A couple of the lads have some U21 games, with Joe Jones coming on as substitute for Northern Ireland in the 79th minute during a 1-1 draw with Estonia, whilst Conor Hourihane came on for the Republic of Ireland in the 74th minute of a 1-0 loss against Georgia, getting a rating of 6.7.
Three weeks after our last league match, we travel to Mid Wales Leisure, Latham Park to take on Newtown. We go in as 4/6 favourites and with an eye on our re-arranged midweek fixture against Llanelli, I bring in Paul Robson to rest Scott McBride and Darren Otten returns from his suspension and takes the place of Jeff Whitley. We get off to a good start, with David Mooney having an effort pushed away in the first minute and eight minutes later, Matty Williams goes close from 20 yards. The pressure tells in 13th minute as Paul Robson crosses from the left and Matty Williams is far more successful from 6 yards, registering his first goal of the season. Things get even better two minutes later as a diagonal ball from Conor Hourihane picks out Richie Partridge, who puts in a cross that is not cleared and David Mooney is on hand to tuck the ball in for his third of the season. The half then goes quiet until the 41st minute when Griffiths runs from the halfway line and passes to dangerman Klein-Davis, who rolls the ball into the net to pull one back for Newtown. Griffiths nearly gets one himself on the stroke of half time, his effort going just wide. The second half isn’t much of a thriller, although Williams plays the ball around the corner on the halfway line for Mooney, who runs into the box and sees his effort pushed away. Cadwallader gets booked in the 75th minute for fouling Matty Williams on the halfway line. Steve Evans nearly adds a third when he cannons an effort against the post from 25 yards after Marco Pelosi picks him out from the right after a corner. We hold on quite comfortably for the victory to the disappointment of the majority of the 261 fans and although Steve Evans didn’t score, he did have the consolation of making his 225th league appearance. Matty Williams claims Man of the Match with his goal and a rating of 7.8.
Four days later, we welcome Llanelli to Park Hall Stadium. We go into the match as 4/5 favourites against a team who are joint favourites for the title with ourselves. Scott McBride returns to the left wing and Robson drops to the bench, whilst Jeff Whitley replaces Darren Otten in the centre of midfield and Wayne Carlisle makes his debut by replacing Richie Partridge on the right. I consider McBride and Carlisle to be my strongest wide midfielders and hope they will have success against a Llanelli side lining up in a 3-4-3 formation. The teams cancel each other out in the opening half hour, with Howland going the closest to breaking the deadlock in the 22nd minute with a 20 yard effort that Jan Sebek watches wide. In the 38th minute, Marco Pelosi takes a free kick on the right and side and swings it to the far post where it is met by the diving head of Steve Evans who makes no mistake from 6 yards to open the scoring and his account for the season. His celebrations are short lived though as he gets booked within a minute of the game restarting for a trip. On the stroke of half time, McBride runs down the left and crosses; Wayne Carlisle gets ahead of the keeper and nods into an empty net from 6 yards for a goal on his debut (and his 50th career league goal), delighting the 209 spectators. I was hoping my wide midfielders would have an impact and one of them setting up the other certainly counts! We remain in control in the second half; Jeff Whitley goes close from 25 yards in the 48th minute, a poor first touch from Scott McBride in the 61st minute allows the keeper to claim and five minutes later, his touch is better and he goes down in the area, but the referee doesn’t award a penalty. Matty Williams plays in his 175th career league game, but Marco Pelosi claims Man of the Match with a rating of 8.5 and an assist to his name. The win sees us go top of the table as we draw level with the rest of the league for games played.
Three days later, we welcome Bridgend to Park Hall and go in as 1/6 favourites. After the game midweek, I make some changes to keep the team fresh; Partridge replaces Carlise, Otten comes in for Whitley and Robson returns at McBride’s expense. In the 12th minute, Matty Williams plays in David Mooney who fires the ball into the net, but the linesman has his flag up for offside and Mooney’s effort is chalked off. Mooney is not to be denied and scores three minutes later after turning his man and firing in from 25 yards for his 4th of the season. Between Mooney’s disallowed and allowed goal, Cook picks up a yellow card for fouling Richie Partridge. In the 20th and 25th minute, Mooney rolls his man again, but shoots wide both times. In the 27th minute, Richie Partridge runs down the right and crosses from the byeline; his cross is met by Matty Williams running in late who crashes a volley against the bar from 12 yards. Bridgend are amongst the favourites to go down and the 32nd minute gives ample evidence of why this is the case as Robson goes down under a challenge outside the area. The keeper was already rushing out and blasts a clearance into his defender, with the ball rebounding into the area and Mooney rolling into an empty net for his 2nd of the game and 5th of the season. Chances then start to become rare (although with a 2-0 lead, I’m sure the majority of the 224 fans are happy enough), with the only chances of note coming in the 58th minute (Mooney blazes over from 12 yards) and 67th minute (an inswinging free kick from Pelosi on the right hand side finds Mooney, but the keeper pushes his effort wide). However, the yellow cards make an appearance, with Marco Pelosi, Steve Evans and Danny Holmes picking up cards for us, whilst Thompson and French go into the book for Bridgend. Unsurprisingly, David Mooney claims the Man of the Match with his 2 goals and a rating of 8.8.
