We started the month against Salford, who was top of the league before the match. We began aggressively with two yellow cards in the first two minutes, which set the tone for the first half. Bobby Duncan scored after 9 minutes. Half an hour later, Edwin Andersson came first on a cross from Bobby-Joe Taylor and made it 2-0. Salford got one back after a penalty, but we managed to kill the game with our possession after that.
Once again, our two aces secured a win in the first half against Port Vale. Duncan scored first before he set up Andersson nicely to make it two.
The third 2-1 victory in a row against Gillingham, but a bit more nerve this time. Andersson gave us the lead before they equalized with a screamer from outside the box. Both teams had their chances to win before Andersson found Sammy Braybrooke with a through-pass in the 85th minute. Four wins in a row!
Against Doncaster, we did what we’ve done so many times before. First, Duncan found Andersson, who made it 1-0 right before the break. Then, three minutes into the second half, Duncan made it two, and everything seemed to go our way in the floodlights at Dorking Stadium. Joe Dodoo made it 2-1 ten minutes later before grabbing the equalizer three minutes into overtime.
Three days later, almost the same scenario unfolded against Stevenage. They got an early lead, but James McShane turned it around with two goals in two minutes. 2-1 at halftime and everything looked set for our fourth win this month. Andersson increased our lead after 64 minutes, and then we lost our cool yet again. 3-2 came after a corner in the 70th minute, and we started to get stressed. Fast forward 20 minutes, and Josh Okotcha was late in a tackle inside our box. Penalty… 3-3.
No matter how tough the two last results is to think about, we did great this month. Taylor was awarded the player of the month, and I got my first manager of the month award in professional football.
This month started with an away game to Notts County, who won the National League last season. Ian Burchnall is also doing great as a newly promoted team this season, and they are fighting alongside us at the top of the table. They’re the only team in league with more passes and possession than us, so this was a game between two very similar styles of football.
In front of almost 10.000 people, they took the lead after just 10 minutes and held on till the break. Duncan scored the equalizer early in the second half, and after that, it was all about passing. Over 500 passes (and a few shots) later, the game was over.
What a game we gave our fans against Carlisle, and I almost had a heart attack. Ibrahima Sy got his head on a corner and scored his first goal for the club after 17 minutes. Nothing more happened before halftime, but in the second half, it blew up. Duncan got us two up in the 59th minute before Luke Griffiths scored a hattrick in ten minutes for them. Eighty-two minutes in, and we’re suddenly one goal down. 90+3, and Duncan found Andersson to make it 3-3. Everyone thought we rescued a point there, and after all, that would’ve been great. Two minutes later, Okotcha played a long pass and found Duncan through on goal. 4-3 five minutes into injury time. Wow!
We were still on a high when we visited Barrow four days later. It was a relatively poor match with few chances for both teams. Khayon Edwards came from the bench with 15 minutes left and scored two minutes later. We have a new supersub in the squad, and Alfie Rutherford had to go on loan to get games in the National League.
Against Newport, we were back to our usual selves and created chances from the start. The goal came late but good when McShane smashed it in from outside the box. Unbelievable that he still wins games for us!
A 0-0 game against Mansfield sounds rather dull, but it was more frustrating than boring. McShane missed a penalty after 7 minutes, and Andersson had two goals disallowed in the first half. After that, we lost hope a bit, but we’re now unbeaten in 11 games in the league.
Sutton at home was an almost perfect match by us. 73% possession and 94% completed passes proves total domination on our behalf. We also just had two shots against us. Taylor scored the opener early in the first half before equalising right before the break. Edwards got a rare start this game and repaid my trust by scoring the winner in the second half. We could’ve and should’ve won by more, but we were perfect in all other aspects of the game.
Bradford City caught us out with two goals before we could respond. Olly Allen scored his first for the season on a header before McShane equalised with the last kick on the ball in the first half. Nothing major happened in the second half, but we refuse to lose games. Hence, the fantastic mentality to come back from two goals behind.
