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The Showster

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My first ever story so hopefully I can keep going...

So this was who I picked last night. Decent kit that doesn't hurt my eyes (didn't check the away kit) and absolutely **** all else going for them. We are in Conference North with a massive(!) stadium of 4000 (400 seated), we've got £0 cash in transfers and £7,000 in total (rapidly reducing).

As soon as I join I find that I'm to battle bravely against relegation with 20 players in total - 3 GK. Oh dear.

With only one scout I abandon my usual practice of having a scout check out our opposition and send him off looking for freebies. Let's see how my 4-2-3-1 copes in the lower leagues

H 2-1 Slough (Robertson, Cumiskey) Friendly Att - 103

H 1-0 Wakefield (Nesbitt) Friendly Att - 127

H 3-0 Northwich (O'Donnell, Hart, Wright) Friendly Att - 121

H 1-0 Aylesbury (Wright) Friendly Att - 53

H 1-2 Tiverton (Wright) Friendly Att - 83

We had 5 friendlies organised and performances ranged from pretty good to reasonably good. Robertson had a stormer first game on left wing and promptly got 3's so he'll be dropped for the league. Attendances were worse than I thought possible! We finally lost to Tiverton with the worst possible luck. With two players (winger and striker) injured, Hart stepped up not once but twice to the penalty spot and the keeper saved them both! With a penalty taking stat of 16 I can count myself unlucky. They duly scored two good goals from crosses to take and then regain the lead. Worried about our lack of finances and players tbh. Hopefully we

can stabilise

Before the season started proper I made a couple of raids on bigger clubs to bolster our attack. Mark Smyth (FLC) from Liverpool and Carl McNally (AMC) from Birmingham will join us on loan. Rob Lawton (AMR) our best player does his groin and is out for two months and with no cash to get a replacement the search goes on

Mid season bought Paul Norman (MRC)

H 3-2 Hinckley (Hart (2), Smyth)

The sign of things to come as we stretch out a 3-0 lead before Hinckley start to play. Two second half goals are a worry but we hold on

H 0-1 Hucknall

A shocking decision from the ref as he books McNally in the 3rd minute for a nothing challenge and then sends him off three minutes later for diving. We were robbed

A 1-2 Lancaster (O'Donnell)

An early goal is cancelled out by O'Donnell on the hour. From kick-off they get to the by-line, swing in a deep cross and regain their lead. Heads drop and we lose again

A 2-2 Southport (O'Donnell, Nesbitt)

I could have punched someone here as we lose a two goal lead in the last 6 minutes. A 'dubious' penalty is converted but we manage to weather that storm and win a corner with seconds remaining. Then I notice they have a four on two at the half-way line. Fifteen seconds later it's 2-2 and I'm about ready to kill

H 1-2 Kettering (Hart)

The current league leaders control the game and a late Hart finish makes it look closer than it was

A 2-2 Droylsden (Hart (2))

H 2-0 Harrowgate (Griffiths, Hart)

Two vastly different games. Droylsden was end to end with goals being traded whilst Harrowgate were dominated after a first half strike. A late goal sealed victory but we weren't troubled. 4 points from 2 games against relegation rivals

A 1-2 Ashton (McDermott)

We were ****. Finally bought another player in Paul Norman (MRC) on a free

H 4-1 Fisher (Smyth (2), McNally, Griffiths) FA Cup 2nd Qual Rd

H 0-1 Lancaster FA Cup 3rd Qual Rd

A 2-4 Barrow (Griffiths (2))

From a confidence building win to two poor defeats. Lancaster was an awful game only topped by Barrow. 3-0 down we scrambled to 3-2 and then never looked like equalising. Lucky it wasn't more

H 3-1 Gainsborough (Lawton (2), Smyth)

H 2-0 Worksop (Hart, Smyth)

A 4-2 Witton (Hart, Lawton, Smyth, Hooper) FA Trophy 1st Rd

Finally a run of wins! Gainsborough stop us getting a clean sheet with a 30 yard screamer but I'm not bothered, 3 points are ours and Lawton is back. Worksop (lying third) get turned over with ease thanks to Lawton running riot. A high scoring game against Witton goes our way in the FA Trophy and we desperately need the cash.

H 2-1 Alfreton (Lawton, Smyth)

The final game of the night is at home to Alfreton who currently sit top of the league. A commanding first half performance is un-rewarded by a 0-0 half-time score line. 3 mins after the restart and they are in the lead with only their second shot of the night (first on target). They attempt to shut up shop work for the next half hour as we lay siege to their goal. Finally on 82 mins Lawton, who else, jinks past two players and smashes one into the far corner from a tight angle! **** you Alfreton. It's not over though. 2 mins later super-sub Mark Smyth latches on to a ball over the top and finishes clinically into the corner. At last we take our chance when 1-on-1. The game seems over in a flash and I rush to check the stats, we had 23 shots (11 on target) to their 2 shots (1 on target). At least justice prevailed today

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My first ever story so hopefully I can keep going...

So this was who I picked last night. Decent kit that doesn't hurt my eyes (didn't check the away kit) and absolutely **** all else going for them. We are in Conference North with a massive(!) stadium of 4000 (400 seated), we've got £0 cash in transfers and £7,000 in total (rapidly reducing).

As soon as I join I find that I'm to battle bravely against relegation with 20 players in total - 3 GK. Oh dear.

With only one scout I abandon my usual practice of having a scout check out our opposition and send him off looking for freebies. Let's see how my 4-2-3-1 copes in the lower leagues

H 2-1 Slough (Robertson, Cumiskey) Friendly Att - 103

H 1-0 Wakefield (Nesbitt) Friendly Att - 127

H 3-0 Northwich (O'Donnell, Hart, Wright) Friendly Att - 121

H 1-0 Aylesbury (Wright) Friendly Att - 53

H 1-2 Tiverton (Wright) Friendly Att - 83

We had 5 friendlies organised and performances ranged from pretty good to reasonably good. Robertson had a stormer first game on left wing and promptly got 3's so he'll be dropped for the league. Attendances were worse than I thought possible! We finally lost to Tiverton with the worst possible luck. With two players (winger and striker) injured, Hart stepped up not once but twice to the penalty spot and the keeper saved them both! With a penalty taking stat of 16 I can count myself unlucky. They duly scored two good goals from crosses to take and then regain the lead. Worried about our lack of finances and players tbh. Hopefully we

can stabilise

Before the season started proper I made a couple of raids on bigger clubs to bolster our attack. Mark Smyth (FLC) from Liverpool and Carl McNally (AMC) from Birmingham will join us on loan. Rob Lawton (AMR) our best player does his groin and is out for two months and with no cash to get a replacement the search goes on

Mid season bought Paul Norman (MRC)

H 3-2 Hinckley (Hart (2), Smyth)

The sign of things to come as we stretch out a 3-0 lead before Hinckley start to play. Two second half goals are a worry but we hold on

H 0-1 Hucknall

A shocking decision from the ref as he books McNally in the 3rd minute for a nothing challenge and then sends him off three minutes later for diving. We were robbed

A 1-2 Lancaster (O'Donnell)

An early goal is cancelled out by O'Donnell on the hour. From kick-off they get to the by-line, swing in a deep cross and regain their lead. Heads drop and we lose again

A 2-2 Southport (O'Donnell, Nesbitt)

I could have punched someone here as we lose a two goal lead in the last 6 minutes. A 'dubious' penalty is converted but we manage to weather that storm and win a corner with seconds remaining. Then I notice they have a four on two at the half-way line. Fifteen seconds later it's 2-2 and I'm about ready to kill

H 1-2 Kettering (Hart)

The current league leaders control the game and a late Hart finish makes it look closer than it was

A 2-2 Droylsden (Hart (2))

H 2-0 Harrowgate (Griffiths, Hart)

Two vastly different games. Droylsden was end to end with goals being traded whilst Harrowgate were dominated after a first half strike. A late goal sealed victory but we weren't troubled. 4 points from 2 games against relegation rivals

A 1-2 Ashton (McDermott)

We were ****. Finally bought another player in Paul Norman (MRC) on a free

H 4-1 Fisher (Smyth (2), McNally, Griffiths) FA Cup 2nd Qual Rd

H 0-1 Lancaster FA Cup 3rd Qual Rd

A 2-4 Barrow (Griffiths (2))

From a confidence building win to two poor defeats. Lancaster was an awful game only topped by Barrow. 3-0 down we scrambled to 3-2 and then never looked like equalising. Lucky it wasn't more

H 3-1 Gainsborough (Lawton (2), Smyth)

H 2-0 Worksop (Hart, Smyth)

A 4-2 Witton (Hart, Lawton, Smyth, Hooper) FA Trophy 1st Rd

Finally a run of wins! Gainsborough stop us getting a clean sheet with a 30 yard screamer but I'm not bothered, 3 points are ours and Lawton is back. Worksop (lying third) get turned over with ease thanks to Lawton running riot. A high scoring game against Witton goes our way in the FA Trophy and we desperately need the cash.

H 2-1 Alfreton (Lawton, Smyth)

The final game of the night is at home to Alfreton who currently sit top of the league. A commanding first half performance is un-rewarded by a 0-0 half-time score line. 3 mins after the restart and they are in the lead with only their second shot of the night (first on target). They attempt to shut up shop work for the next half hour as we lay siege to their goal. Finally on 82 mins Lawton, who else, jinks past two players and smashes one into the far corner from a tight angle! **** you Alfreton. It's not over though. 2 mins later super-sub Mark Smyth latches on to a ball over the top and finishes clinically into the corner. At last we take our chance when 1-on-1. The game seems over in a flash and I rush to check the stats, we had 23 shots (11 on target) to their 2 shots (1 on target). At least justice prevailed today

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Cheers you Celtic loving Irish wannabe! (j/k) icon_biggrin.gif

This has started out as a update email to a mate in work who is playing from the Conference. Hopefully it will have some legs. Going to try to keep around a season in advance icon_smile.gif

TBH, the stories I've enjoyed most on here were your two (Harriers + Belfast Celtic, SB's Telford + benny's magnificent efforts)

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We currently lie in 6th, 3 points behind 3rd/4th but 1st and 2nd are well clear at this stage. Rob Lawton is attracting interest much to my horror but maybe if we sold him I'd actually have some cash to buy better players. We're only £16,000 in debt maybe I could over-spend on salaries...

Throughout the season so far we have created chances, good chances, but haven't always taken them. Last night saw a run where almost everything we hit went in

A 5-1 Nuneaton (Porter (3), Hart (2))

This was the beautiful game, with Porter scoring almost identical goals in the first half. Nuneaton pulled one back but a Hart brace killed them off. The game however is telling me that I'm doomed to mid-table http://rvhchessclub.co.uk/021204/season%20hopes.JPG

A 5-1 Bradford PA (Griffiths, Porter (2), Lawton, Smyth)

The 'other Bradford team' got rolled over easily thanks to a brilliant display by Spellman and Griffiths in the centre of the park. Totally dominated but still conceded which is still a worry

H 2-0 Willenhall (Porter, Smyth) FA Trophy 2nd Rd

H 8-0 Altrincham (Hart (3), Lawton (2), Nesbitt, Smyth (2))

An unbelievable match. Hart scores two headers in the first 12 minutes and then is hauled down 5 minutes later when through on goal. 10 man Altrincham fall apart as they continue to try to attack and we hit them on the break again and again. The finishing was superb

A 1-1 Runcorn (Lawton)

The lads took this one too lightly. From play-off hopefuls Altrincham to bottom of the table Runcorn and the performance couldn't be more different. End to end stuff with some of the worst finishing I've seen from both sides, Kevin Keegan would be proud at the defending(!). A dis-allowed goal from Runcorn is punished in seconds by a swift counter-attack. The rest of the game was total Runcorn pressure and they finally got their equaliser to earn a point

A 2-2 Worcester (Hart, Smyth)

Going 2-0 down in the first half hour made me think about the game telling me I couldn't last at the top. It seems it's doing everything it can to stop us. A few games ago Steve Porter was getting 8/9/10 in games, now he is getting 5's and 4's. A Lawton cross and Hart header pulled one back just before the break. Hart missed at least three clear one-on-one chances with the goalie before I hauled him off. I'd resigned myself to a loss when Mark Smyth went on a mazy dribble at the death and buried it in the corner. It may be early December but it sure felt like a balmy night

Team morale has dropped in a few players. A few games ago they were all superbs but now there are a few with poor. We need to turn that around

H 2-0 Moor Green (O'Donnell, Lawton)

Another end to end type game in the style of Keegan's Newcastle...thankfully before they imploded. Not a game Alan Hansen would admire but with it level on 85 minutes Lawton got to the byline and swung in a cross that was met by O'Donnell, playing his last game for the club, and the net bulged! With Moor Green pressing we struck again. A quick ball out to Porter who ran half the length of the pitch, beat the right-back and a fantastic ball to the back stick was met by Lawton. Thank you and goodnight

Our first player sold, Karl O'Donnell goes for £100k which gives me £34k for transfers! I won't feel as guilty now about breaking the salary structure

H 6-1 Stalybridge (Hart (3), Smyth, Nesbitt (2))

An utter thrashing that was interesting for a few reasons. Their goal was pure class and reminded me of David Platt's goal for England. A freekick chipped in and smashed home beautifully. Unfortunately for them they were already 4 down. Hart has a habit of scoring in the first ten minutes and after completing his hat-trick was duly replaced. Thankfully so as we got two penalties in the 82nd and 85th minutes. Nesbitt smashed both home. A new penalty taker perhaps?

A 0-2 Stafford Rangers

The end of the unbeaten run icon_redface.gif( They dominated the first half hour and finally got the goal they deserved. For the next half hour either side of half-time we battered them, only for them to score again!

A 3-0 Redditch (Norman, Hart, Smyth)

A 3-2 Hucknall (Griffiths, Porter, Smyth) Smyth intercepted keepers clearance 2 late goals but we held on

H 3-0 Lancaster (Lawton, Hart, Porter)

Three games against teams at the bottom and 9 points earned (two clean sheets I might add). We got 3-0 leads in all games (Smyth intercepted a keeper's clearance to score against Hucknall) but it was only Hucknall who fought back. Scoring two in as many minutes we looked shaky but hung on.

It's been a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year for 'The Motormen'. Hopefully, we can keep this going with the couple of players I'm looking to bring in (selling my reserve right-back as well)

http://rvhchessclub.co.uk/021204/profile.JPG

http://rvhchessclub.co.uk/021204/league%20table.JPG

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A 3-1 Hinckley (Lawton (2), Nesbitt)

A dire performance had us 1-0 down at the break to the bottom side. Brought Smyth on to left wing and he

transformed the game. Sold my right-back and my centre-back won't re-sign. Cant get defenders to replace them icon_redface.gif(

H 2-0 Droylsden (Brazier, Smyth)

Brazier scores our first goal this season from a corner and suddenly confidence is restored after a nervous

display. Smyth finishes a 1-on-1 and the points are in the bag. We are now on 49 points, just 1 behind Kettering

and Worksop on 50. Come on lads!

H 0-2 Bradford PA FA Trophy 3rd Rd

A 2-0 defeat is the least of my worries as Paul Norman is sent off and Rob Lawton is carried off injured and is

out for 3 weeks. Tommy Molloy (DC) and Ashley Jones (D/AML) join the club, along with Peter Band (M/SC) and Paul

Garvey (SC). I've a got cover up front now but not really at the back. Budget is over-used as it is.

Andy Fensome (DR) and Michael Tunnacliffe (D/DM LC) join mid-week

H 1-0 Southport (Smyth)

A fantastic debut by Jones means we don't miss Lawton in this game. Great run and through ball sets up Smyth for

the only goal, and we're top! Worksop have a game in hand but we're top! A few players in need of a rest

Darren Connell (SC) signs and that will be the end of our transfer dealings unless a good defender can be found

A 5-0 Kettering (Griffiths, Nesbitt, Jones (2), Norman)

One of our biggest games of the season and some of our best players are missing. A tight game was blown apart

with 2 goals in 3 minutes before HT. A Jones brace ten minutes into the second half killed Kettering and Paul

Norman made up for his FA Trophy disgrace with a fifth on 86 minutes. With Worksop losing to Bradford PA we are

now truly top of the league!

A 1-2 Harrowgate (Jones)

With Jones in the team we seem able to score from corners. Harrowgate hit back and then quickly take the lead!

All inside the first 10 mins. Apparently our great defensive performances in the league lately have been

forgotten. That was the end of the goal scoring

H 4-1 Ashton (Griffiths, Smyth, Norman, Jones)

Midfield dominance plus another great display from Jones earns us 3 more points. With Lawton due back soon things

are looking very rosy down at the Sports Ground. Poor results by our rivals mean we are now 6 points clear at the

top

A 4-0 Gainsborough (Smyth (2), Jones, Hart)

From nowhere, on the stroke of half-time, Smyth with the opener. I must see if I can get this lad permanently.

