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The Rape of Gander Green Lane.


Lord Crumb

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It's about time I wrote another story. So here it is.

Notes.

FM2005 using 5.02 patch.

Edited Sutton Squad to reflect current team.

INTRO

Some said that he was getting stale. Others argued that the guy was doing very well, with limited resources. Sutton’s board of directors has always been frugal with the money; John Rains did well to get the U’s to the Conference. Sadly he lacked the ingenuity to keep them there. Since going down in 2000, Sutton have found it impossible to climb back up.

2003-2004 showed promise, despite a crappy start. The team brought in some excellent Youth players up. They propelled Sutton from mid table mediocrity to 2nd. Names like Jon Nurse, Nick Bailey, Tobi Jinadu and Ryan Palmer re-ignited the hope in Sutton’s fans hearts. Maybe 2004/2005 would be the year. A new season, indeed a reformatted league, for Sutton to shine in.

Then it happened.

Senior Conference scouts noticed the Sutton revolution. The exodus began with Nurse moving to Stevenage. Canvey swooped for Quinton and Barnet came in for Bailey. Jinandu and Palmer soon followed.

The fans weren’t too bothered. The team found talent before, they can unearth it again. However some of Rain’s early signings failed to satisfy.

Phil Wilson was brought in to understudy Iga. However all he had going for him was a certain Bulldog determination. Most worrying was his lack of strength and his dubious ability to handle crosses. A worrying combination.

John Scarborough helped out the defence. Or tried to. He lacked any skill as a defender whatsoever, only his ability to shrug of illness and decent pace helped him out.

Peter Fear added a touch of grit to the midfield. However at 31 he is past his best, his inability to pass a Pub by wouldn’t help his cause either.

Nigel Brake was an influential left-sided midfielder. Not what I look for in a winger, I prefer the ability to beat players and provide telling crosses.

Joff Vansittart is well known to the Sutton Faithful. He had a superb year with Sutton when they got promoted. He has been on his travels since and is now in the limelight of his career.

The Sutton fans were understandably worried that Rains was not recruiting decent players. A lot of the new signings were in the Twilight of their years. Gander Green Lane was being turned into Footballing’s ‘Elephant’s Graveyard’.

The Youth System hadn’t had a good year either. A lot of the recent graduates lacked the quality of previous years.

John Rains had grown used to criticism. Various fans had deluded him with their complaints for relative eons. However June 2004 saw his patience snap. The tea lady ambled into his office one day, to find the table cleared. The entire room had been cleared, even the Hob Nobs were gone.

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It's about time I wrote another story. So here it is.

Notes.

FM2005 using 5.02 patch.

Edited Sutton Squad to reflect current team.

INTRO

Some said that he was getting stale. Others argued that the guy was doing very well, with limited resources. Sutton’s board of directors has always been frugal with the money; John Rains did well to get the U’s to the Conference. Sadly he lacked the ingenuity to keep them there. Since going down in 2000, Sutton have found it impossible to climb back up.

2003-2004 showed promise, despite a crappy start. The team brought in some excellent Youth players up. They propelled Sutton from mid table mediocrity to 2nd. Names like Jon Nurse, Nick Bailey, Tobi Jinadu and Ryan Palmer re-ignited the hope in Sutton’s fans hearts. Maybe 2004/2005 would be the year. A new season, indeed a reformatted league, for Sutton to shine in.

Then it happened.

Senior Conference scouts noticed the Sutton revolution. The exodus began with Nurse moving to Stevenage. Canvey swooped for Quinton and Barnet came in for Bailey. Jinandu and Palmer soon followed.

The fans weren’t too bothered. The team found talent before, they can unearth it again. However some of Rain’s early signings failed to satisfy.

Phil Wilson was brought in to understudy Iga. However all he had going for him was a certain Bulldog determination. Most worrying was his lack of strength and his dubious ability to handle crosses. A worrying combination.

John Scarborough helped out the defence. Or tried to. He lacked any skill as a defender whatsoever, only his ability to shrug of illness and decent pace helped him out.

Peter Fear added a touch of grit to the midfield. However at 31 he is past his best, his inability to pass a Pub by wouldn’t help his cause either.

Nigel Brake was an influential left-sided midfielder. Not what I look for in a winger, I prefer the ability to beat players and provide telling crosses.

Joff Vansittart is well known to the Sutton Faithful. He had a superb year with Sutton when they got promoted. He has been on his travels since and is now in the limelight of his career.

The Sutton fans were understandably worried that Rains was not recruiting decent players. A lot of the new signings were in the Twilight of their years. Gander Green Lane was being turned into Footballing’s ‘Elephant’s Graveyard’.

The Youth System hadn’t had a good year either. A lot of the recent graduates lacked the quality of previous years.

John Rains had grown used to criticism. Various fans had deluded him with their complaints for relative eons. However June 2004 saw his patience snap. The tea lady ambled into his office one day, to find the table cleared. The entire room had been cleared, even the Hob Nobs were gone.

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SURPRISE SURPRISE

There was much speculation as to who would replace Rains. Sutton would also require a new coaching staff. Tony Rains went with his brother, so did the coaches and scouts.

Many were baffled as to how I was selected for the Role. My favorite was that the local Phone Book was torn up, with my name being selected from a hat. As if anyone has that amount of time on their hands. In any case, I’m ex-directory.

The first I knew of it was when I dined with Einstein and Amin. Seriously. My dreams have often revealed what the future holds, this one was no different. I was at one point of a triangular table, with Amin and Einstein at the others. Uriah Heep served tea. The scones were dreamy. I hadn’t contributed much to the conversation. Amin was grilling Einstein about physics. Apparently he wanted to make a bomb that could travel in time. I was feeling left out, which soon changed. Amin turned to me, a devilish twinkle in his eyes and said

“You are the boss now, send your Queen my regardsâ€.

I instinctively knew what I was to be the boss of. My dreams never lie to me. So when the Phone Call came, it was no surprise.

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Being a fan of Sutton I knew that the squad was a little weak. I was shocked at how unimpressive the team was though.

Goalkeepers A very weak area.

Andrew Iga Our first choice keeper. A situation that makes me weep. Reasonable in the air and determined, his communication abilities are sorely lacking though. A liability.

Phil Wilson Similar to Iga, just worse. Very frail as well. Not awe inspiring.

Defence Also fairly weak.

Stuart Booth Can play or centre defence. Not bad, though not effective at holding the line. He never gives up and plays for the team. I prefer him as a right back. That is if I do not get anyone better.

Nixon Ajoge A fearless central defender with excellent leadership abilities. Is also a team player. He is decent in the tackle but is ineffective in the air. I think he’d be better as a fullback.

John Scarborough A new player and utterly useless. His only saving grace is his speed. I’ll look to get rid of him.

Matt Gray An aggressive Right sided Defender/ Midfielder who rarely gets distracted. His defensive abilities are lacking however. Also one to go.

Tony Quinton What a player. Works really hard and has decent passing ability. Not afraid to get stuck in. Can play in Central Defence or Midfield. His abilities make me favour him as a midfielder.

Lewis Gonsalves Reasonably fast, but no good. He’ll go, leaving a gap in the left side of defence.

Midfield Central Midfield gives me a nice headache. The wings are a bit weak though.

Scott Corbett A Defensive midfielder. He is the Club Captain and sets an excellent example. A born leader, he gives his all.

Peter Fear The most famous player in our team. Has got his drink problem under control apparently, still has quite a bit of his talent. Time will tell.

Paul Honey An excellent passer of the ball who is not afraid to tackle. Could push for a place in central midfield.

Graham Tydeman A central Midfielder. He is brave aggressive and determined. However the rest of his skill set is a bit limited. Off he goes.

Attack A lot of players, I’m unsure as to who’ll figure though.

Craig Watkins. A right sided attacking midfielder. Pacy and loses opponents well. Not so good at beating his man, or delivering the final ball.

Eddie Akuamoah A left sided attacker. Has all the attributes of an acrobat. Good finisher and loves to entertain the crowd. He has to convince me though

Nigel Brake Another left sided Midfielder. Can work well with the ball at his feet, reasonably fast. He lacks other Winger skills though and is on his way out.

Ian Douglas Very fast, never loses his concentration and plays well for the team. Can‘t finish to save his life though. Not my ideal striker.

Garry Haylock An experienced Irish Striker with a good set of abilities. Have to see how he plays of course.

Andrew Martin A towering striker. I’m surprised he wasn’t converted to defence, since he is unbeatable in the air. Not so good with his footwork.

Joff Vansittart. A fan favourite. Good in the air, gives his all. Seems to have lost his edge though. I don’t think he’ll be as prolific as in the past.

So that’s my team. Goalkeeping and defence are woeful. Central Midfield is very good. The wings are weak, the attacking line leaves me with uncertainty. The reserves are all crap and are going.

I have my work cut out. Looks like I’ll have to scour the market.

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First two posts: icon14.gif one of the best openings I've read.

Third post: a partial icon13.gif : not enough clarity for me. Chuck in a bit of the old bold and my eyes would like it better.

Good luck with Sutton, though. May you knock many league teams out of the cup icon_biggrin.gif

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<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Gricehead:

First two posts: icon14.gif one of the best openings I've read.

Third post: a partial icon13.gif : not enough clarity for me. Chuck in a bit of the old _bold_ and my eyes would like it better.

Good luck with Sutton, though. May you knock many league teams out of the cup icon_biggrin.gif <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

That was my bad with the bold. I deliberatly left it out in word, I was going to add it in the reply field. However I rushed too much and pressed reply.

I was going to Bold all player names and the various position names, I won't be so hasty next time.

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Who Are These People

I had been informed that the coaching staff had all resigned. However I was shocked to discover a few cuckoo's in the nest.

A guy called Russell Fry was our coach. Chris Dunkley was the physio and it was Andrew Hawkins job to motor around the country and locate talent. To be good they were not good enough. My first decision as Manager was to fire the lot. It would cost the club 160k, it was a sacrifice I was willin to make. Shame the board would'nt agree. The cost concerned them and they vetoed it.

So now I'm stuck with rubbish staff, who know how bad I think they are. Oh the joy

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THE NOVICE MANAGER

Hardly any time to mould the side into something better. The first friendly is against Halesowen. They are one of the stronger lower league teams and should provide a challenge.

With no trialists yet signed, I’d have to play some weak players. I like to play the

4-4-2 formation with two defensive midfielders. I also like to push the wingers forward.

GK. Iga

DL. Gonsalves

DC Quinton

DC Ajoge

DR Booth

DMC Fear

DMC Corbett

ML Akuamoah

MR Watkins

SC Haylock

SC Martin

Subs The rest of the first team.

In the first half I gave no specific instructions to my team. This was a mistake since Halesowen were playing a 3-5-2. My Defensive Midfielders were overworked, exposing my weak Defensive Line. Halesowen went 2-0 up within the first 8 minutes. Both goals exposed my defence’s noted weaknesses. The first goal was down to my defenders being caught flatfooted by Jason Moore. They tried to catch him up but seemed reluctant to tackle him. The second goal showcased their aerial weaknesses. Ajoge and Quinton went roaming, as Jimy Haarhoff powered in a header.

I decided to make no changes at this point. I wanted to see where this stony road took me. Jason Moores made space for himself again but Iga saved well.

The first twenty minutes were angst ridden viewing for me. Halesowen were very comfortable, the only shot they had to deal with was an awry Fear free kick. However on 25 minutes things changed. Fear, Gonsalves and Ajoge batted the ball between themselves. Gonsalves found himself on the edge of the area and chipped in a cross. Haylock headed it in to give us hope.

Hope isn’t eternal though. Ajoge brought Haarhoff down on the edge of the area. Ben Steane stepped up, struck the ball and put it past Iga. This was only 3 minutes after our goal. I wasn’t optimistic.

The first half seemed to be petering out to a quiet finish, when we were delivered a lifeline. Akuamoah delivered a free kick into the area, Watkins headed it past the despairing Halesowen keeper. We were back in the game.

With the first half at a close, we were 3-2 down. The game wasn’t that entertaining, the defending was just poor on both sides. The only poor player was Booth. He mislaid half his passes and didn’t make a single tackle. Ajoge wasn’t playing too badly but had been indirectly responsible for two of our conceeded goals. The rest of the team was playing reasonably well, especially Akuamoah who was getting into dangerous positions.

For the Second Half I decided to bypass the Central Midfield. I told my players to use the wings. I took off Booth because he was having a bad game. Fear, Martin and Iga also departed. In their places I installed Paul Honey, Joff Vansittart and Phil Wilson.

The second half got of to a very dull start. Nothing at all happened for the first twenty minutes, the only chance came on 68 minutes when Haylock latched on to a long Quinton ball, played a one two with Watkins and found himself clear on goal. He duly proceeded to put the ball over the bar. I thought this guy was supposed to be a decent finisher, changes needed to be made.

68 Minutes

Brake for Akuamoah

Scarborough for Ajoge

Tydeman for Corbett

Douglas for Haylock

It took about 8 minutes for the changes to gel. Brake missed a good close range chance, Vansittart was looking very industrious. We were looking more dangerous, I’m sure a breakthrough would come.

It did.

On 82 minutes a Matt Gray free kick on the half way line sailed over the Halesowen defence. Vansittart broke free and slotted the ball past the defender.

Seven minutes later Honey delivered a pinpoint cross from out right. Brake rushed in from the left and headed it in. We were now in the lead.

We were not troubled at all by Halesowen in the second half. They couldn’t even rally themselves for a comeback. The game was ours

Halesowen 3)3-4(2 Sutton Utd

I was very happy with the resilience the side showed. There was not one poor player in the second half, Akuamoah and surprisingly Wilson had good games. The test would be in the next tie though. Thats when the newbies would come in.

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Too say I was annoyed would be an understatement. The useless staff that my board signed would be with me for at least 3 years. Sutton have a low wage balance, so I would have to annoy the board, to bring in the chaps I want.

