“The fans were stomping their feet, screaming, and making more noise than I’ve ever heard them make at the recreation ground. “Pallen! Pallen! Pallen!” they were chanting as our young 23 year old reserve striker personally scored four in a performance I never thought I’d see. In our Mid-Sussex Junior Cup match, we came away 10-1 to an Ansty Sport and Social Club II team that just couldn’t compete. Oli Busby and I went to the pub after the match, as we usually do after our home matches, to celebrate a well-earned victory.
“Following the failure of the last cup match just a week prior, the boys really turned it around. There were a few nervous faces as we gathered up in the parking lot outside of the recreation ground to have a quick meeting before getting onto the pitch to warm up. Sporting a new clipboard to replace the one smashed against the ground in an emotional fit of rage the week before, the team were raring for a chance to show me that they had what it took to perform, following the sacking of the team captain as an example that the kind of failures we saw wouldn’t be acceptable. They didn’t disappoint.”
Welcome to the next update to my rise to the top with AFC Bolnore. Things have been going quite swimmingly, for the most part, and I’m quite optimistic about our future! Let’s get straight to the updates, shall we?
First thing’s first, the board accepted my third request to get a coaching license, so I’m now on track to get my National C license and improve my skills, something the team very badly needs, as it’s just me and assistant manager regen Oliver Busby on the training pitch, and neither of us are particularly good at the job at the moment.
Against Jarvis Brook III in the Brian Hall Challenge Cup First Round, we went into extra time and then penalties with the score 2-2, and it came down to the lottery of a penalty shootout for us to be declared the winners.
The goal of the save is to get to the Premier League, not win minor cups at the bottom of the English pyramid, but I’ve still got a “Win!” mentality, and it was frustrating that I had to go into a shootout with a completely average-placed side in our own league, but a win is a win.
After a bit, I found a really good physio for this level who was willing to sign for us (12 physiotherapy in Mid-Sussex 11 isn’t something to turn down!) to supplement our really poor head physio and help with the injuries in our side, which could be better.
I found a good, dedicated goalkeeping coach who also was willing to sign and help with the coaching load, but the board blocked it deciding I had enough staff (a chief scout, my head physio and new guy, and Busby), and when I appealed for more room in the coaching staff, I was told funding was the problem… Mr Chairman, we’re an amateur club, and every single member of the staff is doing this pro bono because we love the game. Funding isn’t an issue at all!
The only notable league match to share is our 2-1 win against Crawley United. It was quite stressful to watch. We were essentially neck and neck, and with all the Crawley highlights that didn’t amount to nothing, it really felt like we were being put to the sword until we eventually drew level and pulled a lead. Better late than never, we now have a few more points and a 10 point lead on second place in the league.
In the Tester Challenge Cup Second Round, played three days after a league match, we had to put in a weakened team, and while we were statistically supposed to be the better team, this weakened side of misfits that wouldn’t normally see game-time wasn’t able to finish and give us a goal until the last 30 seconds of added time, while Fairfield were able to make many dangerous plays against, including several I thought should have been goals.
I was beyond furious at the time, but in hindsight, I’m over it. We have three cups to compete in at virtually the same time in addition to the league, and now we’re one set of match commitments less, so hopefully we can keep the good players fit longer and reduce the risk of injury by fielding players in cups I really am not bothered by to begin with.
And, since my team captain, Oliver Bartlett put in a terrible performance to cap off his other poor performances, I decided after he decided to do a bit of bitchin’ that it was time for him to go, and he was sacked, with the captaincy going to winger Drew Shore, who unlike Bartlett, was actually good enough to command a regular place in the team.
Now, onto the most impressive match it’s ever been my good fortune to witness in Football Manager…
Immediately following our defeat to Fairfield, we went into the Brian Hall Challenge Cup and, motivated by our defeat just a week prior, put them to the sword, walking away with a nine goal difference, including 4 from reserve striker Francis Pallen in a phenomenal performance that I didn’t expect to see in a player that I was considering getting rid of. I’m still not sold on him starting regularly in place of one of my other three starting strikers, but I’m definitely willing to hold onto him and rotate him into the team and see if he can continue to perform like he did today with his 4 goals and 2 assists.
The players that have particularly impressed me in this last run of fixtures are:
Francis Pallen, naturally comes in as the highlight of the plaayers featured, since he’s been putting in decent performances, including an exceptional performance in the last match that gave him my 2nd 10.0 ever.
Drew Shore comes in as second, always putting in a good performance as my wide midfielder, despite his mediocre stats. He’s got one of the better records for consistently putting in a good result, and I feel like he’s the kind of guy the youngsters should look up to as a model of what to expect and perform like in my team.
Third and final of the highlights for players is Jordan Cross, who did well to return from 6 weeks of injury and put in a solid performance against Ansty, being instrumental in moving the ball around to create goal opportunities for his team mates, as well as getting in one himself.
Where does all of this put us?
Coming up we have the Brian Hall Challenge Cup again, facing off against Hartfield II in a week’s time, we will receive the draw for the quarter-final of the Mid-Sussex Junior Cup in the near future, and we’re first in the league with a 10 point gap on second place.
Here’s our schedule and the run of results we’ve had since the last update. As you can see, this blog was primarily an update on cups because the league schedule is bare enough that it’s easy to be loaded up on cup matches when you have three to compete for!
It’s looking very good for us at AFC Bolnore! May the future be just as good as the present and past!
As usual, I’m on Twitter @EricSnowmane, if you want to see updates on this series or just see whatever.