Jones and then Smyth with his second to ensure no-one closes the gap on us at the top. Utterly amazed at how

well we are playing and how many goals we score. Hart rounds it off with his 20th of the season

H 5-2 Barrow (Smyth (2), Jones, Griffiths (2))

Lawton and Jones play together for the first time and Jones crosses for the first goal. Lawton and Jones try to

out do each other in a goal fest which ends 5-2 to us at HT! The 2nd half failed to live up to expectation and

it remained 5-2

It was a perfect weekend http://www.rvhchessclub.co.uk/041204/perfect%20weekend.JPG

Brian Pritchard (DC) from Witten comes in on a cheap contract to provide strength in depth

A 3-0 Worksop (Smyth (3))

A promotion contender on a really bad run of form. The first 20 mins we are pinned in our own half but a Smyth

breakaway give us the lead. A similar counter-attack 10 minutes later doubles our advantage before HT. 4 minutes

from time he completes his hat-trick for a comfortable win

http://www.rvhchessclub.co.uk/041204/league.JPG

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

Sounds like your doing well.

How is Mike Tomlinson doing for you? <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

He was doing ok but nothing special and wasn't pleased that MacAuley was preferred at right-back. I sold him to Sheff Wednesday in my first season for £70k and he is still there

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H 2-0 Nuneaton (Nesbitt, Lawton)

A Smyth "dive" in the area is rewarded when Nesbitt steps up to the spot. When things are going your way they really do go your way. A Lawton 30 yarder from an opposition goal kick means we can run down the clock and take another 3 points home with us.

A 3-0 Alfreton (Smyth (3))

First against 3rd but their form has been patchy, which team will show up? 0-0 at HT mainly thanks to my keeper and Mark Smyth missing when through on goal 4 times. Argh! Fifth is the charm in the second half. A devastating Lawton cross is met by Smyth coming in from the left wing. A deflected shot gives him his hat-trick

He's now scored 11 goals in 6 games but there is no way I could afford his £3.6m price tag icon_redface.gif(

H 3-1 Bradford PA (Griffiths, Jones, Lawton)

Jones is back and straight away sets up Griffiths, running from midfield, with a beautiful through ball. A 2nd half breakaway, from their corner, led by Rob Lawton ends at the byline with a far post cross to Jones who does the business. A "vintage performance from Jones" says the commentary, I couldn't agree more. A Spacey hand-ball gives them a penalty and a life-line which is snuffed out by some route one football. Long goal kick bounces over a defender, Lawton jinks past his man and buries it in the corner

A 1-1 Altrincham (Smyth)

Having lost to bottom side Runcorn mid-week, Altrincham came flying out of the blocks to make amends. Corner after corner was thrown into our area and we just held on. Smyth got the ball on a counter-attack and blasted it into the net. Someone was still celebrating when they got their next corner and forgot to mark up. 1-1 icon_redface.gif( A much more even 2nd half produced nothing but a red card for one of their defenders in injury time.

H 1-2 Worcester (Hart)

A half of domination produces one goal, from them, from 30 yards. Same thing in the 2nd half except the goal was from 40 yards! Hart pulls one back with 5 mins left but it wasn't enough. 2 shots 2 goals from Worcester

Other results mean that we are 8 points clear with 5 games left and are guaranteed a playoff berth.

A 2-0 Moor Green (Smyth (2))

It seems like deja vu, they dominate but a counter-attack leads to a 1-on-1 and Smyth scores. A dull second half sees few chances until the last 15 mins when Smyth scores a second and Moor Green then change to a 2-3-5. Too little too late

H 2-0 Runcorn (Smyth (2))

With Runcorn trying to avoid relegation (sitting 19th) they won't roll over easy in this one. A tight first half is blown open on 35 minutes when Smyth beats two defenders and slots it past the keeper. He adds a second with 20 mins left and Runcorn are beaten

With Kettering being held 0-0 at home to Nuneaton, we are champions!

Champions http://www.rvhchessclub.co.uk/051204/ecstatic.JPG

A 4-1 Stalybridge (Smyth (2), Lawton, Griffiths)

A typical Motors opening. Two on the break, both scored by Smyth and with Jones and Lawton the providers. Lawton taps in a third after the keeper parries Smyth's strike. Hayward pulls one back but we were never in trouble and Griffiths battled through their defence to smash in a fourth

Mark Smyth has now scored 31 League goals and 35 in all competitions

H 5-0 Stafford (Smyth (4), Molloy)

Smyth and Molloy (totally unmarked for a free-kick) take the only chances of the first half in a boring game. Smyth pounces on a mistake for his second just into the 2nd half and then he scores 2 in 3 minutes to end the match with 4!

H Redditch (Smyth (2), Jones)

Smyth and Lawton combine perfectly for the first one. 3 minutes later the same combination combine again. When Spacey gets sent off at the back I re-shuffle a few players and find myself playing a 4-1-3-1. With us liking to counter-attack anyway, this shouldn't be too bad for us. The second half starts well for them with one goal but they can't capitalise. Jones hits a third on 78 mins and is carried off injured 10 mins later. Mark Smyth ends his Motormen career with two goals and a win, watched by a mighty crowd of 321 people which is pathetic seeing as we got 2221 at home to Runcorn in April. The title winning game brought in some glory hunters.

http://www.rvhchessclub.co.uk/051204/league.JPG

In other news, Arsenal complete a historic season is style.

http://www.rvhchessclub.co.uk/051204/Arsenal1.JPG

http://www.rvhchessclub.co.uk/051204/Arsenal2.JPG

I decide to take a break and go on a two week holiday. Next up, the Conference National...

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Great result in the 1st season!

It took me twice as long to win north conference with motormen. I'm in the 6th season now (flying quite high for me), still playing one player from initial squad (he is a captain).

How your keepers are doing ? What's with finances ?

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Dittmer has generally been my number one and the finances look good. The two player sales helped a lot and I kept to my wage budget-ish.

-----------

2005-2006 Conference National

I come back refreshed from my two weeks on holiday and get straight back into the thick of things. Cumiskey, Robertson, Norman, Fensome and Nesbitt have announced that this will be their final season. Rob Lawton is announced as the Fans' Player of the Year and the board tell me that we just need to avoid relegation this season. To help me with this they have taken the £100k for TV rights and given me a £40k transfer budget. With the club in the black to the tune of £230,000 I thought they might have been a bit more generous.

The search begins in earnest.

In

==

Joe Tillen (DL) Free

Sean Evans (AML) Free

Carl Finnigan (SC) Free

Scott Rogers (AMC) Free

Ciaran Donnelly (MC) Loan

Tom Laws (DC) Free

Michael Allan (ML) Free

Out

===

Hilton (Gk) Free

Peter Spacey (DC) Free

H 3-1 Chelsea Reserves (Lawton, Porter, Finnigan)

H 2-1 AFC Sudbury (Hart, Finnigan)

H 5-0 BAT Sports (Hart (3), Griffiths, Molloy)

A 0-2 Altrincham

The Chelsea Reserves game looks impressive until you see their team. Only Carlton Cole is a player of any real note and he got no service. Having looked at the teams in the Conference National I don't think they are much better than the teams we left behind. Hopefully the avoid relegation nonsense will work to our advantage. Which suckers will take us for a soft touch this season? The bookies have us at 33-1 for promotion, I'll have some of that. Obviously through people who cannot be traced back to me, we wouldn't want an FA hearing on this one...

http://www.rvhchessclub.co.uk/061204/promotion%20odds.JPG

Hopefully the Altrincham result will remind players not to take anyone lightly. If we are to have a good season there can be no let up.

An audacious bid for last year's loanee's is a partial success as McNally comes on loan. Smyth is reluctant to join, perhaps because Lawton received the player of the year award. I knew that'd come back to haunt us.

H 1-0 Newport County (Griffiths)

The league season begins. Someone wakes me just before half time to tell me that Griffiths has scored. All I can think is that the paint looks so pretty. Zzzzz. I manage to keep my eyes open for the 2nd half and make a note to send Finnigan on some shooting training. Or have him shot, I'm so tired....

Three points saves Carl from 'the squad' but he doesn't realise his luck, laughing and joking during training with the lads. Watch your step laddie, watch your step.

H 5-0 Barnet (Molloy, Hart, Finnigan (2), Jones)

Molloy, from a corner, has me screaming in delight. There are few men in the world who can profess such a claim. Up front the 1-on-1 situation is an embarrassment at times but Hart finally hits a second. Finnigan hits his first Motormen goal of his career with 5 minutes left but by then victory is assured. 4 minutes of injury time allow Jones to magically score and then Finnigan to hit his second!

A 0-1 Burton

Dittmer is the busiest player on the park at HT as Burton control things. My HT teamtalk is derisory of menswear but to no avail as Burton take the lead on 75 mins. Our first defeat of the season, how will the lads take it. How will my drinks cabinet take it is more of an issue as I step out to the offie.

A 1-1 Tamworth (Griffiths)

I see now why we are relegation favourites. Tamworth controlled the game from midfield. Griffiths scores from nowhere on 60 mins but we are penned back for the rest of the game. 15 mins later they equalise and better finishing would have earned them 3 points.

H 2-1 Grays (Lawton, Hart)

A battle of champions. North v South. Hazard v Main. George v Orry. You get the picture. Lawton steals the ball in the 2nd half and pushes us into the lead. Hart hits the bar seconds later before doubling our lead within five minutes. Wimbledon style football pegs one back but it isn't enough. The "union" is preserved. Five games gone and we sit 5th, just 2 points shy of the lead.

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A 3-2 Exeter (Jones, Griffiths, Evans)

5th play 20th so you know what that means, 0 points for us...probably. The team seem to play like this until Jones breaks the offside trap and finishes superbly. 3 minutes later and Exeter are level icon_redface.gif( Griffiths restores our lead but again they are back on terms within minutes. What is going on? Sean Evans scores his first for the club with 10 minutes left, just enough time to lose this lead...

But no, a Dean Moxey right hook on Molloy earns him a straight red and we held on against their 10 men!

As you are probably aware, I'm none too impressed with performances this season (Barnet aside). A few players seem to think they are on easy street. That might be true if easy street leads to the dole queue. Maybe I'm being too harsh, no-one is playing that badly, just no-one at the back is really playing that well either.

A 0-2 Aldershot

Having moved up to 3rd we now get to play 2ns placed Aldershot. This should tell us where our amibtions should really lie this season. We just shade the first half, just, but at 0-0 that doesn't really matter. They carve us open within a minute of the restart, a wonderful move that I can't blame on anyone. With Molloy struggling a few changes are made but the net result is a second for Aldershot. I'm actually not to annoyed that we lost. I can see a few areas that need to be improved upon and maybe rest some players. Early days yet

H 1-0 Woking (Finnigan)

Another game against a team doing well. Finnigan gets his first start and is unlucky not to score straight away and hits the post seconds later. MacAuley is injured in a vicious challenge but all I can do is send on a left-back to fill the right-back slot. Finnigan heads us in front from the resultant free-kick, and I hear the physio mumble something about clouds and silver linings. A goalmouth scramble ends as Griffiths thumps one against the post when it was easier to score. I haul him off sharpish before he annoys me anymore. By tightening up in midfield we ride out the rest of the game with no further incident. MacAuley is out for 4 weeks, a chance for someone to step into the limelight

H 0-3 Stevenage

The corner is swung in, total chaos and it's stuck in the back of the net. Our net. 7 minutes later and it's two. A good start to the 2nd half doesn't result in goals and within seconds of making our substitutions we are 3-0 down, Jason Goodliffe with a free-kick from just outside our box. This is looking like a season of ups and downs

A 0-5 Morecombe

A shocking error from Dittmer allows Morecambe an early lead. Griffiths argues with the ref and is sent off! What are these guys doing? Chris Blackburn doubles their lead just before the break and Twiss adds a third just after. Hunter and Bentley add 4 and 5 in what turns into a thrashing. Griffiths gets an official warning for his sending off and I look to shake the team up for the next game

H 1-1 Notts Co (Finnigan)

Relegated last year and with Chris Kamara at the helm, I'm not sure what to expect from them. Then again, I'm not sure what to expect from us! Our midfield take control and we start creating chances again. Finnigan slots one home after a great pass from Jones. Seconds after making changes and they equalise. Evans, having come on, gets a 2. Overall though, a better performance

I'm linked with the AFC Bournemouth (24th in League Two) job by the media but my would I want to leave? The job here is far from complete

H 2-0 Leighton (Finnigan(2)) FA Cup 4th Rd Qual

A confidence boosting win perhaps? Finnigan scores from a corner after prolonged pressure. We press and press but their keeper is having a stormer. With the defence being untroubled all game it comes as no surprise that Finnigan gets his second just before the final whistle and we are safely through.

AFC Bournemouth chairman Peter Phillips obvious doesn't read the papers. Offering me a transfer budget that is less than half what I already had was supposed to tempt me. I wasn't tempted and tell him that I'm staying put. I can't see us getting promoted this season so it'll be nice to test ourselves against them next season

11 games gone and we sit 7th, 5 points from the leaders and 5 points from relegation. The run up to Christmas will decide where we fight it out

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A 1-0 Halifax (Donnelly)

Lawton has a bright opening half and it is him who sets up the first goal. Making the most of a deflection he runs to the byline and chips the ball far post where Donnelly is waiting to head home. Finnigan is taken off after making very little of the half dozen chances he has had. His replacement is sent off for 2 bookable offences within 10 minutes. Even with no-one up front we look the more likely side to score but I'm happy with 1-0

H 2-0 Blyth (Tillen, Connell) FA Cup 1st Rd

The magic of the FA Cup 1st round is ours for the first time as manager of the Motormen. A tense first half is broken as there is a surge into the box and a left foot shot is rifled into the net. I struggle to see who it is and suddenly realise that it's Tillen who has made the surge, all the way from left back. Darren Connell comes on after an hour and scores within a minute. The ball is cleared from their corner to him, he turns his marker and surges away to knock one in from all of 15 yards. A sensational goal. Gareth Hooper is taken off injured but should be back within a week.

In a semi-shock move, David Raven has joined on a three month loan from Liverpool.

A 2-1 Carlisle (Cowen (OG), Connell)

Carlisle have a man sent off after 15 minutes and don't want to come out and play. They survive until just after the break when Cowen turns a Rob Lawton cross into his own net and then Connell skips past the keeper to make it 2. Fox fires a late consolation goal but by then it was too late

H 2-0 Bury (Lawton, Nesbitt)

The first half draws to a close with a 30 yard Rob Lawton screamer into the corner. It came from nothing and caught the Bury keeper off-guard. Finnigan comes on and misses a good chance in the air. I hope we aren't made to pay. Nesbitt is pushed in the back as he is about to score and we get a penalty. Nesbitt steps us himself and tucks it away. I'm much happier with how we are playing now. It isn't just about the results but more that we aren't allowing ourselves to get pinned in our own half and are taking the fight to the opposition.

Our win takes us to fourth and only one point off the leaders. With 26 points we are over halfway towards my target of 50 points to avoid relegation. Like the football cliché goes, anything else is a bonus.

A 1-3 Leigh RMI (Connell)

Twenty minutes of controlled football is rewarded with a goal in our net. We keep up the pressure and Connell is rewarded when he latches onto a defensive mistake. Four minutes after the restart and we are behind again. Roscoe doubles their lead soon after and despite creating clear cut chances we go down 3-1

H 1-0 Crawley (Evans)

Within 20 minutes referee John Holbrook has shown my side 3 yellow cards, 2 of which go to Ashley Jones. What is going on? We defend and defend, sometimes surviving more by luck than skill, and then the ball breaks kindly to Evans with 2 minutes left. He hurdles a rash challenge and is clear in on goal....he scores!

H 4-0 Tiverton (Connell(3), Hart) FA Cup 2nd Rd

A chance to meet the big boys awaits the winners of this tie. Personally I'd also like revenge for handing me my first ever defeat, even if it was just a friendly. 2 minutes in and Connell puts us in front. It's not 10 minutes played when he doubles our lead and still we press forward. Sean Evans seems on a self-destruct course as he gets two talkings to from the ref, then gets a yellow and then gets sent off. All in the space of five minutes. We see out the half and then continue attacking. It seems like Tiverton have the 10 men and our bravery is rewarded when Connell hits his hat-trick. I bring Hart on instead of him to keep him fresh for the league. Goal kick, one bounce and Hart scores with what seems his first touch to cap a 4-0 win. I hope the draw is kind...

EC QPR v Vauxhall Motors Con

is the line I see pop up on BBC News. Not bad I think, not bad at all.

H 3-1 Canvey Island (Connell (3))

A half of few chances until Paul Norman shoves Doyle in the box and Doyle steps up himself to take the lead. Tunnacliffe threads a ball through to Connell, who has played well, to restore parity. Sterling gets a straight red for taking Connell out when clean through on goal. Hopefully we can convert this man advantage. Connell with an outrageous effort does just that. A few half-chances lead to nothing until Porter, playing out of position on the right wing, overhits a ball to Connell at the far post. A huge leap ends with it nestling in the corner and his hat-trick.