I personally searched high and low across the country. Many a pub was scoured for potential coaching stars. I met David Jarrett in the Local Supermarket of all places. I would like to state that nothing of an erotic nature took place following our meeting. It was all pleasure.

To cut it short, David Jarrett is a scouting machine. He has a good eye for talent, his youth gives him enthusiasm. At 22 he is very young to be in our position, I’ll give him a chance. David Jarrett, new head scout.

My attempts to get another scout were fruitless. Ray Clarke looked good but he wanted £400 a week. I offered him £200 and he turned up his nose.

Next in was Linton Brown. A very good coach, he also possessed a very good rapport with kids but would take no crap. I welcomed him into the fold.

I still needed another coach and an Assistant. Once again my dreams would come in handy.

What I saw was baffling. An old style 1960’s Action Man was stuffed into a crevice in the wall. Rocks would fling from out of nowhere, and bounce off the toy, away from the crevice. Meanwhile a small glistening beetle scurried around madly, defeating the attentions of a marauding ant.

I stood and watched this bizarre display, I had no idea what it meant. It would have to be spelt out to me.

“That Action Man was made by Palitoy, that beetle has a carapace similar too a hairstyleâ€.

The disembodied voice didn’t really help me. Its velvet tones were good to listen to though.

“For heavens sake, Beardsley and Pallisterâ€.

Then it all made sense. Pallister = Palitoy and Beetle = Beardsley. I know that dreams are supposed to work in mysterious ways but that was just ridiculous. An action man defending a crevice, a scurrying black beetle evading an ant. Too tenuous.

However I never ignore my dreams. Beardsley became my assistant, Pallister another coach. I now had a very good core, my staff was still let down by three deadweights though. How would I dispose of them? Could I dispose of them?

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With decent coaches on the roster, I could implement a proper training regime. The facilities at Sutton were decent for Conference South levels, I think they could be improved though. Now is not the time however.

The entire squad was put on a vigorous physical regime. I wanted them to be in peak condition for the beginning of the season. Once it had begun, it would be horses for courses, before then I wanted my side to have the stamina advantage.

My first team was aided by the addition of two players. Phil Salt completed my central midfield team. He added a quality, which my current crop lacked, creativity. Ricardo Beckford was signed to fill my Left Wing slot. Now either Brake or Akuamoah would find themselves out the door. I needed to make a lot of changes, the wage bill would have to come down.

I had Beardsley have a quick look at my team. He agreed with my impression of overall weakness in the squad, but disagreed as to who the key player were. He rates Ian Douglas and Lewis Gonsalves, which I disagree with. He also saw a lot of potential in Watkins. I remain to be convinced.

Our next friendly was a trip to Essex. Chelmsford to be precise. Chelmsford also play at a lower level than we do. I wouldn’t expect them to be a walkover however.

I made very few changes to the team that beat Halesowen. Beckford came in on the Left wing. I replaced Corbett with Salt. Salt was moved up into central midfield so in effect I was playing a 4-1-3-2. Chelmsford used a conventional 4-4-2.

Chelmsford v Sutton Utd

It was a dire game. Chelmsford made most of the play in the first half, and deserved to be 1-0 up. The goal was a freak. Iga gave a goal kick away to one of the opponents. Quinton brought down Ansell 35-40 yards away from the goal. Garry Cross floated the ball into the area. Ansell and Iga went to claim it. It bounced past both of them into the net. I could only fault Iga for the goal.

We did have two good chances in the half, both were missed at close range by Haylock and Watkins. Chelmsford had plenty more, for the most part their finishing was woeful.

Chelmsford shut up shop in the second half. I changed virtually the entire team but the half was a dull parody of football. The final score was 1-0 to Chelmsford and I was a very worried man.

Chelmsford 1)1-0(0 Sutton Utd.

We lost the ability to penetrate the defence of an inferior team. Our passing and distribution was excellent, we just lost ability in the final 3rd. Wilson had another good game, Ajoge also played well. Salt and Beckford had reasonable games but didn’t penetrate the Chelmsford defence. Watkins really struggled on the Right wing. I needed more options.

I was cheered up a little after the game by the signing of Sean Coburn. I now had a dangerous skilful right winger to go with the left. Maybe things were looking up.

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Many faces paraded themselves before me during the next few days. I had a friendly coming up against Chesham. I didn’t want a repeat of the debacle against Chelmsford. I took on over 20 trialists, a few stood out from the crowd.

John Hodges. A goalkeeper who had previous experience with Plymouth and Leicester. Weaker in the air than Iga, but a much better shot stopper and not prone to wander.

Lee Marshall. Can play on the left or right of defence. Reasonable defensive stats, what stands out is his willingness to take one for the team. Can also be pushed into attack.

Vance Warner A superb tackler who can play in central defence or midfield. Along with Marshall came up through the Nottingham Forest youth system.

John Gibbens. Very creative and an excellent passer. May be a luxury for our midfield however.

Marc Heckingbottom. A determined player who can perform any midfield role.

Adam Buckley. Not the fastest or strongest left winger but he can beat anyone and then deliver a killer cross.

Ian Duerden. Very good at cropping up in dangerous positions. His poor scoring record for clubs like Altringham warrant further investigation

Kevin Larvin. A very good finisher. Knows where to be when the ball comes in. Was on Leicester's books, never played a game for them.

The team that took the field against Chesham was totally unrecognizable from the side that lost against Chelmsford. I played a conventional 4-4-2 with the wingers pushed up.

GK Hodges

DL Heathcote

DR Booth

DC Quinton

DC Warner

ML Buckley

MC Williamson

MC Gibbens

MR Coburn

FC Duerden

FC Larvin

Chesham v Sutton Utd

We didn’t get off to a bad start. Heathcote delivered a good ball to Buckley who whipped it in for Duerden. Duerden didn’t reach it but he must have really panicked the goalkeeper, for Hurst basically batted the ball into his own net. The rest of the half was all Chesham. Lombardo got into good positions for them but his finishing was awful. Both Larvin and Duerden had chances for us, but the shots went over. On the plus side Hodges was having a solid game and Buckley looked dangerous.

I made wholesale changes for the second half. I also gave my wingers freedom to roam. The most important change was the replacement of Duerden for Haylock.

Haylock played a blinder. His finishing vastly improved, in fact he went on to get a hat-trick. His first goal was provided by Hodges. Haylock ran into space and placed the ball beyond Hurst. The second was a fine free kick from 25 yards. The last was another clinical finish. The second half was ours, I was very glad.

Chesham 0)0-4(1 Sutton Utd

Every player was good, Hodges and Buckley were better and Haylock was superb. His performance in this game went a long way to raising my esteem for him, can he deliver more like it remains to be seen.

I immediately offer contracts to Hodges and Buckley.

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The major aim of my pre season was to get my entire squad match fit. To that effect five matches to follow would allow the entire squad, including lacklustre reserves, to take the field. The next game though was a high profile tie against Nottingham Forest. So most of my expected first team would take the field.

Sutton Utd v Nottingham Forest

GK Hodges

DL Vella

DR Marshall

DC Quinton

DC Warner

ML Buckley

MR Coburn

MC Fear

MC Salt

FC Haylock

FC Larvin

Forest were by far the superior side, Sutton didn’t do themselves a disservice though. The first fifteen minutes were hairy. Kris Commons would be a thorn in our side for the entire match. His pace and interplay with David Johnson left our poor defenders for dead. On eleven minutes Hodges was caught on the edge of the area by Johnson. His cross was well intercepted by Warner, sadly the ball was put back in by Tebily, Commons found it very simple to score.

The U’s had a better run of the field after the first third of the game had elapsed. However it took well into the second half for us to make any real headway. Salt missed an easy rebound from a Larvin shot, Beckford put a free kick just wide.

The game ended 1-0 to Forest. We were outclassed, but I was not discouraged. Nobody put in a bad performance, even if nobody shone either. We actually had an equal share of the ball, though most of our possession was in our defensive area. The worrying thing was how easily our defence was shook off by marauding strikers. They lack the right blend of pace and positional know how. A major bonus was our gate receipts of £35.000.

Sutton Utd 0)0-1(1 Nottingham Forest

Sutton Utd v Kidderminster Harriers.

Kidderminster fielded a side that lacked many of their regulars from the previous season. It became apparent though that many of their veterans had moved on. So in effect Kidderminster fielded a full strength team. However we did not.

GK Hodges

DR Gibbens

DL Gonsalves

DC Warner

DC Ajoge

MR Clarke

ML Buckley

MC Heckingbottom

MC Salt

FC Duerden

FC Douglas

A better performance from us, against a team two leagues above Sutton. We kept the ball for as long as Kidderminster did and had almost as many chances. It took a wonder free kick from Richie Appleby to put them ahead.

We were 1-0 down at half time, so wholesale changes were made. Larvin impressed me with his ability to create danger and scored for us from a cross. The game finished 1-1 and we were well worth the draw. Kevin Larvin and Phil Salt had impressive games, Hodges was the only weak point.

Sutton Utd 0)1-1(1 Kidderminster Harriers

Sutton Utd v Coventry City

A re-run of the famous 1989 FA Cup game, incidentally also another money spinner. I decided to play another weakened team. I wanted to see how my fringe players performed.

GK Hodges

DR Booth

DL Heathcote

DC Scarborough

DC Ajoge

MR Watkins

ML Beckford

MC Quinton

MC Tydeman

FC Haylock

FC Martin

Once again we were outclassed by higher league opposition The only difference was the scoreline. 2-0 to Coventry. We did have our chances, indeed Haylock demonstrated a good ability to make space for himself and an inability to put away sitters. I wouldn’t say the score line was inaccurate.

Once again there were no bad performances from our team. Iga had a good second half, which makes me feel better for him. Some promising signs but I think our strikers need some vigorous training

Sutton Utd 0)0-3(1 Coventry City.

Next was a trip to Staffordshire, to face Stafford Rangers. It was a very strange game. My squad of fringe players and no-hopers played well but were completely outmaneuvered. We managed not a single shot on goal, Stafford had most of the ball and fourteen shots on goal. I think their 2-0 win flattered us.

Stafford Rangers 2)2-0(0 Sutton Utd

I wasn’t very encouraged for the visit of Everton's reserve team. Once again my fringe players took the field and proved to be more dangerous. Everton won 3-2 but the signs were encouraging. We effectively shut them out in the second half, Martin proved dangerous in the air and Beckford played well on the left wing. However our defence still has Weaknesses. Ajoge and Warner aren’t great in the air, that deficiency let Everton in twice.

Sutton Utd 1)2-3(3 Everton

With our pre season over, we now have a fit squad of players ready to take on Basingstoke. A few injuries have muddied the waters somewhat. Lee Marshall is out for a week with a groin strain and Craig Watkins is out for a month with fractured ribs.

When I took the reins at Sutton, I noticed how weak the squad was in vital areas. I have brought in a total of ten players to improve the squad but it still needs to be built up. Central defence is an especially worrying area, which I must strive to improve.

Most of the trialists managed to impress me. The following players have joined the Sutton family.

Ricardo Beckford

Phil Salt

Sean Coburn

John Hodges

Adam Buckley

Vance Warner

Lee Marshall

Jonathon Heathcote

Jon Gibbens

Kevin Larvin

I think we can do well this season. Realistically promotion is beyond us though.

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One of the laments of a non-league manager is the lack of a decent budget to play with. Many teams such as Hornchurch and Telford get lots of money to play with. Ultimately their big backer pulls out, the team sinks or swims. Telford has been dissolved and AFC Telford may never reach the heights achieved by their predecessor. Hornchurch risk going the same way. I was amazed to see that despite their debt, none of their high earners have been sold on. In fact they have made further savings.

Which brings me to my predicament. Sutton will never go bust. Bruce Elliot is very good at managing the finances and will always make sure that Utd are balancing the books. The bad thing is that I will get little money to purchase replacements and the wages on offer are poor. Sutton has gained a rep in non-league for being particularly frugal. That is a barrier I’d have to find a way around.

It became obvious that my coaching staff could offer a way to boost the club coffers. Gary Pallister and Peter Beardsley have both played at the highest levels. They have plenty of fabulous anecdotes to divulge. It was with that in mind that I raised the idea of hosting an event in the clubhouse. Bruce Elliot was interested in the idea.

So on Wednesday the 11th of August, my coaching buddies held forth. Bruce Elliot managed to obtain lots of cheap tables and chairs, from somewhere. Our hastily printed tickets sold well. Just over one hundred people packed into the clubhouse to listen to the greats.

Our main speakers were Pallister, Beardsley, Garry Haylock and Peter Fear. Bruce Elliot also gave a short speech outlining the difficulties of running a non-league club. I topped and tailed the whole presentation.

The night was a success. Some people had a little difficulty understanding what Peter was saying, despite the scripts we had handed out earlier. By far the most interesting speech was from Haylock. He has played throughout Ireland and even had a short unpublicized stint in Turkey. Peter Fear looked a little uncomfortable, the fact that he was staying of the Dutch Courage may have had something to do with it.

The night ended, with happy people streaming out of the clubhouse. The bar had been drained of drink, profits were good. Total takings came up to roughly £8971, not that much was spent on booze or misc costs, so we were expecting at least £6000 profit.

I went home happy. However when I came in the next day, my good humour was dampened. Most of the money would go into paying the overheads. No money at all would be made available to strengthen the squad.

So I was back where I started!

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My inability to locate a decent Centre Half was really beginning to annoy me. I’d have to modify my formation to suit my surplus of quality Central midfielders. For my first game at home to Basingstoke I would go with a 3-1-4-2. For away games that would change to a 3-2-3-2. That way I would always have at least one defensive midfielder covering my vulnerable defence.

At least I’d solved my Goalkeeping situation. I may have been dismissive of the abilities of Andrew Hawkins but at least he found me Sean Allaway. Allaway is very good in one on one situations and has good reflexes. Very important considering my defence has shown an ability to get caught flatfooted. His addition sent my wage bill above Bruce Elliot’s fancy, so the process of offloading players would have to begin.

