Bolton Back to Europa S5E2 – Strive & Maintain

Welcome back guys, here we will be looking to build on our great start to this season after finding ourselves 2nd in the league on goal difference, following an amazing run of form during the month of August.

Here we will be covering September through to the end of November as we look to finish the first third of the season at least in the top 6. Maintaining form is key but also taking advantage of other teams’ downfalls will also carry us through the season in good stead, still with the end goal of reaching the Premier League.

September 2024

The games in this episode are post winter update for FM21 so there is one thing I wasted no time in requesting from the board.

The board allowed us to have an U23s squad, something we have needed since the start of this save. Having players who become too old for the U18s and are not good enough for the first team have only had two options so far – get loaned out or essentially not play. If it is the latter, it has caused a good few players to not progress and ultimately be released. Now there is a u23 squad for them to progress into and play competitive football.

The staffing and squad will be built over this season to enter the U23 leagues next season, this may spark quite a few new signings for this development squad too!

Games wise, only 4 to play in September due to the international break. 3 in the league and the 3rd round of the Carabao Cup.

It wasn’t all plain sailing as we lost 1-0 to Crystal Palace in a tight match but Palace had the more clearer chances to justify their win. Bad news came in on the following Monday’s training as we lose Captain Ryan Delaney for 3 months due to injury. Massive player for us since the start of the save but its a good opportunity for other to prove their worth in defence.

We then kept up our unbeaten run vs. Blackburn, winning 3-1 thanks to you know who. ‘The Bagsman’ Whittaker sweeping up the goals with a hattrick. 3rd round of the Carabao Cup with some more rotation and it was a close game. 1-1 with Peterborough after FT with a goal from young prospect Hari Harvey who is really pushing a place in the first team squad. Straight to penalties and we held our bottle winning 4-3 to advance.

The boys finished off the month beating Blackpool 2-1. 1-0 down at half time, a rinsing in the team talk woke the boys up, the catalyst was Conor Chaplin, who bagged a penalty and assisted Jonathan Afolabi for the turnaround. Great resilience to recover and grab the points after a less than convincing first half.

A decent month advancing in the Carabao Cup and getting 6 points but some games are becoming too close for comfort.

October 2024

Into October with more of the same in 4 league matches and a tasty tie in the 4th round of the Carabao Cup vs. Premier League Wolves.

Up first was Huddersfield who got themselves promoted back to the Championship for this season, my side dispatched ‘The Terriers’ with a 3-1 win. Defender Lloyd Greenwood, Jonathan Afolabi & Callum Richards providing the goods to see us through. Really happy to see Afolabi stepping up this season, performances are a lot better considering he is not an immediate starter at this point.

A little wobble hit us with a couple of losses, our worst performance in a long time caused an unexpected 1-0 loss at Rotherham, it was just one of them games where nothing was going right for us.

Some may expect us to lose to Sheffield United (2-1) but at this point they were 9th and inconsistent. The match stats told a different story…

In terms of attacking we dominated. Them 9 shots on target were mainly a their ‘keeper though. Tarrelle Whittaker equalising turned the game in our favour but constant frustration with ending great attacks by essentially giving the ball to their ‘keeper more or less was our downfall which we were punished for.

I asked for a reaction against Barnsley and the boys delivered with a 2-0 victory. Conor Chaplin bags a pen against the club who released him and Shane McNeill grabbed the other goal to get us back on track.

4th round of the Carabao Cup, off we went to Molineux to face Wolves. I’ll be honest, Wolves rotated a bit and we were more or less a match due to that. Around the 80th minute they did bring on Dendoncker, Fabio Silva and newly signed Ross Barkley which did change the tide a bit but we held on for a 0-0 draw going to penalties yet again. It was tough to watch both teams missing early on but a poor penalty by Wolves allowed us to grab a 4-2 win on pens! Another cup win vs. a Premier League side and we crawl into the quarter finals.

A mixed month in the league but the main thing is we recovered slightly, the team need to press on and pick up form again in November.

November 2024

All league games this month with a good mix of opponents who are in various parts of the league in terms of standings.

We got amongst the goals vs. Ipswich winning 3-1. Despite conceding we looked a bit more assured in defence with some good goals from midfield coming from Louis Thompson, Callum Richards and Byron Semakula. The goals kept flowing vs. Stoke, running out with a 3-0 win. The midfield taking the goal scoring responsibilities again with Callum Richards & Byron Semakula both getting a 2nd goal in as many games with Lewis Bate getting amongst the fun.

My Bolton side then carried on the good form beating Swansea 2-0 thanks to Conor Chaplin & Kai Fotheringham. Very well executed game from the boys, staying in control throughout and limiting Swansea to very few chances. The penultimate game of the month vs. Aston Villa ran out 0-0. Both teams became more and more stubborn as the game went on effectively shutting each other out, a share of the points was deserved for both sides.

Lastly, we faced Millwall winning 2-0. Another solid display from the boys making it 4 clean sheets in a row and it became a month of midfield only scorers through youngster Hari Harvey who has made his way into contention and Callum Richards was at it again.

You may notice no goals for Tarrelle Whittaker for a while, 7 games in fact! I’m not worried yet, it happens to all strikers but some words of encouragement have been given so we will soon see if he can get back amongst it. Awesome that the midfield have stepped up in the scoring department when needed this month.

A great month of form and the boys look great defensively. 13 points from a possible 15 is the type of form we want and need to see. Byron Semakula grabbed EFL Championship Young Player of the Month with Callum Richards in second which was awesome to see and for myself, a Manager of the Month award thanks to our form.

League Table

Form really picked up in November so let’s see where it leaves us in the league.

There we are, top of the pile and showing we can hang amongst the teams who are expected to be up there. We’re not falling into big runs of losses and picking up decent amounts of points. Its a competitive league that can change in an instant and I’m keen to try and keep this up – WE MUST GET PROMOTED without fail.

What’s Next?

The winter months, one of the busiest times of the season with games flowing every few days and a transfer window to contend with. I’m hoping to make one or two signings to improve us further in our promotion bid.

Whilst you are exploring the DP-FM site, go take a look at Louis’ (Co-blogger/creator of DP-FM) challenge where he is embarking on his series ‘Unemployed, Unskilled & Inexperienced’ which is currently on season 7. This entails Louis starting from the bottom of his management career with no coaching badges and low attributes to add to the fun!

To go from the start – https://dpfmblog.com/2020/12/21/unemployed-unskilled-inexperienced-season-1-episode-1/

Or to go from the current season – https://dpfmblog.com/2021/02/28/unemployed-unskilled-inexperienced-s7-ep-1-we-go-again/

Positive signs for us this season but plenty more to get through, see you soon for episode 3!

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