In other news, Alex Ferguson has been sacked by Manchester United after leading them to Premiership obscurity in 12th, a small matter of 15 points behind current leaders Tottenham. It is slightly unfair as they have four games in hand.

A 1-2 Dag & Red (Connell)

With a homer ref being assigned to this game, it was no surprise to see Dag & Red awarded a penalty within 6 minutes. Connell, who else, cancels it out ten minutes later and we spend the rest of the half in our own box. Blackett restores their lead just after the break and instead of searching for an equaliser we are forced to continue defending. Out played we get what we deserve

A 3-3 Hereford (Lawton, Spellman, Allan)

Surprisingly against our promotion rivals we control the first half. Numerous chances are wasted and it isn't until Michael Allan goes on a mazy dribble and crosses for Lawton to head home that we take the lead. 10 minutes into the 2nd half and it is a similar story, Tunnacliffe crosses and Gareth Spellman pops up to score his first for the club. Totally against the run of play Dan Tolley heads one in and the game chances. A 30 yard strike confirms this as Hereford draw level. 7 minutes from time Lawton returns the favour for Allan and we snatch all 3 points. So we think, in extra time Kinsella makes a great save but the ball breaks loose and Hereford steal a point

H 2-0 York (Spellman, Hart)

Spellman scores in consecutive gamesto give us the lead. He almost adds a second but shoots just wide. With chances at a premium, Michael Allan misses an open goal after rounding the keeper. Paul Hart doesn't make the same mistake in injury time when a free kick is parried straight to him. 2-0 at home on Boxing Day? I'll take that

A 3-3 Forest Green (Connell (2), MacAuley)

Connell has been kept quiet in the last two games but gets back on track after just 6 minutes, Lawton with the assist. When Spellman is upended in the box Carl MacAuley steps up to score his first goal for the club. The bad news is that Spellman had to be carried off. Just before HT Joe Tillen hoofs one away from left back. With the bounce deceiving the defender, Connell latches on and gives us a surely unstoppable lead. Roberts pulls one back on the hour and when Griffen heads in it leaves a nervous last 20 minutes. Adams scores with 4 minutes left to leave me in shock. This must be a dream, Forest Green are bottom of the league with 6 points from 20 games and argh! Extra training for the lads tomorrow I think, a lot of extra training

It's almost New Year's Eve and I spend my time sorting out contracts. Most of the squad are refusing to sign or are retiring at the end of the season. I have my work cut out building a squad for next season. I'll have to try to persuade one or two to sign on for another season.

A 1-2 Barnet (Nesbitt)

When Connell hits the post early on I have a flashback to the 5-0 drubbing we gave them earlier in the season. That won't happen again...will it? Connell hits the bar and Nesbitt finishes the rebound to give us a deserved lead but Clist scores on the stroke of HT. Bailey gives them the lead and I really do despair. We seem unable to hold a lead recently.

A 0-2 QPR FA Cup 3rd Rd

The biggest game of the season to date sees us travel to Loftus Road with no expectation of anything other than defeat. We hang on for half an hour until a QPR corner is headed home by Cureton. Despite a few half chances we never really threaten and the game is sealed by a dubious penalty.

A 2-1 Newport (Connell, Allan)

We look threatening on the break and so it proves as Connell finds the corner when 1-on-1. Our magnificent(!) defence holds the lead for all of 5 minutes. Michael Allan goes on a magical run, beating four players and scoring with his other foot to puts us back in front. Nothing that we don't deserve I may add. Having missed some chances to make the game safe I begin to get nervous and can see the players doing the same. Despite a late scare we cling on to our lead and now lie 6th

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  • 2 weeks later...

A 1-3 Stevenage (Connell) FA Trophy 3rd Rd

Cup action again as we are away for the 7th time in the last 8 matches. Connell doesn't seem to mind as he gives us an early lead which, stereotypically, it wiped out within minutes. A dull 2nd half is livened up by Stevenage scoring a few seconds after we have a corner. I change formation and stick on Hart as a second striker. We create chance after chance and magically put them all high over the bar. Near the end, a Stevenage shot hits the bar and falls kindly to Nurse who ensures victory for Stevenage. No cup glory this year

H 2-1 Tamworth (Donnelly, Connell)

Our attempt to get back on track falters in the first 5 mins as we fall behind. Donnelly pounces on a fumble by the keeper and confidence seems restored. Seconds later Connell gives us an unlikely lead and we finish the half strongly. The game is almost put to bed when Lawton sneaks through on goal but his tame effort is easily saved. McDermott is taken off injured leaving us with only 10 men as we had already used all our subs. He'll be back in a few days

A 1-3 Grays (Hart)

Our away form shows up again and it isn't a welcome sight. Missing a few half chances, we are punished not once but twice in the 1st half and it's a long road back. Finally my substitutions have some effect as Hart pulls one back. It's "game one" for a full 3 minutes, as Grays go right back up and score. WTF is going on??

H 2-0 Burton (Hart, Allan)

A boring game with nothing happening is brought to life by sub Paul Hart jinking round the keeper and slotting one home. Chance after chance is created but the finishing wasn't quite up to scratch. Finaly Michael Allan beats four players, at least, on an impressive dribble and fires one in low at the near post. The whistle sounds immediately and our home form has returned.

H 1-0 Exeter (Allan)

A totally uninspired performance by both sides is transformed by the introduction of Michael Allan. The winger proceeds to go on a number of mazy dribbles that, although fruitless, raise the spirit in the side. A neat one two with Hart sends him clear and he finishes cooly to ensure that we remain 4th and have now narrowed the gap to the leaders. With 15 games left a gap of 5 points is nothing.

Just to contrast our home and away form,

Pld W D L F A Pts

Home 13 11 1 1 23 7 34 2nd best record in the league

Away 14 4 3 7 19 29 15 7th best record in the league

A 4-2 Woking (Connell (3), Allan)

And so the run continues icon_frown.gif Connell brings us level 10 minutes later and a fine shot puts us in front. I've barely stopped celebrating when he completes his hat-trick. Unreal. We dominate but seem unable to pull further ahead and we could be punished as Woking pull one back from a corner. A tricky 15 minutes lies ahead until Allan punishes a poor clearance and we've scored 4 away from home. We leapfrog Woking into 3rd and set our sights on Hereford and Aldershot who are above us. Amazing how one away win can boost your confidence. Next up Aldershot at our place

H 3-0 Aldershot (Jones, Farley (OG), Lawton)

With morale on a high we pin Aldershot back for the opening 20 minutes, Darren Connell missing the best of the chances, but at HT there is nothing between us. Connell shoots from a Lawton cross and the keeper makes a good save but can only parry the ball to Lawton. Another good cross, this time to Jones, is met by a firm volley and we grab the lead. That is doubled in minutes as another Lawton cross is turned into his own net by Adam Farley. It didn't really matter as Connell was waiting to tap it home. Lawton finally gets on the scoresheet as his own shot is blocked by a defender but rebounds into his path and he makes no mistake the second time. That's one match-ball he is definitely taking home

http://www.rvhchessclub.co.uk/121204/prediction.JPG

A 3-5 Stevenage (MacAuley, Connell, Donnelly)

With David Raven's load deal expiring tomorrow the last thing I wanted was Liverpool to block the renewal. Twice we took the lead and twice we were pegged back. A 3rd minute penalty was cancelled out by a dubious dive in our area and then Connell's 19th of the season is wiped out Anthony Elding all of 3 minutes later. A second dodgy penalty kills us in the 2nd minute of the 2nd half and heads drop. They score number 4 and then get awarded their third penalty! FFS. Donnelly smashes in a superb free-kick but it's merely a consolation.

With Raven leaving there is only one option open to me, take Zak Whitbread on loan instead!

H 3-1 Morecombe (Donnelly, Connell, Finnigan)

Morale is through the floor for this one and so a draw would suit me here. Donnelly has other ideas as he hits one from just outside the box after a well worked move. We break down the right and Lawton croses to find Connell just arriving and we are two up! We carve Morecambe open but it isn't until the last minute that we get out 3rd, Finnigan chipping the keeper. Morecambe hit a consolation in injury time. Whitbread is MOM on his debut

H 2-1 Carlisle (Connell, Finnigan)

Connell puts us in front mid-way through the 1st half and is no more than we deserved. Yet another corner is our un-doing as Carlisle score. In the final 10 minutes, Michael Allan goes on a (now typically) surging run and is pushed down in the box. Finnigan converts the penalty. Finnigan then proceeds to miss at least 3 clear chances when through on the keeper but we no more goals at either end it doesn't actually matter.

A 0-0 Notts Co

With County having all the pressure but being unable to score they eventually resort to kicking tactics and we see out the game with 10 men after both Tunnacliffe (subbed) and Molloy are injured. At least we haven't lost again away from home

H 5-0 Halifax (Connell (2), Lawton, Hutchinson, MacAuley)

Spellman robs a Halifax midfielder in possession, slides a ball through for Connell who does the rest. I'm too busy cheering to notice Lawton slam in a second. The 2nd half follows the same path and we hit a third when a Whitbread free-kick is hit to the edge of the box, Connell controls and in one motion spins and fires it home. Our fourth is a rarity as Hutchinson heads home direct from a corner. Having made all three subs, Halifax sustain an injury and are down to 10 men. Ten minutes later that is 8 as Bushell and Killen are sent off for second bookable offences. The 90th minute doesn't see the end of their woes as Connell is pushed in the area and MacAuley steps up to make it 5.

Aldershot won but Hereford lost so it is very tight at the top. With 8 games left I'm 1 point behind the joint leaders but with an inferior goal difference

A 2-1 Bury (Connell, Donnelly)

5 minutes gone and we're 1-0 down. Hello Mr Away Form. Right on HT Connell hits back after 40 minutes of what seems like constant pressure by us. Another break-away sees Connell's shot saved by the keeper but with Donnelly following up we take a vital chance. Bury press forward in search of an equaliser but it is us that look more likely to score. With neither side taking chances we come away with the rarest of things, an away win.

Aldershot lose but Hereford win so win remain 1 point behind but have now moved into second place

H 3-2 Leigh RMI (Connell, Spellman, Evans)

An early goal by Darren Connell settles the nerves in what could be a tricky tie. Spellman soon adds a second is what is turning out to be a very comfortable match so far. No sooner have I spoken than they score. Evans restores our advantage and hopefully that is the end of it. A late goal by Downey from a corner gives them hope that they can salvage a point. A last ditch tackle by MacAuley saves us and we run out the clock.

I'm temporarily top of the league as Hereford are away to Aldershot mid-week. A 2-2 draw leaves me ecstatic as the title is now entirely in our own hands as we sit atop the Conference National

A 3-1 Crawley (Finnigan (3))

A nervous start is followed by better football until both Connell and Whitbread are carried off with less than half an hour gone. Crawley, of course, take full advantage to go into the lead but Finnigan muscles his way through to score. Into the 2nd half and he somehow squeezes past the defender and slides it between the keeper and the post for an amazing goal. Having just made my final substitution I notice that Finnigan has taken a knock. I hope he will be alright. He doesn't seem affected as he runs into the box and thumps one against the post, so close...so close. Route one brings him his hat-trick as he cleverly deals with the bouncing ball and taps it into an empty net. Hopefully the physio has good news.

Whitbread is out for 2 weeks and his loss can be covered. Connell is out for 3 months which is the rest of the season. How can we cope without him? 5 games left and we have managed to stretch our lead to 4 points. It is scant consolation for the loss of our main striker. Peterborough United have sacked Barry Fry. Currently lying 23rd in League One they look certain to go down. Apparently I am the odds on favourite to take over at the helm but have denied that I have any interest. I would like to see what they'd offer me, but there is no way I would take the job.

H 2-0 Dag & Red (Lawton, Spellman)

An even first half has chances for both sides. Sean Evans puts in a good cross and Lawton times his jump well to head home. Finnigan gets pushed in the area and MacAuley steps up to fire it home...but the keeper saves it! How crucial will that turn out to be. Paul Hart comes on and has an immediate impact, his shot cleared off the line. It's his cross that is headed home by Spellman to give us all 3 points.

We're guaranteed a play-off place but that is not enough for me. Aldershot have dropped off slightly with another defeat but Hereford are still there, four points back. Their visit to us in a few weeks is looking more vital with each passing day.

A 0-2 Canvey Island

We dominate early on but it's Canvery Island who take the lead, scoring from a free-kick. They double their lead from a corner and we are on the back-foot. Some of our guys are playing really well but it just isn't happening for them. Slightly unlucky but that's football

Checking the other scores for today I see Hereford and Aldershot both lost. That is exactly what I needed to hear.

In a shock move, Plymouth Argyle offer me the manager's job at Home Park. With £3.6m in transfer money and scope for additional wages within the budget it sounds very tempting. With 4 games left they are 3rd in League One and pushing for promotion. I'd be a liar if I said that I wasn't interested but the thought of winning a title with my guys, the Motormen, is too much and I turn down Paul Stapleton's offer. See you in a few years Paul.

H 0-0 Hereford

The chance to win the title and we blew it. Controlling the game from start to finish we missed chance after chance. Finnigan and Lawton were the guilty parties but special mention goes to Paul Hart who missed a penalty with 5 minutes left after Sean Evans was bundled over in the area.

A 0-5 York

I wonder why York are not top of the league on this kind of performance. They totally outclass us and go in at HT 2-0 up. The 2nd half is a blur of red as they tear us apart. 16 shots (6 on target) and 5 goals.

A Hereford draw leaves us needing at least a draw to win the title. If we lose and Hereford win they they would become champions on goal difference. We are at home to Forest Green (already relegated as bottom side in Conference National) while Hereford are away to mid-table Bury

H 4-1 Forest Green (Evans, Finnigan (3))

It's a nervous performance by us as we try to win the title. Sean Evans calms things done with a mazy dribble and shot for the first goal. That settles us and we press for a second. Forest Green hit us on the break and win a corner. Their only one of the half ends in a goal. I'm gutted. Five minutes later I'm in heaven as Carl Finnigan smashes one home to restore the lead. With the Hereford game not kicking off til later, all we can do is go out and win this game

We are living on the break at the moment and are creating chances but not converting. With 20 minutes left I make my final substitutions. One final roll of the dice for this season. Jones' cross is too deep but is kept in play by Lawton. Rob swings one far post where Jones heads it back across goal and Finnigan slides it into the empty net. 3-1 surely we've done it. A poor goal kick is headed back by Hutchinson to Finnigan. He turns, beats his man and curls one into the corner. The celebrations start immediately as we are now CHAMPIONS! Hereford won but now have to pick themselves up for the play-offs.

Canvey Island win the play-offs and their manager wins the Manager of the Year. I am mentioned nowhere despite our shock title win. With last year's champions Gravesend coming straight back down and Scarborough narrowly avoiding relegation, I decide that next year will be the hardest so far. Not getting relegated will be the task and I hope I am up to it.

A new sponsership deal is announced that is worth £12.5k a season for 2 years. The board have given me £35k of a transfer budget for the coming season. My over-spending on wages must have worried them. The majority of my squad are refusing to sign new contracts. I may have to replace most of them in a few weeks which may not be easy.

Time to relax and take a couple of weeks off. Next up, League Two...

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2006 - 2007 English League Two

The Fans' Player of the Year went to Darren Connell although I'm sure Rob Lawton wasn't too far off when the votes were counted. The board have taken the £230k given to us for TV rights and decided that I can have £35k of a transfer fund. I

can use this to bravely battle relegation and I may need every penny.

In

==

Nick Smith (AMC) - Free

Liam Lake (DR) - Free

John Sutton (DC) - Free

Richard Jones (MC) - Free

Out

===

Band - Retired

Cumiskey - Retired

Nesbitt - Retired

Fensome - Retired

Robertson - Retired

Norman - Retired

Wright - Free

McDermott - Free

Rogers - Free

Pritchard - Free

Garvey - Free

Our most important signings of the summer were Connell and Lawton. Both signed deals that will tie them to the club for one more season. The board temporarily raised the wage limit but quickly dropped it again so I'm finding it hard to bring in the right level of players.

H 0-2 Chesterfield

H 0-0 BAT Sports

H 4-0 Alsager (Connell (2), Evans, Finnigan)

H 0-1 QPR

A series of friendlies doesn't really look as good as I'd hoped. Chesterfield finished 4th in League One last year so it isn't that bad, we played BAT Sports just as my new pre-season fitness program kicked in, a 4-0 win over Alsager raised spirits and a 1-0 (close fought) loss to QPR allowed me to test out a tweaked tactic for away games. We need to improve that away form somewhat.

In other news...