By the time Basingstoke visited Gander Green Lane three players had departed the club. Eddie Akuamoah went to Frickley, Phil Wilson moved to Hayes and Steve Douglas became a professional and signed for Boston Utd. I wasn’t sorry to see Wilson go but had mixed feeling about Akuamoah and Douglas. They both had their good qualities, they just didn’t fit into my plans. At least Douglas has the chance to blossom at a league club. Poor Eddie Akuamoah has just slipped further down from his peak days at Kingstonian.

Sutton Utd v Basingstoke Town

Now was the time to see if my managerial style had borne fruit. Basingstoke were another team expected to finish mid-table. This is what is known as a bread and butter game.

Hodges got the nod over Allaway in goal. My defence picked itself. Marshall, Heathcote and Warner are my best defenders. The only worrying weakness is a lack of height in my backline. That is why I had Peter Fear play in front of them to break up the opposition’s attack before it reached the goal area.

Coburn and Buckley play on the wings. Coburn is the only real option on the right but Buckley may have real competition from Ricardo Beckford. The Central Midfield pairing consists of Gibbens and Salt. Only one of these will get to play every game and they also have Paul Honey breathing down their neck.

My strike force consists of Martin and Haylock. Martin is excellent in the area and Haylock is a good finisher. Hopefully they can set each other up.

GK Hodges

DL Heathcote

DR Marshall

DC Warner

DMC Fear

ML Buckley

MR Coburn

MC Salt

MC Gibbens

FC Haylock

FC Martin

Subs

Allaway, Booth, Beckford, Corbett, Larvin

If this game proved anything, it was that our defence is weak but the opposing strike teams are utter bilge. Basingstoke had almost a 2-1 advantage in shots on goal, but only managed to hit the back of the net once. We scored three times. Haylock and Martin combined very well. Martin made his presence known to the Basingstoke defenders, Haylock was very clinical in front of goal.

Basingstoke were always chasing the game, Haylock scored on two minutes, slotting in a shot from a Buckley cross. Before 30 minutes was up, Haylock added an almost identical goal. The third came just before half time from Martin. He headed i a Coburn corner.

My team played well that day but let themselves open at the back. Basingstoke utilized a pair of speedy strikers, who combined their pace with useless finishing. Hodges was busy this day.

All the team played well but a few names stand out. Hodges had a very good game in goal. Warner was stalwart in Defence, despite being dragged out of position a few times. Buckley was dangerous on the left wing and Haylock was deadly in the six-yard box. A promising tie, however it raised worrying points.

SUTTON UTD 3)3-1(0 BASINGSTOKE

Haylock 2,30 Whiddett 64

Martin 35

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So the season had got off to a decent start. However much work was still to be done. There was still a defence to fortify and useless players to offload ASAP.

Loui Fazakerley moved down the Non League pyramid to Gloucester City. I wish him well, he was a personable chap. Meanwhile my scouting machine, David Jarrett, located a decent young striker by the name of Leeon Poole. I imagine his parents must have been fans of the early 80’s pop group Imagination. Leeon helps to cover an area which I think is weak, right side of defence. At £10 a week he is very cheap as well. Those sixteen-year-olds come cheap.

I was forced to remind some of my players that it would be nice to have their issues reported to me. I heard from Peter Beardsley that Adam Buckley is unhappy playing on the left wing. His preferred position? Left wing??? I had a little conversation with young Mr Buckley and he failed to give me an adequate answer as to why he was lacking contentment. I have no idea how to keep the guy pleased. Thank god I still have Ricardo Beckford to deal with any Buckley idiosyncrasies.

Next game saw us make a midweek trip to Thurrock. Some of the squad wanted to travel early, to take advantage of the shopping centre. Thurrock of course was formerly known as Purfleet. Many followers of the non-league game still call them that. They are not a team expected to challenge.

I made a few changes, both to the lineup and to the tactics. I moved one midfielder back into a defensive midfield position. This is the formation I’d always play away from home. Hodges made way in goal for Allaway. Hodges had played very well in the previous match, I just wanted to see how Allaway performed. Gibbens was moved to the subs bench, to make way for the more defensively minded Quinton. Martin wasn’t fully match fit, so I replaced him with Larvin. Joff Vansittart made his first appearance on the subs bench

Thurrock gave us a good battle, however we were superior in all departments and they couldn’t finish for toffee. Things did get off to a bad start however. I had to take Buckley off within the first ten minutes due to a knock. Beckford took his place. Two minutes later Thurrock scored. A poor clearance from Allaway was intercepted. A ball was floated through to Bowes, who evaded the defence and slotted home.

Allaway had to make two good saves after that. Our only chance was a Haylock run. He basically made the opportunity for himself, his shot was easily changed.

With nothing going for us I decided to make some tactical changes. However Thurrock presented us with a chance. Larvin was upended needlessly on the edge of the area. Haylock and Coburn discussed between themselves who’d have the honour of taking the free-kick. Coburn won, he stepped up to the ball and put it into the net. 1-1 and we are back in it. I count my lucky stars that Sutton have at least two good free kick takers in the side..

I decided not to rest on my laurels. I pushed Fear into Central Midfield. Only Quinton would provide cover for Warner.

My change had an almost immediate affect. My team retained possession in midfield a whole lot better. On 45 minutes we scored another. Larvin and Beckford interchanged well. Beckford got free on the Left Wing and delivered a fine cross to Haylock, who headed home.

2-1 at half time and I was happier than I thought I would be. Still changes needed to be made. Peter Fear was having a somewhat quiet game, so I took him off and replaced him with Corbett. I reverted to my standard defensive formation.

If anything we had it easier in the 2nd half. Thurrock tried to attack but they went 3-1 down when they fell prey to a classic counter attack. Coburn received the ball from Heathcote and played a superb long ball to Larvin. He beat the last remaining defender and sweetly struck the ball home.

Thurrock were disheartened by that goal and faded from the game. Defeat turned into a rout during injury time, when Haylock scored his second of the game. A nice easy header from a Corbett cross. Booth made his first appearance of the Season, near the end. He replaced a crocked Coburn.

Virtually the entire team put in a Sterling performance. The exceptions were Buckley and Fear. Buckley was injured before he could make an impression. Fear was poor, he hardly made any impression on the game at all, Corbett was much better in the second half.

I was pleased to see Haylock continue his good form. Larvin looks good as well.

Thurrock 1)1-4(2 Sutton United

Next up is a home game against Maidenhead, who has recently assumed bogeyman status for Sutton.

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<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Lord Crumb:

I imagine his parents must have been fans of the early 80’s pop group Imagination. <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

icon_biggrin.gif

I was thinking exactly the same thing when I noticed him.

This is superb. Don't beat Lewes, Eastbourne Boro or Bognor though icon_mad.gificon_wink.gif

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<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by displaced_seagull:

<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Lord Crumb:

I imagine his parents must have been fans of the early 80’s pop group Imagination. <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

icon_biggrin.gif

I was thinking exactly the same thing when I noticed him.

This is superb. Don't beat Lewes, Eastbourne Boro or Bognor though icon_mad.gificon_wink.gif <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Bugger Bognor! icon_biggrin.gif

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"Urrgh lurggh mnnurggh"

I have no idea what type of language the Neanderthals used in their daily life. Meaningles mumbo jumbo is the usual stereotype that is used to describe their speech patterns. I think that whatever tongue they conversed in, it was more meaningful than imprecise grunts and groans. I'm sure that if they were alive today, the Neanderthal people would be most offended at such a horrific general slur on their linguistic abilities. I can imagine Bear Tooth or Mammoth Hide standing erect and proud in Parliment, bemoaning the fact that they are classed in the same category as the sallow youths who enjoy congregating outside McDonalds across the country, every Friday & Saturday night.

One thing I do know however, is that the Neanderthal species died out. They failed to adapt. The Earth entered an Interglacial period, the woolly mammoths died out, the dreaming people , as Stephen Baxter liked to call them, could not change their preferences. They carried on dreaming about hurds of Furry Elephants, whilst Cro Magnon man took over their old stomping grounds, and drove them out. Neanderthals were much stronger than our ancestors but much less creative.

Truth be told, there is stil much conjecture as to why this rival to Homo Sapiens died out. The lack of adaptibility was the image that played itself out in my dream. The Neanderthals strangely resembled Peter Fear and Vance Warner. A horde of modern men were rushing them. The first few were easily clubbed down. The horde seemed to pause in collective thought. Two of them scrabbled in the dirt. Fear and Warner looked on, their faces were comically stupid. The stupidity remained but their life bled away. The spears saw to that. The Human archers had loads of material to play with. Human material. They scavenged their dead comrades for bones, and sharpened them into wicked points. My two Neanderthal players looked on bewildered, as dozens of improvised javelins pierced their skins. They did nothing, they died becase they could do nothing! I woke up in a sweat, the major imprint that was left on my conscious mind was a 3-2-3-2 carved on Peter Fear's Apeman corpse.

The message was clear, adapt or die. It wouldn't be long before the other teams figured my formation out. All honeymoons have to end!

The message was clear, do I have the ability to act on it though?

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“What is wrong Adam?â€

“Well Mr Dobtcheff, You’re playing me on the Left Wing, I don’t like to play there!â€

“Correct me if I’m wrong, you are a Left-Winger aren’t you?â€

“Yeah Mr Dobtcheff but I don’t like to play there!â€

“Where do you want to play then?â€

“Dunno!â€

That is as far as I got with Buckley. I have no idea how to keep him happy. His lack of self-knowledge only serves for him to lose his place to Beckford.â€

Sutton Utd v Maidenhead

Beckford would enjoy his run-out at home to Maidenhead, a team who have enjoyed playing against us in recent seasons. Hopefully I’ll be the manager who wipes the smile off their faces. Beckford was the only change I made to the team, from the one that run amuck against Thurrock.

My players seemed to go out with the intention of putting Maidenhead out of commission. It wasn’t long before Marshall and Coburn had clattered Onwere and Harris out of the game. I think those early substitutions may have been vital, because Maidenhead faded away late on.

For the first 55 minutes they were equal to us. The key to breaking them lay in diverting my assaults away from their central midfield and hitting them on the wings. Beckford provided the first, neatly providing a hanging cross for Salt to nod in. Coburn did the same later on for Larvin on 76 minutes.

Maidenhead can feel unhappy that they lost, they were as good as us in many areas of the game, only the fact that I outflanked them turned the tide.

My whole team played well once again. Beckford was outstanding on the wing, Salt orchestrated well from Central Midfield and Allaway had another good game in goal.

Sutton Utd 0)2-0(0 Maidenhead

So the Maidenhead hoodoo was broken. Next up was a trip to Redbridge. I saw no reason to change my team from the last game.

Redbridge v Sutton Utd

This game followed a very similar pattern to the last one. Redbridge had more attempts on goal, we had the midfield advantage and were more clinical. I’ll have to find a way to deal better with the enemies’ penchant for long ball attacks, we are vulnerable.

Martin was injured very early on. I brought on Larvin, who had impressed in his Sub appearances. Our first goal did not come from open play. Haylock was fouled on the edge of the box on 35 minutes. Coburn drifted in a nice cross. Larvin used his excellent movement to lose the defence an headed in 1-0

Our lead did look precarious, so I made a few changes. I pulled my wingers back, so they would be able to deal with Redbridge's advanced Wingers better. I pushed up Salt, to pressure the opposing central midfield better. With Fear and Quinton behind him, Salt should not be left exposed.

The changes did improve our play, sadly we still managed to concede. Aptly they scored from a free kick. The ball found Flanagan who had no trouble losing Heathcote. One all, time for further changes. Coburn and Fear were flagging, so I brought on Gibbens and club captain Corbett.

None of my subs were influential, I think that my formation was though. My reinforced flanks stifled the Redbridge attacks, Salt was enjoying his midfield freedom. Haylock was the man who won the game for us. He thrived on the opportunities provided by Gibbens and Beckford. He scored two for us on 77 and 82. He was our star.

It was another good team performance. Beckford was once again superb on the Left Wing. Quality ran through the entire team.

Redbridge 0)1-3(1 Sutton Utd

Next up a home game against Bishop’s Stortford. Masters of the bore draw!

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Bishops Stortford came to Gander Green Lane with the sole intention of preserving their reputation as the dullest team in non-league football. Buckley made his return to the squad sheet, to replace the tired Beckford. I also gave the first start in a senior match for Kevin Larvin. I have been impressed with his improvement in training. He is now the deadliest finisher at the club. All he needs to do is improve his pace and he’d be the most dangerous striker in the league.

Sutton Utd v Bishops Stortford

‘Stortford preserved their position as the dullest team in the league. They restricted us to three shots during the game. They only had one attempt. Of course it was only natural that they should score from it.

We went one nil up with our first shot of the game. Marshall lobbed a speculative cross into the area. A ‘Stortford defender went for, Phil Salt challenged him. Salt had no intention to score from the challenge but the ball drifted in!

The rest of the half was dull. ‘Stortford managed their equalizer just before half time. I have to credit Oliver Blackwell for his reckless bravery. He threw himself at the ball and it went past Allaway.

We were limited by a stout defensive Bishops Stortford performance for the rest of the game. They virtually eradicated my Right side of defence by bundling over Marshall then his replacement Booth. The game ended 1-1 and I was not happy. The first dropped points of the season.

Sutton Utd 1)1-1(1 Bishops Stortford

Booth was out for a month. Marshall would be ok. A very average performance, nobody shined. What concerned me most was the lack of chances created once ‘Stortford shut up shop. Things would have to change.

St Albans v Sutton Utd

Beckford was fit again, so he replaced the very ordinary Buckley. I decided not to change my formation, despite St Alban’s use of an attacking 4-4-2, a formation I’d had trouble with before. However St Alban’s were struggling just over the relegation zone, so I’d be able to see whether my standard formation worked against a poor team.

