Notts County was a must-win if we wanted to keep up, and our loyal striker Alfie Rutherford scored the first before Niall McManus increased the lead. Notts County got one back in the 70th minute, but we managed to weather the storm and get a decisive win. I had a friendly chat with Ian Burchnall in Norwegian after the match and wished him good luck for the remainder of the season. A great guy!
Weymouth is lying dead last on the table and should be no match for us. However, a hattrick from Bobby-Joe Taylor killed the game early before Rutherford and Marqes Muir increased the lead. A nice win in a TV sent match is excellent advertising for the club.
We struggled against Maidenhead in the next match and conceded early. Nothing worked for our attacking players, and Rutherford got on at half-time. Forty-five seconds later, he equalized and saved us again. What a player to have on the bench!
Before the game against Stockport, I decided to bring Bobby Duncan in on loan for the remainder of the season to strengthen our attack. We started great with goals from Josh Okotcha and Jason Prior inside the first 20 minutes. Prior scored again early in the second half. This was his 100th league goal for the club and the first ever to break that milestone. Later on, Duncan came from the bench to score in his debut. Stockport got two late goals, but it was just a warning of what’s coming for the next match. Chesterfield gave us our biggest ever defeat, and it was a catastrophic game from our defenders. We had to play some reserves, and some of them are never playing for us again. I can’t argue with the defeat when they beat us 7-0, but we had higher xG than them and more shots.
A collective failure defensively, and it’s my darkest day as a manager so far.
The team did respond in a good way against Wrexham and gave them a proper beating. Rutherford and Muir again found themselves on the scoresheet before George Nunn, and a brace from Duncan killed the match in the second half.
Three games and three goals secured Bobby Duncan young player of the month for March.
Super Jason Prior sent us in the lead after just 4 minutes against Woking. The possible heir to his throne, Bobby Duncan, increased the lead in the second half with a beautiful solo effort. A significant negative from this match is Nunn getting injured and being out for the rest of the season.
The first half against Boston Utd is possibly our best half of football so far. Duncan fired from the start of the game and got a hattrick. One of them is a contender for goal of the season with a shot from at least 30 meters. Muir scored after a corner, and Taylor converted a penalty. Rutherford then increased the lead before we lost it defensively and conceded three goals. A slight mistake on my part there when I tried to go for double digits.
Against Southend, we scored earlier than ever before when Prior scored our fastest goal ever after 35 seconds. They equalized later on just to see Taylor giving us the lead again a few minutes later. Duncan scored in his fourth consecutive match to provide us with 3-1.
After Yeovil got an early lead, we struggled for a long time but was saved by two substitutes in the second half. First, Olly Allen scored a superb goal from outside the box, and then, as you already should’ve guessed, Rutherford got us the win.
In the last match against Ebbsfleet, we could win the league on goal difference with Notts County’s result going our way. Duncan calmed everyone’s nerves with a goal after 5 minutes, but we managed to screw it up and concede after 85. It wasn’t that big of a deal as Notts County won their watch, so our results didn’t matter in the end. Congratulations to my friend Ian Burchnall on the title and promotion!
Before the season, we were predicted at 23rd place and relegation, so it’s an outstanding achievement to go into the playoffs and show the “experts” the middle finger once again.
The game against Bromley was our last ever on The People Pension’s Stadium, and 3,315 people found their way to the stadium this day – our biggest attendance ever. The one and only Jason Prior sent us in the lead after 19 minutes, and Muir scored after a corner to give us 2-0. After that, we controlled the game and didn’t do more than we had to. We’re going to Wembley!
Aldershot won their game and was set to meet us at Wembley. We gave a three-goal lead last time we played them and lost. They also have the league’s top scorer with 37 goals, so we have to take him seriously. I decided to bench Okotcha and replace him with Aaron Skinner because the latter is a far better passer and better with the ball.
It is decided that this is the last match for Julien Carré and Matt Briggs, who will leave us after the season. Especially Carré will be a significant loss for us, but he refuses to renew his contract.
The game was just 2 minutes old when Carré played a long ball behind the defence to find Bobby Duncan, who slots it in alone with the keeper. A fantastic way to start the game and get our shoulders down. Twenty minutes later, Prior played Duncan beautifully through on goal, and we could go to halftime with a 2-0 lead.
Duncan got a hattrick when Taylor found him with a long-range pass, and for the first time in the match, I felt sure that we were going to make it.
Due to injuries, we had to have local lad Noah Sapsford on the bench, and with three goals up, I decided to give him a chance. Only minutes after coming on, he found Duncan, who went round the keeper to slot it in the empty net. Four goals in a playoff final! What a player.
For me, the moment of the game was, however, when Prior scored after 80 minutes. A monumental player for the club scores the winning goal for the club in the playoff final that brings us to the EFL for the first time. The assist, you ask? Of course, it was Duncan.
Again we had some impressive attacking stats and surprised everyone with our results during the season. The only area where we didn’t perform over average was tackles won. However, our stat in that area is still good. I wished that our goals conceded per game would be under 1. That will always be difficult with so many games conceding three, four and even seven goals. It’s still a significant improvement from last season, from seven clean sheets in the league to 20 this year.
We found a tactic and formation that fit our players, and we always managed to keep the periods of bad form as short as possible. We only had four games in the league where we didn’t score a goal this year.
We got some relatively exciting talent through this years youth intake, where Jeff Edwards is categorized as an elite talent. He already signed a pro deal with the club, and it will be exciting to see how good he can become. At the end of the season, I finally got an acceptance from the board to invest in Junior Coaching and Youth Recruitment and bring both of them to adequate. I aim to invest in facilities every season, so the club at one point can become self sufficient.
Since the game doesn’t let us keep an overview over academy graduates that played for the first team, excel has to do the job for us. Three debutants this season and Olly Allen establishing as a first-team player is a big step in the direction we want to take. George Membrillera is too old to make it here now and will be released at the end of the season. Aaron Lee and Noah Sapsford have signed new two-year deals and will be handed more opportunities at the club.
The future for both club and academy is a lot brighter than a year ago. Even so, we got a lot of work to do before the new season, starting with getting everyone full-time deals and deciding on who’s good enough to play League Two football.