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  1. #1
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    Default Russian Ramblings

    EvilDave's Russian Ramblings


    Having struggled to get into a game for some time, I've gone back to my old faithful - the Russian leagues. I study Russian, lived there last year and blog Russian football, so I've decided to fire up a save with just the Russian leagues loaded and see how it takes me.

    I'll be starting as unemployed former Sunday league player Valeri Soldatkin, and intend to take the first job available which is not the vacant-at-the-start SKA-Energiya Khabarovsk, or a team from Moscow - I intend to build a reputation in the provinces before making the jump to the capital later on. Below is a list of clubs that I'd like to manage, but this is not intended to be a list of goals, as I'm hoped for a relatively fluid career:

    - Rotor Volgograd (currently unplayable, Second Division)
    - KMV-Mashuk Pyatigorsk (currently unplayable, Second Division)
    - Shinnik Yaroslavl (First Division)
    - Alania Vladikavkaz (First Division)
    - Rubin Kazan (Premier League)
    - One of the Moscow four (Spartak, Dinamo, CSKA, Lokomotiv - all Premier League)

    For a wider choice of players and hopefully a bit of transfer realism, I've loaded all players from the former Soviet republics - that's everything from the Baltic states to the Central Asian -stans. Everything is ready to go, so let's see where Valeri ends up first!

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    The First Job Is Accepted


    Having already rejected SKA-Energiya Khabarovsk and Torpedo Moscow, I could barely believe my luck when the third offer came through in the post. One of the clubs on my managerial shortlist, Shinnik Yaroslavl, found themselves having a poor season and decided to remedy this by firing their manager and offering me the job. Despite there being plenty of time left in the campaign I won't be judged on the current season so have a free reign, although top eight and a spot in the Championship Group in the transitional season is the goal - with the table as below, we stand a pretty good chance of making it.


    Shinnik are based in the Russian city of Yaroslavl, a town founded over 1000 years ago just under 200km from Moscow. I spent the first four months of my year out living just two minutes from Shinnik Stadium, so it's a club I know well - they spent most of the period between 1995 and 2005 in the top flight, but following relegation in 2008 have been unable to return and expectations have settled to upper midtable. Their stadium is in something of a state but holds over 20,000, plenty of room for a club which averages around a fifth of that on a weekly basis. Shinnik play in black and blue stripes at home and white away, have the town's legendary bear as a mascot, and now have me in charge. Time to take those first bold steps in the world of management...

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    Good luck Dave!

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    Good luck in Russia. Seems like a good place to start, have they given you much of a budget to play with?

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    Good luck in Russia and in this save

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    Thanks bjoggi, withnail and abulezz, much appreciated! Hopefully this save will keep me hooked for a long time!


    My reign at Shinniik begins with a few changes in personnel. A couple of the reserves are cut, but for the most part there are no takers so we are unable to cut the wage bill too much. The board give me a budget of around £180k to play with, but that simply isn't enough for any real quality so I decide to play the market. Belarussian all-round defender Aliaksandr Shagoiko arrives for £60k, but the others are all free - North Korean international Hong Yong-Jo comes in after being released by Rostov, whilst we make the most of a new link with Dinamo Moscow to pick up promising youngster Vitaly Komisov on loan.

    July/August 2011

    vs Krasnodar, Russian Cup Round 6
    My second day in charge saw us host Premier League opposition in a tough cup game. Top scorer Yura Movsisyan put them ahead inside five minutes when we fell asleep from a throw-in, but centre back Aleksandr Sukhov soon levelled with a blistering hit from fully 35 yards after picking up a clearance from a corner. Nikola Drincic had the visitors ahead with a stunning free kick just before the break, and it could easily have been more. Not a bad performance, but no danger of the upset.
    Final Score: 1-2

    at Torpedo Moscow
    After a three-week summer break, the hosts were favoured despite sitting 17th, and the league position showed. Voidel and Skrylnikov both hit the woodwork, and Nizamutdinov wasted a glorious opportunity when one-on-one with the keeper. Torpedo rarely threatened, but we lacked the killer instinct. Goalless.
    Final Score: 0-0

    vs Mordovia Saransk
    We opened up in blistering fashion, Belarusian winger Vladimir Karytska converting a penalty after eight minutes and then heading in a rebound five minutes later. French defender Abdel Lamanje headed in his first for the club from a corner after half an hour, and we were coasting.
    However,the visitors pulled one back just before half time, and shortly after the restart capitalised on some shocking defending for a second. It was backs to the wall stuff from then on and we ended with ten men after an injury, but we just about clung on for a good win against a top half team.
    Final Score: 3-2

    at Baltika Kaliningrad
    The unexpected title contenders take the lead before we touch the ball, Krasnokutskiy given no chance with the lob. We're battered for the first half but cling on, then dominate the second without scoring. I sacrifice the holding man for a second striker, and their forward duly completes his brace on the break. They have a man dismissed in injury time, but it's too late.
    Final Score 0-2

    vs Yenisey Krasnoyarsk
    The visitors control the first 15 minutes, and then we take over, the game staying level 'til the break. Afterwards we struggle to break them down despite the lion's share of possession, and as a result I throw the second striker on earlier this time. It makes no difference– our forwards' confidence is shot, and we pick up a useful point that should have been three.
    Final Score: 0-0

    vs Dinamo Bryansk
    We close out the month against the side directly above us in the table, and fall behind after just two minutes. We claw our way back into it, and after an hour the switch to 4-4-2 works as on-loan winger Alexandr Yeliseev ghosts in off the wing to level the match. Ten minutes later we turn our momentum into the lead as star central midfielder DmitryMichkov nets a thunderbolt fromthe edge of the box, but of course as we revert to 4-5-1 to preserve the lead we are pegged back with an 89thminute rocket from their left winger. More points dropped, and if we the top eight already seven points away, we simply have to start winning these games.
    Final Score: 2-2


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    September 2011

    vs Ural Ekaterinburg
    Internationals gave us a two week break as opposed to two days before a potentially tough game against the team in 4th. Some farcical goalkeeping allowed Skrylnikov to give us the lead after a quarter of an hour. Some slick passing then saw Nizamutdinov break his goal drought, and a 30 yard free kick from Karytska made it three before the break. Fearing a Mordovia-style comeback I said nothing at half time, and it seemed to work – Skrylnikov and Karytska both grabbed another before we lost the clean sheet in injury time. Emphatic, and just what we needed to kickstart the campaign.
    Final Score: 5-1

    at Fakel Voronezh
    Our first away game in an age, we faced a Fakel side over-achieving in 13th. A left wing cross found Yeliseev coming off his wing for the early lead, and Nizamutdinov's newly-found confidence saw him surge through the defence and double the lead 35 minutes in. The second half was more even, but bar a wayward flick-on hitting the post we were never really threatened, and with five minutes to go club captain Roman Voidel' came off the bench to head in a third. Back-to-back wins pull us comfortably clear of the relegation spots, and give us a real shot at the top eight.
    Final Score: 3-0

    at Luch-Energiya Vladivostok
    We had just three days to make the longest trip of the season to the Far East and a Luch team with no win in nine. Our third game in a week takes its toll on the players, and whilst we allow the hosts just a single shot on target, we struggle to break them down, their goalkeeper takes MotM honours, and we have to settle for a point.
    Final Score: 0-0

    vs Nizhniy Novgorod
    We welcome the unlikely promotion contenders to Yaroslavl, and we're in for a tough game. Both sides have chances in an open first half which deserves a goal, but we're level at the break. We switch to 4-4-2, and immediately substitute striker Arthur Sarkisov gets on the end of a Nizamutdinov flick and buries the finish. We tighten up and play on the counter, restricting them to long range efforts, and it's enough to record a great win against a top side.
    Final Score: 1-0

    at Chernomorets Novorossiysk
    Chernomorets are rock bottom and on a lengthy run of defeats, and we make them suffer. Nizamutdinov nets in the first minute, and midway through the half Lamanje heads in from a corner. They have a centre back sent off after an hour, and we run riot – Skrylkinov lashes home a bouncing ball from the resultant free kick, Nizamutdinov drives home his second and Moldovan centre back Valeriu Catinsus completes the rout in injury time.
    Final Score: 5-0



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    Doing well EvilDave. Hopefully good enough to get into the CHampionship Group with some results like last month.

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    October 2011

    at KamAZ Naberezhnye Chelny
    We go to the shock leaders, and at least initially give them far too much respect. A rather of set pieces are conceded, and towards theend of the first half one is headed in to put us behind. We assert ourselves a little more after the break, as I contemplate changing formations, Nizamutdinov gets on the end of a cross to tie the match. From then on it's backs to the wall stuff – the hosts have a goal disallowed in the 87th, but seconds later a corner is bundled in, and our seven game unbeaten run is cut short.
    Final Score: 1-2

    at Alania Vladikavkaz
    We set ourselves up to defend in the North Caucasus, the 1995 Premier League champions by far the best team is the division and yet somehow not top. The counter-attacking works well and we actually control the first half without scoring, but their class shines through right at the death when a corner is converted. A harsh loss to take.
    Final Score: 0-1

    vs FC Khimki
    Khimki occupy the 8th place we're chasing, but we start as favourites in the snow. The visitors edge the first half with no goals, and the usual tactical switch comes at the break. Our attacking edge leaves us open at the back but they can't capitalise, and as the game progresses we look the more likely to open the scoring. We leave it late, but it does happen – captain Voidel' drives one in from outside the box with five minutes on the clock, and in stoppage time substitute Hong Yong-Jo repeats the trick to give us insurance and a much-needed win.
    Final Score: 2-0

    at Torpedo Vladimir
    Overachievers Torpedo are another team we're chasing, and we don't do ourselves any favours by conceding to their Brazilian talisman inside the first ten minutes. Torpedo take us by surprise with their constant attacking and we do well to hold out until half time, when Nizhamutdinov pulls us level from nowhere. That spurs us on for the second half,and on the hour Michkov nods in a free kick for what proves to be the winner in a game much harder than we'd hoped.
    Final Score: 2-1

    vs SKA-Energiya Khabarovsk
    The side from the Far East have built their surprise 5th position on a tight defence and stolen goals, so it's no surprise we struggle to break them down. They scare us a few times on the counter, but that man Nizamutdinov again pops up with a goal just before the break. In the second half we look to kill the game off without ever looking shakey at the back, and in stoppage time Skrylnikov ghosts in at the far post to slide in the clincher.
    Final Score: 2-0


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    Quote Originally Posted by rancer890 View Post
    Doing well EvilDave. Hopefully good enough to get into the CHampionship Group with some results like last month.
    Cheers rancer​, a couple of tough losses against the top two last month but we should have plenty of time to work our way up there. Championship Group is certainly the aim!