Four days later, I decided to play the reserves against Wycombe to rest the regular starters ahead of the critical cup game against Notts County. Two corners from Dante Cassanova and two headers from Okotcha made it 2-0 inside the first 25 minutes. We had a two-goal lead at halftime before everything unravelled in front of me. After a horrible 30 minutes of football, it was suddenly 3-2 to Wycombe after 77 minutes. Luckily for us, Aaron Maguire saved a penalty to hold us in the game.
In the 82nd minute, Allen found Edwards with a lovely through ball, and he calmly tied the game for us. Again; What a mentality on these lads!
Walsall away was a challenging game for us, but we never gave up like so many times before. They took the lead in the first half and held on almost all the way. Finally, after a long throw in the 90th minute, Andersson grabbed the equaliser, his first goal in nearly two months. With 22 shots and 2.91 xG, it was nothing less than deserved that we got something from this game!
We played Bradford City for the second time this month and dominated from the get-go on boxing day. After 25 minutes, Kobbie Mainoo found Andersson, who scored the opener. Twenty minutes later, Mainoo got his second assist when he set up George Nunn for his first for the season. Edwards scored a symbolic goal in the second half when Duncan gave the assist. For now, this was Duncans last game for us, and Edwards will take his place in the starting eleven. With £1.6K a week, we simply can’t afford to keep Duncan at the club.
In 2023’s last game, we played Salford away. Salford is a quality team, but so are we. Aaron Skinner gave us the lead after a free-kick from Taylor before Salford equalised on a penalty. Early in the second half, Taylor found Andersson with a cross, and we were back in the lead. Our lead was never threatened, with the only shot at goal for Salford being the penalty. Another successful year for us is history.
Edwin Andersson found his form again this month and was awarded young player of the month.
Due to injuries on several centre-backs and lack of depth, it was arranged for Patrick Almond to join us on loan from Sunderland when the window opened. He developed to a quality centre back for me on my Sunderland blog last year, and hopefully, I can help him get his career going.
I had to sell Sammy Braybrooke to QPR for £325K to get us back in a positive balance. So we got the same deal as we did with Muir, and we keep him at the club for the rest of the season on loan.
James McShane asked for a new challenge in his career, and I don’t want to force a faithful servant to the club to stay. Rochdale bought him for £5K, so he still plays in League Two.
Matthew Carson was sold to Middlesbrough for £10K after making a constant fuzz about not getting enough games and wanting to leave. I don’t want to have that kind of toxic behaviour in our dressing room, so he goes.
With one day off before the Port Vale game, we had to rotate a lot and rest several vital players. Mainoo gave us the lead after only 2 minutes to settle our nerves a bit. After that, we managed to hold on. Seven yellow cards say something about the match, and it’s certainly not the most beautiful football I’ve watched so far. However, a win is a win.
Against Doncaster, our first defeat in the league since September was a fact. It had to come sometime. After a close first half, they scored two goals within three minutes early in the second half. Andersson had one disallowed goal before the legend Jason Prior scored his first for the season. League Two is just a level too high for a 35-year-old Prior, but he’s a decent backup for the foreseeable future. He also started his coaching badges, so I hope to keep him at the club when he calls it a day.
A wise man once said that a good team need to respond after a defeat, and we indeed did when we played Rochdale. Muir scored the opener in the 11th minute after a corner from Taylor. Four minutes later, Noah Sapsford scored his first for the club, in his first start, with a stunning strike from the corner of the box. Ryan Alebiosu first set up Andersson in the second half to make it 3-0 in the 59th minute. Four minutes later, the same man found Edwards with a cross from the right. Rochdale reduced the lead before Aaron Lee scored his first ever for the club. What a win and what a day for the club and academy. Three players from the academy were involved, and two of them scored their first goals for us.