The first half was one way traffic, with St Alban’s, making some dangerous play. I decided to alter the formation for the second half. I pulled my wingers back, and sent Salt forward to occupy the midfield. It worked a treat. It took a fantastic Haylock free kick on 66 minutes to break the deadlock. Five minutes later, Haylock was on target again, all thanks to a pinpoint accurate cross from Beckford. Our Second Half performance was much better. St Albans would rue the chances they missed.

St Alban’s 0)0-2(0 Sutton Utd

An excellent team performance from us. Haylock and Warner were superb. Warner has had a very good year so far, he enjoys being the last man!

Next up was a difficult game away to Cambridge City. Andrew Martin was welcomed back to the first team. Buckley was given another chance to shine on the Left Wing. He should hope to impress me, after all his whinging. Cambridge is a bit of an unknown quantity to us, having previously appeared in the Dr Marten’s league. They are riding high in sixth place as well, so it should be a difficult game.

Cambridge City v Sutton Utd

Oh dear. Cambridge was much better than us and unlike other teams in the league, could actually convert their chances. Their Jonathon Stevenson was very good at getting himself between my defensive midfielders and Warner. He scored either side of Andrew Martin’s equalizer. He took advantage of an awful punch from the Cambridge City keeper.

Our second half performance was slightly improved, however it was not enough. We lost

2-1.

Cambridge City 2)2-1(1 Sutton Utd

Another average performance from our team. Allaway had a run of the mill match and Buckley did himself no favours. Once again the Defensive players were left exposed. I should have realized how good Stevenson was. Many points to ponder for the next game.

David Jarrett, alleged Super-Scout, helped me out by finding a superb young Central Defender. Steven Murphy has many of the attributes needed in a Central Defender including pace, which has been a weak spot. Also he is only 18, so time is on my side.

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Thanks to our dire loss at Cambridge City, we had dropped to 2nd place. I was of course unhappy at this state of affairs. Margate were to be the next visitors to Gander Green Lane, they were just behind us in 3rd.

Sutton Utd v Margate

It should come as no surprise that Adam Buckley lost his place to Beckford. I only intend to use him when Beckford is injured. He has only himself to blame. He cannot hide behind the excuse that I’m playing him out of position. Tactically I decided to counter Margate’s attacking 4-4-2 from the start. The wingers were held back, Salt would make forward forays.

The tactic worked in the first half, unfortunately Margate adapted. The game ended in a bore draw. I cannot help but feel that we are losing ground! It was another good team performance though, with Beckford turning in another good performance.

Strange fact. All nine of our chances were headers. Martin in particular towered over the opposition.

Sutton Utd 0)0-0(0 Margate

No competitive league games for at least two weeks. If we win away to Leek, that’ll stretch to three weeks. Leek would be our First FA Cup opponent of the year. Sutton have a formidable reputation as Giant Killers to uphold. A rep that has sadly gone by the wayside in recent years.

I have to admit, if Sutton had a competitive game in midweek, I’d have fielded a weakened side. With no league games for a while though, that wouldn’t have to happen.

Leek Town v Sutton Utd FA Cup 2nd Qualifying Round

FA Cup equaled experimentation time as far as I was concerned. I wanted to see how an attacking 4-4-2 would work out for me. Fear was dropped to the bench and Steven Murphy made his Sutton Utd debut in Central Defence. Tony Quinton moved up to Central Midfield.

Leek aren’t a bad team at all and they pushed us hard. we were lucky when Andrew Martin put us into an early lead with a trademark header from a Coburn cross. Allaway was in fine fettle and denied Nigel Jemson and co many a time. By half time we were lucky to be 1-0 up. I reverted to our normal formation and it seemed to steady the ship. Leek’s troublesome attack faded in the second half. Andrew Martin made things more comfortable. He actually used his feet to score a goal. I was amazed. We ended up 2-0 winners. On reflection I think Leek deserved a Gander Green replay. Perhaps a lack of finishing power was responsible for their slide down the Non League!

Leek Town 0)0-2(1 Sutton Utd

Next up for us was a trip to Stalybridge Celtic. Another ex Conference outfit. They were sitting bottom of the Conference North. So in theory it was a game we should win.

Stalybridge Celtic v Sutton Utd FA Cup 3rd Qualifying Round

I reverted back to my usual formation. Murphy dropped to the bench and Fear regained his customary place in Defensive Midfield.

Without a doubt the most disappointing game of the season so far. How the hell did our highly placed team do so badly against an opponent struggling in the Parallel division? Stalybridge even handed us an advantage when Matt Smith got himself sent off after 76 minutes. Andrew Martin had already put us ahead through the penalty spot, so I was understandably confident. You can imagine how ****ed off I was when Celtic pulled themselves level. Despite our numerical advantage they were still calling the shots. Sutton seemed unable to convert all our good play into Shots on goal. My red angry face exploded into incoherent babbling rage on 87 minutes when Stalybridge scored again, Allaway basically threw the game. Literally. He caught the ball from a corner, then lobbed it into his own net.

With three minutes left plus injury time, I would have expected my team to push forward. However despite pushing everyone forward, the Celtic goal was never challenged.

Stalybridge Celtic 0) 2-1 (0 Sutton Utd

I cannot understand how my team can play well, yet fail to create chances. The Defensive players were exposed again. The first goal can be attributed to Warner and Marshall. They left such a large gap between them, that the entire Solar System could have orbited in it!

I am very disappointed that Sutton Utd’s recent poor performance in the FA Cup will continue. However there are still things to solve. My defence is often left exposed on the break, and my midfielders are not creating enough chances. The only reason we have scored as often as we have is because my Strikers are very good. In all but two games so far, the opposing team have had more chances on goal. This must change!

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I have a problem. Maybe my psyche can solve the problems. I have heard that if you think about something before you go to sleep, you will dream about it. It seemed so simple! All I had to do was retire to bed.

Things didn’t turn out so simply. For the first couple of nights I didn’t dream of anything, at least that I can remember. One week after my dreaming attempts began, still nothing. I was beginning to get disheartened. It was then that I got an answer. Sadly it was in response to a totally different question, it was also only an insight, not a solution.

Adam Buckley was standing still on a pitch. He was truly grotesque. His torso and leg were normal. His face was recognizable. What were different were his arms. Or rather what had replaced them. Four-meter long tentacles quivered in excitement. My eyes were drawn to the tufts of hair that sprouted from each segment of his tentacles. The bizarre limbs wee trying and failing, to reach a ball that was just out of their reach. All Buckley had to do was step forward a little. He was unwilling to do this though.

As strange as it may seem, this gave me an insight into his character. He expects everything to be put on a plate for him and is unwilling to make any effort if things get tough. The tentacles represent something else too. Buckley is a fan of Anime. In particular Hentai. The tentacles are a stereotypical aspect of Hentai, every satire I have seen of it seems to emphasize them, usually in rape fantasies. Maybe the dream was letting me in on an unsavory aspect of Buckley’s character.

As long as he can improve his form and he doesn’t act on his fantasies, or rather get caught, I don’t care. I am a football manager, not a moral paragon.

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  • 2 weeks later...

After that dreadful performance against Stalybridge, I don’t think anyone would be able to blame me for making changes. The players available did not allow me to make changes though, so I kept faith with the chaps who flopped against Stalybridge.

Lewes v Sutton United.

We had a trip to mid table Lewes to look forward to. Our opponent’s form had been somewhat patchy, so I was confident of doing well. They had been using a 4-4-2 formation with attacking wingers, so I decided to push all my attacks through the Centre Midfield.

I admit that for the first 45 minutes Steve King, my opposite number, succeeded in totally outsmarting me. His team came out with a 3-5-2, swamping my Central Midfielders. Within 15 minutes I was 2-0 down. Lee Fieldwick scored a magnificent free kick on Seven Minutes. Allaway had the Right Post Covered, but the shot was too strong for him. A few minutes later we fell foul of Lewes midfield dominance. Fear was not efficient enough in his closing down. Fieldwick took the ball on the Left Wing and delivered a good cross for Moore, who had made a good run from Central Midfield. Two Nil down, I had some changes to make.

All play was to be made down the wings. My two defensive midfielders would continue screening Warner in Central Defence, whilst Salt would effectively turn into an extra striker.

The major effect of this tactic was that Lewes attacks stalled in midfield, they were no longer getting any joy intercepting wayward passes in midfield. Unfortunately Sutton were not attacking well either. It would take a stroke of luck to put things right. Lady Luck would smile on Sutton.

Lee Fieldwick had been a major thorn in our side. He had scored one goal and provided the other. His runs down the Left Wing had troubled us immensely. We were glad when he solved the problem he was causing, by removing himself from the field of play. Lewes was now down one man and had lost their most effective player. They changed to a defensive formation, Sutton would now see far more of the ball.

It took only five minutes for us to get back into the game. Beckford raced down the wing and whipped in a cross. Salt arrived late in the area and powered the ball home. Not long afterwards the referee blew for half time. Salt chose a good time to pull one back.

I decided not to make any changes in the second half. I was sure we had the advantage.

It didn’t work out that way. After twenty minutes of the second half had elapsed, we’d still to make any inroads into the Lewes defence. Coburn was having a poor match, so I took him off. Haylock was tiring so he went as well. Jon Gibbens and Kevin Larvin came on in their place.

It took a further 10 odd minutes for the changes to gel. On 78 minutes we scored possibly the best goal of the season so far. It was cross wing delight. Gibbens and Beckford crossed the ball from one side of the pitch to the other. Basically a one-two that used the entire width of the green. Beckford took the ball to the edge of the area and crossed in for Salt, who had once again arrived late. His second goal, our equalizer was scored in a very similar fashion to the first. That couldn’t conceal the superb team play that had gone into the goal though.

Lewes tried to tighten up for the remainder of the match but they made an error right at the death. Their central defenders concentrated on Larvin and forgot about Martin. They were caught flatfooted by Warner’s long ball from midfield. Martin sped as fast as he could and rifled the ball past the Lewes keeper. Soon afterwards the whistle went.

Lewes 2)2-3(1 Sutton Utd

We only got back into the game due to the sending off of Fieldwick. He was by far their best player and they missed him. Our performances were mixed. Allaway had a poor game and Coburn was awful on the wing. On the plus side Beckford was superb once again and Salt’s contributions were vital. Lee Marshall also impressed at Right Back.

Sutton Utd v Welling

No changes for the visit of Paul Parker’s Welling. We expected to be up against a very defensive formation. Welling hadn’t been playing well recently and needed to stop the goals.

They succeeded. I needed vast amounts of caffeine to keep me awake during this one. Coburn was injured within 10 minutes, so that limited our options early on. Parker decided to play a 3-6-2 which meant that possession was hard to come by. The best chance came for Haylock, who managed to get free of the defence but blasted wide. The only other incident of note was that Andy Martin only got a yellow card for a two-footed challenge. I would imagine that the FA will not be happy with Andy Foulkes for that decision.

Sutton Utd 0-0 Welling

An average performance all round. The only player of note was the Welling keeper, who made a few good saves.

Next up, a home match against dangerous Hayes. With the draw against Welling we slipped down to 4th. Grays are a challenger and a team we need to beat.

Sorry Displaced Seagull.

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Craig Watkins made his first team debut for the important match against Grays. Apart from that we were unchanged. Once again Andrew Foulkes would take charge of the game.

Sutton Utd v Grays Athletic

What a total utter disaster. The cracks were chiseled open by a rampant Gray’s side and Peter Fear decided to earn himself a Red Card with a stupid two-footed challenge. Foulkes had let Martin off with a similar challenge in the last game, so he must have thought he needed to even things out.

The rest of my defenders seemed reluctant to make a challenge. The Grays strikers Eastwood and Remy were very good at exploiting the gap between Warner and the two fullbacks. They slaughtered us.

Grays managed four goals. Our only consolation was a Haylock tap in. A game to forget.

Sutton Utd 1)1-4(2 Grays Athletic.

They were very few positive aspects I could take from the game. The win against Lewes seems to have been a blip amongst a sea of crap. Peter Fear was playing badly, even before he got himself sent off. Andrew Martin was totally ineffectual. Watkins didn’t play too badly but he cannot have enjoyed his debut.

The cracks were definitely showing in our formation. I would have to make changes for the upcoming game at Carshalton in the FA trophy.

Carshalton Athletic v Sutton Utd

Peter Fear was on the verge of getting dropped, when he got himself dismissed against Grays and cemented his fall from grace. Scott Corbett had played reasonably well the few times he had started. Just before I penciled him in, Scott decided to crock himself. He would not be available for 2 months.

I was forced to bring in Jon Gibbens. He isn’t really a Defensive Midfielder, he’d have to adapt though. I made no other changes, Watkins would get another chance to shine.

If we had been drawn against anyone else, I’d have selected a weakened team. If I were to do that against Carshalton though, I’d end up crucified in Sutton High Street.

The Sutton v Carshalton rivalry isn’t anywhere near as intense as the passionate Mersey or Glasgow derbies, the fans still take it seriously. If I beat Carshalton, all will be forgiven. Failure is not an option .

.

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I was not in the best of moods when I reached Colston Avenue. Carshalton’s ground is situated off a small road, just like Gander Green Lane. The traffic was horrendous, little of it was for the local derby.

Even though it was a Cup game, I would have expected a 1000+ crowd. It is a local Derby after all. Sadly only 160 odd people decided to turn up. A very poor show from the locals.

Carshalton Athletic v Sutton Utd

I could tell by the way they moved that Carshalton really wanted this game. Their entire team pressed for the ball maniacally. Their eagerness left gaps in their coverage and presented us with our first chance. Heathcote tackled their pacy striker Olusesi and released Beckford. Beckford found Martin just shy of the half way line. The home team had left plenty of space for Martin to run into and he took full advantage of their generosity. He managed to get into the area but was well blocked by Searle.

