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neilhoskins77

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About neilhoskins77

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    Newcastle-Upon-Tyne & Cwmbran, South Wales

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    Bristol.R & Newcastle Utd

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    Lokomotiv Minsk (Belarus First League - FM09)

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  1. Thursday 5th September 2013 My refusal to distance myself from the rumours that I would be a candidate to take the job the at Dinamo didn't exactly go down very well, but as I didn't actually go as far as throwing my hat into the ring for the vacancy, the damage was fairly limited. The damage to Yuriy Ryzhko's shin is all healed up, and the midfielder was back in training today, while one of his younger team mates, Egor Romanovskiy, was playing for Belarus Under-19's in Austria. The 18 year old right back, who has played seven times in the League this season for Lokomotiv, captained the side, and opened the scoring just after the half hour mark. Christian Yilmaz of Rapid Vienna equalised, before another Minsk based player, striker Igor Mamedov of Zvezda-BGU Minsk, put Belarus back in front again early in the second half. Yilmaz would have the final say though, equalising for a second time with twenty minutes remaining to leave this one in a 2-2 draw. Friday 6th September That empty spot in the treatment room didn't remain empty for long, as veteran utility player Maxim Gukailo twisted his knee in training this morning, and will be unavailable for between two and three weeks. While that training session was going on, illustrious neighbours Dinamo were announcing twice capped former Belarus International player Alexandr Lisovskiy as their new manager. It's his second job in the hot seat, having been manager at FC Smorgon for five seasons up till the end of the last campaign. Some in the media find his appointment a strange one, as he has no connection with the Minsk giants, but did spend five seasons as a player with BATE Borisov. Saturday 7th September After winning five of their first six matches in their Qualifying Group 6 for next summers FIFA World Cup Finals in Brazil, things are now starting to come apart somewhat for Belarus. Having been beaten 3-1 by Switzerland at home, they came back with a routine 5-0 win over San Marino. They will need a similar response in midweek, as they are beaten 2-0 in Vienna today by Austria. An early goal from FC Twente striker Marko Arnautovic sent the Austrians on their way, and when Saturn Moskovskaya Oblast full back Jan Tigorev was shown a straight red card midway through the first half, Belarus were punished by Hamburger SV winger Ümit Korkmaz, who scored just one minute later. Austria would also finish the match with ten men, Middlesbrough centre back Emanuel Pogatetz picking up a second booking in the 70th minute. That leaves Belarus top of the group by virtue of goal difference only now ahead of Israel who put seven past San Marino in Ramat-Gan. The two nations meet in midweek at the Dinamo Stadium in Minsk. With away matches against the Czech Republic and Switzerland next month, a win is vital for Belarus in that match. Sunday 8th September Moving away from Belarus altogether for just a moment, the news has reached me that a player I signed twice has been forced to retire through injury. 23 year old left winger James McLean never realised the potential that many believed he had, but when he signed for one of my teams for the first time at Lurgan Celtic, he was a big part in the club winning promotion as Northern Irish Second Division Champions in 2010. Later that same year I moved on to Scotland and took over at Ayr United, with the winger one of five players I took with me from my old club. Unfortunately, a cruciate ligament injury has now brought down the curtain on a career that never really threatened to reach the heights of its real life path. Monday 9th September Alexey Rios is the only player from Lokomotiv selected in the First League Team of the Week. Wednesday 11th September It's a huge evening for football in Belarus, and a full house of 40,000 pack into the Dinamo Stadium to watch the National Team take on Israel. They would go home happy as well, Sampdoria midfielder Mikhail Sivakov opening the scoring with a penalty just after the half hour mark, and Bursaspor attacking midfielder Anton Putsilo scoring the second with twenty minutes left, securing