Welcome back. Sunny Swadlincote never looked so good. With the town’s second club now in Sky BET League Two life had been very good to the club. As mentioned in Part 1 The club had been involved in a successful take over, and the dimensions of the original tale had changed slightly. The in-game chairman stressed that I would remain in the job, but I had to prove my worth by continuing the club’s success. Dave and Bob had been ousted out to re-join. Their roles would change upon application, with Bob taking up the DoF role and oversee scouting and recruitment of young players. Dave would resume the hands-on role he had and now be full time Head of Youth Development. A role he had shown great success, and the weekly squad line ups would adhere to that claim.
Life in League Two would start at probably the furthest destination. Plymouth. Plymouth had been a club we had rustled a few feathers before during one of our cup runs back in 2019/20. Gary Bowyer’s side would play the perfect host for us to open our account in League Two. The Pasty lovers would prove to be not ready for their season as we claimed a penalty after two minutes. TS Sports Fc’s Leading scorer, Jon Davies would duly slot the ball into the back of the net. The rest of the first half would show that we would mean business in this league by carving out a few good chances. The second half would see us click in to the next gear. Right Midfielder Robert Pheasant would score with a lovely strike on 58 minutes. Jon Davies than doubled his tally three minutes later. And debutant utility fullback Cole Dasilva than scored a screamer from the edge of the area to dump Plymouth to a 4-0 drubbing on the opening day of the season.
August would see us enter the Carabao Cup and show signs of contentment in the league.
The first round of the Carabao cup would see us host Cheltenham Town at the Pirelli Stadium. Just under 1800 fans would see a second-string team from the Youth Club out match a strong looking line up from the Robin’s. Our scouts had done a good job but noting that they had lost their two opening matches in League Two and that we could do some damage if we focussed our attacks down their right. This proved successful with both Left back David Lynch and Left Winger Karl Wright providing an assist each. Dave Hackett would also note that the three goal scorers for the first time were products of his youth development programme. Herman Maragh, Christian Madu, and prodigal striker Connor Burgin scoring a brace.
The second round of the Carabao Cup would see us pit our wits against another team we had faced during our “non-league” days. Southampton. The Saints were now a Championship side managed by Swiss manager Marcel Koller. Some of the playing staff were still at the club from when we last met back in 2019 when we lost to them in the fourth round of the FA Cup. On that occasion we had been on par with them but for a sending off on our part and a jammy goal by Gabbiadini.
We sort revenge. Koller put out a very young side that looked a pale shade of their first team. I had learned a valuable lesson from last years FA Cup, which was to not always play with a “cup team” or weaken the side too much through experimentation. Armed with the side that had thrashed Cheltenham we put them to the sword. Freekick specialist Lee Sticks would score on 10 minutes to force the guests into playing a game of panic at the Pirelli.
We would maintain our usual style of possession football. And through playing keep ball where we could we prevented Southampton from really getting into their flow. The second half would see Southampton winger Sheyi Ojo score an own goal through great pressure from our mountains from the back, Jason Stamp and Al Strong. I think the sight of them bearing down on him put the willy’s up him!
We would see out the match and win 2-0.
With five wins from six in the league. The table would see us lead by a nose at this stage as Notts County, Northampton and Forest Green were vying for second place.
September would begin with our introduction to the Checkatrade Trophy. The group stage would see us up against League Two Champions Chesterfield, League Two runners up Bury, and Manchester City under 23’s. Our opener was against City’s kid’s team. Zidane’s kids’ team would also include Paco Alcacer, Mix Diskerud and Taylor Richards. The game promised so much on paper. We huffed and puffed but failed to hit the barn door. And much to my surprise Zidane’s kids were shocking. The match ended 0-0…to my surprise the match could not end in a draw it had to be decided by a penalty shootout. After both teams went through the entire team to settle the shootout, we won 9-8 in the end.
Our League form would continue with three wins out of three, each bearing the extra fruit of not conceding a goal in either match.
With the third round of the Carabao Cup looming we bolstered up our penalty practice. We welcomed Mark Hughes’ Preston North End to the Pirelli Stadium. A pack Pirelli saw a very evenly matched cup tie. With very little to shout about until Preston Midfielder Maikel Kieftenbeld receive two yellow cards in the space of 14 minutes. The second came on the stroke of 64 minutes on the clock. Four minutes later we took the lead courtesy of a well struck shot being fumbled in to the goal by Preston keeper Delac. With an extra man and the lead, we began to turn the screw. Karl Wright leading the charge down the left. However, on around 90 minutes Preston striker Apostolos Vellios nipped in front of Ben Strong whilst a deep cross had been made and scored a vital equaliser for North End. The match would be settled on penalties. Our extra practice paid off, all five takers scored. Preston would score four, Vellios would see his strike easily saved by Rafe Hands. Meaning we would remain in the competition for at least another round.