World Cup Final

Brazil 0 - 1 Italy (Zambrotta)

When you join a new division it can be hard to tell where you are supposed to be in the table. I wouldn't be too sad if the bookies were right on this one.

http://www.rvhchessclub.co.uk/151204/promotion%20odds.JPG

A 3-4 Rochdale (Hooper (2), Connell)

The second minute of League Two and we fall behind. Oh dear. Hooper scores for us on 15 mins but we quickly trail again. That man Hooper scores his second but the defence is in tatters as Rocdale scores number 3. Connell gets off the mark before HT to end 45 minutes of intense action. The second half doesn't live up to the exploits of the first and just as I think we've taken a point, Rochdale counter and score number 4. Heartbreaking

H 1-1 Leyton Orient (Connell)

Early pressure pays off as Connell scores after 7 minutes. Orient hit back within 10 minutes and I don't know what to do with this defence. A tight game where players seem to be lacking something. For Sean Evans it was a cutting edge as he spurned two glorious chances in the 2nd half. A point is a point though and we're off the mark.

A 3-3 Mansfield (Connell, Evans (2))

A pulsating half just like Rochdale. Well not just like Rochdale as we end up on top at the break. From 1-0 down in the opening 4 minutes to being 2-1 up after 8, it was a half of non-stop action. Mansfield scored their 2nd mid-way through the half before Sean Evans bagged his 2nd of the game to send us in front. Sutton pushes someone over and the sixth goal of the game is tucked away from the spot. Finnigan rattles the bar late on but it remain 3-3. Three games in and 8 goals conceded.

H 0-1 Peterborough

A free-kick from inside their half is headed in by Tom Laws for the unlikeliest of own goals. This run is shocking. The most boring game ever ends with a Peterborough win despite not registering one shot in the entire game. This is going to be one long season.

A 5-0 Shrewsbury (MacAuley (2), Smith, Hart (2)) League Cup 1st Rd

We race out to a two goal lead thanks to a MacAuley penalty and a late run into the box by Nick Smith, his first goal for the club. MacAuley pops up to head home his second mid-way through the half and we make it to HT with a clean sheet. Paul Hart makes his first appearance of the season and promptly scores two goals in what has turned out to be a thrashing. Our clean sheet is preserved and I may have a glass case made specially for it. It turns out that Shrewsbury are one of the few teams below us in the league! There may be hope yet

A 0-2 Lincoln

Away to one of the current top sides and the story is the same, an early goal for them. We don't look like troubling their keeper and then they hit a 40 yard "screamer" from the touchline. Gutted

H 0-1 Scunthorpe

Another top side come to visit, this time playing 4-2-4 which is a rarity. We dominate the midfield but fail to capitalise and then Nick Smith is sent off just before HT. We continue to control the game well into the 2nd half when it happens, Scunthorpe score, and that is that. This loss has dropped us down to 23rd in the league. It's a long road ahead of us now.

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A 1-5 Gillingham (Hart)

With Dittmer keeping us in the game it's annoying to see MacAuley hit the post with a penalty. Gillingham go in at HT 1-0 up after sustained pressure. They quickly make it two and continue to attack. A Paul Hart penalty is the only bright spot in a torrid 2nd half as we end up conceding five in total and are rooted firmly to the bottom of the table.

With such a run of bad form I'm going back to the tactic that got me here and see if that makes a difference. It does leak goals but it also scores them, maybe it can drag us up the table a bit. My attempts at making a rock solid tactic have failed

H 3-0 Rushden (Connell, Jones, Lawton)

Even the coach driver's morale was low for the visit of the league leaders. We can see why they are top during the first 45 minutes as they don't let us out of our half. A rare break-away is capped by Connell smashing one home. A Lawton cross is met by Ashley Jones for his first of the season and then a third counter-attack sees Lawton score himself as Rushden push forward. An amazing victory

A 2-0 Stoke (Connell, Lawton) League Cup 2nd Rd

We travel to League One Stoke and weather the early storm. As the half wears on we come more and more into it and are unlucky when Jones' shot is cleared off the line. That evens itself out when Connell somehow stumbles through their defence and squeezes his shot past the keeper. Into the 2nd half and Stoke's well worked free-kick thuds against our post with Dittmer a static observer. Our free-kick is a comedy of errors but it falls to Rob Lawton who chips it into the far corner for a bizarre goal. Lawton seems to have a new lease of life in this formation. Tunnacliffe is out for a week but it's nothing serious. What is serious is two clean sheets in a row. This may become a habit if we're not careful.

A 3-0 Wycombe (Lawton, Jones (2))

Inside 60 seconds Lawton shows why he has been on fire lately with a great run and shot into the corner. A horrible mix-up leaves Jones in on goal and he seems to run straight over their goalie but nothing is given and he taps it into the empty net. Wycombe look a beaten side in the 2nd half and we attack and attack. Connell is pushed over in the box and Jones steps up to score his second of the game. Smith came back for this one and had a very good game in central midfield against a side right down at the bottom with us

H 3-0 Chester (Connell, Jones, Hutchinson) LDV Vans Trophy N 1st Rd

Route one football does for the Chester defence as Connell peels away from his marker to score. Chester come back strongly and we're forced to live on the break. A Chester penalty is saved by Dittmer after Jones handled the ball. Jones makes amends by rifling his shot just inside the post after his marker when walk-about. At times it seems like we have everyone back defending and to be honest we are, but with Chester pushing forward they're only leaving space for us to run into. Connell leads the charge but it's Hutchinson with the finish this time.

H 1-1 Scarborough (Lawton)

They narrowly survived last season and they narrowly survived a few times in the first half. Only a Lawton shot that bounced in off the post was able to beat them in a half we generally controlled. A well struck free-kick beats Dittmer at his near post and they've scored. Suddenly we look nervous and are forced to defend an awful lot more. It ends level which is not what we deserved and I view it as two points dropped against a side we thought that we would beat

Gerry Francis is sacked as Stoke boss and I'm the current favourite for the job. Obviously I don't want it and release a statement saying that. Hopefully the Stoke board will take the hint.

Darren Connell wins Goal of the Month for his effort against Rushden. Lawton was runner-up for his goal against Wycombe

A 3-2 Macclesfield (Connell (2), Evans)

Another relegation candidate and another must win game. It's kick and rush football at it's worst in a tense game. A long ball from MacAuley is well controlled by Connel to open the scoring. The same duo combine for his second before Macclesfield hit back with their own long ball and smart finish. We survive a few scares before Evans cuts in from the right wing to restore our two goal lead. I've barely sat back down and it's 3-2! End to end stuff here but we hang on

H 1-1 Stockport (Finnigan)

With Stockport being reduced to shooting from outside the box it's sad to see their 25 yard free-kick take a wicked deflection and leave the keeper stranded. The introduction of Finnigan and Evans brings us to life and sure enough it's Finnigan who heads home the equaliser from a corner and earn ourselves a point

H 1-0 Huddersfield (Lawton) League Cup 3rd Rd

Lawton is back from injury and scores straight away. We are such a different team with proper wingers. Their keeper messes up a clearance and kicks it straight to Smith. Smith heads it to Finnigan who's unmarked and he tucks it away. But Finnigan was offside, gutted. Thankfully we hold on and put ourselves into the next round. This could turn out to be quite a money spinner. Lawton gets booked and so misses our next match.

The League Cup 4th Rd draw is made and we get the team that I would have picked...Scunthorpe. Hardly a glamour tie but it gives us a decent shot at progressing to the quarter finals and perhaps meeting one of the really big teams.

A 2-3 Kidderminster (Jones, Finnigan)

League Cup blues as we conceed an early goal. Jones equalises after a horrible mistake by their keeper but no harm done as they score straight from kick-off. Connell hits the post and has two other shots saved as Danby makes up for his earlier clanger. I shake things up at HT but Mulligan fires in a third and the next action sees Evans get sent off for two yellows within what seems like five seconds, literally five seconds, of game time. His reaction to a foul earned him a card and his reaction to the card earned him another one. Ridiculous. Finnigan sneaks one past the keeper but it's not enough.

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Cheers for that, glad to know someone is actually reading it!

H 1-2 Hartlepool (Finnigan) LDV Vans Trophy N 2nd Rd

Hartlepool are top of League One at the moment and that form shows as they launch wave after wave of attack and finally score just before the break. We come back into it in the 2nd half and Finnigan draws us level but it is not to be. A penalty 4 minutes later when Laws handles in the box seals victory for Hartlepool.

A 1-2 Shrewsbury (Jones)

An early penalty puts us on the back foot but Ashley JOnes strikes a glorious shot and brings us level. This is the signal for us to lie down and not try as the only other action is a Shrewsbury winner 15 minutes from time. We are better than this which is what makes is so frustrating

H 1-2 Scunthorpe (Jones) League Cup 4th Rd

The biggest game of our season and they are playing 4-2-4, risky but it works as they take the lead just before HT. Jones powers one in 10 minutes into the 2nd half but a late goals kills our dreams of QF glory. Our third 2-1 defeat in a row

H 0-3 Swindon FA Cup 1st Rd

Yet more cup action and another goal conceded. Swindon stroke it around like they are Brazil and a long range effort doubles their lead. Swindon quickly get a third and our cup hopes are over for the season. I hope morale is not destroyed by these games though.

H 2-0 Canvey Island (Connell, Jones)

Important games are coming thick and fast as we meet a relegation rival. Canvey were promoted through the play-off system last season but a gritty first half performance shows they are keen to stay up. Connell stuns them with a superb solo effort and Jones' trickery earns us a penalty which he converts himself. It's a long road back and they aren't up to the task.

H 0-0 MK Dons

A first half shot by Lawton that hit the post was the closest either side came to scoring in a dull, boring affair. I'm glad it's over to be honest.

A 2-1 Torquay (Hill (OG), Connell)

We control possession and play some pretty football but fail to be too attacking. Suddenly Jones gets the ball, beats his man and whips in a dangerous cross that is turned into his own net by Kevin Hill. We seem alive again as Connell thunders one against the post and in the confusion we lose the ball. Dittmer finds it in our net 30 seconds later as Martin Phillips helps out his team-mate. Fantastic wing play by Jones gives Connell a route to goal. His shot is well saved but the rebound comes straight back to him and he makes no mistake this time. Torquay have man dismissed for an off the ball incident but it's their lack of an equalise that is what I notice and we leave with three points.

H 2-0 Southend (Spellman, Finnigan)

Connell is twice denied by great saves from the Southend keeper and even at an early stage I wonder will it be our day. As Southend come back into it, it is up to Carl Spellman to hit his first of the season from the edge of the box. A truly wonderful strike. Ashley Jones is having a fantatic game but no-one seems able to finish Southend off. Lawton hits a diagonal ball to Jones who has peeled away from his marker. As the centre back is drawn out he slips it inside to Finnigan who rounds the keeper and scores.

H 4-0 Northampton (Connell (3), Lawton)

An extended break due to cup games taking the fore, and the fact that we aren't in them, ensures that everyone is well rested for this game. We press Northamption back and a Smith through ball leaves Connell with a simple finish and he duly obliges. Connell hits his second with an outstanding effort from 30 yards and completes his hat-trick with a thumping header from a Lawton corner. Connell then turns provider with a superb cross field ball that leaves Lawton in on goal to score number four and cap an excellent team performance.

Amazingly we now sit 11th and are only 5 points away from a play-off spot and 13 from a relegation place. 13 points from the last five games has certainly helped and we are the form team in the division at the moment.

A 3-3 Boston (Connell (3))

A succession of early crosses are just about dealt with but when one is allowed to bounce it causes a mix-up between Laws and Dittmer allowing Boston to score. From a throw in by our own corner flag the ball is hoofed up field to Connell who latches onto it and scores. Minutes later another long ball is played forward and he repeats his trick. I seem to be watching replays as Connell completes a hat-trick in sucessive games with what look like identical goals. Boston don't seem to catch on that they shouldn't be pushing forward and we hit them on the break in succession but Jones and Connell are unable to extend our lead. Referee Rob Martin is getting card happy having shown 7 yellows in just under an hour as I decide to make some changes. With 10 minutes left Brazier pushes over Bennett in the box and he steps up himself to pull Boston within touching distance. Unbelievably they're level within a minute. When a Bennett header bulges the net I'm shattered but Rob Martin rules it out for pushing and I'm ever so relieved. One point gained but two points most certainly lost.

As the DOncaster Rovers job becomes vacant the media have me down as favourite yet again. Are they too stupid to realise that I'm not ready to leave this club yet? Apparently so. Darren Connell seals a deal that will keep him at the club until June 2009. I'm still working on Rob Lawton.

H 2-0 Yeovil (Connell, Finnigan)

Yeovil seemed determined to push forward at the expense of everything else. A combination of poor finishing, good goalkeeping and some last ditch tackles are all that keeps it level up to HT. The 2nd half seems to be going down the same road until Lawton presses the full-back who slips, he grabs the ball and swings in a lovely cross which is forced home by Connell (who else). Yeovil have to press forward even more now and Carl Finnigan catches them cold after a lovely ball by Tillen.

Four days after sacking Brian Talbot, Oldham chairman Barry Chaytow offers me a new job. His offer is quickly refused despite a £600k transfer kitty awaiting me at Boundary Park.

A 2-0 Chester (Connell (2))

With Chester just above the relegation places we fully expect to win. When a shot comes flying back off our post I'm not quite as certain but a Darren Connell goal settles my nerves. Connell and Dittmer are our busiest players as we either are hitting them on the break or are keeping them out. Connell gets his second of the afternoon and we hold out to add even more pressure onto the shoulders of Chester manager Ian Rush.

Rob Lawton finally agrees a new contract of £500 a week as we move up to 10th place and within 3 points of a play-off spot.

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H 0-0 Bournemouth

A quiet first half with neither side wanting to make the first mistake and the second half followed the same pattern. We probably created the better chances but they weren't clear cut and a draw is a fair result

H 0-0 Rochdale

A game where we dominate but don't seem to take our chances. Jones did put the ball into the net once but it was ruled out when the ref spotted a push in the back. We've played two of the top sides in succession and we've done ok. If we can continue to take points from the leaders then maybe we can push on towards the end of the season against the strugglers

A 5-4 Leyton Orient (Connell (5))

Two quick goals from Orient catch us cold but Connell shows he's awake with a typical Motormen goal...except that it's disallowed for offside. Just on half-time he repeats the trick and this time he beats the offside trap as well. Connell slams home his second early in the second half but by then Orient have scored their third as Brazier takes a fit and runs 20 yards out of position and leaves his man unmarked. Number four comes via the penalty spot and with over half an hour remaining it could turn into a cricket score. Orient must have thought the same as they switched off totally and allowed Connell to complete his hat-trick, surely just a consolation...but no. Having changed my midfield combination, Orient were no longer controlling the middle third and when Connell got another chance on 79 minutes it was no surprise to see him bag number four. Ten minutes later it was number five of the day as Orient struggled to contain us. Connell could have had a sixth after rounding the keeper but his shot was blocked on the line. An utterly amazing display by Darren Connell

Matt Bodkin (AM/FC) joins from Gillingham for £4,000 and David Martin (GK) joins us from MK Dons for £8,000. Hopefully they can help out in the second half of the season.

H 1-2 Mansfield (Connell)

A really big game for us and one that could push us right up with the clubs in the play-ff spots. A bad start hands Mansfield an early lead and they take that into HT with little other action. A Jones cross is met on the volley by Lawton and their keeper makes a great save, only for that man Connell to put away the rebound. I've barely stopped celebrating when we're behind again. We can't get through their stubborn defence and lose a vital game. Mansfield had two shots and two goals, but that's the way it goes sometimes

Orient get defeat out of their system in a 5-1 win away to Shrewsbury

A 3-2 Peterborough (Connell (2), Lawton)

Another early goal conceded. The defence is killing us lately with sloppy play. A long ball over the top catches the Peterborough defence out and Connell brings us level. In what is turning out to be customary, we let them score again almost immediately. Connell hits his second and thankfully there isn't enough time for them to score again before HT. In centre midfield Hutchinson is having a stormer having set up Connell's second goal and as he strode forward with the ball I expected something similar. Connell peeled away from his man and headed for goal with the defender in pursuit as Hutchinson played a wonderfully weighted through ball....to Rob Lawton who was steaming in on goal totally unmarked. He seemed to pause for a second as he picked his spot and fired it home. The Posh laid siege to our goal for the rest of the game and won corner after corner but we beat them back and took a valued three points.

H 2-0 Lincoln (Jones, Bodkin)

We get through the first fifteen minutes without conceeding a goal and are rewarded with a penalty! Ashley Jones steps up and scores in what is yet another important game for us. With Lincoln continuing to create chances we don't look secure and so with half and hour left I make some changes and hand Bodkin his debut. Within ten minutes he has scored and made the game safe for us, top stuff. Brazier is sent off in injury time but the game is soon over.

That result moves us up into 8th place just one point behind wycombe in 7th...but it's slightly misleading as there are three clubs just a point behind us and two of those have a game in hand. It's still a good position to be in at the moment, as long as Darren Connell stays injury free.