a huge 2-0 win. They are now three points in front of Israel with just two matches remaining, and Czech Republic and Switzerland are just a point further back. A win in the Czech Republic next month will secure Belarus' place in the World Cup. Failure to win will mean they will likely need a win in Switzerland in their final match. A far superior goal difference is a plus, though the Czech's do still have a home match with San Marino in the last round. Friday 13th September Those of a superstitious nature will have been pleased that Belarus didn't have to play their International match on this notoriously unlucky day. With attention returning to domestic matters this weekend, there is nothing unlucky about our news that Nikolay Shvydakov is back in training today after recovering from his arm injury, the skipper will be in contention for a place in the side for tomorrows League match. That match will be against one of the clubs that are currently ahead of us and that we will be looking to overtake before the seasons end, Vedrich-97 Rechitsa. They are sat in third place going into this match having won their last three games, and hold a four point advantage over us. A win today will put us within striking distance of them, but we will have to overcome our still erratic away form, and on that basis, the bookies have the home side as slight favourites. Our opponents manager Igor Frolov has commented on how his sides chances will depend on their ability to be able to deal with our current man in form, right winger Alexey Rios. I tell the press that right now, he is on top form and we were hopeful it would continue for some time yet too. Saturday 14th September Belarusian First League Tsentralniy, Rechitsa Vedrich-97 Rechitsa v Lokomotiv Minsk Attendance :- 2,573. Weather :- Dry, 16c. There are just two changes from the win over bottom of the table FC Baranovichi last time out, and both are amongst the substitutes, with the starting eleven remaining unchanged. Maxim Gukailo's injury see's a recall to the matchday squad for Belarus Under-19 Captain and right back, Egor Romanovskiy. Further down the substitutes bench, Sergey Krot is dropped, with our own Captain and talisman striker Nikolay Shvydakov back in the fold following his injury. A good start would be crucial for us today, but it almost went the other way when Igor Zangiev was caught flat footed by Denys Pshenchyni's knock down, and Roman Loktionov strode through the middle, fortunately sending his shot well wide of the target. And we would actually get our good start too, Alexey Rios rounding Alexey Krachenko and sending over a cross towards the edge of the box, Zangiev showed a deft touch to send it left and beyond a defender, right into the path of Georgy Schennikov, who lifted it beyond Ilja Kiselev and into the net to open the scoring, Vedrich complaining that the winger was offside, but it wasn't even close. Now we had to try and do what we had failed to do so often on the road this season, play smart and keep this lead intact. There were signs that our hosts might be about to lose their composure, with Andrey Bas picking up a booking for a crude challenge on Schennikov out on halfway. We were playing the ball around nicely, trying to tire out the opposition, getting the ball out wide at every opportunity, and getting our strikers in the game, Pshenychnyi cutting the ball into the path of Lukasz Zuk, only a last ditch tackle preventing him maybe adding a second. We kept turning the screw, Schennikov having a shot on the turn blocked and cleared behind, Rios' header from the resulting corner cleared off the line by Mikhail Kotin. When Vedrich did try and put pressure on us, Dmitriy Lebedev's run into the box was halted by the tag team of Zangiev and Maxim Ivanenko, the striker furious a penalty wasn't awarded. That signaled the start of a Vedrich revival, as Loktionov missed the target from a tight angle after some nice passing played him into space, before he sent a through ball into the pass of Lebedev, who again went down, this time under the challenge of Maxim Gorbach, again the referee suitably unimpressed. Our lead remained intact at the break, but it should have been more, and we might yet need more to come away with the full haul of points. I told the players that I was pleased with their work so far, but that I wanted to see them make the most of the chances that may come our way, and make sure the points went in the bag and on the bus home with us. Vedrich would of course have other ideas, and Kotin's early second