Away from home, away from the league

After our recent struggles in the league and a less than inspiring performance at Leeds, we turn our attentions to the FA Cup.

Date: Saturday 7th January 2017
Opponent: Cambridge United (6th in League 2)
Venue: Abbey Stadium
Odds: Cambridge United=4/1, Draw=5/2, Exeter City=4/7
Weather: Sleet, 1C
Referee: Mr. Paul Hutton

I name a strong side, looking to give our attacking players a boost in confidence in front of goal. I hand debuts to two new signings, with the midfield being comprised of Oliver Norwood and John-Joe O’Toole. Lasse Karlsen enters Mr. Hutton’s book in the 8th minute after fouling Wilding. Never ideal for a centre back to pick up a card so early into a game. The first chance of the game comes in the 11th minute. Proctor shoots from 10 yards and Metodi Spasov makes the save, with the clearance being completed at the expense of a throw. Michele Marconi joins Karlsen in Mr. Hutton’s book in the 29th minute following a foul on Abalimba in the 29th minute. Our first chance of note comes in the 37th minute when Alain Besse shoots from 20 yards. The shot is straight at Mowthorpe and an easy catch for him. Lubomir Zapotoka becomes the 3rd name to be taken by Mr. Hutton when he fouls Wilding in the 42nd minute. One minute later, Abalimba takes an inswinging corner and Wilding is on hand at the near post to score from 6 yards out. Not the ideal way to end the half!

Two minutes into the second half, Michel takes an inswinging corner and Besse is at the near post, 6 yards out. It’s a carbon copy of Cambridge’s goal, except Besse’s header hits the bar and is cleared by Cambridge. Besse is looking the most likely to get us back in the game and shoots over from 20 yards in the 62nd minute. Before the goal kick can be taken, I replace Marconi with Federico Cenci. Three minutes later, we win a free kick 25 yards from goal. Cenci steps up. It’s over the wall. It’s over the bar. One minute later, he shoots from open play, 18 yards out. Unfortunately, he picks out Mowthorpe who makes an easy save. Abalimba shoots wide from the same distance in the 74th minute. With 14 minutes to go, Adriano Gazzoli shoots from 16 yards, requiring Mowthorpe to make a good diving save. Cambridge clear, but only to the 18 yard line where Norwood is waiting. He shoots and it goes just wide. It would have been a great way to mark his debut, but it’s not to be and Cambridge see the game out.

Result: Cambridge United 1-0 Exeter City
Man of the Match: Abalimba
Ratings: GK-Spasov (6.7), DR-Zapotoka (6.9, booked), DCR-Karlsen (6.9, booked), DCL-Berger (6.7), DL-Chaloupka (6.8), MCR-O’Toole (6.5), MCL-Norwood (6.6), AMR-Gazzoli (6.7), AMC-Michel (6.3), AML-Besse (6.7), ST-Marconi (5.7, booked, sub 62). Sub-Cenci (6.8, on 62). Unused-Bond, Vukovic, Fournier, Mason, Varga, Keane.
Attendance: 4,293
Match Stats:

Cambridge #FM12

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I had no hope of winning the Cup and it’s nice that we can now just concentrate on the league and trying to win promotion, but I was expecting a better performance. It was a dull game and any neutrals would have struggled to tell that there is two leagues between the clubs. I hold a team meeting straight after the match as our recent performances have not been at the standard we’d been used to before December.

Juan Carlos Mandia, the manager of Cordoba, was in spotted in the crowd. The media are reporting that he was there to scout Alain Besse.