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    November 2011

    vs Sibir Novosibirsk
    Win this, and we jump from 9th and a meaningless post-split campaign to 6th and an outside chance at a promotion charge. Sibir only got relegated last year, but we're at home and in form, and it shows. They threaten early but by half time we lead through two headers, the first from Skrylnikov in open play and the second from Voidel' getting on the end of Hong's freekick. We have 67% possession and 10 shots to 3, and the result puts us just four points behind 4th place and a promotion play-off. Equally, we are only a single point ahead of 9thand redundancy, so the final two games are crucial.
    Final Score: 2-0

    at Gazovik Orenburg
    Gazovik are a team we should be beating, so we set up aggressively and are rewarded when Hong Yong-Jo, playing on painkillers, opens the scoring midway through the first period. We coast through the break but are tied almost immediately from the restart, and what follows is the craziest half hour of the entire season.
    With changes already confirmed and waiting to switch to two up front, Nizamutdinov fires us into the lead. Moments later substitute striker Sarkisov tucks in a rebound, and with 76 minutes gone Anton Arkhipov, a man lambasted in the press for not scoring despite playing almost exclusively on the wing, makes it 4-1. I make the last change, pull us back into 4-5-1 and sit back, only to watch helplessly as Gazovik pull two goals back in quick succession. With less than minute to go, my defence ignores a hopeful punt forward, their winger collects and puts the ball straight on the centre forward's head for a ridiculous, unbelievably frustrating draw. Results elsewhere means we stay in the top eight, but nothing less than a win in the final game will be enough to guarantee that remaining the case.
    Final Score: 4-4

    vs Volgar-Gazprom Astrakhan
    It all comes down to this. Beat the team third from bottom at home, and we get to play for promotion. Anything else, and we could drift meaninglessly for another dozen matches. We've only had two days' rest, Hong Jong-Yo is still on painkillers, but the team know what's needed and we get off to a flyer, Skrylnikov dancing down the left and delivering the perfect ball for Arkhipov to head home. We boss the half without scoring again, and all is well in Yaroslavl.
    Two minutes after the break, disaster – Volgar equalise with theirfirst shot on target, and we're level. The live table shows us clinging on to the top eight, but anything could change. We work the ball to the left, Tajik full back Farhod Vasiev gives it inside to our North Korean international, and Arkhipov's timed run and first-time finish silence his media critics. 40 minutes to go, and they tick by agonisingly. Glances at other scores suggest even a draw will be enough, but when the final whistle blows the relief is the same. We go 6th, a single point off the play-off spot, and the rest of our season has a meaning.
    Final Score: 2-1


    Manager's Thoughts
    In the end we've made it, are close to the play-off spots and could still go up, but given how much time we had when I joined, I'm a little disappointed we didn't secure our position earlier. We don't seem to be losing much, but at the same time we often have trouble breaking down lesser teams so that'll be something to address over the winter break. There are now no league games until March, but we have a youth intake to look forward to and a transfer window to play with. When we do come back, promotion could well be within our reach.

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    The off-season isn't particularly busy, as we're unable to bolster the squad other than another couple of loans - Komisov is sent back to Dinamo and we welcome versatile defender Nikita Chicherin and KamAZ's central midfielder Sergey Breev to the club.
    On the other hand we also receive our youth intake for the season, and along with the usual rubbish there are a couple of potential stars - Nikita Zorin and Sergey Dolgov looks like they could have a future at the club, so I'll keep a close eye on them.

    March 2012


    vs Baltika Kaliningrad
    After a handful of friendlies and a long winter break, the first team to beat me in league play come to Yaroslavl to get the second phase of this transitional season under way. The opening is dull but we dominate, and go into the break ahead through Nizamutdinov.The second half is much of the same but we lack the killer instinct, and of course Baltika equalise with their only shot on target with ten minutes to go. Not the start we wanted, but the overall performance is promising.
    Final Score: 1-1

    at Ural Ekaterinburg
    We smashed Ural 5-1 at home last year, but they're sitting strong in 3rd with an excellent home record. This one is a game of two halves, but neither half is particularly good to watch and the finishing is poor, a missed open goal in stoppage time from the hosts summing up a poor match which does neither side any favours.
    Final Score: 0-0

    vs KamAZ Naberezhnye Chelny
    KamAZ inflicted defeat on us earlier, and are flying high in 2nd place. We expect a tough game, and it's one which is decided by two throw-ins. The first allows Michkov to collect, turn and bury a stunning curler from 25 yards, and the second is crossed in for Sukhov to head home after an hour. Michkov concedes a penalty with a quarter of an hour to go, but Cherkin pulls off a superb double save to keep his sheet clean, and we claim a big three points.
    Final Score: 2-0

    at Alania Vladikavkaz
    The leaders have shaken off their early season struggles and are now five points clear at the top, with a formidable home record. The first 20 minutes is frantic, both teams swarming forward, and the attacking ping-pong is only ended when a moment of magic frees their striker inthe box. The second half sees us throw caution to the wind, a world class save from their keeper to deny Sarkisov, and it's another game in which we prove we can compete with the best but ultimately come up short.
    Final Score: 0-1


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    April 2012

    vs Nizhniy Novgorod
    Nizhniy sit a single point above us before the kick-off, and within ten minutes Nizamutdinov gets us off to a great start. Arkhipov has a perfectly legitimate goal ruled out for offside before the break, but it's all academic when Nizamutdinov stoops low to convert a free kick after 50 minutes. The other three matches in the top eight end as draws, so we're back to a point behind 4th-place Sibir after limiting the visitors to just two shots all match.
    Final Score: 2-0

    at SKA-Energiya Khabarovsk
    The Far Eastern side haven't won in a while, but we've had just three days and one long trip before facing up to them. It's a close game which is decided by a single goal, Skrylnikov converting across from the right after 20 minutes, but it comes at a cost – our goalscorer is taken off injured and we're forced to defend ferociously to the final whistle. Thankfully it proves to be minor, and the win jumps us into 4th and the play-offs.
    Final Score: 1-0

    vs Sibir Novosibirsk
    We face the team we leapfrogged in our next match to complete the first round of home-and-away ties, and the visitors are out for revenge after our comfortable 2-0 win last time out. This time we face a more stubborn defence but the same muted attacking threat, and it becomes a case of when, rather than if, we will score. With time ticking by it looks like two points dropped, but in injury time Nizamutdinov stabs home a loose ball for the winner, and we will miss his predatory instincts in the next match as he serves a suspension.
    Final Score: 1-0

    vs Ural Ekaterinburg
    This is the third time that Ural have taken on my tactics, and for the first time they seem to have figured us out. The first half is even and sees a Yeliseev goal chalked off for offside, but as the match goes on there is only ever going to be one winner. Chernik bails us out on a couple of occasions and we play the entire second half on the back foot, and finally the whistle blows on a goalless draw we scarcely deserve.
    FinalScore: 0-0


    at Baltika Kaliningrad
    We travel to Russia's western-most club to take on a Baltika side without a win since the split, a fact which makes our previous home draw a little disappointing. We pile on the pressure early on with a string of fruitless corners, and half time comes and goes with us looking more dangerous but profligate. The hosts are lively on the break though and fashion a couple of chances which Chernik is forced to deal with, but we hit a classic one-two combo at the death to seal the points – Nizamutdinov returning from his ban with a header on 82 minutes, and Karytska securing it two minutes later from close range.
    FinalScore: 2-0

    at KamAZ Naberezhnye Chelny
    KamAZ are all but promoted, and we don't help ourselves when Cherkin drops a corner at the feet of their star striker as early as the second minute, ending a run of five straight clean sheets. We respond well though, and are soon level through Yeliseev's curled finish. The game is frantic and end to end, and both teams add another before the break, a shot from range finding our net beforeYeliseev tucks in his second at the back post.
    Halftime clearly does very little for either team's defence, and some glorious passing works the ball to substitute Arkhipov to give us the leadalmost immediately. From then one it's all hands on deck at the back, but it's still not enough as their striker completes his brace with an unstoppable header on 67 minutes. Both teams attack in waves, determined to get the winner, and in the end it comes from the unlikeliest of sources – Dinamo loanee and substitute centre back Nikita Chicherin getting on the end of a corner with five minutes to play. There is still time for KamAZ to hit the woodwork twice, but somehow we hold out and for once it is our attacking play which earns the plaudits.
    Final Score: 4-3

    vs Alania Vladikavkaz
    Alania are practically champions, and a win in Yaroslavl will seal it. Theyhave the best attack and defence in the league, and have lost just once in their last 20 matches. We start nervously but grow into the match, and our own confidence matches their obvious talent well. Halftime passes with the scoresheet blank, and after 50 minutes we take a shock lead, two crunching tackles in midfield allowing Nizamutdinov to break down the left and square for Arkhipov. Unfortunately the lead lasts just five minutes, but we know we can breach them.
    We survive injury to Lamanje well, and begin to take the ascendancy towards the end of the game. Sending the fans into raptures, Nizamutdinov powers home a cross from the left and we have the lead. That prompts the champions elect to pile men forward, and with two minutes remaining a perfect chipped ball over the defence leaves us powerless to prevent the points being shared. Still, an unexpected point and avery strong performance to maintain the unbeaten run.
    Final Score: 2-2

    at Nizhniy Novgorod
    Tired after two games against the top two, the team we fielded against Nizhniy was struggling for fitness and ready for the off-season. The home team took advantage and put us under almost constant pressure,but thankfully the strong defence which has been the foundation of our success came up good to keep it goalless. We were never in danger of scoring, and the run carries on.
    Final Score: 0-0


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    Not far from going up.

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    Cheers delta, that's the plan now even if it did look a mile away at times!

