Back again and trying to get back on track! Last time out we had an awful start to the domestic season and found ourselves playing catch up after only 3 matches. Fingers crossed the completely new group of lads (only 16 brought in over the summer) can click soon and get us back amongst the top sides in the league. I really don’t want to have left the solid foundation we built at Llanelli Town to come here and be out the door before Christmas, which would have us back scrambling for a job halfway through the 4th season of the save!
Anyway, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, plenty of football still to be played. This episode will cover the months of September, October & November 2023. As always, I hope you enjoy…
Right, after that hectic pre-season of friendlies, champions league, europa league and transfers it was nice to get into September and be able to put full focus on domestic competitions. Yeah you’d imagine that’s what I was thinking, but actually there were 2 more signings to start the month, former Cardiff youngster and central midfielder Sam Bowen joined up with the squad, before I spent my first ever transfer fee to sign a regen from TNS called Steven Baxter. The mighty sum of 1.5k brought the 18 year old CB/CDM/CM to Bala Town, he’s rated 4.5 star for this level and at only 18 the sky is the limit!
There were some important fixtures to start the month as well with a televised trip to our former employers Llanelli Town, who had made a steady start in the post-Perrin era, as well as trip north of the border to take on Queen of the South in the 3rd round of the SPFL Trust Trophy. I had no idea that Welsh clubs took part in that competition, but that’s the great part of doing these saves, you learn as you go! 6 league games this month, and we needed a recovery to get back on track, so let’s see how we faired…
Our star centre back Darren Saunders (regen – already in the Wales U21 squad) put us 1-0 up in the game against Llanelli Town, before my old favourite & captain Isaac Olaniyan equalised to finish the game 1-1. We were very lucky to escape with a point to be honest as my new squad tried to gel together. Then followed the game against Queen of the South, I was happy that we took them all the way to penalties given their stature compared to ours, but honestly the result was farcical, we had 3 shots, 3 on target and 2 goals! They definitely deserved the luck to go their way in the shoot-out so no complaints.
We then had good victories and performances against Colwyn Bay & Camarthen, which made me feel like we could really put a good run together for the rest of the month. That was before another dip in form came against Caernarfon & Cardiff Met where we needed injury time goals in both matches to salvage anything from the games. This is the issue with creating a whole new squad, the form is going to be up & down in these early stages, but one positive is that we’re drawing games when the performances deserve a loss… so I’ll take what I can at this point!
We rounded off the month with a very impressive 4-1 win at home to Newtown. Old Llanelli boys Dale Taylor & Harrison Nee were proving to be real goalscoring threats at this early stage, and at the end of the month we were getting back on track and looking to be in a good position in the table.
October brought a quiet month fixture wise, just 4 league games to contend with, but there were going to be tough ties against title rivals Connah’s Quay & TNS, as well as a game against that old bogey team of mine Barry Town!
I was delighted that we edged a fiercely contested battle at home against Connah’s Quay and then followed that up with a 4-2 win against Penybont. Up next we were away to TNS who were just above us in the table, if we could come out on top I would have been very confident that the team were really coming together and we were moving in the right direction, as it was a draw was the best we could do, I was disappointed to be honest as we twice went ahead before being pegged back. Finally came an epic tie against Barry Town, we were 1-0 up, then 2-1 down all the way until the 81st minute, then 2 goals in 2 minutes put us 3-2 up in the 83rd minute, before they got a dramatic equaliser with one of the last kicks of the game! When you look at the stats you can imagine how gutted I was:
My most said phrase on this journey was relevant yet again… we absolutely dominated Barry but somehow they got a result! However a hat-trick from Dafydd Davies, a youngster I had brought through the academy at Llanelli Town then with me to Bala was nice to see, just a shame it wasn’t a match winning one! At the end of the month we were starting to get into our groove and were up to 3rd level on points with TNS. However it looked like all the new signings and that early season blip would cost us as Bangor City were rampant. Yet to lose in the league and with a game in hand they were looking to go 9 points clear after only 13 games.
In other news, October brought to the end my National A Licence coaching course and the board immediately accepted to fund my development through a Continental C Licence. I feel like if I can get up to Continental B Licence during this season then I may be able to attract job offers from higher reputation teams at the end of the season, which on reflection is the main reason I took the job.
When I look back to it, if I had remained at Llanelli Town I probably could have won the title this season, but I would still be sitting on a National B licence with no prospects of being supported through additional qualifications any time soon due to the finances. So regardless of what happens on the pitch I think the right decision was made for the sake of progression with the save, as without these coaching qualifications we would be stuck at this level forever.
November brought another fairly quiet month, however 3 televised games promised to be not only fairly lucrative to the club but also crucial to our title hopes.
A tight game at home against my former club was a tense watch, with Isaac Vassell netting a crucial late winner for us to take the game 2-1. Connah’s Quay have had another slow start to the season as they did last year, but it was still a very impressive performance to batter them 3-1 away from home. I rotated heavily in the next game against bottom of the league Colwyn Bay, and it very nearly backfired as we scraped a 1-0 victory in a game that Colwyn Bay really deserved something out of, but when you’re at that end of the league table things just go against you! Regardless of how they come a win is a win and that was a full house for the month. We were up to 2nd in the league now but still someway off Bangor City and they were relentless in the way they were going about their business, just picking up win after win. All I could do was win my games and hope they have a dip in form at some point!
In the next episode we will be going through December to finish off the year of 2023 before tackling the first 2 months of 2024. December brings back to back league games against Bangor City which will pretty much be make or break in our hopes of winning the league. Find out how we get on in the next episode which will drop Sunday 24th January 2021.
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While you’re here if you want to follow more challenges go over to Scott’s (the co-author of this site) challenge where he is on a journey to rebuild Bolton Wanderers and take them on a Europa League run! Link: https://dpfmblog.com/2020/12/21/bolton-back-to-europa-s1e1/
Thank you for reading, keep safe and see you again soon!