half through ball picked out Loktionov after Ivanenko stepped up and was caught out. The striker attempted to round Dmitry Biryukov, the keeper thrusting out a hand and pushing the ball away from danger at the last second. Just over ten minutes after the restart we would get a helping hand. Mere moments after picking up a booking for a push on Pshenychyni, Captain of the home side Yuriy Kartai blasted a free kick into the wall, and his frustration got the better of him as he attempted to prevent Pshenychyni counter attacking, leaving his feet and bringing down the striker on halfway, and leaving the ref with no option but to produce a quick second yellow, which as we all know, is followed by an equally swift red card. Now we had a golden opportunity to haul ourselves right back into the promotion race, only to watch it snatched from us just over ten minutes later with a piece of brilliance. With a free kick well over thirty yards out, Pavel Evseenko touched the ball sideways to Lebedev. He moved forward slowly, no one confronting him as they expected him to send a diagonal pass into the centre. He didn't. Instead, he launched a spectacular curling shot with no small amount of power from thirty yards out, with beat Biryukov all ends up and found the top corner to level the match up. It was a superb strike. Now it was our turn to face some pressure, though in fairness to my players, they didn't give up anything easy, and all Vedrich could muster was a shot from Alexandr Savinov that Biryukov caught quite easily. While a point wasn't exactly the end of the world, it wasn't the most desirable result either, and with a little over ten ticks left on the clock, I decided we should go for it. Vladimir Malykh was removed from the back four, which would be reduced to a back three with Dmitry Chaka and Ivanenko asked to pinch in, Nikolay Shvydakov came on to make it a three up front. My wide players were told to move further up the park, and Eduard Chudnovsky was moved up to play behind the strikers, leaving only Yuriy Ryzhko in midfield, as he replaced Zangiev at the same time. Did that work? Well, almost. After Savinov sent a header wide when he should have done better, a Schennikov corner found Ivanenko, and his leap and header were perfect, apart from an outstanding diving stop from Kiselev, who had no real right to get close to that one. Frustration against the ten men, if you don't believe me ask Chaka, who was frustrated enough to earn himself a late booking for a foul he didn't need to commit. Vedrich-97 Rechitsa (0) 1 - Dmitriy Lebedev (68) Lokomotiv Minsk (1) 1 - Georgy Schennikov (5) Dmitry Biryukov; Dmirty Chaka, Valdimir Malykh (Nikolay Shvydakov 79), Maxim Gorbach ©, Maxim Ivanenko; Igor Zangiev (Yuriy Ryzhko 79), Eduard Chudnovsky; Alexey Rios, Georgy Schennikov; Lukasz Zuk, Denys Pshenychyni. Unused Substitutes :- Egor Romanovskiy, Vladimir Zuhbaia (GK), Alexey Yesipenok, Alexandr Degterev, Alexey Razmyslovich. Bookings :- Dmitry Chaka 86 Possession :- 42% - 58%. Man of the Match :- Dmitriy Lebedev (Vedrich-97 Rechitsa). I dread to think how many points we have lost from winning positions this season, and at some point I may work it out, but for now lets just say I'm pretty sure it's a significant number, and now it has another two added to it. Smorgon, who we face in the First Leg of our Cup tie in midweek, win again, carrying on serenely towards their seemingly inevitable promotion. Savit and Slavia Mozyr are both held to goalless draws away from home against sides they would have expected to beat, meaning we have lost nothing I guess, other than another game chalked off, a number that is starting to run down quickly as we fast approach the run-in this season. 2013 Belarusian First League, Up To & Including Saturday 14th September 2013 | Pos | Inf | Team | | Pld | Won | Drn | Lst | For | Ag | G.D. | Pts | | 1st | | Smorgon | | 21 | 15 | 3 | 3 | 37 | 17 | +20 | 48 | | 2nd | | Slavia Mozyr | | 21 | 13 | 4 | 4 | 42 | 19 | +23 | 43 | -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- | 3rd | | Vedrich Rechitsa | | 21 | 12 | 5 | 4 | 37 | 21 | +16 | 41 | | 4th | | Savit | | 21 | 12 | 5 | 4 | 29 | 16 | +13 | 41 | | 5th | | Lokomotiv Minsk | | 21 | 10 | 7 | 4 | 33 | 19 | +14 | 37 | | 6th | | Khimik Svetlogorsk | | 21 | 11 | 3 | 7 | 24 | 22 | +2 | 36 | --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  2. Apologies for another fairly lengthy lay off readers. Health issues once more have prevented me being able to play and write for a few weeks. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Monday 2nd September 2013 Maxim Gorbach has six goals so far this season, matching his best ever campaign from nearly a decade ago when he was starting out with Torpedo Minsk. He is in the middle of his fourth season as a Lokomotiv player, and he will be here a while yet as well, signing a two year contract extension that will take him through to the end of the 2015 campaign. But that isn't the big news, as he has also taken a pay cut to sign the new deal, almost halving his weekly salary, down from £775 to £400. Tuesday 3rd September After that win on the weekend, we are looking to build some much needed momentum in the League, and have the opportunity to do that tomorrow evening with a home match against bottom of the table club FC Baranovichi. Seven points from safety and anchored to the foot of the table, they don't have a win from their last eleven League matches. You can get odds as high as 10/1 on them breaking that run tomorrow at Lokomotiv Stadium. Wednesday 4th September Belarusian First League Lokomotiv Stadium, Minsk Lokomotiv Minsk v FC Baranovichi Attendance :- 445. Weather :- Breezy, 17c. One change for this match following our win on the weekend, and it's an enforced switch, Nikolay Shvydakov with another spell on the sidelines, and Denis Pshenychnyi replacing him, leaving us with a very young strike force starting this match up front. Evgeniy Drozd is left out of the matchday squad, Alexandr Degterev and Sergey Krot both stepping back into the squad for substitutes duty. After a slow start to the match, we went into our default mode, trying to punish our opponents from set pieces. Georgy Schennikov's corner on the quarter of an hour mark picked out Alexey Rios at the near post, who used the power already on the ball and redirected it, the ball crashing back off the cross bar. Moments later he connected at the near post again, this time the ball delivered from the opposite side by Eduard Chudnovsky, that one flashing wide of the goal frame. At the other end, a Baranovichi counter attack saw Dmytro Semikhov send in a curling shot from range that didn't quite curl in enough to trouble Dmitry Biryukov. A through ball from Schennikov found Denys Pshenychyni, but the striker hadn't quite held his run long enough to snap the offside trap open, and then he collected the ball from Rios and tried to send it across goal, Roman Vintsukovskiy appearing to use his arm to block it, the ref not sharing that view. The next time the striker got the ball in the penalty box he was played in by Igor Zangiev and Rios, turning his marker and sending a shot across goal that just missed the target. Back to the corners then, and Schennikov went to the far post this time, Maxim Ivanenko winning the ball in the air, but not able to squeeze it on to the target, hitting the outside of the upright. Pshenychyni and Alexandr Verbitskiy got themselves involved in a tangle that resulted in both being yellow carded, before the striker hit the post with a header from close range after getting on the end of a Schennikov cross. Half time, and still goalless. The pressure continued in the early stages of the second half, and Schennikov got into the box on the left, missing the target on the near post side. The winger got the ball again quickly, and this time he tried a cross, a low one that picked out Rios, who had got on the goal side of his marker and sidefooted the ball into the net from six yards out. It had taken a while, but we had finally found a way through. Now we were setting about getting a second and killing off our visitors, and Schennikov was really causing them problems, running past three of their defenders but then failing to pick out a team mate with his cross. Still, there was still those ever reliable corner kicks, and Schennikov picked out Rios again in the 70th minute, and the wingers header found the net via the underside of the cross bar, doubling our lead with his second goal of the evening. With the job seemingly done, I decided to ring the changes in the 77th minute, making all four of my substitutions in one go. Zangiev, Chudnovsky, Rios and Pshenychyni all came off, replaced by Mariusz Kaczmarek, Alexandr Degterev, Alexey Razmyslovich and Sergey Krot. With our visitors making their own changes in fairly quick order as well, the flow of the game was severely disrupted. That said, we did nearly get a third, and really should have got it too, Schennikov picking a pass through the Baranovichi back line to find Lukasz Zuk unmarked in the box, but he shanked