It’s January and transfer activity is well under way. George King accepts a contract from Middlesbrough and the transfer is completed. Birmingham must be aware of Cordoba’s interest in Alain Besse and offer £200,000 for him, but I reject the offer. He immediately requests negotiations for a new contract, which I turn down as he’s been with us for less than a year (and has 30 months left on his current one) and is hardly a regular in the starting line-up. West Ham United offer £50,000, £230,000 over 30 months and 20% of the profit from the next sale for Will Keane, an offer that I reject. Lubomir Zapotoka is the subject of an £800,000 and 20% of the profit of the next sale from Aston Villa and it’s another offer I reject. I also reject an offer of £325,000 for Metodi Spasov from Sampdoria. He’s unhappy and wants to leave the club, so I offer him to clubs. Verona offer £120,000, £250,000 over 36 months, £100,000 after 20 games for the club and 10% of the next sale for him and I accept. I reject Modena’s offer of £140,000, £40,000 over 36 months, £100,000 after 20 games from the club and 10% of the next sale. I stall on Sassulo’s offer of £20,000, £250,000 over 36 months, £100,000 after 20 games and 10% of the next sale. I also stall on Reggina’s offer of £65,000, £250,000 over 36 months, £100,000 after 20 games and 10% of the next sale. Queens Park Rangers would like Jan Pavlov and offer £400,000 and 25% of the profit from the next sale, an offer that I reject. After conceding both of the goals he has scored, West Ham United offer to but Philipp Langer; they offer £1,000, £6,000 over 30 months, £1,000 after 10 goals and 25% of the profit from the next sale. I respond by rejecting the offer.

In the loan market, Nathan Holland rejects the offer made for him by Oxford United. Foggia offer to loan Paolo Palese until the end of the season and I accept the offer. He doesn’t accept the offer. As soon as he reject the move to Foggia, Como offer to loan him until the end of the season. I also accept a loan offer from Morecambe for Aaron Walker, who they want to loan until the end of the season. He rejects the switch. This results in our Cup conquerors, Cambridge United, offering to loan him for 3 months. All parties agree and he moves to Cambridge. Ecija and Castellon would like David Goikoetxea on loan until the end of the season and I accept both offers and he rejects both offers. Ternana offer £2,000 to loan Mirco Franchini until the end of the season, another offer I accept. I reject a loan offer from Verona for Alain Besse. They want to loan him until the end of the season and offer £24,000 to do so and can pay £180,000 at any point to make the move permanent. Ivan Byram returns from his loan at Newport County. Bristol Rovers offer to extend Rob McNally’s loan spell by three months – I agree and so does he. I accept a loan offer from Radek Koblizek until the end of the season from Hereford United. Campobasso would like Adolfo Mannino on loan until the end of the season and I accept their offer.

Roberto Carlos Gutierrez Ramos informs me he is prepared to terminate his contract with the club for £65,000, which I reject.


No sign of the cameras

After our midweek trip to Burnley, we head to the South coast to play Southampton at St Mary’s Stadium in the Fifth Round of the FA Cup. Southampton are 14th in the Premier League and we’re 7/2 with the bookies; evidently the odds were before my team line-up were seen because I make 11 changes. I’m anticipating teams looking to sign my players in the summer, so it’s a chance for some players to put their hands up and show that they should be the replacement, whilst others have the chance to reclaim their starting place that they’ve lost through injury or loss of form:

Cup side #FM12

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As well as changes to my starting line-up, there’s a tweak in formation as I replace my AMC with a DMC. The changes see debuts for Vaclav Kostka and Clement Baud. Southampton start strongly and in the 8th minute, Wheater heads a corner wide from 12 yards out. They go closer in the 22nd minute when Jardel hits a free kick from 20 yards and is denied by the post and we scramble the ball clear. Sadly, scrambling the ball clear tends to involve it coming straight back and that’s what happens as Southampton pile the pressure on; Ait Fana blazes over from 16 yards in the 28th minute, Grosicki shoots wide from 16 yards in the 34th minute and Metodi Spasov tips over a Jardel shot from 12 yards in the 37th minute. The second half sees Southampton make the breakthrough in the 57th minute when Sutchuin crosses from the right and Jardel is on hand to convert from 6 yards. Three minutes later, Jardel goes down in the area and picks up a yellow card for diving. The 70th minute sees Sutchuin come close to adding a goal to his assist when his head meets a left wing cross from 6 yards, but he finds the bar. We go upfield and Makris shoots from 10 yards, but it’s straight at Turnbull. Our crossbar is rattled again five minutes later when Jardel crosses from the right and Boymans finds it with a header from 6 yards. Ryan Mason shoots from 18 yards in the 77th minute and Turnbull spills the shot, but Southampton get to the rebound first and are able to clear it. Wheater meets an inswinging corner from Ait Fana and makes it a hat-trick of headers that come off the bar. Southampton wrap the game up in the 86th minute to the delight of the majority of the 20,515 in attendance when a long diagonal ball from right to left sees Spasov come out, stop and Ait Fana pick up the ball and roll it into the unguarded net. In stoppage time, Mikkel Valentin takes an outswinging corner from the left and Federico Cenci meets it at the near post with a diving header, but it hits one of our players and is cleared by Southampton. Ait Fana is named Man of the Match with a rating of 7.8 and a goal. All credit to Southampton who fully deserved their victory and could have won by more (as 4 efforts hitting the woodwork demonstrate), but my changes didn’t work and I’m disappointed we didn’t take our chances, especially when Turnbull spilled an effort.