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A 0-4 Scunthorpe

Their 4-2-4 pulls us apart in the opening five minutes as they score two goals. It isn't helped when Cullen gets two yellows in a minute and is sent off. What will the remaining 84 minutes have in store? We hang on to HT but they score two more quickly after the break. Porter is then carried off after we've made all our subs so we are down to nine men. This is unreal.

H 1-1 Gillingham (Connell)

A better performance sees us take the game to Gillingham from the off. A few chances are created but nothing special until Connell beats three players and chips the keeper. Peter Crouch scores from a tight angle to level things up and I decide to make a few changes. Bodkin has been playing well but looks tired and is replaced, as is Jones and Connell. The subs have 30 minutes to prove themselves but fail to deliver us a goal

A 2-2 Rushden (Finnigan (2))

We don't look like we know what we're doing. Rushden carve us apart and it's men against boys. I'm only surprised the margin of victory isn't more. Finnigan hits a consolation goal with 15 minutes left and scores a remarkable second deep into injury time for a totally undeserved point. I actually feel sorry for Rushden

In other news, Germany travelled to Japan for a friendly and left on the end of a 5-0 defeat.

H 5-1 Wycombe (Connell (3), Jones, Lawton)

For once the early goal goes to us as a smart run by COnnell takes him in on goal and he finishes well. The game becomes a bit like shooting practice as Wycombe crumble. A good cross from Jones gives Connell his second on a plate and he somehow squeezes between two defenders, past a third and completes his hat-trick. A penalty before HT from Jones makes it four but Stonebridge pulls one back just before the whistle. We continue our good form into the second half as Lawton makes it five, we hit the post twice and have an effort cleared off the line but there are no further goals

A 1-1 Scarborough (Connell)

Connell turns providor as he slips the ball through to Bodkin but his shot is tipped onto the bar. A great cross field pass from Tillen leaves Lawton in the clear but Downey makes a good save. Down the other end Gilroy misses an absolute sitter and we go in level at the break. Downey is still performing heroics in the second half but a bullet of a shot from Connell breaks the deadlock and it's his 50th league goal for the club. Bodkin ruins a good performance by pushing Gilroy in the back and giving away a spot kick. Gilroy steps up himself to bring them level. As the game draws to a close it is Scarborough who are in control of the game and only new signing David Martin stands between them and three points. Martin prevails to earn us a point and earns himself the MOM award.

I check the league table to discover that I'm in 8th place, level on 50 points with 7th placed Gillingham. A quick scan downwards show MK Dons in 13th place on 47 points. It is a tough battle ahead and we're without Lawton for two weeks as he does in his shoulder.

H 4-0 Macclesfield (Jones, Connell (2), Melton)

With Macclesfield right down at the bototm I expect three points. Three nil up in fifteen minutes was not what I expected. Jones and then a quick Connell brace put the game out of reach but when Lake gets sent off before HT things don't look quite as rosy. Connell helps make it four when he advances on goal, draws the keeper and passes the ball to Melton at the back post where he can tap into an empty net. As the FT whistle goes I wonder why Macclesfield are bottom and then realise that it's because they can't go any lower, at least not until next season.

A 3-0 Stockport (Connell (3))

Stockport are sitting second so a difficult game is expected, I'd be happy with a point tbh. Mid-way through the first half a shot by Bodkin takes a wicked deflection off Connell's head and loops over the stranded Stockport keeper. In a dull game there is not much happening until Bodkin chases down a lost cause, win the ball back and whips in a great cross to Connell who controls and scores. On the replay I notice that three defenders were marking Ashley Jones and leaving Connell open! Sloppy play by Daly gives Jones the ball and he feeds it through to Connell. A poor challenge by Jackson leaves him in on goal and he makes no mistake.

Connell wins player of the month and finishes first and third in goal of the month for two of his strikes against Wycombe. Just as we get Lawton back we lose Brazier for three weeks

H 3-0 Kidderminster (Jones, Connell, Sutton)

A cross field ball by Connell finds Jones free but he still has a lot to do. He cuts inside his man and cooly slots it home to give us an early lead. Bodkin is running the show from midfield and sends Connell racing clear. The keeper gets a hand to the shot but can't get enough on it to keep it out and as the players troop off we lead 2-0. A rare thing happens just after the restart, we score from a corner - John Sutton coming up from the back. Jones has a fantatic goal ruled out for offside (looked ok to me) but it doesn't actually matter as the game ends moments later

Those results have left us sixth and pushing hard now for promotion

http://www.rvhchessclub.co.uk/231204/league.JPG

Our final ten league matches are

A Canvey Island 20th

A Southend 15th

A MK Dons 11th

H Torquay 19th

H Shrewsbury 22nd

A Northampton 23rd

H Boston 8th

A Yeovil 21st

H Chester 17th

A Bournemouth 4th

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A 0-2 Canvey Island

Tom Laws has a poor first half and is at fault for Canvey Island taking the lead, totally losing his man. He is subbed at half-time but Canvey double their tally on the hour with a well worked corner routine. We weren't at the races today and the closest we came was when Connell put a header over after a good cross from Lawton

A 1-1 Southend (Connell)

Bodkin is put through on goal by Connell but delays and tries to go round the keeper but only allows the defender to get back and make the tackle. Another well worked corner routine sees us trail just before HT until Connell latches onto a long ball, rounds the keeper and finishes just like Bodkin should have. We control the second half without creating good chances and Southend rarely trouble us.

A 0-1 MK Dons

Another early goal conceded as David Martin palms a 20 yard strike into Hornuss' path and he finishes well. We aren't creating chances and despite limiting MK Dons to long range efforts we never look like scoring and lose again

As Peter Jackson is sacked by Huddersfield I am apparently all set to jump ship. It isn't going to happen

H 1-1 Torquay (Lawton)

An early Lawton shot hits the post and the keeper clutches onto it. Damn. Two minutes later and a long ball from Tillen find Lawton in on goal. This time his shot hits both posts and goes in! Torquay hit us on the break mid-way through the half and take their only chance of the game to level it. At the break we're still level but I don't know how, we've created more chances in this half than in the prior three games combined. We create chance after chance in the second half but no-one appears able to score and we throw away 2 points. I'm not pleased.

H 3-1 Shrewsbury (Bodkin (2), Laws)

Shrewsbury struggle to get out of their own half and we pile on the pressure. It takes half an hour but finally we score as Connell chases down a loose ball and whips in a great cross to the far post, leaving Bodkin with the simplest of tap ins. Ten minutes later it's two as Tom Laws heads home from a corner. Just on HT Kevin Street pulls one back as Shrewsbury score with their first attack and their first shot. Within minutes of the restart Bodkin powers his way through and restore our two goal advantage. The rest of the game is back and forth and very open. With finishing on both sides being poor it isn't much of a surprise to see no more goals

Joe Tillen is out injured for two weeks which is a massive blow. He has made the left-back spot his own and put in some impressive displays, esp with the long cross field ball he loves to Lawton

A 3-0 Northampton (Bodkin (2), Finnigan)

Northampton are playing 3-4-3 but for the first 30 minutes we can walk through their defence at will. Poor finishing is our only sin and they revert to a 5-3-2. In extra time it's Bodkin who turns his man and hits a powerful shot into the roof of the net to give us a deserved lead. He doubles it after the break as he smashes home a great cross from Lawton. We continue to attack and are only giving up long range attempts that Martin can deal with easily. Just before the end an intricate move ends with Finnigan slipping past his marker and finishing into the corner to seal a good win for us.

H 2-0 Boston (Connell, Bodkin)

One of our biggest games in the run-in and we must get off to a good start. An even first half ends with us 2-0 up as we convert our chances. Connell scores first before Bodkin goes on a run from inside our own half to score a wonder goal. Surely that will win goal of the month. Boston look a beaten team and don't get a shot on goal in the second half as we create chance after chance but fail to add to our lead. Bodkin was the star of the show

Tom Laws is out for two weeks with a pulled hamstring. He should be back in time for the play-offs, if we make them

A 1-1 Yeovil (Connell)

Yeovil are fighting relegation so although we should win, it definitely will not be easy. And so it proves as Yeovil play so much better than Boston did and score on the half hour with a lovely passing move. I notice that we are taking a lot of shots from long range but Connell finally gets a chance to run in on goal and finishes expertly. Yeovil's keeper makes two great saves just after the break but they hit back and create a few opportunities of their own. Bodkin is having a good game but I take him off as he has a knock. Finnigan three times and Hutchinson once miss chances that should be buried. I'm not pleased at yet another 2 points thrown away by careless finishing.

Results go our way and so we only 1 point from our remaining two fixtures to be guaranteed a play-off spot. A training injury to Molloy leaves us dangerously short of cover at the back.

H 0-0 Chester

Bodkin is the early star of the show hitting the bar, post and having a goal ruled out for offside. Pity the rest of the team weren't as on form as we head in level at HT. With Wayne Brown continuing to have a good game in the Chester goal I decide to play a bit more defensively for the last fifteen minutes to seal the point we need. We're in the play-offs and Wayne Brown gets MOM

Bodkin wins player of the month and goal of the month for his "absolutely incredible goal"

A 3-3 Bournemouth (Finnigan (3))

Brazier gives away a soft penalty but heads don't drop and Finnigan pulls us level ten minutes later. It's an even contest until another mistake at the back allows them to regain their lead. That man Finnigan scores his second just before HT as he tries to stake a claim for a regular starting spot. A cross from Jones leads to a scramble in the box and the ball is forced home by Finnigan, what a performance. Our defence is ball watching as Bournemouth go straight up and equalise from the kick-off. Bournemouth attack and attack but just can't score, James Hayter being the main culprit. It matters as Bournemouth don't do enough to gain promotion and join us in the lottery system.

Hartlepool have offered me the manager's job at Victoria Park. Having finished second in League One they are about to tackle the Championship and have £1.8m in the coffers to help. I'm seriously tempted for the first time but the call of the play-offs is too great, I can't leave now.

H 0-1 MK Dons Play-off SF Leg 1

Somehow we are at home for this game and we play terribly. We are finally punished when Martin's clearance goes straight to Hornuss and he scores the simplest of goals. It turns out to be the only goal of the game and we face an uphill task to progress

A 2-1 MK Dons (Connell, Tillen) Play-off SF Leg 2

We dominate the first half and with seconds remaining Darren Connell scores to bring us right back into this tie. The flag goes up as Hornuss scores just into the second half and I'm so relieved. We have to weather this storm. We hang on and hang on but when our chance comes we fail to take it as Connell blazes wide. Atherton fires in a free-kick and so with 20 minutes left we must really start to attack now. Evans is through on goal but his cheeky chip is tipped over the bar. With 2 minutes left plus extra time I change to all out attack with a 2-3-2-3 ultra attacking formation and it works out as Joe Tillen pops up to score the winner and take us through on away goals. High drama indeed.

N 1-1 (2-4) Bournemouth (Brazier) Play-off Final

A tense first half sees us generally in control but it's Bournemouth who take the lead after a long ball down the middle catches our defence sleeping. Brazier powers in a header from a Tunnacliffe corner to bring us level and with half an hour left it's anyone's game. With Nick Smith missing the best chance of the half we head into extra time. A dull first period sees nothing happen except Lawton being carried off right near the end. We'll play the second period with just ten men. Connell misses the only chance, sliding the ball just wide of the post and so we head to penalties

Connell scores Bournemouth scores

Evans misses Bournemouth scores

Smith scores Bournemouth scores

Hutchinson misses Bournemouth scores

and they're through icon_frown.gificon_frown.gif

I'm utterly gutted.

Rob Lawton and Darren Connell are selected in the Team of the Year, I finish third in Manager of the Year, Bodkin and Connell finish one and two in goal of the season and Connell wins the golden boot. It's all meaningless though after those damn penalties.

Spellman and MacAuley both leave on frees and there'll have to be a re-think in the summer over some players at the club.

After a draining season I'm just about to go on holiday when Rob Lawton hands in a transfer request. I'm stunned. If he wants to go then fair enough but I'll want at least £500k for him and it'll be interesting to see who comes in. I decide to take three weeks off this year after a long, hard season. Hopefully we can go one better next year, hopefully.

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2007 - 2008 English League Two

A new sponsership deal is announced that is worth £65k a year for two years and my transfer budget is in the region of £70k. Darren Connell retains his Fans' Player of the Year award and we've been given £230k for TV rights. The board expect us to be mid-table this year, definitely attainable.

In

==

Ian Knight (DMC) - Free

Danny Day (DC) - Free

Shane Tudor (AMRC) - £6k

Joe Dolan (DC) - £14k

Pat Baldwin (DC) - £5k

Glen Wilson (DR) - £14k

Darren Way (DMC) - £5k

Garreth O'Connor (AMLC) - £4k

Out

===

Lancaster - £1k Gainsborough

H 2-0 Ash (Connell, Dolan)

Rob Lawton is out for three weeks with a pulled hamstring.

H 2-0 BAT Sports (Tudor, Way)

Having only organised two friendlies I hope this won't affect us at the start of the season, esp with two away games up first. The bookies have installed us as joint favourites for the title, along with Nottm Forest and Mk Dons. Forest have suffered two consecutive relegations to drop into League Two. It's nice to see that someone likes my summer signings.

A 0-2 Southend

Some of the players must have down at the bookies checking out the odds as they don't appear to have turned up on the opening day of the season. We are much better second half but as the clock winds down Southend hit us on the break for number two and we're off to a bad start.

A 2-2 Leyton Orient (Connell, Miller (OG))

Early goal syndrome strikes again as Orient take the lead. A straight ball from Laws is flicked on by Bodkin and Darren Connell provides the finish to our first goal of the season. Two minutes after the break and we're behind again, slack marking by Wilson leaves a simple finish for Orient. Thankfully it is soon cancelled out when Darren Way pops up just inside the box and his cross/shot is turned into the Orient net by Justin Miller. As the half wears on we are coming more and more into it. At times Orient seem to be facing wave after wave of attack but then strike out on a good counter. With no more goals I'm happy to secure the first point of the season and hopefully the confident second half performance can be taken into our next game.

H 5-0 Mansfield (Connell (4), Finnigan)

Lawton is restored to the team and justifies his selection with two assists for Connell. Just before HT a Lawton cross is met by Connell for number three and two minutes later Darren Way gets to the byline and swings in a great cross for Connell to head home. More chances are created but not taken (a header from Dolan went particularly close) until Murray gives us a penalty by punching the ball in the area. Finnigan steps us and scores. Mansfield were amongst the group of teams that the bookies felt would be up there at the end of the season, on this performance I don't see it.

H 2-2 Mk Dons (Knight, O'Connor)

A training injury robs me of Lawton and Finnigan for this game against one of our main rivals. We dominate the early going but when Bodkin is booked twice within minutes of each other the game takes a new twist. Surely enough, Andy Smith puts the Dons in front with a fine finish into the corner from just inside the area. We've looked more threatening this season from corners and that turns out to be our best hope as in first half injury time Dolan powers a header towards goal and Ian Knight diverts it past the keeper for his first Motormen goal. Mk Dons press forward in the second half having changed to a 4-3-3 but Dolan is winning everything in the air. Two minutes from time and Paul Hart leads a breakaway but his cross his just to far for O'Conner, Evans retrieves the ball and from the left wing fires in a great ball and O'Connor gets to this one! Surely the winner...but no. A dramatic equaliser from Robertson earns them a point and I can't complain too much

A 1-2 aet Watford (Connell) League Cup 1st Rd

I'm not too bothered about this one but I'm still pleased when a clever free-kick to Connell catches out the Watford defence and he scores. I refuse to make any Watford 'gap' jokes. Hand equalises for Watford but I'm more concerned that Connell has been carried off injured. With no more action in normal time I decide to take a gamble and switch to a very attacking formation to try to score quickly and then revert to our normal style of play. It doesn't quite work but since we are creating chances I leave things as they are. With 121 minutes gone Matteo Paro pops up to head home a corner and we are out. Worse than that we have wasted a lot of energy in the process. At least Connell is only out for a few days.

A 1-2 Rochdale (Evans)

A thirty yard rocket and a dubious penalty separate the sides after the first hour in an awful contest. Substitute Sean Evans comes on to score a great goal but Rochdale hole on to secure the win

H 3-0 Wrexham (Dolan (2), Bodkin)

We edge a close first half and are rewarded with a Joe Dolan header from O'Connor's corner. I told you we were getting better. The second half follows a similar pattern only with Darren Way taking the corner and then near the end, Matt Bodkin caps a wonderful performance with a right to left run across the box, is found by Evans' cross and his flick header seals victory.