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    May 2012

    vs SKA-Energiya Khabarovsk
    SKA have disappointed since the split, but as candidates for the drop atthe start of the season they've had a great campaign. They actually have the brighter start and we struggle to repel them at first, but their finishing is wayward and our defence is strong. Arkhipov is forced off through injury, and I throw a second striker on as we try and match Ural's unlikely win against Alania. It looks to be in vain, but in the 93rd minute Nizamutdinov's shot is blocked but not cleared, and substitute Sarkisov claims the points by tapping into the unguarded net.
    Final Score: 1-0

    at Sibir Novosibirsk
    Our play-off spot is secure, and if Ural lose then a win here will see us jump into 3rd, which could make all the difference to our promotion chances. However, neither team seems to be bothered with little to play for, and we go behind after 13 minutes to a corner. By the break we're level through Nizamutdinov,but we create nothing in the second half and deservedly concede a second to end our long unbeaten run. Ural's loss in Nizhniy Novgorod means we miss a chance to boost our position, but it also means we will play Tom Tomsk in our play-off rather than parent club Dinamo Moscow, who have had a shocking season. All to play for.
    Final Score: 1-2

    at Tom Tomsk, Promotion/Relegation Play-Off First Leg
    We head to Siberia facing a side which has struggled all season both on the field and off it. The intention is to keep a clean sheet and maybe grab a goal to take back to Yaroslavl, and in the opening stages we match our Premier League opponents. We edge the first half but without scoring, and are punished after the break as Pavel Golyshev drills one past Chernik. One is fine, but Golyshev doubles his tally from a corner, and despite creating plenty we can't get on the scoresheet. Two shots on target is all either side can manage, but we have a mountain to climb in the home leg.
    Final Score: 0-2

    vs Tom Tomsk, Promotion/Relegation Play-Off Second Leg
    With a two goal deficit to make up, we have little choice but to attack, and we start 4-4-2 for the first time all season. We're up against it, but we get off to the perfect start, Sukhov's ball from rightback finding Arkhipov, who buries it in the top corner after 18 minutes. We press and press, forcing the visitors to camp in their own half, but they do a fine job of defending and at half time we're still a goal down. Not for long though, as Catinsus heads in our first corner of the second half to tie the match.
    At this point Tom pull back and look to hit us on the counter, and they look dangerous. Zenit loanee Kannunikov comes close on a couple of occasions, and we're living on the edge as the game ebbs and flows. Both sides use up their substitutions knowing that a single goal will win it, but the pressure gets to everybody except the two goalkeepers, who perform miracles to keep it level. Then, in the 88thminute, a deep cross is deflected awkwardly, allowing a striker to muscle past his marker and smash a shot in from close range. It's Arthur Sarkisov, the loanee in his last game for the club, and Shinnik are going to the Premier League!
    Final Score: 3-0
    Shinnik Yaroslavl win 3-2 on aggregate and are promoted to the Premier League.

    Last edited by EvilDave; 13-03-2012 at 15:09.

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    Great work!

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    Poor old Tom, he tried his best ;)

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    He did AK22, he almost had us! Thanks again delta, always appreciate the encouragement


    Shinnik Yaroslavl 2012/13 - Russian Premier League

    Those last two words didn't look particularly likely for large portions of last season, but we put runs together when it mattered and managed an epic comeback victory over Tom in the play-off to seal our place in the big leagues, and we'll be looking to make the most of it.

    The board are realistic about our chances - they're asking for survival, and are giving me £384k to achieve it. Frankly, that's peanuts, less than a month's work for some of the division's highest paid players, and the financial gap between top and bottom is incredible. Survival is definitely the key.

    As if to highlight that fact, our wage situation is no better. I've got to assemble a squad for around £60k/week, which again is nothing compared to some of the sides we'll be going up against. Not only we will be raiding the free transfer market and loan sales, we'll be doing so knowing that the best free agents on offer won't be willing to accept our cut-price offers.

    To make the situation worse, the Russian Cup games begin in July, whereas even free transfers can't go through until 1st August, at which we have one month to assemble our squad. No time for gelling, friendlies or anything like that in Russia. With a whole host of contracts already expired, I have a grand total of 14 senior players available for our opening cup tie. I'm tempted to throw it, but the board expect us to make the next round and I'm not to start the season on a down note. We'll see what we can do.

    Coming up next: Transfer time!


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    July/August 2012

    We play the cup games before the transfer window opens, but then we're open for business. With a host of players leaving on expired contracts we need to bolster the squad significantly, so there's plenty of activity.

    First to sign is last season's on-loan goalkeeper Sergey Chernik for the princely sum of £14k. Yuriy Shturko arrives for the same fee, and he joins fellow Ukrainian forward Sergiy Kuznetsov at the club. Midfield is where we are most shortly staffed, so the reinforcements are numerous and all free, Yaroslavl welcoming Djambulad Bazaev, Dmitry Ryzhov, Renat Sabitov and Stanislav Ivanov to the city along with backup keeper Ivan Komissarov from Spartak Moscow for around £50k. We also pull off something of a coup for the club, snapping up legendary veteran of the national side Petr Bystrov after his unexpected release from Rubin. With all the arrivals, we're good to go and launch our assault on the Premier League.

    at Sibir Novosibirsk, Russian Cup Round 6
    With the transfer window not opening until 1st August and not even free transfers joining before then, contract expiries mean I have the grand total of 14 first team players for our trip to Siberia. We just have enough players to fill our standard formation, but the hosts absolutely batter us in the first period and it's a miracle that we make it to the break goalless.
    We're forced to use one of our three subs early with Karytska tiring,and it's a special moment to open the scoring – youth product and central midfielder Artem Schadin launching a rocket into the top corner from 25 yards. A farcical own goal from Polish reject Piotr Gurzeda ties us up, and then things get silly. Lamanje is stretchered off, Sukhov is dismissed for a second yellow, and we end up with a back three and a striker who spent last year on loan at relegated Torpedo Moscow on the wing. Somehow, Nizamutdinov nets a winner before also going off injured, we finish with nine men and laugh our way into the next round.
    Final Score: 2-1

    at CSKA Moscow, Russian Cup Round 7
    We've met the board's expectations in getting this far, and frankly we aren't likely to get any further. There less than 10,000 people in Luzhniki to watch, but we are comprehensively outplayed in the first half despite having a few efforts ourselves, and are lucky to be only 0-2 at the break. It all gets even worse when Shagoiko is dismissed conceding a penalty for their third, and the only question seems tobe how many CSKA will rack up.
    However, my men have other ideas, and shortly afterwards a corner is bundled over the line by Catinsus to give us a lifeline. We play really well despite being a man down, and with half an hour still to go Arkhipov converts a low cross to put us right back in the mix. Just as it looks like we could perform a miracle, CSKA net a fourth on the break, but despite no further scoring we put in a respectable performance, actually outshooting our hosts 15-7. The gap in quality is obvious though.
    FinalScore: 2-4

    at Terek Grozny
    We begin our Premier League lives with a tough trip to Chechnya to face Terek, and the opening exchanges are lively to say the least. Chernik and his opposite number are both called into action several times, but it is us who strike the first blow, debutant Sergiy Kuznetsov turning in a drilled cross from Ryzhov on the right after half an hour. That signals the end of the action for the first half, and we lead at the break.
    Fifteen minutes and two corners later, we are behind, the first powerfully headed in and a second an unlucky deflection in off Lamanje. We push forward and risk being caught on the break, but with ten to play Kuznetsov rolls his man on the edge of the area before shooting in off the post. He is forced off injured before the end of the game, but the point is deserved and a good start to the league season.
    Final Score: 2-2

    vs Anzhi Makhachkala
    Our first home game is against one of the world's richest clubs, and we're expected to get very little from Roberto Carlos, Eto'o and co. It's the latter who plays in a less famous team-mate to open the scoring after eight minutes, and he doubles that eight minutes later after racing half the length of the pitch on the break. Bystrov and Sabitov both go close from range, but we never look like getting anything and a little more accuracy would see the visitors triple their tally. A tough lesson learned.
    Final Score: 0-1

    at KamAZ Naberezhnye Chelny
    These are the kind of games we need to take something from if we are to survive in this league, clashes with fellow promoted sides. The first half shows both teams up for what we – lacking in quality, especially in front of goal – but we create a few decent chances even if they aren't taken. The second half is a different story, KamAZ bombarding us with the aerial ball, particularly through set pieces, and we can't cope, conceding on 83 minutes. The final substitute comes on, and somehow it pays dividends – the hosts leave one man too few back on a corner, Bazaev breaks down the left and crosses for Arkhipov to smash one into the roof of net with 20 seconds of injury time to goal. A potentially priceless goal.
    Final Score: 1-1

    vs Amkar Perm
    Amkar are another one of those sides we're looking to take points from in our survival bid, and whilst the stats show a game which we dominated, the reality could not be further from the truth. In the entirety of the first half we have precisely no shots on target and are pushed deeper and deeper into our own half by the visitors, leaving me to give the players a rocket at the break.
    The new 4-4-2 is an improvement, and bizarrely enough seems to be giving us a little more stability at the back. It is the introduction of Petr Bystrov which turns the game tough, the veteran winger threading the ball through a needle for Nizamutdinov to slide under the goalkeeper with 20 minutes to go, and then putting a low corner on the boot of Catinsus minutes later. It's tough on Amkar, but we look more likely to score a third, and see the points home comfortably. Exactly why we signed Bystrov in the first place.
    Final Score: 2-0


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    Good luck in the top flight this season! I couldn't cut it with my squad at Avangard Kursk but hopefully you do better than me.

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    Cheers rancer, I think my Shinnik side have a slight edge over your Avangard by virtue of where they were when we took over and so higher general reputation, but I'm expecting this to be very difficult!

