After the last conversation with Dave Hackett it was back business.
Preseason started a little later than usual. I had decided to let the lads have a few more days off in Magaluf or where ever they had decided to holiday.
The 13th of July was a shock to their system they spluttered with every pore during our opening friendly with our new local parent club Walsall.
Walsall had just lured Ashley Cole from LA Galaxy and were keen to put on a show at our new home. Keys Park was noisy ground and a bumpy pitch. We adjusted very quickly to our new surroundings and took an early lead through left back David Lynch. Beans then scored a brace inside the next 15 minutes. Johnny Starr scored a pearl of a shot after half time before Walsall claimed their consolation goal. And Lee Sticks would score the last of the rout. The only new person to shine was triallist Lewis Hardcastle.
The next two friendlies were away from home. First up was a trip to Mickleover Sports. This fixture brought about the same result (5-1 to us). Super sub Max Clayton getting in on the scoring action and sinking a beauty from outside of the box on 74 minutes. The second away friendly was to Sporting Khalsa. The match saw almost forgotten forward Gary Behringer score a brace including a very German esq penalty.
We then hosted Ashton Utd of Ashton under lyme. And thrashed them 7-1. Before heading to Wrexham for an away friendly against Brickfield. Where we won again 5-1.
Preseason was brief but it was the short shock into fitness and match fitness that we needed.
Our opening fixture of the Vanarama National North would be a home game against Darlington. This match would put the spot light on both Jon Davies and Lee Sticks. Both scored in this match and both were to show exactly how well they could play in this division. The result was a 3-0 victory with most of the core team from last season showing their class in this fixture.
The rest of August would see us take a grasp of the top of the table with only the 0-0 away draw against Nuneaton being the blotch to our first month in the seventh tier. The most satisfying match was the 4-0 win against FC United. Davies bagged a hattrick and Sticks would round the scoring off in a very one-sided affair.
The momentum and confidence taken from last season’s championship winning form obviously still lay large amongst the group as spirits were high.
Where August ended September began. A 0-0 draw at home against Curzon Ashton. This result wrangled as we had a number of attempts miraculously saved by their goalie. The next fixture would see youngster Herman Maragh (from our first Youth intake) show us glimpses of his potential. The boy has been hotly tipped to be better than sliced bread. And boy can he delivery. He scored inside 3 minutes and assisted for Davies’ goal. They boy will hopefully be massaged in game time to make sure we do not go too quickly with his development. We won 3-0 against Braintree. Al Strong scoring the other goal.
The distraction of the FA Cup came next. Marine in the 2nd Qualifying Rnd. Sticks and Penn scored with us winning 2-0.
We then came back to earth with a bump courtesy of an away trip to Blyth Spartans. Davies opened the scoring on 15 mins but failed from the spot 10 minutes later. We then played with no desire or cutting edge to let Blyth equalise in the 87th minute.
The last match of the month saw us regain our sparkle. Davies being that sparkle. The boy scored a hattrick to make sure we took all three points from Boston United.
October would see all of our fixtures being played at Keys Park.
First up would be Havant and Waterlooville in the 3rd Qualifying Rnd of the FA Cup. The was a very controlled one on our account. Inchcliffe and Sticks scoring the goals to put us through.
Then we would play Bedworth United in the Buildbase FA Trophy preliminary Rnd. I gave some of the new boys a chance with Callum Mcfadzean, James Wallace and Max Clayton getting their much-craved start. Only Callum would shine out of the three as I played him out of position by putting him on the left wing. The played very well and scored the opener on 59 minutes. Eddie Beans would come off the bench to show Clayton how to play up front by scoring with his first touch. We would win 2-0 in the end.
The league match against Royston Town would give me the chance to see how good young central midfielder Christian Madu could be. Just like Maragh before him, Madu would score. Wright and Davies would complete the scoring in a 3-0 result, but we would have to play the last 30 minutes with ten men due to Mickey Inchcliffe getting sent of for a second bookable offence. (Have we been here before?)
The FA Cup again would grace Keys Park for a second time in a month. This time Telford were the visiting team. Jon Davies once again put on a show, this time only the post would prevent him from getting another hattrick. We won 3-0 with McFadzean scoring.
October would also bring a second Fa Trophy match with Kingstonian being the visiting team. I put out a strong team, and the result and performance was one that befitted the team we won 5-1 with Bose, Wright and Davies on the scoresheet.
The final fixture during October would se us host Stockport. Stockport had found themselves a few points shy of us in the table and were hoping to catch us on a bad day. Frank Mulhern opened the scoring for Stockport on 31 minutes. Then TS Super Striker Jon Davies would equalise on 39 minutes for left winger Karl Wright to score a second on 42 minutes, the goal would see us edge a win against a very good Stockport.