The draw for the League Cup is made and we will be travelling to Aberystwyth Town. Before then, we have two league games to play, one against Airbus UK Broughton and the other against Aberystwyth Town.
We travel to The Airfield to take on Airbus UK Broughton and go in as 1/2 favourites as the top 2 sides in the league meet. Airbus haven’t conceded in the five games they have played so far, so it looks like it will be a tough test. Incredibly, my backroom staff recommend dropping Jan Sebek for poor form – he’s conceded one goal in five games and has generally been lucky not to have been charged an admission fee! I replace Richie Partridge with Wayne Carlisle and Scott McBride for Paul Robson for the top of the table clash.
David Nixon picks up a booking in the 7th minute and two minutes later, Marco Pelosi crashes a free kick against the crossbar from 25 yards. We open the scoring in the 27th minute as a forward pass from Conor Hourihane picks out Matty Williams, who unleashes a piledriver from 20 yards to claim his second goal of the season. We double our lead in the 42nd minute as Matty Williams runs down the left and picks out Wayne Carlisle on the edge of the area. Sensibly, Carlisle heads forward to an unmarked David Mooney who coolly slots home from 6 yards for his 6th of the season. I’m hoping to go in to half-time leading 2-0, but it is not to be as in the first minute of stoppage time, Williams takes a free kick on the left and finds Hales, who pulls a goal back for Airbus from 6 yards. Incredibly, we still take a two-goal lead into half-time as Wayne Carlisle grabs his second of the season with a controlled finish from 10 yards in the third minute of stoppage time after Marco Pelosi crosses along the ground from the left. The rain had been falling steadily during the first half, but it becomes heavy as the second half starts. Goalscorer Hales picks up a yellow card in the 51st minute for brining down Darren Otten outside the area. Despite where the foul occurs, Airbus started the half better and nearly pull one back in the 56th minute following a goalmouth scramble after a corner that is eventually cleared by Steve Evans. The reprieve is temporary as an unmarked Jones scores a minute later off the far post as a cross from the right from Hamilton finds him unmarked 8 yards out. Joseph Oastler picks up a yellow card in the 61st minute for a trip as the Airbus pressure continues. Things get even worse in the 67th minute as Conor Hourihane goes off injured – after the match, the physio advises he’s strained knee ligaments and will be out for approximately two months. We make the game safe in the 80th minute as Darren Otten finds David Mooney 20 yards out and he gets his second of the game and 7th of the season. Mooney is hacked down in the 82nd minute, earning Thomas a yellow card and Airbus pick up another yellow card six minutes later as Williams trips Darren Otten. Matty Williams nearly adds a fifth in the 89th minute with a late run, but his shot from 12 yards from a cross by Carlisle on the right goes wide. There is still time for more drama as in the first minute of stoppage time, Joseph Oastler concedes a penalty and picks up his second yellow card of the game. Hutcheon takes the penalty, but hits Jan Sebek’s right post. Marco Pelosi makes his 125th career league appearance in an exciting game, but David Mooney’s 2 goals and a rating of 8.8 earn him Man of the Match as the 97 in attendance witness a scoreline that not many would have guessed at before.
The win sees up open up a 5 point gap at the top of the table and I secure Manager of the Month for September. Marco Pelosi comes second in Player of the Month awards, whilst David Mooney is third. Team of the month features 5 of our players – Jan Sebek, Marco Pelosi, Steve Evans, Conor Hourihane and David Mooney. Aaron McCarey plays for Republic of Ireland U21s and gets a rating of 6.7 as the Scots beat the Irish 1-0.
Our first game in October sees us welcome Aberystwyth Town to Park Hall Stadium. Danny Holmes comes in for the suspended Joseph Oastler, whilst Jeff Whitley replaces the injured Conor Hourihane. We’re 1/6 favourites and prove why this is the case in 37 seconds as Scott McBride picks up a through ball from Marco Pelosi and squares the ball for Mooney to fire into the empty net for his 8th goal of the season. Codling nearly levels for our visitors two minutes later, but fires over. Our superb start proves to be our high point and we just can’t get going. Darren Otten, Scott McBride, Danny Holmes and Steve Evans all pick up bookings (only Riley gets booked for Aberystwyth) and Allen hits the post for Aberystwyth in the 60th minute. A minute later, they deservedly equalise as McCarten prods home a goalmouth scramble from 2 yards after a corner from our right. McCarten claims Man of the Match with a rating of 8 and his goal, but Mooney claims he should have had a penalty in the first half after a challenge by McCarten. The 202 spectators are disappointed with the draw and the lead at the top is cut to three points, but we have a gap of 10 days until our next day to put things right. We’ll be travelling to Aberystwyth to take them on in the League Cup, so at least we have a chance to put things right against them quickly.