    September 2012

    at Kuban Krasnodar
    We return from a three-week international break by travelling to Krasnodar for a tough game against Kuban. Like Anzhi and Eto'o, the hosts are very much dependent on the monstrous Lacina Traore up front, and he rips us apart – his flick-on sets up the first, heads in the second and third, and wins the corner which sets up the fourth just after the break. His substitution is the catalyst for our comeback – firstly Bystrov repeats his impressive off-the-bench antics by netting at the near post, and then a foul on Ryzhov lets Nizamutdinov convert from the penalty spot. Arkhipov has another disallowed, and whilst we end up with the possession stats in our favour along with the late momentum, we are comfortably beaten by one man.
    Final Score: 2-4

    vs CSKA Moscow
    The Army Men battered us in the cup with a less than full strength side, so this could get embarrassing. Indeed, it threatens to do exactly that – CSKA have a penalty shout turned down inside ten minutes, Vagner Love is pulled back by last man Vasiev to see only a yellow card given, and in a single passage of play the visitors hit the woodwork four times. By half time they have already recorded 20 shots and enjoy 73% possession, and it's a miracle we stay level.
    The second half is a little more even and we do manage to find our own shooting boots, but we never look likely to take the lead. When it does come, the goal is a disappointing one to concede, a long ball catching out the ageing Catinsus and allowing Seydou Doumbia to get in behind and finish. Bystrov hits the bar late on, but the result is a fair one.
    Final Score: 0-1

    vs Dinamo Moscow
    Our former parent club, who won their own play-off to stay in the top flight last season, are having another difficult season and sit below us in the table at this early stage. With less than ten minutes gone, Skrylnikov, on his return from injury, feeds Kuznetsov to give us an early lead, but frustratingly we seem unable to capitalise on our majority of possession. Dinamo presumably get a rocket at the break and come back strongly, a late header earning them a share of the points. A much more convincing performance this time round.
    Final Score: 1-1


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    It's early but you're not losing by much. It should get better.

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    With a bit of luck you should be able to turn some draws into wins.

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    Thanks guys, it's difficult but as you say we're not getting thrashed on a weekly basis. Not a million miles behind now...

    October 2012

    at Volga Nizhny Novgorod
    Volga surprised many last year by staying up, and have made a decent start this time round. However, despite starting as favourites they reckoned without the form of Sergiy Kuznetsov – our Ukrainian hitman opens the scoring by emphatically ended some penalty area pinball, doubles it with a fine run and finish, and then supplies the cross for Ryzhov to net the third before half time. The players ease off in the second half whilst remaining threatening, but worryingly Volga come back at us. With seconds of regular time to go, a cross bounces in off Catinsus, and then in stoppage time they grab a second. The final whistle is accompanied by a sigh of relief, but for 88 minutes we were unstoppable.
    Final Score: 3-2

    vs Rubin Kazan
    Rubin are the defending champions, cup winners and right back up there at the start of this campaign. What's more, our fans consider this something of a grudge match, so all the pressure is on us. I decide to set out a little more adventurously and the first half is back-and-forth, our front three and the combination of Martins and Valdez for the visitors creating plenty of chances in a goalless first half. A breakaway from the Nigerian opens the scoring for the champions, but with an hour gone Kuznetsov keeps his scoring run going, out-muscling a defender on the way to goal. With all the momentum we go for the jugular, only to see Lamanje given a straight red for use of the elbow. The visitors' wastefulness sees us through to the final stages, and Rubin hit the post no less than three times before the final whistle. A huge point.
    Final Score: 1-1

    at Zenit St Petersburg
    Zenit are bigger and better than us, simply put. However, given our defensive performances against some of the top sides already this season, there was no excuse for the pasting we were given tonight. We hold out for half an hour before they breach the deadlock, but even at half time the result is a foregone conclusion – we are yet to register a shot. Bystrov does get us on the scoresheet with a placed effort, but by then Zenit have already scored four, and Kerzhakov rounds off a thrashing with the fifth in stoppage time. No excuses here, we were humiliated.
    Final Score: 1-5

    vs Spartak Moscow
    The players get a much-needed rest after two difficult matches, but things get no easier as Spartak come to town. Unlike some of the other top sides however, Spartak are unable to assert themselves on the game and are punished when Catinsus powers home a corner in the 25th minute. The visitors are shell-shocked, and we could well have doubled the league before the break.
    Instead we face a resurgent Spartak in the second half, and I fear the worst when Sabitov gives away a penalty. Aiden McGeady smashes it low, but Chernik pulls off a wonder save to deny the Irishman, and ten minutes later Roman Voidel' steps off the bench and fires a thunderbolt from 30 yards. The visitors do pull one back, but the life is sapped out of them by the penalty save and form of Chernik, and we claim an enormous and unlikely victory.
    Final Score: 2-1

    at FK Krasnodar
    Krasnodar are a step down from the likes of Zenit and Spartak, but a test nonetheless and they prove that with a controlling display in the opening period, thankfully being unable to score before my players wake up. It's an even battle right up until half time, when we are caught out at the back and allow them to open the scoring seconds before the whistle.
    The second half starts uneventfully, and on the hour we make our changes. Arkhipov is on the field less than five minutes before turning in Bystrov's cross, and we're back level. The game bounces to and fro for the rest of the match with the hosts just about having the better of it, but they can't capitalise and in the final five minutes are forced down to ten men through injury. We attack, and in stoppage time our veteran winger does it again, putting a corner on Lamanje's head to steal the win.
    Final Score: 2-1

    at Alania Vladikavkaz
    Run-away winners of the First Division last season, Alania have started well this year and are a force to be reckoned with in their North Caucasian home. We start well, but after 20 minutes the plan goes wrong as Lamanje is harshly given a straight red card for a tackle 25 yards from goal. We immediately pull back to defensive formation, but despite the waves of Alania attack we get the ball inthe net – Bystrov's run just too early and therefore ruled out for offside. The second half is an exercise in how to defend, and even the introduction of last year's 40-goal hero can't find a way past Chernik and the defence. We ride our luck at times, but confidence is high at the moment and Nizamutdinov almost steals it at the death. Goalless, and thoroughly undeserved.
    Final Score: 0-0



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    Excellent hanging in out of trouble right now.

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    Cheers delta, we're hitting our stride now and it's looking good. I just hope the long winter won't halt our momentum.

    November/December 2012

    vs FK Rostov
    Rostov, as the league table can attest to, are shocking, picking up just three points in the opening half of the campaign without a single win. This should be an easy three points and so I give some ofthe fringe players a game, but we reach half time level. Ridiculously, Vasiev concedes a needless penalty straight after the break, and we face the ignominy of being Rostov's first victims. Thankfully Ryzhov has other ideas as he fires a long range shot into the top corner, and that is the signal for us to lay siege to the Rostov goal. Our strikers are profligate, their goalkeeper is inspired, and we resign ourselves to a point, only for Nizamutdinov to tuck home our goalscorer's cross with ten seconds of injury time remaining. Vital doesn't quite do it justice.
    Final Score: 2-1

    at Anzhi Makhachkala
    Anzhi are flying, top of the league and scoring for fun, our only consolation is that injury to Eto'o keeps him out of the side. He's not particularly missed, two first-half corners bundled in after some slack defending giving them the half-time advantage, and an unstoppable long-range third after the break puts the game to bed. Unlike the home game however, we aren't completely outplayed, having the majority of possession and creating some decent chances of our own. Ryzhov converts one soon after their third, and then strikes again in stoppage time to soften the blow to our goal difference at the midway point.
    Final Score: 2-3

    vs Terek Grozny
    Another southern side are our next opponents, high-flying Terek arriving for the first snowy game in Yaroslavl on the back of some excellent form which sees them as high as 4th. I give Kuznetsov a quick pep talk before the game and he ends an eight-hour goal drought in the fourth minute with a sharp finish. Terek come back strongly though, and it's probably the most even game of our season – Chernik shows just why he was such a bargain at £14k with some world class saves, whilst at the other end the in-form Ryzhov rattles the frame of the goal on two occasions. It could be 5-4, but in the end a single goal is enough, and we reach the dizzying heights of 6th.
    Final Score: 1-0

    vs KamAZ Naberezhnye Chelny
    Promoted alongside us, KamAZ have struggled to adapt to the top flight and currently sit in the relegation zone. Despite this, they more than hold their own against us in the first half, creating the better of the chances and making us fortunate to be level at the break. We go to 4-4-2 in a desperate attempt to create something, and although we take the ascendancy we fashion little in the way of clear-cut opportunities. That is until the 92nd minute, when Ryzhov's ball in is missed by the first defender, allowing substitute Arkhipov to slide in and grab an undeserved winner. The amount of times this is happening is quite remarkable, but I can't complain.
    Final Score: 1-0

    vs Lokomotiv Moscow
    Loko are this year's Dinamo, a big side struggling at the wrong end of the table. Ryzhov and Sukhov miss out through suspension, and the away side justify their favourites tag by besieging our goal throughout the match. As seems to be the case all too often, we escape through a combination of superhuman goalkeeping from Chernik, wasteful finishing from our opponents, and particularly faithful woodwork. It even looks like we've stolen another one, but Bazaev's towering header is rightly ruled out for offside and we take a point which we by no means deserve – no shots on target and 40% possession at home. Still, we hang on.
    Final Score: 0-0

    at Amkar Perm
    We see off what has been a fantastic 2012 for the club away in Perm, and unfortunately our performance is added to the list of worrying events which seem to be drawn to the Russian city. Ryzhov gets us on the board as early as the 11th minute, but by that point it's already 1-0 and the lead is re-established two minutes later. Catinsus gives away a penalty before half time which is converted, and the usually unbeatable Chernik palms a soft one into the path of their striker as the game draws to a close. I'm powerless, my players are useless, and quite frankly it's the worst performance I've seen as Shinnik boss. Amkar aren't even that good.
    Final Score: 1-4

    Manager's Thoughts
    That final shocking performance aside, we've rarely been thrashing despite being obviously bettered on a number of occasions. However, we've hung in well in the vast majority of games, picking up points we haven't deserved and last-minute wins to keep us clear of the relegation zone, and even though the table is tight we find ourselves up in 5th with a third of the season to go. Any sort of survival is still very much the aim, and we'll see what happens from there.


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    Wow, definitely a massive boost, and you should be alright in the end thanks to that.

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    Yep, a great way to sign off before the break. Hopefully it'll be enough to see us through.