It took 10 minutes for Carshalton to start dictating the play. Our defence was worryingly split by a LeBihan long ball. Saunders was free on the right hand side of the area but drilled the ball just wide of the post.

I knew that I’d have to shake things up. Carshalton seemed far fresher than we did, their stamina was obviously better. Their graft deserved a reward and it wasn’t long before they got it. Saunders lay the ball to Tim Murdoch 30 yards from goal and he let fly. The ball seemed to ricochet of Allaway’s arm as it went in. It was a powerful shot but I think he could have done better.

One nil down, not yet time to panic though, there is still over thirty minutes to go. Carshalton almost manage to capitalize on their fortune. Olusesi delivers a good cross but young Dale Marvell heads the ball over.

Our problem is that Carshalton are dominating the flanks. I switch the emphasis of our attack to the central midfield. The new tactic almost immediately puts meat on the table.

Phil Salt delivered a floated through ball to Haylock, who finished superbly. We are back on level terms and I decide to position my wingers so that they can help my Full backs to deal with the runs of the dangerous Carshalton Wingers.

We manage to stifle the game for almost 15 minutes but Carshalton eventually manage to find a way. They channel more balls through the Central Midfield and this method pays of.

Murdoch, Saunders and Olusesi combine well. Olusesi finds Stone in the area and Stone shoots. The shot isn’t very powerful, ultimately it doesn’t have to be. Warner manages to get back well to intercept, he actually succeeds in putting his body before Stone. The ball ricochets of his leg though and beats the stranded Allaway. Two one to Carshalton.

We almost get a way back in less than a minute later, due to an awful goal kick from Searle. Martin picked it up. He could have made it to goal but decided to swallow dive instead, after encroachment from Carshalton Defenders. That moment of stupidity earnt him a Yellow card.

It was indirectly from that move that Carshalton earnt their third goal. LeBihan and Murdoch combined again. It was another powerful long-range effort from Murdoch. Allaway showed all the leaping prowess of a Dwarven Pygmy.

With a two-goal cushion, Carshalton decided to take their foot of the pedal. I canceled the defensive instructions of my Wingers and sent them right up to drench the Carshalton Goal with crosses. I threw in both fullbacks as well, for good measure.

Carshalton sat back smug, we didn’t trouble them. The only attempt we had was a long range Martin effort, which was yards wide.

We went into the break 3-1 down. No one was playing badly but no one was doing well either. Tweaking my current formation wasn’t enough, I’d have to change it entirely, if we were to get anything out of this.

Half Time Score Carshalton Athletic 3-1 Sutton Utd

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I decided to push one of my Defensive Midfielders into Central Midfield. Gibbens was the obvious choice to do this. He is more comfortable on the ball than Quinton.

I went into the Second Half hoping for a better performance. Tim Murdoch was determined to ruin my day though. Virtually straight from the whistle, he let fly from range. Luckily Allaway was equal to his latest attempt to upset me.

My latest tactical changes were not effective. I decided to shake up the team by taking off some tired players. Buckley and Larvin came on for Beckford and Haylock. I pushed Quinton into Central Midfield and used Salt in the hole between Midfield and Attack. The time had come for drastic measures.

We did look a lot more dangerous after that, the extra Midfield presence seemed to stifle Carshalton completely. It took seven minutes for our first shot on goal of the half though and that was a long-range Salt effort that was easily saved. We were starting to look more dangerous though.

Sadly not dangerous enough. Carshalton withdrew behind the Half Way line and performed in a totally negative way, not very entertaining for the home fans.

With five minutes to go, I was resigned to defeat. Then we were handed a lifeline. Marshall threw the ball back into play on the right side of the Carshalton area. Salt had his back to goal and was being pressured by Carshalton defenders. His cross was Pinpoint accurate though, Martin was very happy to connect the whipped cross with his prize asset, his head. Searle had no chance, the tie was set for a frantic finish.

I was happy to push players forward. We were the only team to see the ball during the last five minutes of the match, however Carshalton developed a nasty ability to put their foot in just when it was needed. We were restricted to some wayward speculative efforts from Buckley.

The whistle blew. I was most unsatisfied.

Carshalton Athletic 3)3-2(1 Sutton United

Despite the high scoreline, it wasn’t a very good game. We had the most chances but Carshalton had the best ones. The team put in an average performance, if anything the sheer mundanity of the performance they put in has proved to me that the 3-2-3-2 just is not working. Things will change for the next game against Hayes.

A draw against Carshalton would have been a fair result. If it hadn’t been for the efforts of one man we would have won. Tim Murdoch has earnt a place in local folklore. He gave the game to Carshalton and earnt an enemy in me!

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My erstwhile scouts, well one erstwhile and one useless, were coming to the end of their fact finding missions around the UK. Jarrett had located two possible starlets, the quality of the players found by Hawkins was not so good. Such a shame he won’t be gone till 2008.

The main problem was that neither seemed able to find many good players within our fair land. I racked my footballing brain for ideas and came up with an idea. Scandinavia produces many good players, good players who can come cheap. It would be a good idea if all of the countries could be scouted. First off Sweden. Jarrett went by Ferry, Hawkins by Garbage Scow.

No new signings would help me out away to struggling Hayes. However due to International fixtures, my guys had a Week and a half to gather their strength.

The recent slump had given me no choice but to change the formation. Out went the two Defensive Midfielders. I decided to play a straight 4-4-2 with attacking wingers. My opponents Hayes would field exactly the same formation, so it would come down to the quality of our teams.

No changes were made to the team. Gibbens is happier as a Central than Defensive Midfielder, so I placed him there. Along with Salt, he would give my midfield a far more attacking outlook. Quinton could play in Defence as well as Midfield, so I put him in as a Central Defender. The rest of the players were as normal.

Hayes v Sutton Utd

The new formation gave us a lot more possession in midfield but we leaked chances. Luckily we had the better strikers and that won the game for us.

Our first goal had nothing to do with skill however. Very soon into the game Watkins got free on the right wing. He delivered a ball into the box. Haylock nodded the ball down to control it for a strike. From where I was sitting, it seemed as if the Keeper stepped out of the way of the tamely headed ball. 1-0.

The first 20 minutes were al ours and we deserved our next goal, which was Haylock’s second of the game. It was provided by Martin, who headed against the bar.

We seem to be very vulnerable to long range efforts. We fell victim to a ranged fusillade yet again when Warner scored from just outside the box. Hayes now had a lifeline.

Hayes were unable to capitalize on their lifeline, just before half time Martin restored our two goal advantage, when he overpowered a Central Defender and the Goalkeeper with his Aerial ability.

We went into the second half with quite an advantage, Hayes needed to pull their finger out, they did but it did them no good. They saw a glimmer of light when James scored with yet another Long shot but Martin finished them off for us with a close range finish.

Hayes 1) 2-4 (3 Sutton Utd

A very good team performance, with Martin having his best game in a Sutton shirt. Our worrying habit of conceding long shots continued however. Most importantly, our bad spell is at an end.

With our midweek win against Hayes, we leaped from 6th back to 3rd. Next up though was a real toughie against Top of the table Hornchurch.

Hornchurch were a real mystery to me. They are severely in debt, yet they have not reduced their wage bill, in fact they have signed a few more players. I can only imagine that they are banking on big backs in the Conference. A very high risk manouevre, for if they fail, their existence will be in jeopardy. I would be fielding an unchanged side.

Sutton Utd v Hornchurch

Despite earning a point, this was an unsatisfactory game in many respects. Not the least being that all 3 of my strikers sustained injuries. Martin limped off as early as 15 minutes. Haylock followed just before half time and Larvin had to play on injured due to a lack of substitute.

Hornchurch were very aggressive and were aided by a lenient referee. They went for the game by the throat and can feel aggrieved at not getting the full 3 points. Our cause wasn’t helped by the fact we only had 1 crocked striker on in the 2nd half.

We went ahead on 4 minutes. Even at that early stage, it was against the run of play. We caught them on the counter, Beckford crossed and Martin headed in.

For the rest of the half Hornchurch deluged our goal. They equalized just before half time. Their goal was all down to hard work, their constant pressing during the game was a constant nuisance.

We went into half time hanging by our fingertips. With Haylock’s injury we had just one recognized striker on the pitch. I changed to a 4-5-1, bringing on Honey and sticking him in a defensive midfield slot.

The Second Half was pretty much identical to the first. We were lucky not to concede. Hornchurch's aggressive style really taxed my players.

Sutton Utd 1) 1-1 (1 Hornchurch

Hornchurch were superior in every area of the game. Phil Salt was the only player who had a stand out game, with his excellent distribution he was well worthy of man of the match.

Our busy schedule continued with a trip to Weston Super Mare, who have the dubious honour of figuring in the title of famed liar Jeffrey Archer, or Lord Archer of Weston Super Mare, as he prefers to be known.

With it being close to December, I was happy to receive an early Christmas present, in the form of the return of Sean Coburn on the right wing. Watkins didn’t play badly but Coburn is a far more accomplished Winger. That was the only change to the team that traveled to the West Country.

Weston Super Mare v Sutton Utd.

It was an entertaining game, with Weston’ having the edge in chances. We had a slight advantage in possession.

We dominated the first 15 minutes and deserved to take the lead. Salt scored an excellent goal on the break, from just outside the box.

Weston upped a gear after that and deserved an equalizer. They finally got it 5 minutes from the end, thanks to a Trudgian header from a throw on.

It finished 1-1, a result I cannot disagree with in all fairness.

Weston Super Mare 0) 1-1 (1 Sutton Utd.

Not a bad team performance from the guys. Marshall was good but Salt was outstanding in central midfield.

My squad were happy to have a rest. Their next game would be a midweek tie against Dorchester, our first game of December.

Dorchester v Sutton Utd

I kept the same team that drew at Weston Super Mare. Were very near the bottom of the league. Their performance on this night was misleading however.

It ended 0-0, with both teams being very even. Darren Spicer was the official on this night and he was very happy to hand out the cards. Eight players were booked that day, only two of them were Suttonians, sadly Andrew Martin received two cards and was sent off.

Dorchester 0-0 Sutton United.

Not a bad team performance, we were much better in the second half than the first. Once again Phil Salt was man of the match. Salt, Haylock and Beckford are my invaluable trio.

The change of formations changed our fortunes a little, now though we are drawing far too many games. A trip to hated rivals Carshalton would be an ideal opportunity to set things right!

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My men were eager to gain revenge against Carshalton. They would also get to grips with my new formation, the classic Diamond Formation.

Too make my tactic work, I’d have to change my line-up. Gibbens dropped to the bench and Quinton moved to the bottom point of the diamond. Salt enjoyed attacking the opponent’s goal, so I moved him to the Attacking midfield spot. Steven Murphy would make his first start in Central Defence. Due to Martin’s suspension, Larvin would make another first team appearance.

Carshalton Athletic v Sutton Utd

The attendance was much better than the previous game, though it didn’t even fill a quarter of the stadium’s (If you can call it that?) capacity. The Sutton fans that did turn up would leave the ground very happy.

We signaled our intent very early on, when a Larvin header rocked the bar. Carshalton didn’t rest on their laurels either and tested Allaway a few times.

We needed a set-piece to break the deadlock and that came on 21 minutes. Haylock has proven handy at dead ball situations and he didn’t let us down this time. His 30-yard direct free kick was very impressive and it gave Searle in the Carshalton goal no chance!

Carshalton rather inexplicably didn’t push themselves forwards. We had the Lions share of the possession and chances in the first half. Salt proved especially dangerous with his forward runs from midfield, though his finishing seemed to have somewhat deserted him. We went into half time feeling confident.

Carshalton didn’t change their tactics going into the second half, it cost them dearly. Larvin did very well with his second goal. He received the ball from Salt with his back to goal. He managed to wrong foot the two defenders bearing down on him and passed the ball on the net. Great technique from the youngster.

Trailing by two goals, Carshalton finally pulled their finger out. They started to pressure our defence and forced some good saves out of Allaway. Eventually a goal was scored, Carshalton didn’t benefit from it however.

Beckford tackled Carshalton defender Cooper on the edge of the area and whipped in a cross. A freak gust of wind must of knocked it of course, for it curved wickedly and nestled itself underneath the right stanchion.

I have to give Carshalton credit, despite their deficit, they still tried to play football. It did them no good though, we ran out 3-0 winners. Sutton fans were delighted, Carshalton followers would just have to drown their sorrows, along with Peter Fear, who had returned to the bottle since I dropped him!

Carshalton Athletic 0) 0-3 (1 Sutton Utd

I superb result and an excellent team performance. Beckford was good yet again on the left wing.

We returned to Gander Green Lane on Saturday, for a game against fellow high fliers Havant and Waterlooville. Havant featured a few names that were familiar to me. Geoff Pitcher is very well known in Non League, Nathan Bunce is well known as a no nonsense defender and keeper Gareth Howells used to be a Sutton regular. Then of course there is Dean Holdsworth, a handy striker, he also has a reputation for enjoying intercourse with hideous saggy-faced tarts with oversized mammaries (Lindsey Dawn McKenzie). This would be one of his final games for Havant, before he retired and devoted all his time to coaching.

Andrew Martin returned to the side from suspension. Larvin returned to the bench. No other changes were to be made, I decided to stick to the formation that had nullified Carshalton

Sutton Utd v Havant & Waterlooville

It was a very dull, albeit high scoring game. The standard of finishing was very good on the day.

The referee Keith Wilkinson was far too card happy. He killed off any chance the game had of being entertaining.

Dean Holdsworth is used to scoring in a wide-open box and that was the situation that presented itself not long after the kick off. His goal was the only chance of the half, the rest of it being punctuated with Yellow cards. Coburn also received an injury, I was forced to bring on Corbett, which stunted my teams attacking options.