A 3-1 Gravesend (Connell (3))

An early Connell goal settles the nerves as we face the new boys. A David Fry half volley brings them level mid-way through the half and it's not turning out to be easy. A scrappy game takes a turn for the worse for us when substitute Hutchinson gets two yellows in a minute and is off. Ten minutes later a lucky deflection presents Connell with a half chance and he tucks it away. Sustained pressure from Gravesend has them hitting the bar twice but in the fifth minute of time added on up pops Connell to complete his hat-trick

H 5-0 Swindon (Connell, Way, Lawton, Finnigan (2))

A massive game for us and we get off to a flier. Connell, Way and then a Lawton free-kick give us what must be an winning lead. Just as I've used all three subs Joe Dolan gets sent off for a professional foul. Why oh why did he do it? At 3-0 up we could give them a goal and keep our best defender for other games. Being reduced to 10 men doesn't seem to matter as Finnigan knocks in number four with four minutes left and on the stroke of full-time converts a penalty to make the final score look even more resounding.

Wigan boss Dave Whelan comes calling with £4.1m in hand and the club lying 5th in League One. I'll leave once I've taken Vauxhall Motors as high as I possibly can

H 2-0 Scunthorpe (Way, Finnigan)

An agressive 4-2-4 formation does not work for Scunthorpe as we win the midfield battle and launch our attacks from there. Minutes after having a goal disallowed for pushing, Darren Way leaps highest to nod home from a corner. We create an enormous number of chances but it isn't until near the end that the game is made safe, Finnigan latching onto a flick on and scoring coolly. He's staking a claim for a starting spot

Our current run has taken us all the way up to fourth and only two behind leaders Forest who looked like running away with the title just a couple of games ago.

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H 1-1 (2-4) Macclesfield (Lawton) LDV Vans Trophy N 1st Rd

With Macclesfield creating few chances in a dull game, it's a surprise to see them take the lead. Right on the whistle Tudor creates a wonderful opening for Lawton and he scores, although I nearly wish he hadn't. I needn't have worried as we lose the shoot-out 4-2

A 3-0 Canvey Island (Connell, Bodkin, Finnigan)

A good first half performance sees us enter the dressing room with a two goal lead thanks to Connell and Bodkin. Finnigan adds a third when he comes on in the second half and we run the clock down to win another game.

We are now both the form team in the division and also top of the league thanks to Scarborough beating Forest 1-0. David Martin is out for two months with a broken cheekbone. Our other keepers will have to step up and perform well

H 3-0 Shrewsbury (Lake, Connell, Finnigan)

A fantastic free-kick puts us ahead as O'Connor taps it sideways to Lake who drills it in from 35 yards. Connell quickly adds number two and we control the game right up until the end when Finnigan scores after Sean Evans' shot is parried by the keeper.

A 2-1 Cheltenham (Connell (2))

A massive, massive game for both sides and we get off to a flier. Within fifteen seconds Connell has hit the post, within three minutes he has scored and within five he's notched his second. The pace slackens as the game continues but with a two nil lead and Cheltenham shell-shocked we look comfortable. They do cause problems when they change to a 4-3-3 and get a consolation goal in injury time but the result was never in doubt after those early goals

H 3-2 Peterborough (O'Connor, Bodkin, Finnigan)

Our good form continues as O'Connor puts us in front and then Bodkin mis-hits a free-kick which beats the keeper at his near post for number two. Finnigan comes on to score yet another goal before two goals in two minutes from Peterborough leave us looking shaky for the final ten minutes.

H 3-2 Northampton (Finnigan (2), Bodkin)

A strong first half performance sees us have a lot of attempts on goal but not too many on target. The second half introduction of Finnigan solves that as he gets on the end of a Lawton cross to take the lead and then turns provider for Matt Bodkin to rifle one home. A Northampton consolation goal sparks a crazy few minutes as suddenly they hit a second from what appears to be 35 yards and then Lawton gets his marching orders. From a won position we look to be on dodgy ground for the remaining few minutes until a poor Laws clearance finds Finnigan in space and he takes the direct path to goal and smashes it into the roof of the net.

A 3-1 Aldershot (Connell (2), O'Connor)

We survive a few early scares and start to come into the match. Aldershot are up near the play-off positions so they aren't too bad but two goals from Connell and a third from O'Connor just before the break give us a commanding position. The second half is played at walking pace and only a late deflection allows Mike Flynn to score for Aldershot. We seem to be unable to keep a clean sheet lately but it doesn't matter too much

H 4-1 Northwood (Evans (2), Connell, Bodkin) FA Cup 1st Rd

This should be safe passage into round two with no problems. O'Connor goes off injured mid-way through the first half and I'll have to see what his status is after the game. Evans comes on and just before the break gives us the lead, dribbling through the packed defence and his weak shot somehow squirms under the keeper. Two minutes after the restart and Bodkin picks their defence apart with a lovely pass to Connell. He rounds the keeper to score but is carried off the field only minutes later after another dreadful challenge. Evans grabs his second from a tight angle and I pray for no more injuries. Bodkin scores his fifth of the season before Northwood score with their only shot on target

O'Connor is only out for a week and Connell for a few days so we've been lucky enough. Just as I say that, Joe Dolan is hurt in training and will be out for two weeks. A chance for Baldwin and Day to step in

A 2-2 Wycombe (Way, Lawton)

A Darren Way penalty is cancelled out four minutes later as Wycombe strive to get away from the relegation zone. Rob Lawton finally does something on the pitch as he beats three men and scores a wonder goal. He'd been hiding all game. Then one of the most bizarre goals I've seen, a poor cross from Wycombe is going towards Tom Laws who has no-one near him. Does he head it behind for a corner? Does he clear it into touch? Does he control it and stride away Hansen-esque? Or does he blast it into our net from six yards? Take a guess

H 3-0 Torquay (Woods (OG), Connell, Jones)

Lawton with a great near post cross tries to find Hooper making a late surge to nip in front of the keeper and score but Steve Woods gets there instead. Luckily for us all he can do is turn it into his own net. With O'Connor playing a different role in central midfield due to Bodkin having a one game suspension, it doesn't seem to be affecting his performance. He is spreading the play from one wing to the other but his killer pass to Connell through the middle provides goal number two. Even with the aerial threat of Dolan sidelined we are still dangerous at corners as Ashley Jones proves from close range.

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Nothing worse than to have your entire season flushed down the toilet because of a penalty shoot-out. No stopping you since, though icon_smile.gif

Your story would perhaps be enhanced by the use of bold and/or italics (dates, results and that). It looks better and makes it easier to follow. All the best, keep it up icon14.gif

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H 0-0 Chester

An awful game with so few chances it's unbearable to watch.

A £500k bid for Carl Finnigan is accepted from Gillingham and he is away. I now have £320k to use to find a back-up striker as his replacement.

Rob Lawton wins goal of the month, I get manager of the month and I turn down the QPR job.

A 1-3 Preston (Connell) FA Cup 2nd Rd

Despite Connell equalising in the second half after a fortunate rebound from Bodkin's shot, we were never really in this one and Preston ran out comfortable winners. At the moment they are a mid-table side in the division above us but the gulf in class was pretty obvious

In trying to find a replacement striker I find someone who I think looks ideal, Alex Williams from Morton. I agree a fee and offer him more than double what he is currently on but he says it isn't enough! Stuff you then. Oliver Allen signs instead from West Ham for £65k. He's certainly cocky as he declared his ability with a football will leave fans drooling

A 0-3 Kidderminster

End to end stuff as Allen misses a chance on his debut and then they go up the other end and score. A corner just before HT gives them their second and a corner on the hour gives them number 3. We really miss Dolan at the moment. That was embarrassing

A 2-1 Nottm Forest (Bodkin (2))

Not the best time to be visiting our rivals but when Marlon King missed a penalty after 11 minutes you could see the relief flood through the team. Bodkin punished Forest for their miss right on half-time with a lovely strike from just outside the box. With the ball just about to run out of play Tillen slides in on his man and King doesn't make the same mistake this time. Bodkin decides to do a carbon copy of his first goal five minutes later and we snatch all three points

H 2-0 Boston (Bodkin, Connell)

When Forest come sniffing round Bodkin I tell them where to go and he repays me with the opening goal against Boston. Connell quickly adds number two and we're in cruise control...right until Dolan gives away a penalty. Thankfully Dittmer makes the save and there is no late pressure from Boston

A 6-0 Gillingham (Connell (3), O'Connor, Tudor, Allen)

Six minutes in and Connell opens the scoring. Carl Finnigan is watching from the bench, their bench this time instead of ours. Bodkin is carried off soon after and I hope he is ok. The ref didn't even book their player for it. Connell makes them pay when he turns his man and fires it low into the corner and O'Connor adds a third from the spot. An incisive breakaway gives Connell his hat-trick and Tudor tucks away number five after Sean Evans gets to the byline and pulls the ball back to leave a simple finish. Five minutes from time and Oliver Allen notches his first goal for the club in what has turned into a rout.

Bodkin is only out for a few days with a bruised rib and thanks to a 0-0 draw between Mansfield and Swindon we sit atop the division with 22 games gone.

H 4-1 Scarborough (O'Connor, Dolan, Connell, Lawton)

A fantastic home performance and a good reason why ought to go up this year without needing the play-offs. We have good players in every position this year and rely less on the goal instincts of Darren Connell. He got his name on the scoresheet today but by then we were already on cruise control thanks to O'Connor and Dolan. Lawton added number 4 before a late penalty for Scarborough was their consolation

H 2-1 Leyton Orient (Connell, Lawton)

A first half of constant pressure is rewarded in injury time when Connell sticks out a leg and deflects O'Connor's shot into the net. We're unable to sustain our momentum going into the second half and are punished with six minutes left as Orient score. Questions must be asked of who was picking up their striker as he ran into the area. In injury time Rob Lawton picked up the ball and ran at their defence. He shaped inside before running round the outside and through on goal before finishing from the narrowest of angles for a thrilling winner

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A 0-0 MK Dons

A game short on quality so it is no surprise when it ends goalless. This is a valuable point for the Dons as they battle away near the foot of the table

Preston North End are the latest club to offer me a position and also the latest to be politely declined.

A 0-0 Mansfield

With Mansfield lying fourth, this is a pretty big game for us. Pity we don't get going until the second half and thankfully neither do Mansfield. With few chances created in a game neither side wanted to lose we both going away happy with a point.

H 3-0 Southend (Connell (2), Evans)

It takes us until the second half to break down Southend and it is O'Connor and Bodkin who are the key men as they get wide and put in great crosses for Connell to score. With all my subs used Tom Laws gets sent off and we revert to three at the back but are not greatly troubled. So much so that Sean Evans has the time and space to pick his spot from 8 yards out in a comprehensive win

H 3-1 Rochdale (Connell (2), Lawton)

An early goal from Connell as Lawton throws in a perfect cross is cancelled out minutes later as Rochdale score from a corner. Connell returns the favour later on as he finds Lawton unmarked at the far post with a firm cross. Connell nets his second when a Lawton free-kick lands right at his feet and all he has to do is get a touch on it and it flies into the net.

A 1-0 Wrexham (Connell)

Wrexham flood the midfield with their 3-5-2 system and for 40 minutes it works very well, until Bodkin makes a surging run with the ball and slips it to Connell who chips the advancing keeper. As Wrexham push forward Oliver Allen almost scores from the halfway line as their keeper had also pushed up but his shot is just wide. The ref has gone card mad in the second half and I'm surprised to see no-one sent off

H 3-1 Gravesend (Connell (3))

A mistake by Liam Lake ends up with him putting the ball in his own net. Connell spares his blushes ten minutes later with a right foot rocket and puts us ahead in similar fashion right on HT. Connell seals his hat-trick with a 25 yard effort into the top corner. What a player! Oliver Allen comes on and hits the post twice, things just aren't running for him at the moment but his time will surely come

H 3-1 Canvey Island (Connell, O'Connor, Way)

Two minutes in and Connell keeps up his great run with a well struck shot from the edge of the area. Liam Lake is turned too easily in the box and Clive Platt scores for Canvey Island, ffs. Connell is hacked down in the area and up steps O'Connor to do the business from the spot. We have the lion's share of the possession and chances but stubborn defending keeps us at bay until Darren Way converts a penalty right at the death after a trip on Lawton

A 1-1 Shrewsbury (Connell)

Dittmer is beaten from 30 yards when he seemed to have it covered. What was he doing? The first half was a footballing lesson from Shrewsbury and I'm not sure how we managed to keep it to one. When Connell's shot squirms under the keeper but is cleared off the line I wonder is that our only chance gone. We start to play more fluently and our deadly duo, Lawton and Connell, combine to snatch a point where we didn't deserve one

A 2-1 Swindon (Connell, Allen)

With us locked at the top of the table and well clear of third placed Forest, it looks like this could be a game to decide the title. There is a long way to go but it would be a huge psychological blow to lose this game. Despite controlling the first half it is Swindon who fall behind as O'Connor's driven cross is headed home by Connell. With them creating chance after chance it isn't much of a surprise to see them finally score as Andrew Caton is put in on goal. A second Swindon goal is ruled out for offside and much to my delight Oliver Allen nips in to score. Cue late pressure from Swindon but it isn't enough

A 2-0 Scunthorpe (Hart, Bodkin)

One of the most boring games we've played, until the four minutes added on at the end of the game. Suddenly Paul Hart leads a breakaway to score his first of the season and then a Jones cross is headed in by the late arriving Bodkin. These sort of games decide titles.

H 1-1 Cheltenham (Bodkin)

We played well but Cheltenham played better and yet we snatch a point late on. Their defence held us to few chances throughout the game but a surging Bodkin run makes it two goals in two games for him. We're heading for promotion

With Walsall on the brink of relegation to League Two they come to me for help and I turn them down. I'm confident that we'll be there next season, will they be?

A 2-3 Peterborough (Lawton, Allen)

Teams really seem to raise their game when they play us and Peterborough are no exception. A controlled first half performance sees us struggle to contain them and although they take the lead, they are bound to be disappointed that it isn't more. Two minutes after the break and they're justified as Lawton fires one in from just outside the box. Tillen ensures that they need not worry as he hits us with a double whammy, giving away a penalty and getting sent off in one go. Peterborough add a third before Allen pulls one back with a tremendous run and shot. With Lawton clean through on goal the ref blows his whistle for FT and we go down fighting till the last

Our 16 game unbeaten streak comes to an end but there is no time to think about it as Aldershot are next up

H 4-0 Aldershot (Connell (2), Smith, Evans)

Connell is the early scorer with his 100th league goal of his career and at a vital time too. Aldershot have been on a good run themselves lately and so when Nick Smith tries his luck from 25 yards I am delighted to see it fly in. Connell ensures there is no road back for The Shots when he turns his marker inside the area and his shot is just inside the post. Sean Evans dribbles through a beaten Aldershot defence for number four and that completes the scoring

That win has guaranteed us a play-off place and with nine games left we have a healthy lead over fourth place. Three wins should mean automatic promotion.

A 1-0 Northampton (Connell)

With Lawton and Evans both missing with knocks, it isn't good news to see Porter taken off in the first half. Connell scores soon after in what is a hard fought game. Connell himself shows signs of a knock and is replaced on the hour. I can't afford any more injuries in this game. With Northampton in need of points I was surprised that they didn't push men forward near the end. They stuck to their game plan but it never troubled us and to be honest, we really should have won by more

Steve Porter is out for the rest of the season with a torn hamstring.

H 2-0 Wycombe (O'Connor, Allen)

Tudor and Connell combine to present O'Connor with a easy chance about three yards out and he makes no mistake with the header. Wycombe don't seem at all bothered about being behind and have nothing to play for as they are mid-table. Pity then that they hack Bodkin down and he has to be stretchered off. Oliver Allen knocks one in late on to continue our good run

We are promoted \o/ Bodkin is out for two weeks with a gashed leg which isn't as bad as I first feared but Joe Dolan is ruled out for a month with strained knee ligaments

A 3-2 Chester (Lawton (2), Connell)

When Cooper misses an open goal for Chester it sparks ten minutes of madness as we go 2-0 up through Lawton and Connell before Cooper pegs us back with two goals of his own. Lawton nets the fifth goal of the game seven minutes before HT to end a half of drama and excitement. The thrills continue in the second half but without the goals to go with it, mostly as a result of two fine performances by the goalkeepers

H 1-0 Nottm Forest (Lawton)

A Rob Lawton shot is deflected into the net mid-way through the first half and is all that separates the sides in a well fought contest. Neither side really gained an advantage and with a packed midfield it was a game that didn't lend itself to open, flowing football with lots of chances.