    March 2013

    The long winter break is a time of mixed emotions for Shinnik. On the one hand, we hear the great news that our Youth Coaching budget will be increased to match the facilities upgrade agreed to November, and both Andrey Vasyanovich and Nikita Piliev agree to join on loan from CSKA. On the other hand, our defence receives a massive blow as Tajik international full back and one of the first names on our teamsheet, Farhod Vasiev, is ruled out for most of 2013 with a shocking injury. We can only hope he recovers well, and that we can survive in his absence.

    vs Zenit St Petersburg
    We welcome the biggest crowd of the season to watch us take on Zenit, but shoot ourselves in the foot early on as the visitors break from our free kick to open the scoring. The first half is spent firmly on the back foot, Catinsus goes off injured and on the stroke of half time we concede a second. The second half is a different story, and we end up with more possession and 17 shots on goal. Unfortunately only one is on target, we hit the post twice, and finish with nine men thanks to Michkov's injury and a second booking in stoppage time for Schadin. A decent second half, but we have to finish better.
    Final Score: 0-2

    at CSKA Moscow
    The warning signs have been there, but this is just shocking. We concede one early on but do well up until the interval, and indeed for much of the second half. In the last quarter of an hour we completely implode, letting CSKA carve us apart at will as they score at not two or three but four goals before the final whistle. Kuznetsov gets a thoroughly pointless consolation, and we return home utterly embarrassed.
    Final Score: 1-5

    vs Kuban Krasnodar
    An ideal chance to break out of our slump as Kuban come to town. Still we let them control the first half, and with morale fragile after a failed team meeting I hesitate to berate my energy-sapped players. Still, the changes seem to work and we win a penalty on the hour, only for their goalkeeper to deny Ryzhov from the spot. We can't capitalise on our possession advantage, and this time there is no fairytale ending as we settle for a point. A much-needed clean sheet is just as important.
    Final Score: 0-0

    at Dinamo Moscow
    Dinamo have recovered well from last season, and this will be a tough game. The point at Kuban seems to have given the players a boost, and we hold our own with the hosts, perhaps even edging the first half on chances. The second is more of the same – a midfield battle with few clear cut chances which neither side is able to take. Thankfully our defence is on form, and we close out a second clean sheet in succession for a good point.
    Final Score: 0-0

    vs Volga Nizhny Novgorod
    This is getting a little bit silly now, as once again we welcome a beatable team and once again we fail to score. This time it's Volga who apply the late pressure after we dominate the other 80 minutes, but our defence holds out yet again and we record yet another goalless draw which does us no favours in an increasingly congested table.
    Final Score: 0-0


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    April/May 2013

    at Lokomotiv Moscow
    Well, well, well, I did not see this one coming. I make a couple of changes to try and instill a bit of creativity to the side, but it's the same old story as a bigger team overrun us on our travels. We're two down by the break and a third gets added soon after, but with an hour gone Kuznetsov scores our first goal in four games to give us hope. Ten minutes later he adds a second, and with ten to go Shturko levels the match to send our small travelling contingent into raptures. We hammer Lokomotiv for the rest of the game, so of course they grab an offside winner in injury time. It's painful to take and sends us down to 9th in the table with just three points between us and the play-off, but at least we remembered how to play.
    Final Score: 3-4

    at Rubin Kazan
    We are shocking, and this is relegation form. We concede four in the first half hour, and even with a Kuznetsov goal in there we are absolutely terrible. We deserve to go down at this rate.
    Final Score: 1-4

    vs Alania Vladikavkaz
    This is the one – lose this and we are officially in freefall, at which point I'll start planning for either next season or my resignation. We have a team meeting beforehand which goes well, and the crowd roars us on. After 20 minutes, Ryzhov chips a perfect ball in for Arkhipov to head home, and we are on the way. When Ryzhov beats the offside trap for a second before the break we're in dreamland. However, within minutes of the restart it's 2-1, and we're on the ropes. We pull back, retreat in our shell and batten down the hatches out of fear, only for Bystrov to break away and slide home a third. The delapidated roof comes off Shinnik Stadium, and we may have just saved our season.
    Final Score: 3-1

    at Spartak Moscow
    Away at Spartak, in front of a near-empty Luzhniki, and a win would all but ensure our survival. The mood is buoyant in the side and we play well in the first half, even if we are on the defensive for most of it. Then, from nowhere, we take the lead – Vasyanovich heads home a corner to do us and parent club CSKA a massive favour. With 20 minutes to do we're tied with a dubious offside goal, but it's not over – in the 91st minute, Nizamutdinov latches onto a rebound to give us the lead. But it's still not over, and pinball in our box lets Spartak steal a point. Still, we've turned our form right round.
    Final Score: 2-2

    vs FK Krasnodar
    Although we may not be mathematically safe, we have the luxury of playing the bottom two in our last two games. Win here, and we're safe. However, two excellent performances have made us complacent, and we're terrible. Krasnodar are as well, but in the 88th minute they bury a free kick and we're done. It's not enough for our opponents, whose relegation is confirmed after other results, and going into our last game we can realistically finish anywhere between 9th and 14th.
    Final Score: 0-1

    at FK Rostov
    Rostov haven't won all season, have just six points and are terrible. We need a point to be sure. We lose. I don't know how, but we lose. Convincingly, by two goals. In terms of this season, it doesn't matter and we hold our 11th position. In the long run, I have some things to do.
    Final Score: 0-2


    Manager's Thoughts:
    In the end we survive, but thanks largely to the ineptitude of other sides, some remarkable luck at the end of games, and a couple of fortunate runs. On the whole we've been outclassed, embarrassed at times, and the club is bleeding money which means we simply lack the resources to improve the squad. We have an ageing squad, a poor youth system, and few opportunities to generate revenue. I have no idea if I'll be here next season.

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    Bad end but I knew you'd done enough earlier.

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    Yep, that mid-season burst saw us home in the end. Was a bit devastating to lose to Rostov at the end there, really showed up our failings...


    Shinnik Yaroslavl - 2013-14 Russian Premier League



    July/August 2013


    This time round the board are a little more demanding, expecting a midtable finish as well as Round 7 of the Cup. To achieve that, I've been given £160k for transfers and £54k/w wage budgets, which is still peanuts compared to others and £6k/wk less than last season. Basically, we're going to have another fight on our hands.

    In the transfer window we managed to keep hold of our key players, not that we'd make any money from selling them anyway, and managed to bring in a few reinforcements. Stanislav Lebamba, Lubos Kalouda, Vardan Bakalyan and Elvin Mammadov all arrive for free, and the wage budget is now at its limit. We're firmly in the red financially, and short of a takeover I see no way out.

    at Krasnodar, Russian Cup Round 6
    We face the same issues as last year with regards to player selection, and to make matters worse we draw probably the best side in the second tier. An early goal from their South African international is enough to put us behind, and put us out as our makeshift side struggles for rhythm. No big loss for me personally, but the board aren't too pleased.
    Final Score: 0-1

    at Spartak Moscow
    We may have handed out a handful of debuts, but this does not bode well. Our back line holds out until half time, and then as our hastily-assembled side starts to tire Spartak run riot, handing us a thrashing which we'll do well to brush off. Vardan Bakalyan gets us a late consolation, but there are no excuses for this.
    Final Score: 1-5

    vs Zenit St Petersburg
    We have a horrific run of games to start the season, but at this level that should be expected. This time we get two goals, both from Lubos Kalouda playing out of position on the left, but again we're overrun and Cherkin has to pick the ball out of the net five times. I can't see us staying up this time.
    Final Score: 2-5

    at Lokomotiv Moscow
    Enough. I'm resigning.
    Final Score: 0-8


    Manager's Thoughts:
    I'm done with this side. It's so frustrating – most of these players performed miracles at times last season, sure we've lost a few men but we've picked up some quality and are playing the same system, so there's no reason for the utter, abject capitulation. I don't know where I'll go next, but I can't take any more of this. Sorry Shinnik, it's been a good ride.

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    Mordovia Saransk 2013/14 - Russian First Division


    April/May 2014

    So it takes a while, and a couple of times being laughed away from Premier League clubs, but eventually I've found a job. Conscious of the long wait I've added a few other leagues to the game to prevent it happening again (Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan), but I'll be trying to stick to Russia unless something irresistible comes along.

    Anyway, to the present. Mordovia are in trouble - in the red by almost £2m, £3k per week over the menial £30k wage budget, no transfer funds, a single first team goalkeeper currently injured, far too many foreigner players (only allowed 3 on the pitch in the First Division), and sitting just one place outside the relegation zone. This is a rescue act, so I'll have to work quickly.

    at FC Tyumen
    Our first game comes against the side bottom of the league, and the first of ten matches to save the club. We line up in an attacking 4-2-3-1 with a bench full of teenagers, and finally get things started. Tyumen aren't very good, but then my new charges are on a run of one win in nine and so very nervous. The game is cagey, poor quality, the hosts get none of their ten shots on target, but it doesn't matter – Aliaksandr Lebedev, playing as lone striker, grabs one on the hour, and in stoppage time we miss a penalty to boot. We're up and running, and three points clear of the drop zone.
    Fina lScore: 1-0

    vs FK Krasnodar
    From bottom to top – Krasnodar are looking good for a return to the Premier League as they arrive in Saransk. We have to make do with a teenage goalkeeper and a bench of five. It all shows, and despite a strong second half we ship three before the break, and it's more than enough. Our safety net is cut to one point.
    Final Score: 0-3

    at Tom Tomsk
    Somehow, the side I relegated as Shinnik boss are fighting against a second relegation to the regional leagues. We set up to play on the counter and match Tom blow for blow in the first half, a less than thrilling first half which suits us just fine. With an hour gone we win a penalty which full back Aleksandar Simcevic converts, and some fine last-ditch defending keeps the hosts at bay despite a late red card for our 15-year old left back. A massive win, and incredibly it shoots us up to 10th in the league.
    Final Score: 1-0

    vs Nizhniy Novgorod
    Nizhniy have never quite reached the heights of the transitional season, but they're still a good side for this level. We get off to a flyer when Semler crosses for Maxim Zhestkov to slot home, and after half an hour Zhestkov scores again to give us a cushion at the interval. We control possession and the chances, and even though the visitors pull one back late on, the result never looks in doubt. We climb another position in the table to 9th.
    Final Score: 2-1

    at Torpedo Moscow
    Torpedo occupy the final relegation spot that was ours when I was appointed. It's a drab affair, four shots each with two on target for either side, and both of ours find the back of the net – Zhestkov nets early on before going off injured, and on the stroke of half time defensive midfielder Arthur Valikaev times a run perfectly from deep to seal it. Torpedo fail to put any real pressure on us in the dying moments, and we climb again to 8th.
    Final Score: 2-0

    vs Dinamo Bryansk
    Bryansk are above us, and this is almost a game of two halves. More accurately, two ten minute spells – Kirill Krovelets grabs two in the first ten minutes from his right wing berth, but we're tired and the visitors claim a deserved point in the final ten. The rest of the game is spent largely in the defensive third, and the result is reasonably fair.
    Final Score: 2-2