his shot wide of the target. Not that it mattered too much today. Lokomotiv Minsk (0) 2 - Alexey Rios (49,70) FC Baranovichi (0) 0 Dmitry Biryukov; Dmitry Chaka, Vladimir Malykh, Maxim Gorbach ©, Maxim Ivanenko; Igor Zangiev (Mariusz Kaczmarek 77), Eduard Chudnovsky (Alexandr Degterev 77), Alexey Rios (ALexey Razmyslovich 77), Georgy Schennikov; Lukasz Zuk, Denys Pshenychyni (Sergey Krot 77). Unused Substitutes :- Alexey Yesipenok, Vladimir Zuhbaia (GK), Maxim Gukailo. Bookings :- Denys Pshenychyni 39 Possession :- 61% - 39%. Man of the Match :- Alexey Rios (Lokomotiv Minsk). For the second match in a row it is one of our wingers who earns the man of the match award, and while it could have gone to either of the pair, it's Alexey Rios who takes the plaudits today, netting both goals to earn us three more vital points. The award could easily have gone to Georgy Schennikov, who was an absolute nuisance for the defence of the visitors all evening, and setup both goals. It's worth noting at this point that while the season isn't quite going as we had hoped right now, our improvement on last season has been in no small part down to the increased productivity from our wingers. Last season saw Rios and Schennikov notch four goals and seven assists between them from 45 League appearances. So far this season they have combined for eight goals and nine assists in 38 League appearances. On a two game winning streak, we are still far from out of the reckoning to earn promotion this season, which if we achieved it might make the most popular manager in Minsk. Not a title that Vladimir Kurnev will be up for, the 62 year old has been sacked by Dinamo Minsk today with the club slipping down to seventh in the top tier. The early betting has me as third favourite for his job.
  3. Monday 26th August 2013 With only four days or so remaining of the Transfer Window, we are again hearing the rumours that Russian First Division club Nosta Novotroitsk are preparing a bid of around £¼million. There is nothing at all to suggest that Nosta can afford a transfer fee of that size, and while Schennikov himself does nothing to dismiss the reports, I give them no credit whatsoever, and don't even bother to reply. Our hopes of signing Konstantn Karasev, the now 20 year old right sided Ukraine Under-21 International player from BATE Borisov, are over. The right back who I wanted to buy and convert into a right winger has elected to move to Norway, and has now signed for Stabæk for an absolute bargain fee of £7,000, and he will be hoping to help them avoid relegation for the Premier Division. Tuesday 27th August Good news is always welcome, and today's news is most certainly that. The 22 year old who is fast becoming our talisman, Eduard Chudnovsky, has returned to training ahead of another crucial match this weekend after recovering from his knee injury. Wednesday 28th August He isn't the only one back from injury either, as veteran left back Maxim Gukailo returns to training as well today. He injured his shin almost two weeks ago, and it's good to see our injury issues are quickly clearing up. Denis Lekhavitskiy has left, joining Russian First Division side Shinnik Yaroslavl for £2,000. His new side are currently in the midfield pack, though not yet clear enough of the relegation fight to be able to stop looking over their shoulders. £100 a week is cleared from our wage bill, and we bank a couple of grand instead of paying out to release a player. With one player gone, another tells the press that he needs more regular First Team football if he isn't going to be next in the queue to leave. 20 year old Mariusz Kaczmarek states that he wants to make a go of it at Lokomotiv, but if the route to the First Team in blocked, but he is at the age where regular football is vital to his development. I tell him that I agree with him, but I'd rather see him make his name on the park rather than in the papers. He is relishing the chance to prove he merits a place in our team. Thursday 29th August Our week of good news continues, with Alexandr Degterev also back in training now after three weeks on the sidelines with a groin injury. With the Transfer Window closing tomorrow, I don't now see any real need for us to try and bring in any reinforcements with our injuries clearing up nicely. Saturday 31st August With the Transfer Window now closed and no further departures or arrivals at the club, we can concentrate on the rest of the season and trying to get ourselves back into the promotion race. We start that process tomorrow