello, welcome back to Doncaster!

We are currently battling away in Division Three, fighting off constant bids for players and trying to find stability. Come join the party!

22nd November 1997, Darlington.

Reminder, how the squad looks pre-match.

With five non-EU players in the squad it means I’ll have to rotate to keep the work permits active. With Rice slotting in a LB, Lazaridis misses out for new-boy Gerasimets.

Darlington make the best start, but we keep plugging away. Gerasimets gets the reward for our hard work with a late equalizer. Another draw!

29th November 1997, FA Cup, Millwall

We face Division two’s Millwall in the second round of the FA Cup in front of a hostile 16,000 fans at Senegal Fields (aka the New Den). Tony Yeboah edges us in front before the inevitable return goal sees us take Millwall to replay.

Veteran midfielder Geoff Thomas heads for Hull after the game after a £56k bid is accepted.

6th December 1997, Hull

It’s an immediate return for Geoff Thomas as Simon Collins is given a run-out in center midfield. He struggle to break Hull down, and are duly punished.

10th December 1997, FA Cup Replay, Millwall

Its heartbreak at the Belle Vue, as the lads are floored by a last-minute equalizer, after Chris Waddle put us in control. The team can’t pick themselves up after conceding late and are dumped out the FA Cup on penalties. Left back Gary Rice the only player to convert.

Macclesfield see enough of Simon Collins in two outings to pay £150k for him, as the cash register is opened again.

13th December 1997, Cambridge

I move Gerasimets back to the central midfield role vacated by Collins and the attack-minded line-up gives our angry lads the outlet they need. They smash Cambridge, with Yeboah scoring a hattrick, despite a missed penalty.

It’s a much needed win, as our league form is stuttering.

20th December 1997, Torquay.

We sell Phil Whittam to Rochdale before kickoff for a healthy £250k. He’s not played since the arrival of Rice and Rowlands, so it’s a welcome transaction.

We get done by the 10-men of Torquay as Andy Sinton runs riot. Sigh.

26th December 1997, Lincoln.

After our cup exits we get time to breath in between matches. I am able to replace Ray Wilkins – now a £68k Oldham player – with ex-England international, and original Premier League pin-up, Lee Sharpe. Sharpey is injured for 4 weeks, but with other clubs circling it was the perfect time to sign him.

Our dismal run of form continues with a 1-0 loss to Lincoln. Yeboah’s goals seem to have dried up.

10th January 1998, Mansfield

It’s a two-week break between games, and give our rivals time to poach more players. Graham Alexander moves to Carlise for £140k, John Eustace goes to Exeter for £32k, and Peter Kaye (filling in at CM) get a big-money move for Division 1 Port Vale for £180k.

I try to change it up by playing youngsters Lopez and Carr-Lawton as wing-backs.

Mansfield’s Mark Tinkler, formerly of Leeds, gets sent off on 6 minutes and for 84 minutes we cannot break down the back line. I need to change something to get Yeboah scoring again!

14th January 1998, Macclesfield

It’s another clean sheet – but more importantly, another game without us scoring. The boos ringing around the Belle Vue are deafening at the final whistle.

17th January 1998, Brighton

John Aldridge scores two quick goals for Brighton before Efe Sodje loses his head. He scores and is sent straight off. Nick Barmby (he should be playing at a higher level!) scores for Brighton as the game slips away. Another red card ends hopes of a fightback, and it gets worse with another missed Yeboah penalty.

Northern Irishman Stephen Robinson is snapped up by Swindon for £100k pre-match. He’s featured off the bench a couple of times, so I’m happy to get some cash for him.

Post-match Bury sign the still-injured Lee Sharpe for £250k. This one frustrates me because he’s worth so much more! I also cash-in on former England Captain, Bryan Robson for £69k. He’s not been getting much minutes, so heads to the Midlands, and Walsall. I replace Robson with another ex-Man Utd player Mike (call me Mick) Duxbury. I also bring in young defender Ian Breckin as back-up.

31st January 1998, Peterborough

This is how the squad looks going into the game. I am struggling on the right side after the Kerslake red card against Brighton.

I am forced to play Rice at right back and bring young Tonkin back into the fold. We battle away to a 3-2 win – our first victory since 13th December!

Our abysmal run of form sees us slope to 13th in the table after 30 games. We are 8 points from the play offs.

It’s so dire that I need to make a second screenshot!

I sell Trevor Benjamin for a club-record fee for £725k to Mansfield town. I also let Ian Cox go to Scunthorpe for £110k.

I re-fill the empty spaces in the squad by signing forward Jamie Proctor, young midfielder Steve Walters and young Irish U21 center back Derek Coughlan.

7th February 1998, Scarborough

Walters goes into CM role, with Gerasimets replacing Waddle in the AMC position. After grinding out the Peterborough win the lads play again with more creative freedom, scoring five goals. Finally!

11th February 1998, Colchester

It’s youngster Coughlan who shines against Colchester with a composed performance at the back. The shut-out and Walters goal makes it three wins on the bounce.

The win puts us back in the top half, now five points from the playoffs.

We wave goodbye to young right back Rik Lopez after agreeing a £160k deal with York. The deal means we’ve now passed the £13 million mark for transfers!

I’ll leave you with a giant killing feat…. Vinny Jones’ Plymouth Argyle blowing away Liverpool in the FA Cup. Wonderful stuff!

Until next time, bargain hunters!

Manchester United footballer Lee Sharpe at the Cliff training ground in Manchester, circa 1989. (Photo by Harry Goodwin/Paul Popper/Popperfoto/Getty Images)

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