    at Irtysh Omsk
    Well, it was going to happen eventually but this is just poor. Irtysh are in the drop zone and one of the league's poorer sides, so to get played off the park is just inexcusable. Ledbedev does grab us a goal late on, but by that time the game is well beyond us and the small band of away fans look utterly bemused. So am I.
    Final Score: 1-4

    vs FC Khimki
    A win for Khimki will keep them right up there in the promotion fight, and we're in for a tough one. We concede early on but are easily a match for our high-flying opponents, and it's a wonder that we go in behind at the break. We pour forward and risk being caught out at the back, but it all pays off at the end when Borut Semler races clear and dinks one over the keeper in injury time.
    Final Score: 1-1

    at Gazovik Orenburg
    The last time I travelled to Orenburg as manager, my Shinnik side threw away a 4-1 lead in 15 minutes, so I was hoping for something a little more sedate. We certainly get it in the first half, absolutely nothing happening until we concede a silly goal on the stroke of halftime. Almost immediately afterwards we equalise through centre back Evgeny Ovsienko's towering header, and with time running out Lebedev scrambles one home to seal the points in a refreshingly sturdy display.
    Final Score: 2-1

    vs Spartak Nalchik
    Spartak haven't been themselves since relegation from the top flight, but they're still a quality outfit, and it's a shock when our Chilean playmaker Gerson Acevedo smashes a drive into the top corner from 30 yards. They come out stung after the break, and into the end we go down to two goals in ten minutes. Disappointing, but with results elsewhere going in our favour we're comfortably safe for next season.
    Final Score: 1-2

    vs Volgar-Gazprom Astrakhan
    Volgar are already relegated and are playing for pride, we're playing for midtable position and to entertain the fans. Secretly I'm hoping for a goalfest to leave the supporters happy, but the visitors prove difficult to break down and we settle for two, Semler's ball finding Lebedev and then Krovelets sealing the victory with five minutes to go. We wind up perfectly midtable, my rescue act performed successfully.
    Final Score: 2-0


    Manager's Thoughts:
    It's been a busy month or so for me in charge of Mordovia, and I've rather enjoyed it – the best players are amongst the best in the league, but the squad is incredibly thin and we'll need a big rebuild over the summer. How likely that is I'm not sure, as finances here are even worse than at Shinnik, who survive under their new manager. Still, I'll give it a go and hopefully we can improve on 10th place next season.

  34. #34
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    Pity things went downhill in Yaroslavl

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    Yeah, I'm still not sure what happened really - the team was good enough but the players just weren't performing, weren't generating interest or cash to be replaced, and 18 goals conceded in three games was a bit too much for me. The resignation was probably a little premature in hindsight, but the run-in with Mordovia was good fun and I genuinely don't know what we're capable of next season. Onwards and upwards I guess!

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    Mordovia Saransk - Russian First Division 2014/15



    July/August 2014


    The summer ends, we come back and it's clear from the off that this is not going to be an easy season. Last season we were 10% over our £30k per week wage budget and struggling, this year the financial situation has dictated a further drop in the budget to just £25k. Of course there is no money for transfers and nobody wants to join us on loan, so it's the free market where we've been doing our shopping.

    The first job was to free up some room on the salary, and with our best players taking up the bulk of the payroll it's been a case of trying to replace expensive quality with cheap talent, never an easy task. As such, star midfield playmaker Gerson Acevedo left to Argentina for a cool £1,000,000, whilst his Georgian team-mate Georgi Kakhelishvili also departed, along with Slovenian international Borut Semler for a smaller sum, starting striker Kirill Vergeichik to Khimki and a number of fringe players whose contracts expire.

    Coming in in midfield are Alexandr Zakuskin in the centre and Ruslan Pashtov on the wing, whilst Anvar Ibragimgadjiev arrives to bolster the defence and Andrey Sinitsyn will take the back-up goalkeeper's spot. The team is smaller, but we have a youth squad itching to play their part, and I believe we've got enough to comfortably meet the board's midtable expectations.

    at Dinamo Bryansk, Russian Cup Round 5
    Bryansk are a solid top half team, and are due to take Semler from us at any moment. Our Slovenian starts on the bench and is largely unneeded in the first half, watching on as Zhestkov opens the scoring with a header and then misses a penalty. The second is closer, our substitutes inject an energy which Dinamo can't cope with, and we ease through to the next round.
    Final Score: 1-0

    vs Krylya Sovetov Samara, Russian Cup Round 6
    The Wings of the Soviets come to town and we give them far too much respect in the opening exchanges, our defensive efforts gifting them a goal in the opening minutes. It takes about 20 minutes for us to get going, and we end up doing most of the attacking, especially in the second half. Just after the hour mark Kirill Vergeichik equalises in what is probably the Belarussian's last game for the club, and in truth we're unlucky not to win outright before the final whistle.
    Instead we go to extra time, with the first corner of the added period we take the lead through Latvian defender Dmitrijs Hohlovs, and the visitors are dead and buried. They offer up absolutely no resistance, and in the second half we grab a third as Krolevets comes off his wing to meet a cross. It's a shame so many of these players are having to leave, we've got a decent little team here.
    Final Score: 3-1 (aet)

    at FK Krasnodar, Russian Cup Round 7
    What is it with me and drawing Krasnodar in the cup? With all our transfers completed we look a far more average side now, and although we make ourselves difficult to break down, we never look like springing a shock as we did in the last round. It takes one goal, coming in the 84th minute, to see us off, but for the players we have out we can be proud of our efforts going into the league campaign.
    Final Score: 0-1

    at Volga Tver
    Volga have never been this high up the league system before, play on a bizarre 'non-grass' pitch which looks like sand, and are thoroughly unprepared. KonstantinZuev scores inside 60 seconds, and some thoroughly inept defending sees us four up at the break – playmaker Vladimir Sandrkin, Ovsienko and Lebedev all getting themselves on the scoresheet. Disappointingly there is no continuation of the barrage in the second half, and we allow the hosts a consolation from a late corner. A great way to start the season, but Volga look like six points for everyone this year.
    Final Score: 4-1

    vs Ural Ekaterinburg
    We expect a much tougher test hosting Ural, and we get it. We give them too much space in the opening moments and pay for it with an early goal, and five minutes before the interval we are carved apart by a glorious passing move for their second. In first half stoppage time we finally get our act together, some nice movement of our own slipping Lebedev in behind for the finish. The second period is tense, seeing us dominate possession and Ural dangerous on the break, but nothing comes of it until the death, Krolovets powering home a deep cross in injury time to rescue an excellent point for us.
    Final Score: 2-2

    at Avangard Kursk
    Avangard are back from the regionals for another stab at survival, and put five past Volga last time out. They've got a decent side together, and they prove it by taking the lead with a wonder strike, Startsev beaten from a full 35 yards. The hosts then play on lockdown and we simply can't break through, the final few moments seeing our opponents more likely to score. A disappointing loss.
    Final Score: 0-1

    vs Yenisey Krasnoyarsk
    This time it's our turn to score early, Lebedev latching onto a through ball from our teenage playmaker and curling one in from the edge of the area. However, a defensive lapse lets Yenisey back into the game midway through the half, and by the interval they've taken the lead. A more aggressive approach pens them back for much of the second half, but it's not until Ovsienko rises to meet a freekick in the 80th minute that we can take our share of the points.
    Final Score: 2-2

    at Irtysh Omsk
    This game is all over inside the first half an hour, and it's Sandrkin's doing – he gets booked early on, and after 25 minute his victim is sent off for a vicious hack in retaliation. Two minutes later Krolovets gets on the end of a gorgeous through ball, and Irtysh are done. Before half time we add two in two minutes through Hohlovs and defensive midfielder Aleksandr Zakushkin, and then in the second Lebedev takes two bites of the cherry but finally gets his goal. Finally a game when our pressure pays off.
    Final Score: 4-0

    vs Torpedo Moscow
    64% possession, 13 shots to 2, yet we can't break down a Torpedo side who arrive in Saransk determined to play for the draw. We hit the woodwork a couple of times, whilst the closest they get is wayward cross which has Startsev scrambling. Frustrating.
    Final Score: 0-0


  37. #37
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    Tough to lose great players, but funds end up dictating what you have available. Still, a dcent start to the season!

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    Yeah, in the end I basically gave up on direct replacements and focused on building more a squad. What they can achieve I'm still not entirely sure!

    September 2014

    at Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk
    Another newly promoted side, and one has started the season well, sitting in 6that this early stage. They take an early lead when the usually reliable Startsev parries a harmless cross into the path of their striker, and despite intense pressure we are unable to level before the break. We finally do some with our first attack of the half through Lebedev,but there is nothing Startsev can do about their second, a stunning strike from range into the top corner. Immediately we level again with Lebedev completing a brace, but there are no further goals and we drop two points in a game we should have won.
    Final Score: 2-2

    vs KamAZ Naberezhnye Chelny
    KamAZare back in the second tier but looking good, five wins and just a single defeat so far. For a moment I'm taken back to my second season with Shinnik as the visitors lay siege to our goal, but we do a pretty effective job of keeping them at bay and go in at the break goalless. It's more of the same in the second half, Startsev pulling off a few great saves to keep us level, and with 70 minutes on theclock Aleksandr Denisov lumbers up from centre back to convert a corner. KamAZ can't break through, and we claim an undeserved three points. Compensation for the previous game.
    Final Score: 1-0

    vs Tom Tomsk
    The Siberians just won't go away, and they come to Saransk in 12th. Thankfully they aren't the team they once were, but then again we're not brilliant either, and despite being clearly on top we can't find a way past their goalkeeper with our wayward finishing. We get a taste of our medicine as they open the scoring with a long range bullet in the 82ndminute, and we've got nothing left.
    Final Score: 0-1

    at Torpedo Vladimir
    A tricky away game beckons in Vladimir, where Torpedo are flying high in 3rd .Despite that, we start brightly and stay in control of the ball for most of the first half, missing a couple of chances to take the lead. I'm expecting the hosts to attack for the rest of the game but it just doesn't come, and so when Alexandr Kharitonov is freed in the box by Lebedev's quick pass, it's enough to earn us three unlikely points to push us back into the top half.
    Final Score: 1-0

    at Metallurg-Kuzbass Novokuznetsk
    The newcomers to the division are currently in the promotion spots, and have the best attack and defence in the league. We score two absolutely beautiful goals, Sandrkin and Arthur Valikaev both getting on the scoresheet with long range pearlers, but even a 2-1 lead with 15 minutes to play is not safe, and two corners are turned in to consign us to a second defeat in three games.
    Final Score: 2-3

    vs FC Chita
    If Volga Tver were bad, this lot are terrible. In their 11 games so far, they've scored twice. We just need a win to get our confidence back, and this should be it. On the other hand, they've not conceded many either so an early goal would be ideal. Thankfully we get it when Zhestkov rounds the goalkeeper, and some nice interplay between the front four releases Krolevets for a second before the break. Chita manage just two shots, neither on target, and we wrap up a dominant performance when Ruslan Pashtov grabs his first for the club in injury time. Reassuringly comfortable.
    Final Score: 3-0