as we are visited by the side directly above us in the League table, Savit Mogilev. A win against them would leave us four points behind them, and the news that Slavia Mozyr have been beaten today away to Zvezda-BGU Minsk is a good start to our weekend. No such luck with the other two sides above us, FC Smorgon and Vedrich Rechitsa both pick up wins. 2013 Belarusian First League Table, Up To & Including Saturday 31st August 2013 | Pos | Inf | Team | | Pld | Won | Drn | Lst | For | Ag | G.D. | Pts | | 1st | | Smorgon | | 19 | 14 | 3 | 2 | 33 | 15 | +18 | 45 | | 2nd | | Slavia Mozyr | | 19 | 12 | 3 | 4 | 39 | 18 | +21 | 39 | -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- | 3rd | | Vedrich Rechitsa | | 19 | 11 | 4 | 4 | 34 | 19 | +15 | 37 | | 4th | | Savit | | 18 | 11 | 4 | 3 | 28 | 15 | +13 | 37 | | 5th | | Lokomotiv Minsk | | 18 | 8 | 6 | 4 | 29 | 18 | +11 | 30 | | 6th | | Khimik Svetlogorsk | | 19 | 9 | 3 | 7 | 19 | 20 | -1 | 30 | | 7th | | Belshina | | 19 | 7 | 8 | 4 | 13 | 11 | +2 | 29 | | 8th | | Mikashevichi | | 19 | 7 | 7 | 5 | 22 | 12 | +10 | 28 | | 9th | | Zvezda-BGU | | 19 | 7 | 6 | 6 | 25 | 20 | +5 | 27 | | 10th | | Lida | | 19 | 7 | 2 | 10 | 22 | 33 | -11 | 23 | | 11th | | Vertical | | 19 | 5 | 5 | 9 | 25 | 33 | -8 | 20 | | 12th | | Neman Mosty | | 19 | 5 | 4 | 10 | 21 | 29 | -8 | 19 | | 13th | | Belcard | | 19 | 4 | 4 | 11 | 17 | 25 | -8 | 16 | | 14th | | Darida | | 19 | 3 | 7 | 9 | 10 | 25 | -15 | 16 | -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- | 15th | | Livadia | | 19 | 3 | 3 | 13 | 11 | 36 | -25 | 12 | | 16th | | Baranovichi | | 19 | 2 | 3 | 14 | 13 | 32 | -19 | 9 | -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Sunday 1st September 2013 A bunch of contracts for our players now only have three left to run. The two main ones belong to Maxim Gorbach and Alexey Razmyslovich. The jury remains out on the requirement to keep the latter, but Gorbach is absolutely a player we want to remain at Lokomotiv, and discussions start on a new deal. With Gorbach apparently willing to accept what would be a sizeable wage cut to remain at the club, it would be a surprise if these negotiations went anything other than well. September is going to be a very, very busy month for us. Over the next four weeks our schedule has us set for half a dozen League matches, and also the First Leg of our Belarusian Cup Third Round tie. There is also a ten day break from domestic action due to an International Break, condensing all that action into an even smaller period of time. It's starting to feel like make or break time is upon us. Belarusian First League Lokomotiv Stadium, Minsk Lokomotiv Minsk v Savit Mogilev Attendance :- 440. Weather :- Gusty, Wet 3c. I'd like to think the weather was a contributing factor to our poor attendance, but I very much doubt it, as the push on we were getting earlier in the campaign is very much over, and our figures have returned to last years lowly numbers. After a good run in the side, Vladimir Zuhbaia is dropped back to the bench today, and Dmitry Biryukov returns for his tenth League start of the season. Eduard Chudnovsky gets an immediate return to the side after his recovery from injury, displacing Evgeniy Drozd who is back on the bench. That bench also sees Maxim Gukailo return in place of Egor Romanovskiy, and Sergey Krot is dropped from the matchday squad. An early long throw into the box from Maxim Ivanenko found Alexey Rios, and he managed to bring the ball down and wiggle himself into a bit of room to get a shot in, Mikhail Komarov blocking that effort. Rios would have another try at the quarter of an hour mark, a free kick from the right corner of the box that he swung around the wall and right across the face of the goalmouth. It wasn't long before Savit starting putting on some pressure though, and Artem Shubin reacted quickest to a flick on, and forced a smart stop out of Dmitry Biryukov, while our attacking intent was starting to become stifled by too many wayward passes. Instead, we would have to defend, Sergey Kondrat'ev's corner was met with a perfect volley by Artem Koryagin, which was kept out by an equally great save from Biryukov. He wouldn't have managed to get to Maxim Tsigalko's 25th minute curler from the edge of the box, fortunately that one was just too high. Ten minutes later, and just moments after Maxim Gorbach had been booked, the centre back launched himself into a tackle to prevent a long throw into our box finding it's target, fortunately timing that one superbly. Tsigalko had another try as the pressure