Whilst we’re bowing out of the cup, league action continues and we drop to 5th. 4 more players join the club on trial; Belarusian DM/MC Alexandr Dyatel for 4 weeks, Polish DC Daruisz Sliwa for 2 weeks, Salvadoran AMR/ST Roberto Flores for a week and Tunisian DC Nizar Sassi for a week.

We’re on our way to… Wembley?

We welcome Wigan Athletic to St James Park for the 4th Round of the FA Cup. They’re the current holders and 10th in the Premier League, which unsurprisingly makes us 11/5 underdogs for the game. I make four changes, with Miltos Makris making replacing Dacian Varga and making his debut, Niccolo Marchi comes in for Jonny Hayes, Bertin Matip starts ahead of Jay Spearing and Jonathan Bond replaces Metodi Spasov in goal. Wigan prove why they’re favourites as early as the third minute when a free kick by Stam from 25 yards goes just wide. Our first chance comes two minutes later when Matip plays a through ball to Michele Marconi, who coolly finishes from 18 yards for his 16th goal of the season. Two minutes later, we find the net again! Sadly, it’s only the side netting as Makris goes close to a dream start on his debut. He has a further chance to open his account on his debut a minute later when Michel plays him in, but he shoots straight at the keeper from 18 yards; the shot is parried, but Wigan are able to clear before we can get to the rebound. The first yellow card of the game is picked up by Gennaro Riccardi in the 9th minute for a foul on Dempsey. Dempsey is in the action 8 minutes later when he crosses from the left, but McDonald blazes over the bar from 8 yards out. Bradley Johnson joins Riccardi in the referee’s book in the 24th minute. We come close to extending our lead in the 28th minute after some good play around the area, but the keeper saves Marchi’s effort from 18 yards and Wigan are able to clear the ball for a throw-in. Diame volleys over for the visitors in the 39th minute, whilst Makris shoots straight at the keeper again in the 44th minute. In stoppage time, Michel passes to Marconi, who runs from the halfway line. It looks like being a wonderful FA Cup goal, but the keeper turns it behind for a corner.

It’s been a pulsating first half that has somehow ended with only one goal, but will the second half produce the same level of excitement? The visitors start well, with Tomlin running down the left wing in the 46th minute – he cuts in and unleashes a fierce shot that Bond does well to save at his near post. Two minutes later, Tomlin hits a shot from 20 yards that beats Bond, but the crossbar comes to our rescue; we pick up the rebound and counter and their keeper saves from Marconi to keep the score at 1-0. A second goal in the game is looking inevitable and it comes in the 49th minute – Marchi rolls the ball along the edge of the area and Bradley Johnson thunders in his 8th goal of the season from 20 yards. Disaster strikes in the 55th minute when Michel gets injured by Stam. Thankfully, it’s not too bad and he’s only out for 3-4 days with a dead leg. Ten minutes after Michel goes off injured, Matip takes an outswinging corner that Marconi meets at the near post with a good header. Wigan have a man on each post and it hits the man on the far post, but trickles over the line for Marconi’s 17th goal of the season. The 72nd minute sees Marchi playing in Ryan Mason, who runs from the halfway line before shooting from 16 yards, but his shot goes just wide. Another outswinging corner from Matip in the 76th minute is met at the near post, this time by Manuel Gavilan; however, his header goes over. Marchi shoots straight at the keeper from 18 yards in the 90th minute, whilst Makris shoots straight at the keeper (again!) in the first minute, so we have to settle for a 3-0 victory. Or so it seems. The second minute of stoppage time sees Cole cross from the left and the ball hits Matip and beats Bond at the near post for an own goal, but it’s too little too late for the FA Cup holders to the delight of the 8,361 in attendance. Marconi is named Man of the Match with a rating of 8.9 and two goals. Our 3-1 victory is the biggest shock of the round, something that I’m not sure if I’m pleased to read or not! Our reward is an away tie against Southampton or Coventry City.

