Hello folks, it’s time for the decisive stage of my fourth season in charge of Vauxhall Motors FC in Football Manager 2011! We were top of the League One table at the end of March, six points clear of Brentford and seven points clear of Preston, so we needed four wins out of six games to secure the title. We also had an exciting Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final ahead of us, a chance to add some silverware to our almost empty trophy cabinet. Welcome to the nervy part of the season, let’s see how it went…
Vauxhall vs Hereford (League 1)
Venue: Rivacre Park
Starting line up: James Dunn – Ken Harris, Derrick Williams, Sashi Chalwe, Lucky Sibiya – Darren King, Nathan Rooney, Peter Leven, Jacob Walcott – Darryl Duffy, Omar Koroma
Team Talk: You can win today!
Hereford were in 14th place before the game so I was expecting to grab the three points and get one step closer to the title. However, considering that our next game was the JPT final, I decided to rest some players for the important match at Wembley. I was expecting a win nonetheless but we got off to a bad start: Omar Koroma wasted a huge chance right away and then Hereford took the lead on five minutes. We got back on track just five minutes later when Darryl Duffy rounded off a team move but something was wrong: Hereford‘s second shot on target went in and they were leading 2-1 at half time.
Half time score: 1-2
Half time team talk: Where’s the passion, lads?
Half time substitutions: Alex Billington for Harris, Matthew Ball for Leven, Keith Higgs for King
The fans were not happy and neither was I, things had to change. In fact, the lads were looking a lot more lively after the break and we got back on level terms on 53 minutes when substitute Keith Higgs fired a nice shot from the edge of the area and the ball went in off the frame of the goal. We started chasing the winning goal and we had plenty of chances to get it before the final whistle. Unfortunately the finishing was nothing short of disastrous, we dropped two points! However, our rivals had slipped up as well, Brentford lost and Preston were held to a draw so we were seven points clear of both sides.
Full time team talk: Not good enough!
Man of the match: Keith Higgs
Flop of the match: Ken Harris
Vauxhall vs Brighton (Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Final)
Starting line up: Martin Hansen – Jacob Hronec, Sashi Chalwe, Mervin Simon, Alex Billington – Carlos Bogado, Mark Brown, Graham Howson, Jason Banton – Mark Cullen, Ibrahima M’Bow
Team Talk: For the fans!
We had to forget that slip-up and give our best at Wembley in front of an awesome crowd of over 40 thousand people. I fielded the best eleven I had except right back Ken Harris who had picked up a slight injury during the Hereford game. We had a mixed history against Brighton, we beat them 3-1 in October but they defeated us 2-1 in February so I was expecting a close game. My players appeared to be fully focused and we enjoyed a great spell of domination during then opening 45 minutes. We created a pair of clear cut chances and a few decent ones as well but the finishing let us down again. The first half ended goalless but the team’s performance was pretty good.
Half time score: 0-0
Half time team talk: For the fans!
Half time substitutions: Keith Higgs for Banton
I took off Jason Banton at half time because he got booked just before the break and I didn’t want to risk a sending off but I also was a bit disappointed by his performance. Brighton came out from the dressing room with a different attitude too, they were more incisive and Martin Hansen had to pull off a great diving save to deny them four minutes into the second half. Then the game turned a bit rough, there were lots of fouls in midfield and it seemed that it was going to be a less spectacular second half. We could have taken the lead on 65 minutes, Mark Cullen tried a shot from a tight angle but the ball rattled the post before bouncing out of danger. I decided to make the last two substitutions after that miss, we needed fresh legs in midfield: Jacob Walcott for Bogado and Matthew Ball for Howson. A minute after the two changes Brighton had another very good chance but Hansen made another great save to keep the score level. The game was becoming more and more tense and our opponents seemed to be a bit better on the pitch. In fact, they wasted a big chance in the 89th minute! We could have punished them three minutes into stoppage time, Cullen was clean through and he tried to lob the goalkeeper from the edge of the area… The shot was good, the keeper was beaten, but the ball landed on top of the crossbar! So close!
Before the final 30 minutes of extra time I reminded my players of our special fans that have traveled to Wembley all the way from Ellesmere Port, more than 200 miles, we had to make them proud! Most of the players were tired but we had to forget about fatigue and give it our best shot! The Brighton players appeared to be even more tired though, we were pushing forward and broke the deadlock three minutes into extra time, Jacob Walcott passed it for Ibrahima M’Bow and the young striker powered it in from just inside the area! Get in! We were still dominating the game, Brighton were unable to cope with our attacks and five minutes later M’Bow was brought down inside the penalty area! The referee pointed to the spot and substitute Jacob Walcott banged it in, 2-0! Brighton played their last card, they switched to a 4-2-4 setup and I chose to change the strategy to “counter”. We managed to keep things quiet, the trophy was heading our way but Jacob Walcott had one more goal to score: he volleyed in a Mark Cullen cross to end the game in style!
Full time team talk: Congratulations!
Man of the match: Jacob Walcott
Flop of the match: Jason Banton
I was very happy to bring the trophy home… The players were happy, the fans were happy, the board was happy…
We had to end the celebrations early though, we still had a promotion to secure. We had to get three wins out of the last five league games, it doesn’t sound too difficult on paper but it can get quite tough on the pitch.
Vauxhall vs Darlington (League 1)
Venue: Rivacre Park
Starting line up: Martin Hansen – Jacob Hronec, Sashi Chalwe, Mervin Simon, Alex Billington – Carlos Bogado, Mark Brown, Graham Howson, Jason Banton – Dale Hills, Ibrahima M’Bow
Team Talk: You can win today!
Darlington were 15th before the game and I was hoping to secure the three points. We enjoyed nearly total domination during the first half but we only scored one goal, Ibrahima M’Bow found the target again from a Dale Hills through ball.
Half time score: 1-0
Half time team talk: Pleased.
Half time substitutions: Matthew Ball for Brown, Jacob Walcott for Banton
We were safely in control, Darlington were not seeing much of the ball. The game was completely closed six minutes from time when Mervin Simon headed home his 10th goal of the season but our joy was ruined by a harsh sending off, Alex Billington received his marching orders after a rather normal-looking foul. Anyway, we grabbed the three points and kept the seven point cushion on Brentford. Preston were held to a draw so they were nine points behind us after that game.
Full time team talk: Well done!
Man of the match: Mervin Simon
Flop of the match: Keith Higgs
We needed two more wins but we were facing back to back away games next, I was fearing a tense finale. Go to the next page to see how it went.
Go to the next page to read the rest of the story.
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