A Swindon defeat leaves us nine clear at the top with five games left. I win manager of the month while Oliver Allen and Sean Evans are second and third in the goal of the month competition

H 2-1 Kidderminster (Allen, Lawton)

We're not playing well at the moment and it seems to be because players are tired. I end up making three subs at HT due to slight knocks and sheer tiredness and I've no sooner sent them out than Tillen comes off injured. Oliver Allen has a slice of fortune as his shot comes back off the post and straight to him. He doesn't make the same mistake. Harriers hit back straight away using their man advantage but are unable to stop Rob Lawton from making a mazy run through their defence at the death to take all three points

A 4-0 Torquay (Smith, Connell (2), Way)

If we win then we've got the title as our goal difference is so superior to Swindon's. Smith and Connell with the early goals settle us down before Connell hits his second and there is no way back for Torquay. Way completes the scoring with a fine header from Tudor's corner

As Swindon draw we are officially League Two champions \o/

A 2-2 Boston (Connell (2))

Three minutes in and Baldwin is sent off for pushing Jackson in the back. Jackson picks himself up and buries the free-kick past Dittmer. Lawton slips Connell through as Boston try to play the offside trap...but he's onside and buries his 40th league goal this season, equalling his own record from last year. It's also our 100th league goal this season. As Boston push men forward for the winner, Connell punishes them on the break. It is short lived as they snatch a deserved equaliser and only a dodgy offside call saves us right at the end

H 2-0 Gillingam (Hooper, Tudor)

A fantastic free-kick from Hooper sends us into the lead in our final home game of the season. Tudor misses when he's 1-on-1 with the keeper but five minutes later Oliver Allen tucks away a similar chance.

Connell, Allen and Lawton finish first, second and third in goal of the month and Connell picks up player of the month

A 2-1 Scarborough (Way, Connell)

Way opens the scoring with a header from Lawton's corner. Connell doubles our lead within minutes as his marker goes walkabout. Maher scores an identical goal to Way and suddenly Scarborough are right back in this. Gray's effort is parried by Dittmer and kicked out for a throw. The ball is launched back in and in the scramble that followed they hit the post. That was the closest they came and we run out 2-1 winners

Darren Way limped off and is out for 4 months. He'll miss the start of next season with torn ankle ligaments

It's mixed penalty fortunes for English clubs in Europe as Charlton lose the UEFA Cup final in a shoot-out but Man Utd add the Champions League to the Premiership thanks to a 4-3 penalty win over Barcelona

The board announce that the transfer budget will be in the region of £300k. Hopefully once the TV money comes in that it will be increased (I'm being greedy!). Lawton, Bodkin and Connell are named in the team of the year, Connell wins the golden boot, Lawton wins goal of the season and I am nowhere to be seen in the manager of the year.

Three weeks holiday is my reward before I begin preparations for the new season. Next up, League One...

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2008 - 2009 English League One

Darren Connell retains his Fans' Player of the Year award to make it three years on the trot now. We receive £300k in TV rights and the board expects us to battle bravely against relegation in the coming season.

In

==

Simon Clark (DMC) - £85k

Darren Pratley (AMC) - £45k

Brian Smikle (AMR) - Free

Stephan Lange (GK) - £65k

Chris Brown (SC) - £130k

Out

===

Cullen - Free

Brazier - Free

Melton - Free

Sutton - Free

Kinsella - Free

Molloy - Free

Griffiths - Free

Bodkin - £850k

France beat Italy in the summer's big tournament. After a tense 0-0 scoreline they triumphed in the European Championship final in the penalty shoot-out and Kevin Keegan has been re-hired as the England boss

H 2-2 BAT Sports (O'Connor (2))

The most testing offer of my time here comes in. The manager's job at Norwich with a whopping £17.5m in transfer budget is turned down as I feel we haven't peaked here. I feel I'll know the right job to leave for when it comes in.

H 2-1 Vauxhall Motors Reserves (Clark, Lawton)

Hardly the most inspiring of games as we struggle to beat the reserves. Err, I blame tiredness.

A 40-1 shot for the title indicates we need to avoid relegation. Preston and Swansea are this season's big favourites and I'm happy enough with that as although they beat us last year, it wasn't a thrashing...almost

H 3-0 Luton (Pratley, Allen (2))

O'Connor and Lawton combine to provide Pratley with his first goal for the Motormen on his debut. Evans has a goal dis-allowed for offside but it doesn't matter as from the resulting free-kick, Pratley sends Oliver Allen clear and his blasts one into the net to give us a two goal lead. It's another poor goal kick that gives us number three, this time Nick Smith setting up Allen to net his second of the season and we're off to a flier.

A 1-1 Preston (Connell)

An easy away game then to start, or not as the case may be. We looked comfortable for the first 45, almost as though we belonged in this division. It was a comforting sign. We look good until the 80th minute when a mistake by Lange hands Preston with the lead. Connell comes on as a sub and hits a late equaliser to give us no more than we deserve. A great start to the season for us

H 1-0 Stoke (Allen)

Our fantastic start to the season continues as a late Allen winner secures three points for us. I think 50 should see us clear of relegation and am determined to get us there asap but with Knight out for 4 weeks, it might be more difficult than I hoped.

A 1-1 Hull (Allen)

Brittain has a goal rightfully disallowed for offside and the crowd are not happy. Allsopp cheers them up with a fine left foot strike. Things get worse on the hour when Lawton is dismissed for his second bookable offence and we have to shuffle our midfield. Oliver Allen is brought on and makes an immediate impact, squeezing his shot under Bartlett. Hull are unable to break down our packed defence and settle for the draw

H 1-1 (3-2)p Wigan (Brown) League Cup Rd 1

Tom Laws takes a deft free-kick and finds Chris Brown in the area unmarked, he makes no mistake to score his first goal for the club. Wigan hit back with a penalty and the nearest anyone comes to adding to the scoreline is when Allen hits the post just before the 90 minutes are up. Extra time passes without incident and we have the lottery of penalties. This time it is our turn to be lucky and Wigan miss three of their five to send us through to the next round.

A 1-1 Cheltenham (Brown)

Chris Brown scores his first league goal for us with a 30 yard screamer that seemed to bend and dip in the air. A long ball confuses our defence and a slip by Lange allows Odejayi to run past him and score. A comedy of errors. A tense second half leads to no further scoring and also to our fourth 1-1 draw in five games.

H 0-0 Grimsby

Another game and another draw. We had a few more shots than Grimbsy but not enough to trouble their keeper. At least we aren't losing these games

A 3-1 Lincoln (Allen, Morgan (OG), Connell)

35 seconds gone and Oliver Allen has scored, Pratley the architect. We create loads of chances but just can't take them. Just as Hooper tries to launch an attack down the left wing he loses possession and the ball is whipped into the box and headed home by Green. Minutes later we're ahead again after a Morgan own goal before Connell seals the win after a fine through ball by Tillen.

H 1-1 (4-5)p Burnley (Knight) League Cup 2nd Rd

Lakis puts them into the lead just into the second half, after a first half that is to be forgotten. Ian Knight comes on and his first job is to bring us level from the spot...which he does. With nothing more before the end of extra time, once again we go to penalties. We end up missing five and go out on penalty number nine!

H 1-0 Colchester (Clark)

A game we controlled but never looked like winning until injury time right at the end when referee Kevin Friend gave us two free-kicks which moved us into striking range and Simon Clark's shot flew into the net

Kyle Wilson (SC) comes in from Crewe for £75,000.

A 3-1 Halifax (Connell, Brown, Knight) LDV Vans Trophy N 1st Rd

12 minutes in and we're a goal down, not what I expected against a Conference side. We get level thanks to Connell as their keeper chases the ball out of the area during a goal mouth scramble and it falls to Connell with an open net. Brown quickly adds a second as Halifax are on the ropes. Knight gets a third as we continue to dominate and a late Tudor red card can't alter the scoreline. It turns out that a slight knock for Allen will keep him sidelined for a month

A 2-0 Swindon (Lawton, Pratley)

Goals by Lawton and Pratley either side of half-time were enough for victory in this game. Swindon look to be fighting relegation this season while we confound our critics by sitting near the top of the table so far as the only unbeaten team in the league

As the Bristol City job becomes vacant I have to field more questions about where my future lies. It isn't at Bristol City. Joe Tillen is out for three months with a torn calf muscle. It's a big loss

A 1-3 Cambridge (Brown)

A mistake by Lake allows Cambridge to score early. After 30 minutes we've already used all of our subs as Connell (knock) and Laws (injured) have to be replaced and we need to reshuffle. Brown scores just into the second half but we're behind straight away. When Brown's shot crashes off the bar I can see it isn't our day. Sure enough they score again shortly after to put the game beyond us.

H 0-3 Bradford City

A goal within 20 seconds for Bradford is a killer. They double their lead on the half hour and we aren't getting back into this one. A free-kick makes it three and it's back to back defeats

H 2-2 Rushden (Evans, Connell)

Three minutes in and they score a penalty. FFS, this is getting ridiculous, what are my defenders doing? Martin keeps us in it with a fine display until Evans scores with a fine header from a corner. We're behind moments later icon_frown.gif Into the 2nd half and we score a freak goal, Ingham's free-kick hitting Connell and he shoots into the empty net from 45 yards. We salvage an unlikely point

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cheers Spav

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A 2-1 Bristol Rovers (Evans, Connell)

We go in level at HT thanks to a powerful shot from Sean Evans that gives the keeper no chance, his marker should have done a better job. We are only level though as Rovers took the lead from a counter-attack when we were really pressing them. A half that should have produced more for us. We take the lead when a Dolan free-kick floats into the area and Connell controls it, turns his man and fires us in front. Rovers switch to a 3-4-3 formation but their one good chance of the half is parried by Martin and cleared upfield by Dolan.

H 6-1 Preston (Connell (4), Tudor, Brown) LDV Vans Trophy N 2nd Rd

With Swansea enquiring about his cost, Connell adds to his value with two early goals in this cup tie. Maybe I should be asking for more money! Mark Burchill hits one back for Preston but Connell completes his hat-trick to end their revival. His fourth comes on the hour and with that I decide to rest him for the games ahead. Evans gets his third assist of the game as he runs at the Preston defence, draws the keeper and slips the ball sideways for Tudor to score. Brown completes the rout with a 25 yard effort to give us number six. A fantastic display and I hope we can keep this run going

Swansea say that I'm asking too much for Connell and Rupert Lowe asks for my services at Southampton. They're currently bottom of the Premiership and have £9.25m ready for transfers. I decline his request

A 1-5 Port Vale (Tudor)

Port Vale over stretch is their search for an early goal and Connell leads a break-away. He heads for the byline and swings in a great cross for Tudor to score. Armstrong and Cort quickly hit back to put Port Vale in the lead. A mistake by Martin presents Cort with number three. A tactical re-think changes us to 3-4-3 but Vale hit us on the break to score two quick goals.

H 3-1 Blackpool (Connell, Tudor, Smith)

Blackpool must be gutted at that first half. They out-fought and out-played us but go in one-nil down as Knight's free-kick is controlled and finished off by Connell, two minutes before the end. A John Murphy header brings them back on terms and it's no more than they deserve. It doesn't last as they fail to clear their lines and Tudor runs across the edge of their box before cutting in and hitting a left foot shot past Ogden. Nick Smith comes on and immediately heads home his first goal of the season

A 2-0 Darlington (Tudor, Connell) FA Cup 1st Rd

It's Pratley with a header that goes closest to breaking the deadlock in the opening half hour, but it just drifts wide. He doesn't seem bothered as his slide rule pass to Tudor beats the offside trap and Tudor finishes well from a tight angle. Smith comes on and is an instant provider as his through ball finds Connell who holds off his marker and scores.

H 3-0 Walsall (Connell, Pratley, Knight)

Walsall are right down in the relegation zone and we cut through them at will. Pity it takes a mis-hit Connell shot that barely crosses the line to put us in front. Martin makes a great stop when 1-on-1 and then O'Connor goes on a mazy run that ends with a great far post cross to Pratley who heads home. Knight rounds off the scoring with a fine header from Pratley's bullet cross, but where was the keeper?

A 3-1 Stockport (Pratley, O'Connor, Lawton)

In a very open game we snatch the lead just before the break as Tudor crosses for Pratley to arrive late and smash it home. Minutes later O'Connor makes it two with his first goal of the season. Stockport have stopped really creating and instead are going for long range shots. I'm happy enough until one of them goes in. We dig in and when Oliver Allen goes on a solo run he relieve the pressure. He seemed to have run down a blind alley and then, somehow, he's in on goal. His shot is parried but falls to Lawton who makes no mistake. Stockport were second but we're now above them!

H 0-0 Bournemouth

With the keeper well out of his area Knight's shot almost hits the corner flag instead of the net. What a chance. We have all the play but it's Bournemouth who almost score when they hit the bar. We were so lucky. A header from Allen is ruled out in injury time for pushing, but there was no-one near him! Robbed of all three points...

A 3-1 Chesterfield (Connell, Tudor, Allen) LDV Vans Trophy Qtr Final

Tudor feeds Connell for what seems like our first chance of the game and he scores. Twenty-six minutes gone. Ten minutes after the restart and Gilroy equalises from the edge of our area with no-one near him. Where was the defence? Totally against the run of play we hoof the ball upfield, Connell passes to Tudor and he beats his man and the keeper with a great shot into the corner. In injury-time we win a corner that flies straight into the keeper's arms, or so it seems. As the Chesterfield players turn and run upfield, Knight suddenly has the ball and he knocks it square to Oliver Allen to score a tap in. It is a shock to win this game after the way we have played, but to win it 3-1 really rubs salt into the wound

H 2-1 Hednesford (Connell, Lawton) FA Cup 2nd Rd

Hednesford are near the top of the Conference North so I expect an easy victory. An early goal from Connell looks like handing us that until Roy O'Donovan fires in a free-kick. We're until until the 82nd minute when Evans runs to the byline and his floated cross to the far post is met by fellow subsitute Rob Lawton. His header is enough to see us through to the next round.

A 3-0 Swansea (Pratley, Evans, Connell)

A solo effort by Pratley opens the scoring and it's soon two. This time Connell turns provider and feeds the ball through to Sean Evans who drills his shot just inside the far post. We're comfortable with our lead and manage to extend it right at the end when Porter's long ball finds Connell free just outside the area. His quick control and shot are such that no defender can close him down and we leave Swansea 3-0 winners

H 0-2 Plymouth

Plymouth travel north with a defensive mind-set but it is they who take the lead from a set-piece. It hasn't been a vintage performance from us and as Daniel Rose chases down a lost cause we seem set to lose 1-0. He keeps the ball in play, turns and whips in a great cross for Peter Crouch to score. I was right, we're going to lose 2-0. Their keeper gets MOM

A 1-0 Rotherham (Pratley)

With Rotherham on full scale attack in the first half we have precisely one shot on goal, Pratley the scorer. Their pressure continues into the second half but Martin in goal is having a stormer. Somehow we hold out for a hard fought victory.

H 2-0 Nottm Forest (Evans, O'Connor)

Tudor goes on a surging run and plays a great square ball to Evans and his shot goes back across the keeper and into the net. Our wingers are tearing them apart so far. It takes us until the last five minutes to make the game safe, O'Connor running through the centre and then chipping the advancing keeper. A dominating performance.

A 3-1 Wigan (Connell (2), Tudor)

A long range effort from Lloyd crashes in off the post to give Wigan the lead. Our build-up has been good but lacking that cutting edge until Connell strides through the Wigan defence. What a pass from Pratley though! Just after the break Tudor goes on a wonderful cross-field run and caps it with a great left-foot strike. Connell increases our lead moments later and things look bleak for Wigan

And we are top! A Merry Christmas for everyone at the club. What will 2009 hold for us?

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A 3-1 Wycombe (Connell (2), Clark) FA Cup 3rd Rd

Seven minutes gone and Dolan gives away a soft penalty. Martin makes a great save and Dolan is relieved. Tudor and Connell combine to put us in front soon after and Pratley lays it off for Connell to hit number two just before the break. When Matty Fox pushes O'Connor over in the area, Simon Clark steps up to smash it home and put us through to the next round. A second penalty for Wycombe, this time scored by Stonebridge, is nothing more than a consolation.

A 1-2 Luton (Knight)

An early goal from Lee Mathews separates the sides early in the first half as Luton forget their position at the bottom of the table to dominate. Unfortunately it is also Lee Mathews who punches a corner clear and allows us to equalise on the stroke of half-time with a Ian Knight penalty. Luton continue in the second half like they did in the first and their pressure is rewarded when a 25 yard free-kick flies into the top corner. We're unable to muster a response and lose 2-1

H 0-0 Hull

A tense and tough half sees no score but the Tigers have had the best of it. If the first half was theirs then the second half was ours. Creating multiple chances we wasted them all, Connell the main culprit, but at least we kept it tight at the back to secure a draw

With Oliver Allen already out for 3 weeks I get news that I don't like. Pratley is out for two months with a torn groin and Steve Porter is out for a month with knee ligament trouble. Joe Tillen should be back in training in a few days so we may not be short of a left-back for too long.