on us continued, this time his shot was on target, but Biryukov was equal to that one. Still 0-0 at half time, and maybe we were a little fortunate to be on level terms. It was a bit surprising to see Savit make a defensive move at the break, Evgeny Savostjanov replaced by Roman Trepachkin. And it was us who started the second half on the front foot, Georgy Schennikov slinging in a wicked low cross that Lukasz Zuk felt he was impeded from reaching, the ref didn't agree. We pressed on, a couple of corners forcing Savit's rearguard into some work, and to survive another penalty shout, this time Rios going over from a tackle by Sergey Tsvetinskiy as they tussled for a loose ball in the box, again the answer was no. Almost midway through the half, Nikolay Shvydakov hooked the ball goalwards from a Rios cross, Komarov blocking it, then getting lucky as the ball bounced right back to him from the shins of Zuk. That would be the skippers last contribution, as he suffered an injury and was replaced by Denis Pshenychnyi, with Igor Zangiev substituted for Mariusz Kaczmarek at the same time. Five minutes later a Rios cross was only partly cleared, and Eduard Chudnovsky brought the ball down and was pushed to the floor by Andrey Leschinskiy, third time lucky, this time the ref did point to the spot! With Shvydakov off the park, it would be one of the deputy spot kick takers who would face the pressure penalty, but it would not be Chudnovsky this time, as newly brought on Mariusz Kaczmarek is above him in the pecking order. The 20 year old confidently stepped up and struck the ball into the bottom corner to score his first ever Lokomotiv goal and earn us a priceless lead! Now we had to survive for around twenty minutes to put a vital three points on the board, and Denis Klebanyuk sent in a shot from 20 yards that was well over the bar. That was just the beginning though, and he was much closer moments later with a curling shot on the turn that got beyond Biryukov and scraped past the outside of the post. With just under ten minutes to go, Schennikov picked off a pass in midfield and sped forward, before releasing Denis Pshenychnyi between the centre backs. The striker showed great pace to get himself clear, and had just Komarov to beat. He tried to round the keeper, but pushed himself too wide and from a very acute angle he couldn't get the ball past the keeper and a chance to put this one to bed had gone. I didn't want to go to a defensive mindset after what happened last time, but with the ball not sticking up the park, we had to get more bodies back in our own third to make life difficult for Savit. So Chudnovsky and Zuk came off, with Alexey Yesipenok and Evgeniy Drozd coming on. Drozd would play just behind Pshenychnyi, with five across the back, and then Kaczmarek in front of them and Schennikov and Rios playing wing back just ahead of the full backs, designed to make it even more difficult for Savit to get crosses into our box. And difficult it was as well, Dmitry Chaka twice blocking attempts to centre the ball, and when one did get across, Gorbach won his aerial battle and cleared the ball. So they tried through the middle instead, so Chaka stepped infield to help out and marshaled Ivan Petruchik wider than he would have liked, Rios then joining him to force him away from goal. The ball came right back though, and Valeriy Tarasov took a shot from the edge of the box that thumped back off the cross bar before being cleared. Forced to resort to shooting from range, Leschinskiy and Petruchik both sent shots over the bar, and we had survived for a much needed win. Lokomotiv Minsk (0) 1 - Mariusz Kaczmarek (73 pen) Savit Mogilev (0) 0 Dmitry Biryukov; Dmitry Chaka, Vladimir Malykh, Maxim Gorbach, Maxim Ivanenko; Igor Zangiev (Mariusz Kaczmarek 66), Eduard Chudnovsky (Evgeniy Drozd 83); Alexey Rios, Georgy Schennikov; Lukasz Zuk (Alexey Yesipenok 83), Nikolay Shvydakov (inj - Denis Pshenychnyi 66). Unused Substitutes :- Vladimir Zuhbaia (GK), Maxim Gukailo, Alexey Razmyslovich. Bookings :- Maxim Gorbach 33 Possession :- 53% - 47%. Man of the Match :- Georgy Schennikov (Lokomotiv Minsk). There is certainly a case for saying that we rode our luck there, and that was apparently the view in the media, with our win labelled as 'laboured' and 'fortuitous'. We will take it of course, and with another home match to come in midweek before the International Break, we have to try and kick on and make this the start of a good run as we snap the streak of three matches without a win. As has often been