Hello folks and welcome to the decisive stage of our Blue Square Premier season. We were top of the table after a good month of March, five points clear of second place Luton. We also had the FA Trophy final to conclude the season and we were going to travel to Wembley to meet… Luton! But before that final we had to make sure of the Blue Square Premier title, we had four more games to play and we needed at least two wins to wrap it up.
The first match was away at 10th place Mansfield, not an easy game. The first half was quite entertaining right from the start, there were a few chances on both ends before Danny Uchechi broke the deadlock with a good finish to a fine team move. We were 1-0 up at the break but the game changed completely in the second half, Mansfield were all over us and deservedly leveled the score 10 minutes after the interval. The onslaught continued after the goal but we were lucky to escape with a point as Mansfield missed countless chances, including a penalty kick that went sailing over the bar. We were fortunate to get a share of the spoils and the better news came after the game: Luton got beaten at home by Wrexham so we were six points clear at the top!
We had the chance to wrap up the title in the next game, all we needed was a win at home against 16th place Kidderminster. Omar Koroma broke the deadlock on 21 minutes with a powerful finish and then Oliver Nicholas powered in a corner kick header. The same two players struck in the second half but it’s Koroma‘s goal that is really worth watching, he fired a great shot from out wide straight into the top corner!
Luton couldn’t get more than a draw in their game so the title was ours! Get in!
The last two games didn’t matter too much anymore, I tried to rotate the squad and not risk any injuries before the final but we still managed to remain unbeaten.
Luton lost the play-offs eventually and Cheltenham will be joining us in League Two.
And now, the FA Trophy final! No less than 72,369 people came to Wembley to witness a historic final for us, the first ever FA Trophy final in the club’s 49 year history. Luton were the hot favourites though and they proved that right away…
6th minute – a quick attack from Luton totally outplayed my defense and they took the lead thanks to a superb finish from an impossible angle. Vauxhall vs Luton 0-1!
13th minute – Danny Uchechi had a great chance, he was unmarked inside the penalty area but his shot went just wide.
17th minute – Uchechi managed to find the back of the net but the goal was chalked off, he was just a few inches offside!
19th minute – huge chance for Luton, Adam Street denied their striker with a stunning save!
23rd minute – yet another big chance for Luton, a cross into the six yard box found their man unmarked but goalkeeper Street stopped him with a brilliant save!
26th minute – a great pass from Matthew Ball sent Uchechi clean through but the striker blasted it wide from a great position!
38th minute – a good move from my team brought the ball to Nathan Rooney inside the penalty area, he was unmarked but his shot went sailing over the crossbar…
40th minute – our pressure was getting more intense; Rooney found Omar Koroma with a great first-touch pass and the Gambian striker powered it in from just inside the area! Vauxhall vs Luton 1-1
At half time I urged my players to play the remaining 45 minutes for the fans and also made two changes: Pietro Palladino and Shane Williams came in for Albert Owusu-Ansah and Nathan Rooney, both were tired after the first half.
50th minute – substitute right winger Palladino made a solid run down his flank, bent in a low cross inside the six yard box and left winger Sam Hart bundled it in! We did get some help from their goalie but it didn’t matter: Vauxhall vs Luton 2-1!
69th minute – we were keeping things quiet and we could have doubled the lead: Oliver Nicholas powered a corner kick header but the ball bounced clear off the crossbar!
70th minute – I made my final change, Akwasi Asante came in to replace a disappointing Danny Uchechi.
85th minute – another good chance for my side, a nicely crafted counter attack brought the ball inside the box to Sam Hart but he was denied by the goalkeeper.
91st minute – Luton were desperately pushing forward and a thunderous 30 yard drive bounced clear off our crossbar!
94th minute – a good shot from the edge of the area tested our keeper but Adam Street held it.
96th minute – the referee had shown only four minutes of added time but the game was still going… A corner kick for Luton, the ball flew into our box and one of their players got a foot to it… The ball rolled free across the six yard box and went wide, just a few inches wide… Fifteen seconds later, the final whistle!
It was a proud moment for me and my players, we lifted the FA Trophy at Wembley in front of 70,000 people, more spectators than we’ve seen throughout the entire season!
Centre back Oliver Nicholas was our top performer if we look at the average rating but Omar Koroma had an impressive second part of the season. Overall I can say that most of the players did well and it was the squad depth that earned us the title during the very busy month of March.
There were good news on the financial front too, the FA Trophy final pulled us out of debt and now the club has 100K in the bank!
I was also proud to receive the manager of the season award for the second time in a row…
That’s how it ended my friends, we grabbed our second consecutive promotion and also snatched some precious silverware in the process! It wasn’t an easy season, we didn’t dominate the league, but we pulled it off thanks to great determination from the players and a very solid bench that allowed me to rotate the players during the busy periods of the year. We’re moving up to League Two and the club will probably turn professional, I hope that they will invest in the training facilities as a result… Anyway, it’s time to celebrate, we’ll begin to worry from the next post on :) Thanks a lot for reading and for supporting me and my team throughout this difficult season.
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