A 3-2 Leicester (Connell (2), Smith) FA Cup 4th Rd

With injuries and suspensions hitting home, it's a rather depleted side that travels to the Walker's stadium. The ground is silenced as Tudor's through ball to Connell finds its mark and he chips the advancing keeper. One nil and this was not in the script. Pity that a Hendrie corner was headed in by Nicky Hunt barely ten minutes later. With 30 minutes gone we're still locked at 1-1 and we've got the ball. Connell is shepherded towards the corner flag but decides to jink inside his man and try his luck. I can't believe it as the net bulges. 2-1 and slightly surreal. We get to HT in the lead and I realise that the next fifteen minutes are vital. Did I say minutes? I meant seconds. Leicester score from the kick-off as Reid's long pass finds McFadden and he smashes it past Martin. You're never more vulnerable than having just scored...and so it proves. A poor clearance finds Sean Evans in space and his sideways pass sits up perfectly for Nick Smith to strike. Strike it he does and right towards the bottom corner as the keeper scrambles to get back, but it's a yard too far and incredibly we're ahead again. I don't know how we did it, I don't think the players know how they did it but somehow we managed to fend off Leicester during the next 40 minutes of onslaught. Dolan was magnificent, Martin superb and their finishing? Let's just say it left a lot to be desired. Bring on the big guns!

H 2-0 Stoke (Dolan, O'Connor) LDV Vans Trophy N Semi Final

The gulf in class is obvious from the first whistle in this game. Although Stoke are in the same division as us they simply weren't at the races today and this is partly caused by their crippling injury problems. That's not to say we don't have our own as Tudor is carried off with fractured ribs and will be out for a month. We totally controlled this game but it took a fine header from Dolan and a late piece of magic from O'Connor to seal a deserved win. We're going well in the cups this season, I hope it doesn't adversely affect our league performances.

No sooner is he back than Joe Tillen is sidelined for two weeks. Darren Connell is also out for a week with a sprained wrist (no jokes please). They all seem to be happening at once icon_frown.gif Millwall offer me the job at The Den but it's probably the least attractive job offer I've received in quite some time

H 0-2 Cheltenham

With eight players out injured I hope we can salvage a draw or nick a win here. Chris Brown makes a rare start and puts in a good performance without adding the finish. He spoils his efforts by getting himself sent off early into the second half in what turns out to be the game deciding moment. We were in control and searching for a goal before the red card but afterwards Cheltenham were the ones in control. Two late goals as my players tired sealed an important three points for them

Just as things can't get any worse they do. Michael Allen fractures his jaw in training and will be out for 3 weeks. Evans and Lawton have picked up their fifth bookings and will miss a match which doesn't bother Lawton as he has sprained his ankle and will be out for 4 weeks.

A 1-0 Stoke (O'Connor)

A ridiculous amount of injuries sees us down to the bare bones for this game. Our midfield is the strongest part of the team on the pitch and it shows as they boss the game. Pity that we have no-one to score though. The defence looks shaky when Stoke get through but heroic displays in midfield by Clark and Hooper generally prevent that from happening. Our MOM has been O'Connor and sure enough with 5 minutes left, a poor clearance leaves the defender in trouble. O'Connor nips in and steals the ball before powering it home for an unlikely victory

O'Connor is out for a week with a sprained wrist and Pat Baldwin has picked up his fifth booking and misses a match. Our next game is away to Grimsby and we will be missing 10 senior players for that fixture. Crazy, just crazy.

A 1-1 Grimsby (Wilson)

It takes 70 minutes for our first shot on target in a terrible match but it's worth waiting for as Kyle Wilson scores his first goal for the club with a 25 yard effort into the top corner. Grimsby score three minutes later and both sides revert to negative boring football for a point each

H 0-2 Preston

Another poor performance and this time the opposition aren't dragged down to our level. Burchill finally gets the opener after having two goals disallowed and when Simon Clark gets sent off we don't look like scoring. Sure enough, Preston add number two and seal the win

H 1-1 Lincoln (Smickle)

Evans goal is disallowed and so there is slight justice when a Lincoln goal is also disallowed. Pity we didn't learn from our good fortune as Green is allowed to head home from close range after a well flighted corner. A huge slice of luck is dealt our way as Dunfield gets a straight red for a professional foul and Smickle scores the penalty. The remaining half hour has us get lots of possession but not many chances and another game ends a draw.

A 1-1 Stockport (Connell) LDV Vans Trophy N Final Leg 1

A half we controlled from start to finish but without the finish if you know what I mean. When Hudson gets sent off ten minutes before the break our grip on midfield tightens. It takes us fifteen minutes but the opener comes, a shot from Connell from just outside the box. A Danny Jackman free-kick crashes in off the post just before the end and is a knife to the heart for us. What is going on?

Sean Evans has hurt his wrist and will be out for a week.

A 2-1 Wolves (Connell (2)) FA Cup 5th Rd

A poor first half sees us defending most of the time as Wolves win corners and free-kicks and use them to pump high balls into the box. Into the second half and it's a long high ball that finally does it as Martin gets drawn out towards the ball but fails to get there and Wolves are ahead. Ironically a long high goal kick brings us our goal as it bounces over everyone and leaves Connell in the clear to chip the advancing keeper. We switch to a 4-3-3 formation in an attempt to win the game now and it works as Connell pulls away from his man and is found by O'Connor. He makes no mistake with the finish.

That win puts us into the QF of the cup and earns us £150k. The draw gives us...Millwall away. They are currently trying to steer clear of relegation from the Championship and are one place below Wolves. We'll try to give them a game

A 1-4 Colchester (Connell)

We are starting to get one or two players back from injury and up to full fitness and the performance shows. Pity that Knight pushed the defender in the back and gave away a penalty. Dolan kicks out at a player and gets himself booked before the kick is taken. They score and five minutes later Dolan is off. We go to three at the back and almost score as a huge punt sends Connell racing clear but his shot is driven straight at the keeper. Tillen makes a mistake and Colchester ram in number two, unreal. Smith drives through the centre and plays it wide to Connell on the right. He has a clear path to goal and takes it before giving us a lifeline with a fierce shot just inside the far post. As we push for another goal we leave ourselves open at the back and Colchester take full advantage. Three and four come quickly after each other in similar styles and we go down fighting

That loss drops us to tenth but we have a game in hand on most clubs above us and things are incredibly tight.

H 2-0 Swindon (Allen, Brown)

A much better first half than we've seen lately. A quick free-kick finds Tudor free in the area and his shot comes crashing back off the bar. OTher half chances come and go but when Oliver Allen bundles through their defence and slots one home the whole side visibly lift. Tudor has been our main performer this game, pinging passes through their defence and spreading the play beautifully. When he goes off with a slight knock we suddenly get nervous. We aren't creating chances but at least they aren't either. With 4 minutes of injury time I can sense a late goal coming, thanfully it comes our way as Brown gets free in the area and shoots. The keeper saves but the ball rebounds back to Brown who makes no mistake the second time.

A 1-3 Bradford City (Connell)

Two goals in fifteen minutes kills this game off. What were the defence thinking? A third right on HT means that we have got absolutely no chance of a second half comeback. Connell comes on and hits a late consolation goal but Bradford were not really trying at that stage

A 4-1 Rushden (Connell, Way, Tudor, Allen)

Another early goal and we're behind again. We seem unable to deal with crosses at the moment. Four minutes after the break and we're level as Dolan passes the ball to Smith who slides it through for Connell to provide the finish. Ten minutes later and we're ahead as Tudor is hacked down in the box and Way makes no mistake from the spot. Tudor has suddenly found his form and a swift counter sees Connell send him clear. He cuts back inside his marker and fires one like a rocket into the net! Straightaway his marker is subbed, haha. A Rushden free-kick hits the post and sparks a revival but with Lange back in nets in place of Martin there is no way through. Oliver Allen comepletes the scoring with a left foot volley in off the post. Two away games and two completely different performances

Gareth Hooper sustains a broken leg in training and will be out for 9 months. That is a massive blow for a player who was making a name for himself at the club with a string of impressive performances

H 3-2 Stockport (Connell (3)) LDV Vans Trophy N Final Leg 2

Tudor is having a great game and it's his mazy dribble that give Connell a mere tap in for the opening goal. Wade Small hits back immediately for Stockport and we have a real game on our hands. A mistake in the Stockport midfield gives Smith the ball and he feeds Connell who races away from his marker and clinically scores. It's deja vu as Small again scores within minutes, this time a thirty yard thunderbolt that almost broke the net. We're behind for the first time in the tie, on away goals. For the last ten minutes we change to all-out attack in search of that vital goal. Tudor goes in hard on two challenges but the ball breaks free and is hoofed over the top for Best to chase. Lange makes a great stop and sends Evans racing away on the left. he finds Allen who knocks it into space for Connell to chase. Darren Connell gets there first and turns in on goal. he shoots...and scores!! We're back in front. But with six minutes plus time added on can we hold out? Having thrown on so many attackers I worry that we can't. Luke Beckett goes off injured and with no subs left they are down to 10 men. AS it turns out we look more likely to score a fourth than they are a third and we run out the clock for a historic victory. I hope it isn't all in vain

We'll meet Hereford, currently 20th in the Conference National, in the final. It will be my second trip to Wembley and I hope it ends happier than the first one did.

A 0-5 Millwall FA Cup Qtr Final

As we travel to managerless Millwall the last thing we want to do is allow them to score early. We don't, well not if you don't count the fourth minute as early icon_frown.gif We're living on the break for most of the first half, and if truth be told also on a lot of luck. That luck ends two minutes before HT as another goal is scored from a header by the opposition. Another corner brings number three as it becomes apparent we aren't up for a fight today. Numbers 4 and 5 fly in and we end the game without a shot on target (only two shots on goal). Horrendous. Still, we've got a cup final to look forward to and we're still right up there in the league so it's not too difficult to keep spirits up

H 1-2 Cambridge (Connell)

Just what we need after the cup defeat, the league leaders. Cambridge play a poor offside trap in the first half and get lucky as Connell hits the post, has a shot tipped over and Tudor hits both the post and bar after being set clear. It's third time lucky for Connell just after the restart as he fires his shot low to the keeper's right to put us ahead. Jones and Connell have chances to kill the game but don't take them and we're punished doubly thanks to a mistake at the back and a late goal from a corner. They had three shots, two on target and two goals. I'm gutted

H 0-1 Port Vale

We create a lot of half chances that fly over the bar but nothing substantial. Port Vale seem happy to sit back and try to counter-attack, hopefully they never get the chance. Who needs to counter-attack when you're given penalties? FFS. To cap things off Lawton gets booked and then complains so much about it that he gets booked again. We need to turn this around quickly or the play-offs will be beyond us.

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H 2-2 Bristol Rovers (Connell, Tudor)

We play some pretty stuff but without a cutting edge as Rovers sit back. It takes them to launch an attack for us to score as Lange's quick throw finds Tudor and his ball over the top sends Connell away to open the scoring. What a pity Pratley gives them the easiest of chances to score, from the spot, and they're back on terms. As both teams tire chances are coming more and more. A scramble in the Rovers box ends when it lands at the feet of Tudor who buries it. Two minutes later and they're level again, Walker the scorer. The final ten minutes run out with no more goals so it's yet more points dropped.

A 0-3 Walsall

FFS. Five minutes gone and a hopeful punt into our box leads to a goal. It takes us fifteen minutes but we finally get going and begin to look a threat. Connell seems to be taking longer as he misses a sitter at the far post after great inital work from Pratley. We go two down as a series of weak challenges allows Dobson to power through and he takes his chance. Tudor's free-kick takes a deflection and hits the post. Their keeper runs out after it but Lake gets there first but instead of passing to the open O'Connor for a simple goal he tries the spectacular and fails miserably. A late free-kick for Walsall ends up in our net for a comprehensive win for them

With his contract running out Ashley Jones moves to Kidderminster for £6k. Pratley is out for a month and he's not long back after another injury.

H 0-1 Stockport

A truly awful performance where we had no shots on target and only three shots on goal. Stockport had two shots on goal, one on target and one goal which was a well stuck free-kick by Wade Small right at the death. We aren't getting the breaks at the moment. Thankfully our early season form took us well away from the relegation places.

A 2-2 Blackpool (Smith, Connell)

The ref goes card mad in the opening 23 mins as he dishes out 6 yellows. Tillen gets two of them and is off. I revert to a three at the back and try to keep the rest of the system the same. It doesn't work as two minutes later Blackpool score and I resign myself to defeat. Smith has other ideas as he breaks from midfield to score a great goal and put us level. Amazingly, just after HT Michael Allen intercepts a loose pass and feeds Connell on a quick break. He gets inside the box and his shot just manages to beat the keeper and sneak over the line for a shock lead! A well worked move leads to Allen getting in behind the defence and he finds Connell with a great pass along the edge of the six yard box but from there Connell's shot is well blocked. Four minutes later and it's the same story, this time it was Tudor with the good run and pinpoint cross. From our corner they manage to break and one player draws the keeper and slips it to his mate to score. I'm so disgusted I don't even bother to check who it is. We've barely restarted when Way gets his second booking and he's off as well! FFS ref, take off your Blackpool jersey. Somehow we hold out for the remaining 24 minutes despite being two men down and take our point.

N 2-2 (3-2)p Hereford (Allen, Wilson) LDV Vans Trophy Final

An early goal for Michael Allen as he runs straight through the centre of their defence to give us the lead. A few minutes later and Dolan shoves his man over in the box and they're level. Strutter scores with a massive deflection and suddenly we trail despite being the better team. With 20 minutes left I change to an unusual formation with Lawton playing in a very advanced position. Nothing happens until the board comes up to show 5 minutes of injury time but suddenly Lawton has the ball and his whipped cross is met by Wilson at the near post to bring us level and force penalties.

Hereford miss Wilson scores

Hereford score O'Connor misses

Hereford score Tudor scores

Hereford miss Lawton misses

Hereford miss Allen scores

Lange is the hero with three penalty saves and all credit to Michael Allen for slotting away the final one.

Vauxhall Motors - 2009 LDV Vans Trophy Winners

A 4-1 Bournemouth (Connell (4))

The clock barely shows 33 seconds and we're ahead. Finally an early goal heads our way. Michael Allen provides the pass and Connell the finish for number two. Minutes later he has his hat-trick and we're on our way to a win. Into the second half and Allen hits a Hollywood pass to Connell and he scores number 4. This is amazing. On the hour Hayter pulls one back but it's never going to be enough. As the FT whistle blows, I wonder is this the start of a miraculous late charge to the play-offs, or simply a false dawn at the end of the season

H 0-1 Swansea

A good performance followed by a bad. It's poor marking that allows a near post cross to be swung in and Swansea score with their only shot on target. Only having one ourselves doesn't help us and it's yet another defeat

A 3-1 Plymouth (Evans, Knight, Allen)

A quick free-kick sees Lange beaten at the near post when he was sorting out our wall. Tudor makes amends for conceding the free-kick by whipping in a great cross that only Evans can get on the end of to level the scores. It's more than we deserve to be fair as Plymouth muscle us off the ball at every opportunity. Into the second half and I'm amazed as Chris Casement punches the ball away in his own box but only gets a yellow card. Knight steps up to put us ahead and makes no mistake. O'Connor and Oliver Allen come on the pitch and settle things down. O'Connor seems to be heading for the corner until he suddenly crosses the ball to Allen and he beats the keeper from six yards to put this match to bed.

The Sunderland job is up for grabs but with them only in the Championship (I say only!) it has to be dismissed out of hand.

H 2-2 Rotherham (O'Connor, Way)

We look shaky on high balls into the box, again, and they take the lead using that same tactic. I do wonder how Lange wasn't able to simply catch the ball but it doesn't really matter. As the half progresses we push further and further upfield, culminating in a Tudor cross that is smacked in on the volley by O'Connor. Hopefully that'll dampen their spirits. Rotherham regain the lead from yet another cross as Porter can do nothing but turn it into his own net. Way scores from the spot in what is our second penalty in as many games and the last ten minutes are spent pushing for a winner. It doesn't appear and we must settle for a point

Pat Baldwin is out for two months with a fractured cheekbone. Realistically he only misses the final two games of the season but it's a blow none the less.

A 3-0 Nottm Forest (Connell (2), Smith)

From their free-kick inside our half we take the lead. A mis-hit gives Knight the ball and he plays one over the top for Connell to chase and chase he does. He nicks it round the keeper and slides it into the net. Just before HT he hits his second and we could deal a real blow here to Forest's chances. Connell turns provider as his cross is headed in by Nick Smith and victory is assured.

H 0-0 Wigan

A good but not great performance that ends our campaign with a draw. We're comfortably mid-table but just not quite able to push on for the play-offs.

I'll try to use the close season to bring in better players. We've got some good ones at the club but better ones are needed. I'll start that after a few weeks off. Next up, League One......

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Cheers Spav. Injuries were a killer this season and we couldn't field a settled side and it showed. As you can see from the table, there are so many teams bunched around each other that if a couple of losses had been wins then we'd have been pushing for automatic promotion. That's a scary prospect considering the board haven't expanded the stadium (still around 4000 capacity)

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hi, this is really intresting as i am vauxhall motors as well. im only in my first season but Paul Hart and Ryan Lawton arnt that good, so ive had to sing a load of players on afree, alot of them are very young which have been relesed by bigger clubs. i was just wondering what tatic you i know you said 4-2-3-1, but do you mean 2 dmcs and what plkayer and team instructions

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