Havant was able to stop the runs of my midfielders. I had no choice but to concentrate my attacks through the centre. This tactic was far more effective for me, Haylock had a chance just after the restart, sadly Havant decided to follow suit. They were playing a normal 4-4-2, so were able to dominate the centre of midfield. Their second goal was a showcase of sublime short passing, with Pitcher being prevalent. Taylor’s finish wasn’t bad either.

Two goals down, with no idea where our goals were going to come from. I moved Salt into central midfield to give us more possession.

Jason Chewins gave us a lifeline. He brought down Haylock in the area. Martin made no mistake and scored. We are still in it.

It was at this time that I decided to go onto the offensive. I took off Quinton and brought on Larvin. I was now playing a 4-3-3. That would soon change to a 3-3-3, Vance Warner was rather harshly sent off.

At this stage I’d lost hope. We were 1 man and one goal down. We were very weak in the centre of the pitch. Havant made a stupid mistake however, they remained on the Defensive. Despite numerical infirmity, we dominated the last quarter of the game. We deserved to equalize and did.

Salt was the hero yet again. He made a run into the box and pounced on Larvin’s cross.

The game ended 2-2. Havant seemed happy to settle for a draw, a disgusting attitude from their fans point of view.

Sutton Utd 0) 2-2 (1 Havant & Waterlooville

I certainly think the Referee was biased against us. Havant was just as aggressive as we were, yet only received 2 yellow cards to our six. I’ll keep a close eye on Mr Wilkinson.

Our visitors played the better football, they were undone by their lack of ambition. It was an average performance from us, the fact we equalized was down to Havant’s culpability rather than any skill from ourselves. Allaway had a stinker.

Next up was another home game the week after against bottom Eastbourne Borough. Vance Warner was suspended, Salt and Martin were crocked. Quinton dropped into central defence, Fear and Larvin were recalled

Sutton Utd v Eastbourne Borough.

A very easy game. We dominated every area of the pitch and deserved to win. Eastbourne was restricted to a handful of long range efforts.

Haylock scored the first, a flick on from a Fear cross. The second came courtesy of the magnificent Beckford who volleyed in from Coburn’s cross.

Sutton Utd 1) 2-0 (0 Eastbourne Borough.

Another good team performance. Beckford was yet again superb.

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THE NORTH SEA

The acidic stench of vomit assaulted Captain Kluiso as soon as he entered the hold. The air around his strange English passenger seemed to shimmer with foul aromas. The passenger Kluiso’s presence with a brief glance. The Captain caught a hint of red rimmed eyes.

“How long?†The passenger asked wearily.

“We’ll arrive in port within three hours Mr Hawkins†Kluiso replied. He fiddled with the filters on his gasmask, even fully closed, they didn’t block all of the odors.

Andrew Hawkins had never felt so ill in his life. If he could change the past, he would not even have set foot onboard this garbage scow. Initially he was very excited to be going to Sweden, that excitement faded somewhat, when he discovered that he would be making his trip on a garbage scow. Mr Dobtcheff had told him that he couldn’t afford more luxurious modes of transport, the Scow would have to do. The trip would take 5 days, Hawkins asked why so long? He was told that the rubbish produced a more ‘vigorous’ odor if excited at high speed.

Truth be told it hadn’t smelt to badly when he had been welcomed aboard. The strongest scent was from the viscous black gunk that coated the side of the ship. The cabin wasn’t too bad either. A little basic but it had everything he needed.

One thing he noticed very soon was that all the crew wore reflective silver suits, with gasmasks. Hawkins had asked for a suit of his own, but had been rejected. He was told that the suits enabled the crewmembers to work in very smelly areas.

He also wondered about the black boxes fixed onto the bulkheads in various parts of the ship. They made crackling noises similar to Geiger Counters. He was assured by Captain Kluiso that they were there to detect dangerous levels of methane in the rotting rubbish. Hawkins was happy to take him at face value.

A day into the trip he had begun to feel very sick. Headaches were interspersed with nausea. Recently he had begun to vomit as well. The most recent and worrying developments of all though, were the specks of blood in his faeces and the clumps of hair that were falling out. When he reached port, he’d have to see a Doctor.

Kluiso felt sorry for Hawkins, money was a universal language though, the money made the scouts suffering worthwhile.

He had been approached at Tynemouth harbour by a strange Englishman with a Southern accent. This man had given no clue as to his identity. He had been asked to carry another Englishman in the most unshielded part of his radioactive waste barge. Kluiso had been about to refuse, when the Englishman had passed a large bundle of money other to him. His instructions were to carry the passenger over to Sweden, pacing the journey long enough to give the passenger a fatal dose, then to bribe a Doctor to inform the passenger that he was suffering from a local bug. The Southerner passed another bundle over. That would pay for the bribe, Kluiso could also take a cut of that. Kluiso wondered why the man was so trusting. He didn’t actually voice the question, however the man came up with an answer anyway.

“My dreams told me I could trust you!â€

So that is why Andrew Hawkins was suffering on his ship the “Hammarskojeld†now. Kluiso excused himself as Hawkins clutched his stomach and rushed towards the lavatory.

A long journey indeed!

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Everyone likes a trip to the seaside. There were two reasons why our trip wouldn’t be so good however. The first was that it was almost Christmas, so we would not enjoy much in the way of sunshine, second was that we were going to Weymouth.

It was the start of the busy Christmas period, we had visits to Newport County and Basingstoke to look forward to as well. A home game against Bognor Regis would be the only respite from traveling. My players were going to be worn out by New Years Day.

I welcomed Phil Salt back to the team. Warner would return to the side once his suspension had been served. Our opponents would be a dangerous team, they were riding high in the league and had home advantage. Steve Claridge had worked well for them.

Weymouth v Sutton Utd

Another poor away game where we fell prey to long range efforts. Our nemesis this time was Martin Barlow. Less than a minute into the game he scored from a direct free kick. Throughout the game he would shoot at every opportunity.

Within 10 minutes Dreves had scored another, a well taken shot just inside the area that beat a sea of defenders.

We were not successful in combating the home teams domination of the pitch. We held out till just after half time, when another Barlow shot beat Allaway. Andrew Martin made things worse by arguing with the Ref. Even when yellow carded he continued to moan and got his just desserts.

Weymouth took their feet off the pedals for the last quarter of the game. That allowed us to get a goal thanks to substitute Larvin. He worked really well with Beckford and finished off the move with a splendid header. Apart from that there was nothing we could do.

Weymouth 2) 3-1 (0 Sutton Utd

Wasn’t a bad performance, we were just outclassed. Martin got himself stupidly sent off. I will have words with him.

Next up was our only home game of the period against Bognor Regis. Vance Warner returned to the side from suspension, Martin was out due to suspension. He had been very apologetic after his sending off and had only been too happy for me to fine him two weeks wages. Larvin replaced him in attack. Quinton moved up to DMC replacing Fear.

Sutton Utd v Bognor Regis

A very equal sided game, with Bognor making nonsense out of their struggling league position. This was very much like games earlier in the season, where our superior finishing paid dividends.

It took half an hour for us to get in front. The Bognor Defence had been marking Haylock and Larvin pretty tightly but they moved up the pitch too quickly when they had possession. All it took was for Heathcote to feed the ball to Beckford. Beckford found Haylock in space and it was 1-0.

Just before half time we scored our second. Coburn was integral this time, delivering a good cross to Larvin, who tapped it in.

Bognor pulled out all the stops in the second half, their finishing was quite dreadful though and was the only downside of their performance. We were quite lucky to win.

Sutton Utd 2) 2-0 (0 Bognor Regis

Allaway, Heathcote, Beckford and Larvin played well. They were the standouts in a reasonable team performance.

For a trip to 3rd placed Newport I would have preferred a bit of a rest. We only had two days to prepare.

Martin was back from suspension but had ruled himself out through a training injury. Larvin had impressed in his last few appearances though, so would remain in the team. Worst news was unfitness of Beckford. I would have to put him on the bench. The much-maligned Buckley would take his place.

Newport County v Sutton Utd

We were always going to be up against it, the first fifteen minutes gave me hope though. We were equal to Newport and took full advantage of our parity.

We hit them on the counter. Haylock intercepted a poor long throw and released Larvin with a sublime long pass. Larvin was in the clear and finished well.

It was from this point that Newport started to put all their effort in. We weren’t as comprehensively outclassed as we were against Weymouth, sadly we still ended up worse off though. It only took Newport seven minutes to equalize. We once again fell victim to the specter of the speculative long-range shot.

Sam O’Sullivan was very dangerous in attack, he scored the next two goals for Newport, both from close range. On paper he didn’t seem such a good player, I tore up that paper following the game.

Newport was superior to us and deserved the win. They had the game wrapped up by half time and coated the rest of it.

Newport County 3) 3-1 (1 Sutton Utd

A very average performance from the team. The only standout was Buckley surprisingly enough. Larvin sustained an injury early on, I don’t think it was serious though.

2004 turns into 2005. It would be nice to start the year with a win. We were away to lowly Basingstoke. Lat season we had thrashed them 5-1 at their ground. This time I’d just be happy with a win.

Martin returned o the attack and replaced the impressive Larvin. Beckford was still unfit, I’d been forced to use him against Newport. Coburn wasn’t as fit as a fiddle either, so was replaced by club stalwart Scott Corbett. I told my defence to hold a slightly higher line. I wanted to nullify our vulnerability to long range shots.

Basingstoke Town v Sutton Utd

A good team performance. Our defence was really solid and we dominated the game. However it did seem for a very long time as if we would only get a draw out of this game. The introduction of Gibbens in place of Salt proved decisive.

Basingstoke held out until the 88th minute. We were put in front by a trademark Martin header from a Coburn cross. Gibbens added the second goal in the death. He benefited from a Beckford interception and powered through the heart of the Basingstoke defence.

A 2-0 win, an excellent way to cap off an inconsistent Christmas programme.

Basingstoke Town 0) 0-2 (0 Sutton Utd

Gibbens was the man who won us the game, his distribution was excellent and he topped it off with a fine goal.

2004 is over, I hope we can build on our good league position in 2005 and maybe even gain promotion. That is my dream.

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What comes around goes around. We are now just over the half waypoint of the season and once again face Thurrock, this time with home advantage.

The New Year brings in a new face. David Jarrett located a starlet for me in Sweden.

Twenty year old Tobias Schon joins us from Odakra IF, a minor team in Sweden. Technically Tobias is the most gifted player in the team. He is a good passer and has a steely determination. On arriving at Gander Green Lane he took a look around and stated,

“I will do well hereâ€.

He plays solely as a right back, I can find other uses for the excellent Lee Marshall

A rather depleted team is destined to take the field. Heathcote was injured, so I gave the first appearance of the season to Lewis Gonsalves. Peter Beardsley rates him quite a lot, now he has his chance to impress me. Quinton was unfit, so drunkard Fear returned to the DMC slot. Gibbens completed the midfield in place of unfit Salt. Haylock was my only available recognized striker, so I played Craig Watkins up front with him. Beckford returned and I dropped Marshall to the bench in favour of Schon.

Sutton Utd v Thurrock

The first half was a dire affair, we were below par and Thurrock had the advantage. They were unable to do anything with it though. They kept losing the ball just in front of our area.

Changes were made in the second half. Gibbens and Watkins were struggling, so I brought on the not too optimal Martin and Salt. Those changes seemed to do the trick, since we played a lot better.

Beckford and Haylock combined well to put us in front. Beckford was in a centre of the pitch and Haylock was on the wing. The switch must have confused the Thurrock defenders because Haylock rushed into the area and finished sublimely.

Thurrock was spent. They managed to keep the deficit down until Injury Time, when Haylock struck from range. It was a tight game but like our last encounter, clinical finishing proved to be the deciding factor.

Sutton Utd 0) 2-0 (0 Thurrock

In the first half we were poor, our second half game was much improved, my subs proved quite influential. Beckford and Haylock were once again the best players for us.

As for Schon, well he had a decent game. He has a very handy ability to intercept the opposition’s passes that’ll be useful later on.

My squad returned top full strength for the trip to poorly Maidenhead. The only difference was Marshall who appeared on the right wing.

Maidenhead Utd v Sutton Utd

I have no idea how this match remained 0-0. Our key player was surely Allaway. He succeeded in keeping the home team out. Both teams had a poor day in front of goal. Roughly a quarter of our shots were on target

Maidenhead Utd 0-0 Sutton Utd

Allaway and Warner had good games, the rest of the side were merely workmanlike. Martin was very quiet.

I think a nice run may be developing. Three games without defeat, how long will it last?

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<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Peacemaker7:

Turning into a nice little story, well done icon14.gif <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

I'm still a little bit behind, I got too much into playing the game and neglected the reports. Once I'm up to date, the integration should be a lot better.

Thanks Peacemaker.

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I originally typed this segment out on Monday. However I forgot to save it and when I pasted into the Sigames reply box, the site went down. I have only just been able to recover from my horrified inactivity.

After the disappointment of the goalless draw against Maidenhead, we needed a quick pick-me-up. A result against playoff contenders Redbridge would go a long way to helping us achieve our aims.

Coburn returned to the right wing. Schon and Salt were injured and slightly unfit respectively, so I drafted in Gibbens and Marshall. Quinton injured himself hours before the game so I had to bring in Scott Corbett

Sutton Utd v Redbridge

An equally sided match, Redbridge have every right to be annoyed that they lost by such a heavy margin. There was one area where we comprehensively outfought them. That was the aerial battle. Redbridge were unable to cut off the supply from our wingers.

Beckford and Coburn were vital to this strategy. Martin was the key however. Every ball played into the Redbridge box was met by his head. He grabbed himself two goals on this day, Haylock and sub Salt grabbed the others.

Four nil to us, very harsh on Redbridge who put together some nice moves.

Sutton Utd 2) 4-0 (0 Redbridge.

A very good team performance, Andrew Martin had his best game in a Sutton Utd shirt. Only Gibbens was below par. Luckily Salt would soon be back to for me, so I was unworried.