David Goikoetxea rejects the loan offer from Badajoz, whilst Crewe offer to extend Daniel Paxton’s loan, which is accepted by both myself and Paxton. Chilean central midfielder Alvaro Pellicer joins on a week’s trial, whilst I sign Czech midfielder/attacking midfielder Vaclav Kostka from Ceske Budejovice and pay £50,000 in compensation.

Kostka #FM12

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Our game against Wigan was our last game of the month and the monthly awards follow soon after. Gennaro Riccardi comes third in the Player of the Month award, whilst Michele Marconi’s 30 yarder against Swindon comes second in the Goal of the Month award.

And from another angle:

Who will win the FA Cup?

MK Dons 1-5 Chelsea

Chelsea cruised into the Fifth Round of the FA Cup and scored 5 goals in the process as they knocked out MK Dons. It looked like it would be a long afternoon for MK Dons as Diego Costa missed an excellent chance from 8 yards out, which hit Martin as opposed to him actually saving it. Chelsea were producing great build up play, but could not finish until they took the lead in the 15th minute; an underhit pass was picked up by Costa, who rolled the ball across the area and Oscar slid in to apply the finish. MK Dons levelled four minutes later when a shot from Potter deflected off Matic and looped over Courtois. Chelsea missed further chances before Oscar scored his second, picking up a through ball and firing into the far corner. Oscar completed his hat trick in the first half with a 20 yard shot finding the net in the 44th minute. In the second half, Hazard added a penalty after being fouled and Traore sidefooted home the fifth.

Chelsea were in complete control of the match and could have scored many more. The defending from MK Dons was poor, with players not being closed down; they were also unable to put any pressure on the Chelsea goal, with a few long shots being their only efforts. Chelsea fully deserved the victory they completed with ease.

Carlisle United 0-3 Everton

Two early goals ensured Everton booked their place in the Fifth Round of the FA Cup at the expense of Carlisle United. The first goal came in the opening 90 seconds as Lennon ran on to a ball over the top and squared the ball to an unmarked Kone at the far post, who couldn’t miss from three yards. Carlisle had a couple of chances through Asamoah (one of which produced a good save from Robles), but Everton doubled their lead inside 15 minutes as an intricate passing move down the left found Lennon; his first touch knocked the ball past a defender, whilst the second put the ball under Gillespie and into the net. Barkley added a third in the second half (a 20 yard effort that took a deflection), but the game had been decided by the quickfire double from Everton at the start of the match.

Everton controlled the ball well and were able to keep possession for long periods of time. Carlisle struggled to put any extended periods of pressure on the Everton goal and Robles had a fairly quiet afternoon. Everton fully deserved their victory.

Didcot Town 0-3 Exeter City

A professional performance from Exeter City saw them run out winners against Didcot Town in the First Round of the FA Cup. Didcot started well, but Exeter soon gained control of the match, but created few chances, with Didcot defending deep; the best chance of the first half saw a well struck effort from McAllister saw Bedwell make the only notable save.

Exeter struck early in the second half through Clinton Morrison, who chipped Bedwell and the ball went in off the underside of the bar. Didcot did create a chance to level, but Dutton-Black could not get the ball out of his feet. Moments later, Exeter extended their lead through Tom Nichols; a header from David Wheeler hit the bar, Morrison kept it alive and Nichols tapped in from a couple of yards. Alex Nicholls completed the scoring after Joel Grant rounded the keeper and rolled the ball goalwards, allowing Nicholls to tap into an empty net from a yard.