With eight days between games, we had time to rest some tired legs before the match against Gillingham. After just three minutes, Alebiosu scored the opener and his first goal for the club. Andersson increased the lead in the second half before reducing the lead at the end.
Stevenage was a bad game for us, and we got lucky to get away with a draw. A disallowed goal for Stevenage that looked marginal was the closest game.
After impressing with his pace and good form in January, I decided to give Aaron Lee his first start against Leyton Orient. It started great when Alebiosu set up Edwards for the opener after 14 minutes. Twenty minutes later, Lee received his second yellow and was sent off. Again we got lucky at the end of the game when they missed a penalty in the 93rd minute. All good teams are fortunate, and it’s the same for us.
The Northampton game started with a bang when Cassanova found Andersson after just 10 minutes. However, Zidane Iqbal equalized for Northampton seven minutes later, and we went to half-time at status quo.
Fifteen minutes into the second half, the loanee Patrick Almond scored his first goal on a header. Ten minutes later, a Cassanova corner landed on the Aaron Skinners head, and it was game set and match.
If the last game started with a bang, I don’t know what the Burton game did when Braybrooke scored after 46 seconds! Muir increased the lead to 2-0 after 15 minutes before the on fire Cassanova came from the bench to score the winner.
Against Barnet, nothing worked for us in front of goal. Seven hundred sixty-five passes don’t help much when we can’t hit the target. They took the lead early and increased again after the break. Prior reduced with our only shot on goal before we had two disallowed goals in the last ten minutes of the game. It was just one of those days, I guess.
We struggled again in front of goal against Carlisle, but luckily our defence is solid as a rock. Some match-winning saves from Dominic Rogerson kept us in the game in the first half. After the break, we gained more momentum and managed to grab a goal when Braybrooke found Andersson after an hour played.
Dante Cassanova found form this month and was much deserved awarded with the young player of the month award.
It’s great to see to newly promoted teams at the top of the table. With six losses combined between us, I really hope both we and Notts County can hold on and hopefully get promoted again. The first match in march is against them, a game that has been postponed twice.
Dante Cassanova found his form this month and was much deserved awarded with the young player of the month award.
Grimsby controlled everything in the first match, and we barely hung on. A late equalizer from Edwards got us a replay, but to be honest, Grimsby had deserved to win this one.
We did everything we didn’t do in the first game in the replay. Duncan scored in the 7th minute, and from there on out it was no doubt that we would win this one. Manni Norkett came from the bench to score the winner, assisted by our eminent goalkeeper Dominic Rogerson. His second assist this season.
Against Notts County again. Two teams that play the same style of football and like to keep the ball. They scored first before Muir got us the equalizer and a replay.
The exact recipe in the replay was when they scored early, and Muir equalized after a corner. Then, in the second half, we went toe to toe. 2-1 in the 61st minute, 2-2 by Duncan in the 74th, 3-2 in the 76th minute and again tied when Edwards scored, made it 3-3 in the 83rd.
It was true heartbreak when they scored the winner in the 93rd minute, just as we were heading to extra time. Burchnall 1 – Hoffmann 0 in the FA cup..
Papa John’s Trophy
As mentioned earlier in the blog, this cup is used to give reserves and youth some much needed minutes.
Barnet smashed us 3-0, with just 0.65 xG. The only positive to take from that game is a new player from the academy making his debut when Ellis Fowler was subbed in with five minutes left to play.
Against Colchester, we got a solid result. Winning with mainly reserves against a League One team is quite extraordinary. Skinner scored our goal on a penalty in the second half.
Jeff Edwards from last seasons youth intake got his debut near the end and became our youngest player ever with his 16 years and 121 days.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get the cup run we hoped for this season and neither did we get the high income a place in the third round would get us against a top side. Nevertheless, we had an incredible encounter in the FA Cup against Notts County and got to give several academy players minutes in the Papa John’s Trophy. It could have gone way worse than it did after all.