Season 4 (November Update): Oh Dear!

Poole Town are playing in the fifth tier of English football for the first time in their history. We have a brand new stadium that holds over 3000 fans. Everything is coming up Milhouse. Well, that’s what I thought before our season opener at Boreham Wood. 18 games, 3 formations, 4 panic buys, 1 horrific injury and 1 win later, I’m starting to think we’re not cut out for this level.

The Results

As you might have gathered by now, things are not going great. We opened the season fairly positively. Boreham Wood were expected to finish mid-table, and picking up an away draw seemed a solid enough starting place. However, our tough start then began to hit.

We then hosted relegated Grimsby for the first game at our brand spanking new stadium, and, well… we scored. The less said about the rest of the game the better. We went 3-0 down within 36 minutes, and despite having 11 shots (5 on target) to their 15 shots (5 on target), despite having 53% possession, we could only find solace in a late James Daly consolation. Three more defeats followed against middle of the pack opponents, and last season’s player of the year Robbie Burton broke his leg against Forest Green. Great. But finally, something came along that we could celebrate.

5-3-1-1

Gateshead were our opponents. The 4-3-3 hadn’t been working so I switched it up to a rather Italian looking ‘Narrow 5-3-1-1’. For the first 7 minutes I felt like Antonio Conte. “What a genius” I heard one of our 6 away fans cry. It was going brilliantly, until, rather predictably, Gateshead went and scored. But we were not deterred. We are Poole Town, the team that made Charlie Austin who he is today. Those hardened 6 away fans hit the roof on the half hour mark, as Harvey Knibbs, who I was starting to wonder still knew what a goal looked like, found himself some space in between the two centre backs and slotted home. For the rest of the game we carried out our Italian gameplan to a tee. We didn’t give the hosts a sniff…if you don’t count the 12 shots, 3 clear cut chances, 1 off the post, and 9 corners that they had after our goal.

Seems it worked so well in our last game, I kept it Italian at home to Woking. It worked again! It worked so well in fact, that they got so frustrated that they had 7 players booked and 1 sent off. We limited them to not a single clear cut chance (we didn’t have one either, but who need goals). This was it. I had found how we would stay up. We were going to draw every game of the season 0-0. What’s that? For each of the last 3 seasons 46 points hasn’t been enough to stay up. And we’ve already lost 4 games. Damn it!

4-5-1

I then made a huge tactical blunder. We had picked up 2 points from 3 games, and were facing fellow promoted club (and smugly mid-table) Torquay. We did alright against Torquay last year, I half-remember, I think we’ll try and score today. I switched to a 4-1-2-3 (DM) with Daly and Conneh on the flanks. We match them in every department. They have 11 shots, we have 9. They have 5 shots on target, we have 2 (ok I’ll give them that). We dominate them on possession 58%-42%. But they have Nathan Blissett – a striker who is not completely incompetent. We lose 1-0. That’s what I get for trying to score goals.

A loss and a draw (Harvey Knibbs scored a brace!) later and we faced FC United of Manchester. They, like us, were new to this divison, but unlike us they were annoyingly doing alright. We continued in our new attacking formation, and for once it actually worked. Louis Hall found himself at the byline and lofted in a deep cross. Harvey Knibbs challenged the keeper, who could only flap it in to the path of Charlie Owens, who drilled home from the edge of the box. Charlie Owens can score! I thought he was only good for getting needless bookings. More importantly, we can win. If I switch back to the Italian formation now we can pick up…41 points. Shit, we need to win 3 more games.

only win

What followed was a run of games where we alternated between losing and drawing. To make things worse, a brief moment of joy in the FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round was soon extinguished by Ebbsfleet in the First Round. We just aren’t cut out for this level.

We now sit bottom of the league, 1 win and 7 draws for 18 matches. To be fair, the other teams in the relegation zone have been equally shit, it’s just the ones outside that are worryingly pulling away.

The Transfers

As I mentioned in the intro, I have been splashing the panic cash. Robbie Burton’s injury led me to bring in Eroll Ujkani, a 19 year old Kosovan deep-lying playmaker. I also brought in Josh Smile, a happy young fellow who is a natural at both defensive and centre midfield. You can’t have too many midfielders.

My decision to attack left me with a problem too, as I have no natural left wingers. Sure Abdulai Bell-Baggie and James Daly can play there, but I could do with an actual left sided player. So I got two: Colin Daniel, a 31 year old who used to play for Stevenage, and Taylor Morrison, a 19 year old released by Gosport. Wait, didn’t Gosport get relegated from the Vanarama South last season. Oh well, can’t be any worse than what I’ve already got.