November would see us play eight matches. The first would see us play away to Southport. Eddie Beans would inspire us to a 4-1 win.
The 6th of November would see use play in the 1st Rnd of the FA Cup. 6008 spectators would come to Keys Park to see us take on Plymouth. The match was a slow burner, with little to report in the first half, but for TS Sports Captain and Right Back, Paul Newman, go off injured inside the opening 20 minutes, to be replaced by Dean Crisp. The game went flat until I took youth winger Jon Banks off and replaced him with Lee Sticks. The change had an instant effect, with Sticks providing the cross for Davies to score. Sticks would then sink a beauty of a freekick past the Argyle goalie. With Ryan Taylor scoring for Plymouth on 85 minutes to make the last five minutes of the match more interesting. Luckily, we saw out the game and won 2-1.
The next match was a freezing cold Saturday in Leamington to play in the second Qualifying round of the FA Trophy. The match was void of entertainment until Callum McFadzean got sent off for a second bookable offence, just 2 minutes after half time. We then played tighter at the back but a rare second half corner saw Beans score with his head and put us through to the next round.
The next four matches were back in the bread and butter of the league. First Bradford PA were knocked for six. Kidderminster then pushed us in a game that ended 2-1 to us. Then Guiseley pushed us even further for us to draw 0-0 away from home. And the Spennymoor at the Brewery Field did what no one had done before in the league. To beat us. Dean Crisp took an early knock which meant putting George Cox at right back and David Lynch at left back. With two left backs on the field the understanding was lacking in the first ten minutes. And that is when Spennymoor struck gold. They hit us early, Josh Thompson scoring the only goal of the game. We did try to get back in the game, but the lack of balance really knocked the mood in the camp and try as we might we just couldn’t get back into the game.
With the mood slightly dampened I was not expecting anything from the final match of the month. The second round of the FA Cup had drawn us against Barnsley at home. The game opened, and disaster struck within the opening two minutes. Thiam had put Barnsley ahead. We looked rocked but not completely shell shocked, and the crowd roared once we kicked of again. The crowd helped to lift the mood. And a good rocketing from the side-lines saw the performances improve. Young midfielder Maragh started to make an impression on the game and on 33 minutes the boy struck a shot to equalise. The game then dulled down to a lull until the last five minutes of the match. The game then became end to end with both teams wanting to secure the victory. Supersub Eddie Beans leapt like a salmon in the box to score a neat header on 90+3 to give us a late lead and ultimately the victory.
Where November ended. December continued. The wobbly at Spennymoor now a memory the boys got back to winning ways in the league, first a home win against Chorley (2-0) and then an away win against Brackley (2-1).
The cup distraction in the FA Trophy saw us take on Dorchester Town, away from home. The good form continued even with a weakened team to save the fitness for the upcoming Christmas period. We won 3-1 with young winger Chisom Madu scoring on his debut. And Eddie Beans bagging a brace.
The joy from the continued cup run was short lived. The next home game we struggled in a 1-1 draw against Leamington. The tinkering had probably been a factor as the whole team was littered with players who had hardly played together for most of the season.
Boxing Day, back to business. We may have spent very little time with our families on Christmas day, but we certainly went out to impress at Darlington. The boys had carved out a 3-0 lead in 22 minutes, to tire and run out of puff in the second half. Darlington grabbed a consolation Starr then scored to keep the three-goal cushion, for Darlington to score a second before the final whistle.
Two days later we were on the road again, this time across to Nantwich, a team that had come up from the EVO STIK Premier league with us, albeit the playoffs. Another subdued game for the Christmas punters was on the cards. Davies scoring the only goal of the game.
Whilst plodding through the first half of the campaign and constantly having to manage the flakiness of our central midfielders we managed to acquire three other players.
First is Jermaine Anderson who signed on as a free agent. Jermaine was signed on a short contract until the end of the season to aide our central midfield. To be honest Jermaine was crocked for most of his time with us, that or recovering for slight nicks or tears. He only managed 14 games for us from the 15th Sept.
The second player was Lee Hodson, who again was a free agent. Lee was needed to act as cover for Dean Crisp when Paul Newman got injured. Lee managed to play 9 games and even chipped in with 3 assists.
And finally, is Conor Coventry, He was brought in on loan from West Ham in December before the Christmas schedule. Conor played 17 games and with knowing his away round the locker room after last season was a welcome member of the squad. He managed to score 4 goals and provide 4 assists during his time with us.
Thank you for reading, next time we talk about life in 2020 from Jan right through to the end of the season.