September concluded with an away draw at Ebbsfleet and then a 3-0 home win against Port Vale.
October saw the league form continue as we started to stretch out a lead at the top of the table. Four wins out of four.
The Checkatrade Trophy would see us take on Chesterfield at the Proact Stadium. The last time we had played against Chesterfield we won 1-0 in the 2020 Buildbase FA Trophy Final. We had needed extra time to tire the Spireites out in our previous encounter, so the odds were high on having to nail the penalties again.
They got off to a better start, plying pressure on rookie anchor Mickey Villums. Eventually they found a break through and scored from a shot outside of the area. Right fullback Mitchell Lund planting a right foot rifle past the flying attempts of Rafe Hands.
I gave the boys a rollockin’ from the sidelines. They started to get back into the swing of things by doing the basics again. We got into our passing game in an attempt to frustrate Chesterfield. And on the 37-minute mark we got our first reward. Antoni Sarcevic received a straight red for a late challenge on Villums. Villums would continue the half but as the whistle drew his time in this match was over the gash to his calf was too much for the kid. So at halftime I gave the boys a much needed boost. To get out there and get back into the match. I swapped the injured Villums for forward Burgin and went 442. The changes made us a little stronger in our attacks. Burgin was now looking for the knock downs from Behringer. And Behringer would also be looking for the movement between the channels from Burgin. Nothing was going our way so on 65 minutes I made a double substitution of two tired lads who had given their all. Lynch and Maragh were off due to early signs of fatigue and frustration in their play and Dasilva and Christian Madu were now on. Both made an impact when Dasilva scored a screamer from a cute pass from Madu. We were now back in the game. I prompted the boys to be more positive, in fact more attacking in a bid to grab a winner. That came just three minutes later when Dean Crisp pulled out a beauty of a deep cross into the box of the boy giant Behringer to latch on the end. Gary duly scored with his slab-head. We went on to see the game out and hold on to the 2-1 victory to put us in a firm position in our Checkatrade group.
The end of the month closed with the fourth-round tie of the Carabao Cup. We were drawn against Bolton away. This match was an end to end ding dong. With both teams looking to draw blood and a score more than the other. Bolton got on the score sheet first with Josh Vela scoring a well-placed shot after only five minutes. With 16 minutes on the clock Herman Maragh was the fouled in the box. Behringer would step forward to take the spot kick only to kick it straight at Bolton keeper Jordan Archer.
This knocked the wind from our sails, and whilst our sails were down Bolton would strike again. Liam Millar on loan from Celtic would provide the fox in the box agility to place a close strike past Longshaft.
Our luck felt almost lost when centreback Jamie Stamp was forced off with an injury. However, replacement Ben Strong would go on to have a very solid match. Keeping Boton’s Millar in quiet for the rest of the match.
Sticks and Maragh would go on to lead our attempts back in to the match, when Sticks found Maragh at the back post late in the second half. We claimed a consolation, but the battle was to hard to find an equaliser. We would return down the M6 deflated by the defeat but happy with how far we had got in the competition.
November saw us dust off the defeat by Championship side Bolton with two victories. First a 2-1 win in the league over Oxford United. And secondly, a 4-1 win against FC Halifax in the first round of the FA Cup.
Our next match would be our last group match in the Checkatrade Trophy. Bury away at Gigg Lane. The match was an even stevens type of match. Bury scored first through midfielder Tom Bayliss. We equalised just before half time through young forward Connor Burgin. The second half was set up for fireworks. For Bury they found a firework through Bruno Andrade providing a cross for Michael Forss to power header Bury into the lead. For TS Sports our fireworks came through the frustration that was running through the team as we set about fouling Bury almost every time, they got the ball. How we got out of this match with only one booking I’ll never know. Bury won 2-1 in the end. Due to our previous results we somehow managed to go through to the next round.
This lose then sparked a wobble in the league. To this point we had managed to go without losing and saving two matches by forcing a draw. The next two matches would see us draw two on the bounce, giving Forest Green the opportunity to close the ten-point gap we had built up.
Our next match would be a top of the table clash between us and Forest Green at the Pirelli. We had sent scouts down to watch the Greens for the previous two games and had picked up that they struggled at their full back positions in those matches. With our strongest team all fit I set both of my wingers, Wright and Sticks, out to put pressure on their respective fullbacks. We got off to a great start. Sticks scoring after 18 minutes from a Wright cross. This early lead was they catalyst to a very good and well-rounded performance from the starting eleven. We notched up six and barely conceded a shot on target. Al Strong providing two assists along with a solid performance at the back.
We then went on to win 2-0 away at Blackpool to round November off.
To save this becoming a very long reader I’ll look to bring this update to a close and present a third part to cover the rest of the season.
Ta’ra for now….