So I decided to split the post up into league and cups instead of mixing them altogether.
It’s always good to start the month with a win, and Jason Prior made sure we did against FC Halifax.
Visiting Notts County have been marked in the calendar for a while. We have a four-point lead to them and thereby far the strongest team in the League. In front of a 7,570 crowd, Josh Okotcha gave us the lead after a corner. They equalized in the 59th minute before snatching the win in the 92nd minute. So there goes our 14 games unbeaten run down the drain.
Against Maidenhead, we were back on our feet and to our winning ways when James McShane, Matt Briggs and Bobby-Joe Taylor all scored.
Prior gives us an early lead against Stockport before George Nunn and McShane secured the win. Prior and McShane now go toe to toe for most league goals for the club. It’s a great luxury to have two players consistently producing goals.
We got our third 3-0 win in a row against Chesterfield when Marqes Muir scored early, and Taylor converted two penalties inside ten minutes.
Wrexham away proved too hard for us, fielding a lot of our reserves due to tired legs. Taylor scored our goal in the 86th minute, but it was too late to challenge for the points.
Boston Utd scored first, but they were never strong enough to hold their lead when we bombarded their goal. Sammy Braybrooke and Alfie Rutherford turned it around for us, and another win away from home was a fact.
Since Yeovil played in the Championship, they have been relegated as many times as we got promoted in the same amount of years. Two very different stories, but I will rather be at a club evolving like this. Taylor again converted a penalty for us before Jezreel Davies scored his first for the club and Prior his 89th for us in the League.
Three days between matches is not enough at this level, and against Ebbsfleet, we again had to use reserves. Wes Fogden gave us the lead, but we couldn’t compete after Patrick Zito was sent off.
On a positive note, Aaron Lee from the academy got his debut and became our youngest ever player with his 17 years and 63 days.
After a cup game, we had to field some reserves against Woking. Three academy players in one game must be a new record, and George Membrillera scored on his debut after replacing Billy Vigar, who also scored his first for us before Briggs secured the win.
Not much to say about 0-0 against Hartlepool other than a decent result away from home.
The Premier League originals Oldham couldn’t stop us when Okotcha and Prior both scored after corners.
Southend battered us for 90 minutes but luckily didn’t manage to score. However, Prior and Braybrooke both scored late in the game when Southend started to lose faith.
Everything was set for an excellent end to the year when visiting Boreham Wood. It was all fun and games until Muir was sent off and conceded a penalty. Then, when they got 2-0 one minute later, it was all over for us.
In terms of league games, January was a weird month. Two games were postponed due to weather conditions, and the two we played was in the space of three days. Nevertheless, Rutherford gave us the lead against Solihull Moors before we conceded a late goal.
Against King’s Lynn, we conceded two early goals and trailed at half-time. However, McShane scored straight after the break, and as so many times before, Rutherford came from the bench and got us a result.
Prior hit the ground running after an injury with a brace against Eastleigh.
Okotcha got us a goal after a corner before Prior scored another brace against Torquay.
We got a week’s rest, and with fresh legs, we smashed Guiseley at home. Rutherford got a rare start and scored directly. Prior and Muir increased the lead before Niall McManus got a goal in injury time.
Against Dag & Red, Muir gave us the lead before throwing away two points at the end. That was nothing compared to the Aldershot game when we were 3-0 up at halftime, after a brace from Prior and a free-kick from Taylor. It was a game of two halves, and Aldershot scored four times. It’s not acceptable to give away a three-goal lead. On top of it, they played 25 minutes with ten men…
A lousy defeat against Bromley proved that we were on a downgoing spiral, and it sure doesn’t feel good.
Rutherford scored against FC Halifax before we let them turn it around and secure a win.
A horrible end to the month resulted in the worst streak in my time as a manager, and I felt the need to have an emergency meeting with the players.
With 11 games left to play, we sit comfortably in the playoff race. However, my expectations have increased with our great first months of the season, and I want us to fight for the title and direct promotion.
The first game in march is Notts County at home, and we also play two other top six teams in March. It could be a make or break for us in those games, so we need to turn our form around fast.
I decided to use the cup game against Yeovil to let younger players get playing time, which may have cost us the win. Rutherford gave us the lead, but it only lasted two minutes before they turned the game around. This cup is not our focus, but of course, we want to win every game – a good experience for the young lads.
A comfortable win against Eastbourne Boro secured us a spot in the first round. The goals came after a brace from Braybrooke and a header from Okotcha.
Just days after the league game against them, we were up against Wrexham in the FA Cup. Prior gave us the lead before they equalized and brought the game to extra time. Rutherford scored after only five minutes before Julien Carré increased the lead after a long shot. They scored again in the 120th minute, only for it to be the last thing that happened.
Going up against Exeter from League One was our most formidable challenge in a long time, maybe ever. After six minutes, Braybrooke gave us a surprising lead, but it didn’t last more than seven minutes before the equalized after a penalty. In the 29th minute, they took the lead after a header. Nunn equalized after a lovely raid 65th minute before the fantastic Rutherford got us one up 11 minutes later. I decided to park the bus after that, and it almost got us all the way. 3-3 came in the 93rd minute. Both teams went down to ten men in extra time due to an injury on Nunn and a red card for Exeter. After 38 penalties, Dominic Rogerson, our keeper, stepped up for the second time and scored. Just seconds later, he saved the penalty from Exeter’s keeper and got us through to the next round!
Going through to the third round for the first time, I hoped for one of the big guns. But, instead, we had to settle with West Bromwich at The Hawthorns. It was an intense game, and we were defending our lives out there. Five yellow cards in the first half, it was the worst possible timing when Livermore scored on a long shot in the 45h minute. 4 magical minutes for us in the second half turned the game around when McShane scored before he assisted Prior!
We held on as good as possible, and it was unfortunate when they got awarded a penalty with three minutes left to play. 2-2 and extra time once again. Nunn then got our 11th and his second yellow card. We managed to hold on with ten men for a while, but it was all over when Livermore again scored from outside the box.
It’s hard to complain about the result with 36-3 in shot and 4.22 vs 0.58 in xG.
It was a great adventure for everyone at the club, and for some of the lads, it’s the only time they get to play at a stadium like this.
Finances and transfers
The run in the FA Cup did wonders for our finances. But, unfortunately, we’ve been in the negative all season after taking up a loan to finance the new stadium.
We’re only spending half of our wage budget, and we’re still bleeding money every month. So the only way for us to gain a commercial uplift is good performances and good results – and of course, the odd sale of a player, but that won’t generate much revenue at this level.
On deadline day in January, we sold Billy Vigar to QPR for £40K and a possible £15K more in clauses. QPR have been scouting at our games because they loaned in Jezreel Davies on the same day. They cover his wage and pay us £1K a month for the rest of the season. Both deals are good business for us and contributes to keeping our balance on the positive side. We end February with £270K in overall balance.