The Stars

Can I still use that sub-title when we have 1 win in 18? Daniel Ballard tops the average rating charts with a 7.04, with the injured talisman Robbie Burton second with a 6.98 from his 4 games. Only 5 players have scored goals. Harvey Knibbs has 6, James Daly 2, and Lewis Gill, Charlie Owens and Colin Daniel all have 1. Charlie Owens is the only man with multiple assists, claiming 3. Schofield, Knibbs, Burton, Bell-Baggie and Hall all have 1 to their name. Poor Nick Tzanev has 3 clean sheets in his 19 appearances, whilst Emmanuel Idem has 1 from his only game.

What’s To Come?

As you can probably work out, this was about the time I took a month away from FM. Turns out losing all the time is not that fun. Anyway, we have an important double header against Braintree and Dartford coming up, both of whom are in the relegation zone along with us. 6 points would hugely improve our position, especially as they are both at home. We also have the FA Trophy coming up at the start of December, so maybe we can have a run in that.

Season 3: Summer Transfers

After two years in the Vanarama South, we really need to at least reach the play-offs this season. For the first time, the media predict that we will finish in the top 10, so with the right additions a top 5 finish is possible. I was relatively happy with my squad from last season, but I just needed to strengthen the core of the team to push on that extra bit to get promoted, whilst getting rid of some deadwood.

overview

The Outs

I tried to keep the squad roughly the same as last year, only getting rid of the players that weren’t going to feature at all. With my change in formation, Steve Devlin, who didn’t really feature last season, was not going to get a chance. Last season Devlin made 21 appearances last season, 12 of which were starts, but did not fit in to my narrow 4-3-3 formation, and at 32, it wasn’t worth keeping him around.

Ryan Case also left the club. The right back was unhappy with his lack of involvement last season, having only featured 12 times. With Tyler Cordner and Owen Brown also in his position, it made sense to let him go and not risk him upsetting the rest of the squad.

The third exit was youth player Ray Ingram. I hadn’t planned on releasing him, but the youngster missed training four times after going out the night before. I warned him the first time he missed training, and fined him two weeks wages (a whole £10!) for the next two times. By the fourth time, all within a couple of weeks, I bit the bullet and paid the £20 to release him from his contract. Saying that, he only had 2 star potential, so I really didn’t care that he was gone.

The Ins

With no transfer budget, I would again have to mainly rely on the Premier League academy rejects to strengthen my team. The change in formation also meant that I needed to stock up on Centre Midfielders, as well as adding a Striker or two.

thompson

At the back, we brought in Left Back Dominic Thompson from Arsenal. The 18 year old has about the same ability as my current Left Back Louis Hall, so should provide great competition for that position, something that we did not have last year. His main strength is his 14 pace, meaning he will hopefully be able to bomb up and down the wing, providing us with width.

owensgallagher

The midfield has seen the most change, with four new additions and one returning face. Our first recruit was Tonbridge’s Charlie Owens. The former Tottenham trainee prefers to play as a Ball-Winning Midfielder, but he can also be used as a Centre Midfielder on Defend. Another player who fits that role is Connor Gallagher, who joins from Chelsea. Gallagher can play as my Centre Midfielder on Defend, but his 13 work rate, 12 leadership, 11 teamwork and 12 longshots make him an ideal Support Midfielder.

burtonbryon

The next addition was Welsh Under-19 international Robbie Burton. Like Dominic Thompson, the youngster joins from Arsenal, and he will be the link between the Midfield and the Strikers. Burton plays as a Centre Midfielder on Attack, but can also play as both a Advanced Playmaker or a Deep-Lying Playmaker. Lewis Bryon also comes in, joining from Crystal Palace. The Defensive Midfielder will provide cover for Charlie Owens, whilst also being competent at both Centre Back and Right Back, making him the ideal non-league substitute. The final addition in Midfield was a renewal of Theo Widdrington’s loan from Portsmouth. It is unlikely that he will feature as heavily as he has done in the last two seasons, but his 75 appearances so far for Poole adds some experience as well as more strength and depth in Midfield.

 

Daly.png

The final addition of the summer is James Daly, a 18 year old Striker from Crystal Palace. Daly is a natural as both a Poacher and an Advanced Forward, whilst also being competent on either wing or as an Attacking Midfielder, should we need to change formation. Daly will probably feature as my Advanced Forward with his 14 pace and 14 acceleration, but his 10 finishing needs to improve.

I did try to bring in another Striker, Matthew Patterson. The 28 year old scored 16 in 31 for Havant & Waterlooville last season, and would add some much needed experience in to my young side, but we didn’t have enough wage budget remaining to add him to the squad.

What’s To Come?

We open the season away to the newly promoted title favourites Dulwich Hamlet. We have to wait for our first game at Victoria Park, as we host last season’s runners up East Thurrock in the third game of the season. The next update will be in November, where we will be looking to match last season’s strong start.