After our midweek home win a Weekend visit to Bishop’s Stortford was in the offing. Stortford are a team who we have had great difficulty scoring against in the past, this time we were hoping for better luck.

Schon, Quinton and Salt returned to the first team. Haylock sustained a knock in training so the reliable Kevin Larvin replaced him in attack. Stortford fielded the same team that had held us to a draw at Gander Green Lane in September.

Bishop’s Stortford v Sutton Utd

Another equally sided game. Another unfair scoreline as well. Stortford were always chasing the game because we went 3-0 up within the first twenty minutes of the game.

Beckford was superb on the left wing he ably provided another two goals for Martin. Our opener was scored by Larvin and provided by Allaway of all people. His goal kick found Larvin in space. Larvin isn’t the quickest of players; his pace was enough to beat the home defence though.

Martin’s first goal was standard, the second was a bit bizarre though. He chased a ball from Beckford. The keeper was going for it as well and seemed to be winning the race. Unfortunately for him the ball stuck in the mud. The keeper hesitated and Martin deftly put the ball in the net.

Stortford were chasing the game after that and had their chances. Allaway was equal to the task of stopping them though.

Bishop‘s Stortford 0) 0-3 (3 Sutton Utd

A good team performance, Beckford stood out once again though. A superb signing.

I had a full strength team available for the home match against St Albans City. St Albans boast a pretty strong defence, however their attack is poor explaining their mid-league position.

Sutton Utd v St Albans’s City

An easy game for us, the only reason we didn’t win by a handsome scoreline was that their goalkeeper James Robinson was in superb form.

Gary Haylock grabbed our goal. Once again Ricardo Beckford was the provider thanks to some excellent work on the wings.

Sutton Utd 1) 1-0 (0 St Alban’s City

A good team performance from us, however James Robinson rightly received all the plaudits.

We are now in second place. A visit to lowly Welling seems to be the right place to reduce the deficit between Hornchurch and us. I make no changes to the team that defeated St Alban’s

Welling Utd v Sutton Utd

A frustrating game. Welling managed to outfight us in our strong areas. It took a lot of tactical tinkering to get us back in and only a desperate last throw of the dice prevented us from losing everything

Welling really managed to confuse me. On the evidence of this match they do not deserve to be in relegation trouble. They took a ninth minute lead thanks to excellent work by Narada on the wing. They defended staunchly and kept possession of the ball. Only a change to a 4-3-3 helped us back in. Martin continued his recent excellent form. His goal was a freak, identical to the strange goal that finished off Stortford. People looked at me strangely after the game when I chanted “Mud is my friend!â€

Welling Utd 1) 1-1 (0 Sutton Utd

Shaun Allaway was superb and kept us in the game. I wasn’t so impressed with Phil Salt. We are still unbeaten, hopefully we can keep it that way.

Almost up to date. Just three more games to go.

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My players didn’t have much time to rest. Three days later we had a match against Cambridge City, one of the few teams to have beaten us this season.

I made one change from the team that drew at Welling. Le Marshall returned to the team at left back. Heathcote dropped to the bench. I like Heathcote but Marshall is too good a player to leave out.

Sutton Utd v Cambridge City

This is a game we really should have won. For once our finishing was below par and Cambridge had an effective striker in Jonathon Stevenson. He seems to like us, he scored both the goals in our defeat earlier on in the season.

We started off brightly, Martin putting the ball wide but it was Cambridge and Stevenson, who took an early advantage. His long-range shot found Allaway slightly out of position and they took the lead. Only 12 minutes gone!

We had chances to level in the first half, Martin especially but everything seemed to be overpowered. Cambridge just sat back and took it. Half time and we were trailing.

I decided not to change anything. We were making the space in their goal area, we were playing the better football, we would prevail. I was right, initially.

With only 3 minutes of the half elapsed, Andrew Martin headed in from a Coburn corner. His aerial power has been excellent this season.

The second half continued in the same vein as the first Ten minutes later Salt put us ahead, with a good finish from a Beckford cross. I was sure we could continue our domination.

We piled forward to finish off the game, sadly on one occasion we were caught on the counter. My central defenders were caught horribly out of position, that man Stevenson took full advantage.

We put pressure on Cambridge to score the winning goal, our efforts were in vain though. Cambridge escaped with a lucky point, all thanks to Stevenson.

Sutton Utd 0) 2-2 (1 Cambridge City

A reasonable team performance, Beckford again was our star.

Our run of difficult games continued, with a trip to 3rd placed Margate. In our initial encounter we were the better team and were unlucky not to win. I’m not so sure Margate will be so easy on us in this return encounter. At least my team would be at full strength to meet the challenge

Margate v Sutton Utd

This game was every bit as difficult as expected. Margate dominated all areas of the pitch and worked my defenders really hard. We were lucky to get a point.

For us the first half was a tough affair. Margate had plenty of chances but yet again we were let off by our opponents awful finishing. We went into the break hanging on by our fingertips.

I changed things slightly for the second half. Margate was playing very narrow. They packed their Central Midfield with players and also had 3 in attack. I had to widen the play. This I did by dragging out Coburn and Beckford. This tactic worked to some extent though Margate still enjoyed an advantage in chances and possession.

Surprisingly enough, we took the lead thanks to a Coburn set-piece. His indirect kick found Quinton in the area, his header was accurate. We were in the lead.

Unsurprisingly Margate battered our goal from there on in. We eventually fell victim to our classic bugbear, the long range shot.

Margate continued to dominate but our defence held firm. Schon was especially hard working. The game finished 1-1, a game we were lucky to get anything out of.

Margate 0) 1-1 (0 Sutton Utd

A workmanlike performance from us. Schon was very good in defence. He came in with plenty of vital interceptions. So far this year he has been quietly efficient. On this occasion though he showed what he really could do!

We had endured a tough run of games recently and had emerged relatively unscathed. What my chaps needed was a holiday. Maybe a home match against lowly Lewes would help us out.

Martin was out for about two weeks, so Larvin returned to the side. Apart from that no changes were made.

Sutton Utd v Lewes

A nice easy game for us as anticipated. We had a little luck though, Lewes missed a penalty. They obviously need some composure building lessons.

Larvin and Haylock combined well and provided both the goals. It took 30 minutes for Haylock to break the deadlock though, thanks to a superb header from Larvin, that was delivered from the half way line and beat the defence.

Our opponents didn’t really threaten us however they received a penalty thanks to a silly decision by the referee. Schon tackled their striker fairly. However Cable’s penalty was blasted over the bar.

We continued our domination into the second half. Honey and Watkins were brought on to get more experience and proved their worth setting up Larvin for a close range effort.

The game finished 2-0, Lewes was no threat to us at all and couldn’t even score when the opportunity was handed to them on a plate.

Sutton Utd 1) 2-0 (0 Lewes

Another good performance from the team. It should be no surprise to you that Beckford performed very well.

Well Thirty-one games gone and we are in second on 59 points. Hornchurch are seven points ahead of us and will be a bitch to catch up. Our nearest rivals are Margate and Newport, if we slip up they could catch us easily. Havant are in fifth and are well behind the pack.

We are now ten games without defeat, an excellent run.

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Oh The Controversy, Spare Me The Controversy

A Personal Message From Vernon Dobtcheff

I thought I’d dabble with what people term ‘Proper Story Writing’ to add flavour to some of the incidents that have occurred during my career. However I received complaints from many parties, including the estate of Andrew Hawkins. Apparently putting a fictional slant on the events that caused his demise show a lack of respect. Lack of respect!

I have no respect for Hawkins or his dysfunctional putrid family whatsoever. He was a wastrel who had no business scouting for a football club. He somehow negotiated a Four-year contract with the board. I tried to move him on. I attempted to appeal to his self-respect, I told him he’d have no meaningful work whilst he was on my books. It was impossible to make a better man of him, he had no respect for the team or me whatsoever. He was all too willing just to remain on the payroll and earn money for doing zilch.

Despite this a small part of him must have been ashamed. This glimmer of goodness knew that he was worthless and acted accordingly. This inner esteem transformed into a cancer, a cancer that eventually removed this blight from society.

People ask me if I’m sorry he died.

My answer.

“No !â€

So I decided to remove all fictional elements from this tale. Imagine my surprise when I discover the pure fabrication that formed the basis of an earlier tale.

‘Radiation Barges’ and ‘poisoning’ have no place in my story. I didn’t pay the crew of a Finnish Barge money to slowly poison Hawkins nor did I pass money to a Swedish Doctor to misdiagnose him. Pure poppycock.

Andrew Hawkins died of shame, pure and simple.

If this fabrication continues, I’ll withhold the rest of the story.

Editors Note: Mr Dobtcheff has already been paid in full for the entirety of his reports and recollections. There is a reason why these elements have been added. The denial issued in this piece will be relevant to future installments.

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The Shocking Truth About Hawkins

For many years Vernon Dobtcheff, infamous Football manager has got away with lies and more seriously, murder!

Vernon Dobtcheff

You may recall in a previous installment, Andrew Hawkins had been booked passage on a radioactive ship. He was informed that the ship was merely carrying garbage. The lie was to be continued once the Hammarskojeld reached port at Helsinborg in Sweden. A Doctor was paid money to inform Hawkins that he was only suffering from food poisoning. However fate took a hand.

Dr Andreas Lingaard

Originally Mr Hawkins was to see Dr Strolheim. He couldn’t see the patient due to illness, so I took his place. When I saw Hawkins I was surprised by his appearance. His skin was blotchy and his hair had shed from his cranium in massive patches. I was reminded of the symptoms of Radiation poisoning, however I couldn’t initially believe that was the problem affecting the patient. I took samples of Mr Hawkins blood, urine and faeces and sent them of to the lab to be analyzed.

The results had come back positive. However Dr Strolheim told me to inform Mr Hawkins he was suffering from food poisoning and exposure to malodorous air.

I was young back then and Strolheim was the senior partner. He could have blacklisted me in the Swedish medical community so I went along with his fabrication. A decision I have regretted ever since!

Dr Lingaard

Dr Strolheim was later struck off the register and imprisoned. He was a drunkard and was responsible for many back street abortions. He achieved notoriety in Sweden when he accidentally cut into the lower intestine of a teenager and caused her death during a botched abortion.

Dr Strolheim

Captain Kluiso also plays a major part in this story. He skippered the Hammarskojeld, the ship that carried Hawkins. Kluiso is also very well known. He vanished soon after the radioactive contamination of vast tracts of the North and Baltic Seas.

Captain Kluiso

One of his deckhands gave us this testimony, he didn’t want to be identified.

Kluiso was paid money by a strange Britisher. He was to kill another foreigner by keeping him next to the containment holds. Those holds were full of isotopes at the end.

We have sent off for the documents pertaining to Andrew Hawkins treatment in Sweden. We expect they will prove that he was suffering from radiation poisoning.

Andrew Hawkins died a broken man. In his final years his marriage broke up and he turned to drink. He left behind one daughter.

Andrew Hawkins

Hawkins daughter

We will discover the truth!

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<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>For many years Vernon Dobtcheff, infamous Football manager has got away with lies and more seriously, murder! <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Priorities! Lying is simply wrong, murder just unadvisable. icon_smile.gif

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<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by HD:

<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>For many years Vernon Dobtcheff, infamous Football manager has got away with lies and more seriously, murder! <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Priorities! Lying is simply wrong, murder just unadvisable. icon_smile.gif <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

If you get caught!

Thanks BobBev

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Continuing the Football side of this tale.

We were home to Hayes for our next game. Hayes was struggling badly in the league and we fancied our chances. We were missing Salt through suspension however, so I brought in Gibbens. I also tried to experiment. Heathcote came back in on the Left of defence, I moved Marshall to Right Midfield.

Sutton Utd v Hayes

We got off to an awful start. I was to blame in many respects, I gave Quinton bad instructions. He played too close to Schon for much of the first half and that let the opposition in. Hayes went 1-0 up within 3 minutes, Clement James using his pace to beat the defence.

I had to frantically shout at Quinton to get him back into position. Gibbens was also having a poor game in Midfield, so I moved him back into the centre, he was much happier there.

We totally dominated Hayes in the second half but found it difficult to obtain a clear-cut chance. Kevin Larvin came to our rescue, in Injury time. Dozens of crosses had been put into the box to little effect, however Coburn’s 90th minute cross found his head and the ball went in.

Sutton Utd 0) 1-1 (1 Hayes

A game we should have won, both on paper and in practice. Larvin had another good game and I continue to be impressed with Schon’s commitment.

With that draw we dropped to third following Margate’s easy win at Carshalton. I reckon they lost deliberately to spite us.

I was very wary of the trip to Hayes. They had routed us at The Borough Ground, they should prove a difficult test.

One similarity with the last game was our lack of fitness. A jaded team would play in Essex. Luckily I had Salt back from suspension, so our firepower would be enhanced. I was well aware of the threat of Eastwood and Leroy Griffiths, so I gave Warner and Murphy the job of marking them.

Grays Athletic v Sutton Utd

This game got off to a good start. We pressured Grays down the wings and had a few awry early shots. Grays soon got back into the game though and showed the vulnerabilities off our defence. Eastwood and Griffiths drew our defenders out of position and allowed their midfield runner to find his way through. Only good keeping from Allaway denied him.

Despite their advantage, we took the lead. Marshall and Haylock interplayed well on the edge of the area, playing in Salt to score with a 20 yarder.

Predictably Grays piled on the pressure. They now had a 3-man attack, exposing my central defence even more. I was forced to cull their marking duties.

Things seemed to settle down. It was during this lull that Grays equalized.

Nutter put a cross in, Eastwood stuck his foot out to control it, the ball bounced off it and found the net.

It was 1-1 at half time. My team was suffering fatigue so I had to make changes. I brought on Corbett to fill in for Quinton in defensive midfield.

The second half continued in a similar vein to the first, Grays dominated, though our showing was a little better. Allaway made a few good saves and Murphy was resolute in defence.

