Welcome back to July 2020. Part 1 would have brought you up to speed with the in’s and outs of the summer of 2020. This episode will inform you about life on the pitch.
Our pre-season started like last year with a home game against Walsall. The boys were pacing themselves nicely until Walsall player Tom Leak got himself in hot water with a reckless challenge that saw him receive his marching orders after only 17 minutes. With an extra man the boys seized the moment. Teenager, Herman Maragh opened the scoring with a sweet shot from outside the area on 26 minutes. Five minutes later Jon Davies scored with a header courtesy of a lovely cross from Robert Pheasant. On 38 minutes Left Winger Karl Wright then scored a fine shot from inside the penalty area to make it 3-0 before halftime. Walsall then saw another player see red on the stroke of half time. In the second half Eddie Beans scored from the spot on 52 minutes and Vic Penn rounded of the scoring on 57 mins. We then made wholesale changes for the last 30 minutes which saw a disjointed performance before the close of the match. We won 5-0, almost replicating last year’s 5-1 win.
We then went on an eleven-game preseason run in a bid to get every single player match fit and ready before our opening Vanarama National fixture against Barrow.
The big friendly of preseason was the home match against parent affiliate West Ham United. The match brought almost 5,900 spectators through the gates. The influx of spectators was the highlight of the warm July evening. The performance on the pitch by both teams was a rather lame affair and the 0-0 result was very justified. One key performance of the drab match was that of left back Tyler Denton. He had shown he had the ability to add to our attack in the two previous matches, this match was a great advert for him to show me his defensive qualities. This was the match that helped to make my mind up and persuade Dave Hackett to draw him up a contract.
After a small tour of the West Midlands we then spent a week in the North West with two fixtures against Welsh opponents and one against Warrington.
The last two matches of preseason, the match against Warrington and Flint saw us win but also play with too much aggression. The Warrington match saw us win 3-0 but lose Billy Bose to a moment of madness in the 75th minute. And the Flint match saw us lose Ben Strong in the 10th minute, which meant moving the pack earlier than expected. We won 4-0. I also through the book at Ben. He took it on his big chin and pledged to curb his enthusiasm. I then looked at some of the team instructions and turned off “Get Stuck In”.
We kicked off our competitive season with a away match against Barrow. The match was a hard-fought battle on the North West of England. We found an opening through substitute striker Gary Behringer. Gaz a towering target man scored a typical header from a wonder cross from Karl Wright. Vic Penn then split the defence with a through ball to Billy Bose. Who powered a shot past the Barrow keeper on 93 minutes for us to seal a winning start to life in the Vanarama National League.
August was a very good month to life in a new league. Matchday 2 saw us win 2-0 at home against York. Billy Bose once again proving that he can play in the CM(A) role very well.
Matchday 3 saw us travel down Souf to play Billericay. We won 2-0 again, this time out Eddie Beans scored a brace. Performances in August was going beyond my expectations. I had pencilled six points out of the three games as my target.
Match day 4 saw us up against Martin Allen’s Boreham Wood at Meadow Park. The Wood brought their good start to the fore. After 9 minutes they took the lead through Mikhail Kennedy. After 37 minutes James Dayton though he would help TS Sports out by getting himself sent off for a nasty challenge on Billy Bose. Billy was fine. But Dayton’s departure gave the Youth Club the chance to get back into the game. Eddie Beans provided the goal for us to get something out of the hard-fought battle.
Match day 5 and 6 saw us get back to playing at Keys park. The Hednesford fortress would see us back to winning ways. Firstly, through a 2-1 win against Halifax. And then a 5-0 thrashing of Kidderminster.
September saw us take to the road. First up was a trip down to Maidstone. A tight away match that saw Eddie Beans score a penalty to score the only goal of the game. And then a trip up to Wrexham. The Racecourse Ground would host our first defeat of the season. Which was a complete surprise as I thought I had done my homework by making the right tweaks ahead of the match. The Red Dragons opened the scoring through Lawrence on 27 minutes. Our Scouse midfielder Liam Walsh scored an equaliser on 38 minutes. Despite dominating the match, we just could not find that second goal. Dean Crisp then committed a daft foul just out side of our area. Ruben Bover then hit the resulting freekick with great accuracy past goal keeper Rafe Hands. We lost 2-1.
The rest of September surprisingly went much better with three victories and three clean sheets. Dagenham and Redbridge, Dover and Maidstone were our opponents.
October opened with us hosting Gateshead. Gateshead had been relegated from League Two and posed the biggest threat to our dreams of winning the Vanarama National League.
The Whites gave us a good and fair game. Karl Wright put us ahead on 13 minutes. Jon Davies then missed a penalty on 25 minutes which could have seen our confidence grow if we had scored. Instead Gateshead then went to the other end and scored just one minute later. The matched ended 1-1.
The next match saw us play against Eastleigh away, we won comfortably 2-0.
We then opened our Buildbase FA Trophy account for the season. With a 4-0 home win against Carshalton.
Our next fixture against Maidstone in the FA Cup (4th round Qualifying round) and result would then rock the season for me. We lost 2-1 despite getting off to a good start through a Connor Burgin strike on 9 minutes. But then Maidstone forward Claudio Ofosu scored two goals either side of halftime to knock the stuffing out of our much-changed team. We lost 2-1 and were out of the FA Cup much earlier than expected.
Three days later we played Sutton back in the league. I didn’t know what to expect but the boys showed that they were not as upset with the cup defeat as me and they produced a solid performance where we won 3-1.
The next match was the 1st qualifying round of the FA Trophy. I had learned a valuable lesson a week earlier and decided to field a strong line up. We won 5-0 away to Hitchin Town.
We completed the month off with a home win against Leyton Orient. Sticks and Wright scoring their goals deep into Fergie time.
November came and passed with more joy. We enjoyed the Indian summer by winning six of the eight matches. The other two were scrappy draws. Away to Tranmere and at home to Fylde. However, we did have to earn our stripes during November as we played four matches on the bounce away from home. And there was some mileage clocked up on the coach too. Tranmere, then down to Hastings United, to go all the way up to Hartlepool to then endure the trek to Torquay! Who ever set these fixtures up had clearly never worked in transport before!
The Fylde match would be the halfway point in the lead and to this point we had only stumbled up against Wrexham. We had carved a six-point lead over Boreham Wood who at this moment were leading the promotion pack.
December saw us continue our good form. With four wins and a draw in the league and a 3-1 win in the 1st Rnd of the FA Trophy over York was also very pleasing. The draw against Barnet was our only sticking point. And it was a lucky last-minute goal by youngster Herman Maragh who help save our blushes. We had huffed and puffed at the Barnet goal in a game where we looked certain to create lots but not really see much run our way.
In a bid to make each update not too long I will pause there. The next episode will update you from January through to the end of the season. Cheer Ducky!