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    October 2014

    at Luch-Energiya Vladivostok
    We go out to the Far East in high spirits, and take control of the first half against a decent Luch side sitting in midtable. Zhestkov thinks he's opened the scoring only to be denied by the whistle for a foul on the keeper, but we're unlucky not to be ahead at the break. It doesn't take long though – with our first attack on the half Kharitonov crosses for Zakuskin to tap in, and two minutes later Hohlovs heads in from a corner. The hosts pull one back straight away and have a ten minute spell of dominance, but after our substitutions we look the more likely to score, and see out the remaining time with relative ease.
    Final Score: 2-1

    vs Spartak Nalchik
    Despite sitting 7thbefore kick-off, a win today could theoretically send us top. Nalchik are a shadow of their old Premier League selves, and rarely have I seen a game so one-sided. We reach double figures in the shots column before half time, but it takes until the hour mark for us to open the scoring – no less than three shots are blocked before the rebound falls for Kharitonov to slide in at the far post. We continue to press but worryingly fail to seal the game, the visitors offering nothing on the break or in possession. The lead remains precarious until stoppage time, when Sandrkin is felled in the area and Konstantin Zuevburies the penalty in the bottom corner. We move up to 6th, and despite our often shocking finishing are the league's second highest scorers.
    Final Score: 2-0

    at FC Khimki
    Conditions outside Moscow are shocking, and the result is a horribly scrappy game of football. We have five men booked, our hosts have four, and our usual passing game is torn to pieces by the weather. Thankfully we retain an aerial presence from set pieces and it proves the difference, a scrambled goal for the hosts in the 89th minute providing a nervy finish after two Ovsienko headers from a corner and free kick. Startsin stops the home side claiming a point with a stunning save in injury time, and we extend our streak to four.
    Final Score: 2-1

    vs Dinamo Bryansk
    At the moment we are controlling every game we play, and today is no different as Borut Semler lines up against us for the first time. He barely touches the ball as we put Bryansk to the sword, Hohlovs converting a first-half corner and then Kharitonov getting on the end of a cross for a long-awaited goal from open play. We have another disallowed in injury time, and our juggernaught rolls on.
    Final Score: 2-0

    at SKA-Energiya Khabarovsk
    We head back out to the Far East, and immediately fall behind as their centre midfield destroyer smashes a volley past Startsev from the edge of the area. We never really recover, and the first half is played out like a team who are complacent, tired from the flight and believing their own hype. They get a rocket up the backside at halftime, and the results are phenomenal – just five minutes later, some patient play ends in a whipped cross from Ibragimgadjiev which is fumbled by the goalkeeper, allowing 16 year old substitute left winger Mikhail Rodin tap in the equaliser. Five minutes later mayhem from a corner gives us the lead with an own goal, and then Rodin announces his arrival with a brilliant curling effort after cutting inside his marker. SKA are stunned and have no reply, and a fourth in injury time from Lebedev adds insult to injury. We become the league's top scorers and go third, our run extending to six straight wins.
    Final Score: 4-1

    vs Nizhniy Novgorod
    All good things must come to an end, and with Nizhniy coming with the express purpose of stopping us scoring, it was almost bound to be today. We have the worst start imaginable by conceding an early goal,and it gives the visitors license to drop back and pack the box with men. Kharitonov, Zhestkov and Lebedev are all guilty of missing sitters, but in the end we don't have the answers and slip down to 4th in defeat.
    FinalScore: 0-1


  40. #40
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    Still looking good for a personal return to the Premier League.

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    Indeed, and I'd never have expected that at the end of last season!

    November 2014

    vs Sibir Novosibirsk
    Sibir are a good side, but we need a win here to get back on track. The first half is largely one way traffic but we can't break through, and then on the stroke of half time they shock us with a disallowed goal. The second half is scrappy, and as soon as I've used my substitutes we pick up an injury, but with ten men and ten minutes to go a loose ball drops to Zhestkov in the area for a hard-fought victory.
    Final Score: 1-0

    vs Volga Tver
    We don't half make it hard for ourselves. Volga are shockingly bad, but so is our finishing and even with stronger players on from the bench we enter injury time goalless. There are four minutes of it, but their goalkeeper insists and giving us a string of corners, and in the 97th minute of the game Hohlovs meets one with a thumping header to secure a deserved win. It should have been at least 3-0, but we'll take it.
    Final Score: 1-0

    at Ural Ekaterinburg
    Ural are perennial promotion contenders, so when young Rodin cuts in off his left wing to go past two defenders and fire into the bottom corner in the first minute, it's something of a shock. Less of a shock comes when Startsev is beaten badly at his near post after half an hour, and immediately after the interval we go behind from a headed free kick. We go to a ridiculously attacking 4-1-3-2, deserve a second goal but don't get it as both Rodin and Zhestkov strike the woodwork, and we're caught out on the break for a third as the defeat pushes us out of the promotion slots.
    Final Score: 1-3

    vs Avangard Kursk
    Avangard pulled off a shock win in Kursk, and we're out for revenge. As expected, we dominate the first half, creating chances we are unable to convert, and then in the dying seconds Rodin is taken down as he bursts into the box, and we have a penalty. Ruslan Pashtov steps up, but his effort is tame and easily saved to keep us level. He is hauled off at the break and thankfully it pays dividends, Rodin crossing for Zhestkov as early as the 47th minute. We maintain our control but can't kill Kursk off, and in the 75th minute disaster strikes – Ovsienko is dragged to the ground and injured when dealing with a punt forward, the referee inexplicably waves play on, and their forward finishes comfortably. Angered by the injustice, we go up the other end immediately, Krolevets crossing for boy wonder Rodin to chest down and volley into the bottom corner. Avangard don't get another kick, and revenge is ours before the long winter break.
    Final Score: 2-1



    Manager's Thoughts:
    We find ourselves in contention for promotion going into the break, and I'd be lying if I said I was expecting it. We started out fairly average, but a run of 11 wins from 14 has shot us up the table, and we look as good a bet as anyone to go up. The issue seems to be that the league is made up increasingly of mediocre teams – with the exception of Metallurg-Kuzbass the newly promoted sides are poor, and even recently relegated sides such as Spartak Nalchik aren't pulling their weight. Finances are affecting everyone, so we're not the only side to have moved on our best players.

    On the other hand, some of the performances I've got out of these guys have been unbelievable – Mikhail Rodin was a raw, terrible teenager when I arrived, and whilst he still only has a single star for ability, he's been playing like a wonderkid in the making, terrorising defences when given the chance. Neither of our two main strikers are scoring consistently, but they are chipping away and the defence is generally strong enough, and in case of Hohlovs and Ovsienko, potent enough, to keep us going on. A couple more changes over the winter, and we could be right up there at the end of the season.

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    March 2015

    We emerge from the winter break without left back Khodyrev, who manages to break his foot and will miss the rest of the campaign. We do however manage to bring in a couple of reinforcements, striker Khalid Kadyrov and centre back Sergiy Maly joining on free transfers.

    We also welcome the latest batch of youth products to the club, Alexandr Dorofeev and Ruslan Mikhailov the two I'll keeping a particularly close eye on as we look to cap what has been a great season so far with a fairytale ending.

    at Yenisey Krasnoyarsk
    To describe this game as dull would make it seem too exciting. It's still snowing in Siberia, both teams are still getting up to speed after the long winter break, Kharitonov has a header ruled out for offside, and nothing else really happens. Goalless, and deservedly so.
    Final Score: 0-0

    at Torpedo Moscow
    Torpedoare battling relegation as ever, but you wouldn't guess it from the way we play against them. The take an early lead, and we have just two shots in the entire half. The first is drilled at the goalkeeper, the second sees new signing Khalid Kadyrov tap into an empty net. A similar situation transpires to give them the lead before the break, and literally nothing happens in the second half. Nothing at all, no highlights. A poor defeat.
    Final Score: 1-2

    vs Irtysh Omsk
    Defeat against another struggling side would be unacceptable. Nothing quite says 'kick up the backside for the seniors' like starting a bunch of teenagers, and we have four in the first eleven. As expected we batter Irtysh, and unsurprisingly struggle to break through, one of our youth prospects planting a corner on the head of Hohlovs for the big Latvian to bail us out again. Kadyrov continues his bizarre start to a Mordovia career by being sent off after an hour, but we hold on comfortably enough. We could really do with starting to perform again though.
    Final Score: 1-0

    vs Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk
    Another lowly side, another opportunity to win convincingly. Thankfully our first goal comes neither late or from a corner as Kharitonov slides one beyond the keeper after a quarter of an hour, and from then on it's fairly plain sailing. The visitors get precisely none of their four shots on target, and from one blocked effort, Lebedev is able to race the full length only to see his shot blocked and fall into the path of Alexandr Denisov, who rolls home the insurance after an hour. That's more than enough, and we a dozen games to go we move into 2nd place.
    Final Score: 2-0

    at KamAZ Naberezhnye Chelny
    KamAZ are always good for a title challenge, and this will be our toughest trip since Ural. The home team come out flying, but the defence holds firm and we begin to frustrate them, a couple of cynical bookings picked up towards the end of the half. We work ourselves into the game, and in first half stoppage time manage to nick one on the break, Kharitonov playing Pashtov in behind for the lead. From then on we lock down the game, little attacking intent on our part but equally few chances for the hosts, and the final whistle goes with no further scoring. This could be a massive win at season's end.
    Final Score: 1-0



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    Just read through this thread. Enjoyed it. Shame you jumped ship so quickly at Shinnik, but I do know the feeling. Flying high with Mordovia now. Keep it up.
    Last edited by Mike7077; 31-03-2012 at 21:30.

