Updated: Jul 3, 2019
Welcome back to the TerrierBlog Football Manager challenge, where we pick up with the team in February. Losing our last game of the month away to Wolves was frustrating, especially when you consider how well we played for much of the game.
Luckily we had just the tonic, with a home fixture against Newcastle to look forward to. The Geordies were no great shakes themselves and this game was a great chance to register a much-needed win. Here’s how my team got on…
Newcastle (H): ?-?
We’re getting into the business end of the season now so to add to the drama, I’m not going to tell you the score straight away…Instead you can live the drama line by line, sentence by sentence to try and imagine just how stressful I was finding my time as Town manager!
The last time we played Newcastle we had emerged victorious, just, thanks in large part to some pretty dubious refereeing decisions. I was wary of the computer trying to level the playing field in the return fixture, but I didn’t bet on it doing so in such a brutal manner.
After 12 minutes of the game we were 2-0 down. Ciaran Clark scored the opener as he headed home after losing his marker from a corner, before Max Aarons doubled the lead in the 12th minute.
The right back stole a march down the flank and struck a wonder goal into the top corner of Jonas Lossl’s net. I was shell-shocked, how on earth was this happening? Within a dozen minutes we had fallen foul of the Rafa Benitez “shithouse” tactic.
His team had been ruthlessly efficient, scoring from their first 2 shots to kill us off before the game had even got going. Steve Mounie halved the deficit in the 21st minute with a smart finish and it looked like we were beginning to claw our way back into the game.
The next 10 minutes of action saw wave after wave of Town attacks crash down on the stoic Newcastle defence. Our tails were high and a goal was imminent, so can you guess what happened? Matt Ritchie scored a 25 yard free kick to make it 3-1.
That goal was Newcastle’s THIRD shot of the game so far, they had a 100% scoring rate. This was a joke. At half-time I toyed with the idea of bollocking the team, but what was the point? They actually hadn’t done much wrong, they’d defended pretty well and been unlucky going forward.
The only thing separating the two teams was a bit of luck so I told my players just that, and before I sent them out onto the field I whispered in Steve Mounie’s ear, “More of the same please Steve.”
The Big Beninese striker took that on board, scoring his second goal of the game just 3 minutes into the second-half. Unfortunately for me Steve had headed the ball into his own net, making it 4-1 to Newcastle who had somehow managed to score 4 times with only 3 shots…
That took the wind out of our sails. We continued to push Newcastle, but more in hope than expectation. In doing so we opened ourselves up to a raft of counter-attacks and were actually somewhat fortunate not to concede more.
I felt robbed, of course I did, but it seemed par for the course this season…
Southampton (A): ?-?
The Saints had recovered well after a dreadful start to the season and went into the game 1 point ahead of us after failing to win any of their first 11 games. Here’s what happened in this game in a nutshell – James Ward-Prowse scored a free-kick from range in the 24th minute, and despite being dominated in every area, his side managed to hold onto their lead and win the game 1-0.
What did I have to do to win a game around here? To get some luck, the rub of the green or even just a point?
Brighton (H): ?-?
Here’s how the table looked ahead of Brighton’s trip to the John Smith’s Stadium.
As you can see, Chris Hughton’s men were breathing down our necks and I must admit to not feeling entirely confident. After our rotten run of luck I envisaged an early sending-off for Christopher Schindler and a limp 1-0 loss.
Although I managed to avoid that fate, the reality wasn’t much better. Hughton set out his team to frustrate, and they barely laid a glove on us in an attacking sense, but unfortunately we were incapable of breaking them down.
To coin Arsene Wenger’s favourite phrase, we ‘played with the handbrake on’. Just 2 of our 10 shots were on target, leaving me with no complaints over the final score of 0-0.
Watford (H): ?-?
Another home game gave us another good chance of victory, and we were in dire need of a good result to keep Brighton at arm’s length. If you’ve read this whole journey so far you’ll be well aware of the heartbreak suffered last time we met Watford.
The Hornets effectively stole 3 points from us with a late show of sublime finishing that left me spitting feathers (more accurately, a lot of expletives beginning with ‘C’).
This game got off to a pretty bad start with big Phil Bill getting himself sent off in the first 15 minutes for what I would later describe as a ‘horror tackle’ to the press. 3 minutes after Billing’s dismissal we were a goal down, Ken Sema dancing through our static defence to score.
I expected an onslaught from here and was readying myself for another humbling defeat, but weirdly nothing came from Watford. The visitors seemed to rest on their laurels, allowing us to creep back into the game bit by bit.
With the score still at 1-0 to Watford with 10 minutes left I decided to go hell for leather in search of an equaliser. My attacking intent was rewarded in the 88th minute when Aaron Mooy score a carbon copy of his real life goal against Wolves last season.
I couldn’t quite believe it, for once we had scored the late goal and rescued something from the game, but should I keep pushing and try for a winner? Of course, nothing ventured nothing gained after all.
My players marauded forward at every opportunity and just as I was readying myself to cheer a Town winner, Adalberto Penaranda broke the length of the pitch to score the winner for Watford in the 93rd minute.
I was absolutely gutted with that late goal for all the obvious reasons, but mainly because it was becoming a theme of our season. No matter how well we played the footballing Gods always seemed to think we deserved the shitty end of the stick when it came to luck.
Javi Gracia perked me up a bit with his post-match comments, admitting that his side had been lucky to win the game. But unfortunately magnanimous comments doth butter no parsnips, and I was still marooned in the relegation dogfight.
Click HERE to find out what happened in March when my Town side faced off against Manchester United, Manchester City, West Ham and Liverpool. If ever a set of fixtures said “you’re getting relegated”, this was them…