The game finished 1-1. A much better showing than the debacle at Gander Green Lane. In the big game of the day, Margate lost at home to Hornchurch, so we were back in second.

Grays Athletic 1) 1-1 (1 Sutton Utd

A decent team performance. Allaway Beckford and Murphy were especially impressive.

The team remained at full strength for the visit of Weston Super Mare. They were languishing in mid table so I expected results.

Sutton Utd v Weston Super Mare.

Oh what a dire game. Weston dominated the midfield but had very few chances. Kevin Larvin missed two sitters for us. Then in the final five minutes Weston scored thanks to Adie Mings. Allaway was to fault for the goal.

We couldn’t get back in and slipped to third. Meanwhile Hornchurch pulled further ahead.

Sutton Utd 0) 0-1 (0 Weston Super Mare

A very average performance from the team. Larvin and Allaway did poorly for us. Shame for Larvin, Martin will be back for the next match.

Crunch time against Hornchurch. Andrew Martin returned to the team. No changes apart from that

Hornchurch v Sutton Utd

A bloody awful game the worst team performance of the season. I do not want to talk about it at length. Suffice to say we were played off the park. Not a single player had a good game, not one.

Hornchurch 1) 4-0 (0 Sutton Utd

A worrying run we have had recently, changes have to be made. They will be made. Twelve game without defeat before Weston, now we have gone Four games without a win. Things must improve.

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After the horror show that was Hornchurch I needed a pick-me-up. A home match against hated rivals Carshalton Athletic should do the trick. Despite the shame of the previous match I decided to keep the same team. I think my tampering with the formation lost us the last game.

Sutton Utd v Carshalton Athletic

Sutton’s ground is renowned for it’s poor acoustics. Away fans often claim that our support is poor, I disagree, Sutton fans don’t have to Holler to show their support.

We got off to a good start. Salt volleyed from a Coburn cross just after kickoff and Haylock did well to connect with a Schon freekick, forcing Searle into a fine save. Carshalton eventually got the measure of us though and started to stifle our play.

The half settled into a dull tepid affair, Carshalton’s only chance coming from a wayward Le Bihan freekick.

Going into the second half it was obvious that changes needed to be made. I shifted the attack onto the flanks, I needed to pay to our strengths.

My new tactic had a mixed effect. Chances were more plentiful nut we conceded possession in midfield.

Twenty minutes into the half I decided to relieve some of my tired legs. Larvin Buckley and Corbett came on for Haylock, Salt and Murphy. These would prove to be vital substitutions.

Larvin put us in the lead. It was a fine run from 35 yards, he cut through the defence and finished well.

Carshalton piled men into the attack but their efforts proved fruitless. Two minutes from time we finished them off. Martin earlier had set up Larvin, now he returned the favour, his cross was excellent and Martin headed in

Another great win against our hated rivals.

Sutton Utd 0) 2-0 (0 Carshalton Athletic

Another good performance from the boys. Schon and Martin were solid in defence, Larvin and Martin paired up well in attack. Beckford was again excellent in attack.

Havant & Waterlooville had proved to be a difficult test during our last encounter. My desired team would be available to face them down in Sussex. On the plus side they no longer had the services of Dean Holdsworth.

Havant & Waterlooville v Sutton Utd

This was a lucky game for us. Havant dominated and had several clear cut chances. Their finishing was awful though. We only had one good chance but Martin blasted it over.

Our problem was that Havant was very good at building up play on the wings. I only countered them by stopping the attacking runs of my wingers and pushing up the fullbacks.

Havant & Waterlooville 0-0 Sutton Utd

I was actually happy with the draw. It was during this match that I discovered a tactical era on my part and the lack of initiative my players suffered from. A few games back I had ordered my squad to attack on the counter. They made the mistake of assuming that is what I wanted from them every game. No wonder we were thrashed against Hornchurch, my players were on a leash.

A good team performance. Allaway, Schon, Warner and Beckford were the shining stars.

My players were happy to have a nice two week rest from action. Their return to action would be a theoretically easy match at home to relegation candidates Dorchester.

According to my physio Murphy was in need of a rest. I dropped him to the bench and put Corbett in his place.

Sutton Utd v Dorchester Town

I could tell by the way they bounded into the pitch, that Dorchester was going to cause me trouble. They seemed to be really pumped up for the game and they didn’t disappoint me.

The first half was all Dorchester. My attacking players were totally unable to make inroads into their defence and ceded most of the possession. Saying that we did restrict Dorchester to long range shots. By half time they were in the ascendancy however.

For the second half I took off the woeful Quinton. Corbett moved into midfield and Murphy came on into defence.

Dorchester seemed to be of a mind to settle for a point. They just sat behind the ball and were content to bat it about. I moved Salt back into the central areas to win more possession. That didn’t seem to work so Buckley and Larvin came on in an attempt to shake things up.

Buckley was lively on the wing but his distribution was awful. He ended up making the best of mistakes. He took a free kick near the right corner flag. The ball drifted in over the keeper and into the net.

Dorchester piled their players into attack but for all their industry, they suffered from a lack of creativity.

We just managed to win. It is worrying though that we struggled against a side who are doing so badly.

Sutton Utd 0) 1-0 (0 Dorchester

Just 4 more games to go this season. Hornchurch were crowned champions thanks to their win at home to Carshalton. Margate is guaranteed a playoff place. We only need a win or two draws to be certain of a playoff position. Redbridge and Cambridge City are eleven points behind us and will lose out if they slip up.

We have two home and two away games to look forward to.

Weymouth (h) 12th

Bognor Regis (a) 8th

Eastbourne (a) 22nd

Newport County (h) 4th

These are Redbridge’s fixtures.

St Albans (a) 11th

Welling (h) 19th

Bishop’s Stortford (h) 14th

Cambridge City (a) 7th

Cambridge’s

Thurrock (h) 9th

Maidenhead (a) 20th

Basingstoke (a) 15th

Redbridge (h) 6th

We have a slightly more difficult run-up than those two teams, however the meet each other on the last day of the season, what a thrilling encounter that could be!

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The first of out big games came up, home to mid table Weymouth. I was determined not to lose this one.

Due to his recent poor form I dropped Quinton. Corbett got called into his place. Apart from that the side was unchanged.

Sutton Utd v Weymouth

Weymouth made a bright start to the game, troubling the goalkeeper initially. I did what I always did and pushed up the defenders whilst reining in the wingers. It worked a treat.

Andrew Martin put us two up by half time. He has truly been a dangerous player for us recently.

The fading form of Garry Haylock has worried me. He has now gone eight games without a goal. He was unfit for the second half, so I replaced him with Larvin.

The second half started like the first ended, with Sutton in complete control. However Phil Salt changed things with his second booking, a stupid handball. With him off I was forced to take off Martin in bring on Gibbens to strengthen midfield. Larvin would be the lone man up front!

Weymouth piled on the pressure but we did not collapse beneath it. We held on to gain all 3 points. At the end of the match I discovered that we had secured a playoff place. Excellent

Sutton Utd 2) 2-0 (0 Weymouth

A workmanlike performance, Martin was outstanding in attack and won us the game.

With us safe in a playoff position perhaps I’ll be able to rotate in some faces that haven’t seen much action. Phil Salt is in trouble for his foolish sending off.

For the game at Lewes I decided to rest a few players. Salt was suspended so I gave Honey his first start of the season. Allaway made way in goal for Hodges. Hodges played well in his first game but Allaway had impressed me more.

Bognor Regis v Sutton Utd

We got off to a bright start but Bognor clawed their way back into it. Although the result wouldn’t change anything at this stage I did want my players to have a good game. Two pivotal moments would change things for us.

The first was a harsh penalty due to an alleged foul by Warner that was nonsense. Bognor took the lead from that penalty and soon scored another goal through open play.

The second incident was the sending off of Beckford for a second bookable offence. After that we had no way back in and Bognor beat the snot out of us.

Bognor Regis 2) 4-0 (0 Sutton Utd

Despite the new faces this was an abysmal performance. Honey and Hodges did not cover themselves in glory. As bad as our Hornchurch loss and another rout. I felt like committing murder following this game.

More changes were made for the game away to bottom of the table Eastbourne. Gibbens, Ajoge and Buckley were the unfamiliar faces in the team. Eastbourne had nothing to play for this year.

Eastbourne Borough v Sutton Utd

Another poor game from us. Eastbourne totally dominated the midfield. They were two nil up by half time. We didn’t collapse like we did at Bognor and even got a goal back through Salt, however I was very disappointed to lose.

Eastbourne Borough 2) 2-1 (0 Sutton Utd

Hodges had a superb game in goal.

That takes us up to the final game of the league season, home to Newport County. I didn’t want to disappoint the fans, so I decided to play as strong a team as possible.

I indeed had a full strength team to choose from. Newport County would prove a stern test.

Sutton Utd v Newport County

We got off to a bad start and went one nil down within fifteen minutes. Newport stepped of the pedals after that though and we were allowed back in. Our only good chance of the half was a Haylock shot that was well saved by their keeper.

Haylock has suffered a drop in form in the last quarter of the season and I had no alternative but to sub him for Larvin. Larvin has a good claim to be in the starting lineup and he didn’t disappoint. He was able to convert our Second Half domination into a goal, overpowering their goalkeeper.

Newport held onto their singular point. It was a much improved team performance compared to the horror that had gone before.

Sutton Utd 0) 1-1 (1 Newport County

The league is now over and in low key fashion, my players will really earn their credits in the playoffs. I wonder whom we’ll face.

Final League Standings

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With baited breath we await information as to whom we’ll face in the Playoffs. Havant & Waterlooville are drawn out of the hat. Not a bad draw, at least we have never lost against them.

My biggest dilemma before the game concerns two positions. Tony Quinton has been the main man in the Defensive Midfield slot this season but in the last few games he seemed to be losing form. When I brought in Corbett he seemed a lot more solid if less talented technically

Garry Haylock was superb up until Mid Season, then he went 11 games without a goal. Kevin Larvin has been impressive in the few starts he has made and has the better recent goal scoring form.

Reliability against technique, Experience versus youth. In the end I plump for Reliability and Experience. Corbett and Haylock get the nod

Conference Playoff Semi Final First Leg

Havant & Waterlooville v Sutton Utd

I concentrate our attacks down the flanks and Havant find it very difficult to reply. However their marking of my two strikers denies any real chances. They are also very aggressive in the tackle, earning three yellow cards.

Our first good chance fell for Salt, who was found in space by Schon. Sadly his shot was well wide.

I instructed Martin and Haylock to make some runs to the wings, I was hoping to pull the Havant defenders out of position. My new tactic paid immediate dividends.

Beckford found Haylock on the wing. He crossed into the area and Martin’s marker was slow in tracking him. Martin rarely misses a headed chance and he didn’t disappoint on this occasion.

At Half Time we held the advantage and were value for money. Due to their high number of cards, I instructed certain players to put in stern challenges. A few reds would help us nicely.

Havant shifted up a gear in the second half, their players also failed to take the bait and did not receive any more cards. In fact Sutton gained all the cards given out in the half.

Havant scored from a corner just after the restart, but fortunately it was disallowed due to a foul in the area.

When Havant did equalize it was due to their most dangerous player, Gavin Holligan. Murphy must take some blame for the goal, he got caught up field, Holligan broke on the counter and finished with ease.

We managed to hold them for the rest of the half, though we had a hairy moment when a freekick came back of the bar and found Holligan. Allaway was very brave to throw himself in the way of the shot.

One all. I’d have preferred a win but at least we don’t have to chase the game during the return.

Havant & Waterlooville 0) 1-1 (1 Sutton Utd

Allaway, Schon, Warner and Martin had good games, Warner was especially solid in defence. Marshall had a bit of a quiet game in defence.

Corbett was injured for the return leg at Gander Green lane, so Quinton returned to the side. That was the only alteration I needed to make.

Playoffs Semi Final Second Leg

Sutton Utd v Havant & Waterlooville

Havant employed a 5-3-2 so I concentrated my attacks down the wings. Havant once again proved difficult to break down. Salt received the first clear-cut chance but his tame shot was no problem for their keeper.

The next good chance fell to Havant on the break. Holligan had plenty of space but fortunately blasted the ball over.

In the 33rd minute a disastrous thing happened. Quinton was penalized for tugging Champion’s shirt. He received a yellow card and was most unhappy. Ian Harris had no alternative but to send him off.

I was furious with Quinton. To get sent off in such an important match was the height of stupidity. He will receive no wages for two weeks.

My shape was now broken. I had to take off Haylock to ensure that my team was secure defensively. Fear came on in Quinton’s place.

Despite our disadvantage we had the best of the chances during the remainder of the half. Martin broke free a few times but blasted over the bar.

Half time no score! Things could be a lot worse but due to our disadvantage we’d have to react to Havant’s ploys, rather than create some off our own.

I knew we’d be under the cosh, however we had some good chances of our own, always on the breakaway. The first fell to Beckford, the second to Watkins, who had come on for the very tired Coburn. Sadly both of them pulled the ball wide.

Havant had the best chance of the match though, Holligan again was dangerous and was unlucky to hit the post. Fortunately Warner was in the perfect spot to deny their follow up.

I tried to hold up the substitutions as long as I could. I finally brought on Larvin just before the end of Normal Time, hopefully he will cause pandemonium.

End of Normal Time

Sutton Utd 0-0 Havant & Waterlooville

Havant had all the best chances in the First period and unfortunately ten minutes in, took the lead. Holligan provided a cross that Skelton was all too happy to nod in.

Going into the second period I had no choice but to push my men forward. Fear went into Central Midfield and I instructed Salt to run into the box. We achieved nothing though. Havant held onto their lead.

Sutton Utd 0) 0-1 (0 (aet) Havant & Waterlooville

Tony Quinton has a lot to answer for, he has effectively ended our season and he is out of my favours.

We did better than I expected this season, however inconsistent patches prevented us from doing better. Next season we can build on it and perhaps gain automatic qualification.

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