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    Looking good now.

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    Thanks guys, it's been a tough ride since leaving Shinnik but this season is going incredibly!

    April 2015

    vs Torpedo Vladimir
    Torpedo have built their midtable position on a strong defence, so it's little surprise that we fail to get in behind for the entire first half. When we do fashion even a half chance, our finishing is poor, and in the end it comes down to one chance per team – Startsev pulls off a great save to deny them the lead, and Kadyrov's effort strikes the foot of the visitors' post. A frustrating goalless draw.
    Final Score: 0-0

    atTom Tomsk
    Tom are right up there again, a recent blip pushing them just outside the top four. They start brightly and deservedly take the lead from a corner, but we strike back instantly in impressive fashion, Pashtov's cross deflected and Kadyrov with a stunning improvised volley to tie the game. From then on the pressure is all from the home side, and we can only last until the hour mark before a second corner is headed in. We can't get any momentum, and it's our first defeat in a while.
    Final Score: 1-2

    vs Metallurg-Kuzbass Novokuznetsk
    Thevisitors are 2nd in their maiden First Division season, so we can't underestimate them, especially as we've hardly been amongst the goals ourselves lately. However, all the frustration of the last couple of games is unleashed on poor Metallurg, and they are powerless to stop us. Our usual aerial threat is nothing short of lethal – stand-in centreback Denisov with two unstoppable headers and Hohlovs with another – but the goals arrive from everywhere. Arthur Valikaev scores our goal of the season so far with a superb 30 yard free kick, and our wing pairing of Kharitonov and Krolevets join him on the scoresheet. It's a massacre, it's emphatic, and in such a congested top half it drops the visitors four places. Pure brilliance.
    Final Score: 6-0

    at FC Chita
    Chita are one defeat from relegation, but the unwritten rules of FM are telling me that we won't score after hitting six last time out. Thankfully that proves not to be the case, Sandrkin lashing one into the top corner just ten minutes after setting up Lebedev's opener moments after kick-off. We add a third before the break through Serbian full back Aleksandar Simcevic,and although the hosts pull one back at the death it's pure consolation, the win putting us in a three-way tie for the league lead.
    Final Score: 3-1

    vs Luch-Energiya Vladivostok
    This is the kind of game that can make or break a season. Luch are one of three clubs tied on 60 points at the top (Ural are the other) and are on a great run of eight wins. There are just eight points from the top to Sibir in 8th. Nobody can afford to slip up, so games between the top sides are crucial. As is so often the case in these games, despite the attacking intentions, it's a single goal that settles it, and this time it goes to the visitors as we succumb to the Luch machine. It could have ended 5-4, but we finish poorly as do they, and we slip to3rd with the defeat. We need to recover quickly.
    Final Score: 0-1

    vs Khimki
    Khimki aren't out of the running either, and this is a tough game to try and bounce back in. Too tough it seems, as two first half goals put us firmly on the back foot, and when Zuev's header is judged to be offside our bolt is shot. A second consecutive home loss sees us drop down to 5thplace, and we have five games to stop the rot and try and earn the shot at promotion we've been chasing all season.
    Final Score: 0-2

    at Spartak Nalchik
    Spartak may be having a poor year, but they're no easy opponents and it's a huge relief when Kharitonov slides one in at the near post six minutes in. After half an hour the hosts have a chance when Hohlovs hauls down their striker inside the area. Rather than blowing the whistle, the referee waves play on and seconds later Pashtov lofts the ball into the net to double the lead. Our confidence is shaky though, and ten minutes later two simple goals square the game. At half time all I can do is beg the players not to undo their great work so far this season, and Kharitonov replieswith his second after 49 minutes. He completes a fantastic hat-trick ten minutes from time, and the woodwork saves us from a nervous ending as we claim a crucial victory.
    Final Score: 4-2

    at Dinamo Bryansk
    Now is a bad time to face Bryansk – it took them eight games to record a league win this season, but are currently unbeaten in nine. If you read the first half of the previous game, repeat for this one –Kharitonov setting up Sandrkin and Hohlovs inside ten minutes, then utter capitulation to let them back in by half time. Afterwards it's more of the same, poor defending allowing them to take the lead before Demidov equalises, only for the hosts to make it ten unbeaten with a last minute winner. We go all the way down to 6th, and the season is on the verge of going up in smoke.
    Final Score: 3-4


  46. #46
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    May 2015

    vs SKA-Energiya Khabarovsk
    This is our last home game of the season thanks to some irritating scheduling, so we'll be going all-out against midtable Khabarovsk. What I could really do with is a clean sheet and a comfortable win, and we get it. The goals take a little while to come and require some help, the visiting goalkeeper failing to deal with Valikaev's speculative effort from range, but when Kadyrov seals it in the 70thminute there is no doubt over the result. With other teams around the top taking points off each other, we bounce back up to 4th and the final play-off spot.
    Final Score: 2-0

    at Nizhniy Novgorod
    Nizhniy have had a poor season and sit just far enough above the drop zone to be playing for pride, but they won't roll over for us. In fact they control the start of the match and it takes us half an hour to get going, Kadyrov's breakaway goal rightly ruled out for offside. He repeats the trick early on in a second half we dominate, but third time is the charm as he races onto a through ball. We survive a nervy few moments at the end, but more importantly results from elsewhere guarantee us a play-off spot. Whether we finish 2nd, 3rdor 4th depends on one final round.
    Final Score: 1-0

    at Sibir Novosibirsk
    If KamAZ win their home game against Metallurg-Kuzbass, they go up automatically. If 3rd place Sibir beat us, KamAZ go up regardless of their own result. If KamAZ lose and we win, we go 2nd as a result of a better head-to-head record against KamAZ, and take the promotion. Got that? Good.
    When news of a two goal lead for KamAZ inside 20 minutes works its way through,the game becomes decidedly unnecessary. The first half is slow, dull and void of clear cut chances, and when KamAZ grab a third in stoppage time we might as well not be playing. Perhaps it is that carefree attitude which sparks the second half display from the hosts, as a slick passing move and then a stunning long range freekick put them two to the good. Not wanting to put a downer on a great season, Ruslan Pashtov single-handedly earns us a point, first dancing around his marker and tucking home, then throwing himself at a deep cross for the equaliser. It's fair, it's entertaining, and it's enough to earn us a play-off against Dinamo Moscow, the side I avoided as Shinnik manager all those years ago.
    Final Score: 2-2

    at Dinamo Moscow, Promotion/Relegation Play-Off First Leg
    Still something of a force in Russian football, Dinamo have not fared well since I began my career, finishing 14th,8thand 9th in the last three years. They've only won once since March, but individually they're still better than us all over the pitch, and we'll be up against it. What's more, Startsev has a virus, so backup keeper Sinitsyn makes his first ever Mordovia appearance.
    Luckily for us he's on top form in the opening moments as Dinamo pour forward looking to claim an early advantage. Andriy Voronin is miserably out of sorts which helps, but the first half is one in which we are outplayed without ever feeling as if the next attack would bring a goal. Zhestkov picks up a booking late on so he comes off at the break, but the call for the second period is for more of the same.
    We quickly go one better – Pashtov breaks down the right, his cross is deflected and drops perfectly for Lebedev, his first touch since coming off the bench finding the back of the net. It's an unbelievable start to the half, and from then on we are almost Dinamo's equal, our momentum and their dispondency levelling the playing field. It isn't pretty – we collect no less than seven bookings as we fight to stay in the lead – but it's more than enough, and we take an invaluable lead back to Saransk.
    Final Score: 1-0

    vs Dinamo Moscow, Promotion/Relegation Play-Off Second Leg
    Startsev returns, Krolevets can't make the bench and Lebedev gets the start up front as we seek to preserve our lead from the first leg. Annoyingly the latter is injured just 25 minutes in, by which I'm tempted to throw on another midfielder just to try and keep the ball – Dinamo wingers Gatagov and Niakhaichyk are tearing us apart on the flanks, but some poor final balls, bad finishing and good goalkeeping from Startsev keep us level at the break.
    The second half is more of the second, and it takes us until the hour mark to get a first shot off, a poor effort from Sandrkin drifting wide. Then, with a quarter of an hour remaining, disaster strikes – Gatagov gets to the byline and knocks it back to the full back, whose deep cross is perfect for Niakhaichyk to head in. Not knowing whether to push for a goal and risk losing an insurmountable away goal or to hold out for extra time, I twist and throw men forward. From the kickoff, Dinamo touch the ball just twice in lost tackles as we work the ball forward, and Kharitonov's ball finds Sandrkin bursting into the box. As he goes to cut it back he is wiped out by the challenge of Luke Wilkshere, and it's a clear penalty. As a city holds its breath, captain Simcevicsteps up to drill the ball into the top corner, Dinamo sink to their knees in despair, and the final ten minutes are irrelevant. We are going up!
    Final Score: 1-1
    Mordovia Saransk win 2-1 on aggregate and are promoted to the Premier League.




    Manager's Thoughts:
    Unbelievable. When we lost those two home games in a row on the stretch, I genuinely thought we'd blown it. It's crazy to think that one more win and we'd have gone up automatically, but it's all immaterial now. Dinamo were wasteful but we stuck at it, and the move that led to the penalty was inspired. It's still hard to believe we've done it.

    In fact, the whole season has been one big surprise. With the firesale of all the top earners in the summer, the squad has one or two standout players in Kharitonov, Valikaev, Hohjovs and Startsev, but the majority are thoroughly average and the depth is poor. The teenagers did well when called upon but will be nowhere near ready for the top flight, and whether or not we can afford to keep them is another matter entirely. That Lebedev top-scored for us with just nine goals speak volumes about the side, and while they've performed brilliantly, I can't help but feel that our promotion is thanks in part to the weakness of the league.

    I've got one more year on my contract, but I'm unsure what to do. Whilst I don't want to become known as a First Division specialist, Dinamo are sure to sack their manager and I expect to be one of the favourites – if not, I stand a good chance of hopping on the merry-go-round elsewhere. I can't help but feel that Mordovia, like Shinnik, will forever be hindered by their finances, and I don't want to spend my entire career scrimping and saving. If opportunity calls, I shall take it with both hands.

  47. #47
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    Great late recovery, hope you have a better time of the Premier League this time.

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