the case this season, there is a price to pay for a win, and this time it's Nikolay Shvydakov. The striker damaged an elbow after an awkward landing from a challenge for a header, and will be out for up to two weeks. It's not a huge deal, as there is a break coming up, but he won't be available for the Wednesday evening fixture against bottom of the table side FC Baranovichi. We will have Maxim Ivanenko available though. The left back was one of four players called up for Belarus Under-19 International duty, but he would have missed the midweek League game, and has been withdrawn from the squad as a result, the remaining trio unlikely to be involved and allowed to make the trip for a Friendly in Ritzing against Austria next Thursday. Also involved in International duty is Vladimir Zuhbaia, the goalkeeper called up into the Georgia squad for FIFA World Cup Qualifying Group 4 matches in Tbilisi against Group leaders Greece, and then against second placed Belgium in Liège. While out of contention themselves, Georgia could still have a say in who qualifies, and England would dearly love a favour from them, the three teams at the top all locked together on thirteen points. The Board remain satisfied with how things are going, still under the impression that we can achieve promotion this season. They are happy with our 3-0 win over FC Lida, which was over six weeks ago now. They have concerns over the mood in the dressing room right now with several players considering their futures, and they are monitoring the situation. The club recorded a loss of over £38,000 in August.
  4. I'd like to thank my Mother and Father, who have expressed constant disappointment in me for many, many years. I may print this off and stick it on the fridge......
  5. Monday 19th August 2013 We have finally heard back from the Higher League club we are trying to buy a player from. They haven't received any other offers for the player, but they want some more money from us. They have negotiated our £10,000 offer up to £15,000, and I agree to meet their price. I haven't yet agreed to meet Vladimir Zuhbaia's price as we negotiate a new contract with the Georgian keeper who has been enjoying a run in the First Team over recent weeks. He is out of contract at the end of the season, and I'm trying to bring down his wage a little, making the point that he is no longer the first choice that he was when he signed the current deal. He has rejected our first offer, and a second is tabled. Hopefully we will start to see our injury problems ease a little this week, and we have 24 year old Ukrainian striker Denis Pshenychnyi back in training today. Despite not yet finding the net, the 6'2 forward has been playing quite well, and has three assists from five League matches, two of those appearances coming from the bench. Tuesday 20th August With our £15,000 offer accepted by his club, we can now start negotiating personal terms with the player. He isn't overly keen, despite his desperation for First Team football. However, I have offered him almost double the money he is on with his current club, and a good signing on fee as well, spurred on by our current injury woes making a new signing a good way to boost the morale of everyone at the club. Thankfully, our injury issues are starting to clear a little, and we have another player returning to training today, with 18 year old Maxim Ivanenko's return a timely one now Maxim Gukailo has also been sidelined. Whether he can get himself fit for this Saturday's trip to Belshina Bobruisk however, is up for debate. Wednesday 21st August At the second time of asking, we agree a one year contract extension with Vladimir Zuhbaia that will take the Georgian goalkeeper through to the end of next season. I didn't manage to trim too much money from the 27 year old's weekly wage, managing to bring it down only from £575 to £550, however we have almost halved his appearance fee and also taken some money from his clean sheet bonus, and he has four of them to his name already this campaign. Thursday 22nd August 26 year old out of favour centre back Denis Lekhavitskiy has been told today that he has no future at Lokomotiv Stadium, and that it would be in his interests to assist with the search for a new club. With well over a year left on his contract, I'd rather not buy him out of his deal if we can help it. Friday 23rd August The Transfer Window will close a week from today, and we could yet see both arrivals and departures at Lokomotiv, or we could just as easily see no business being done at all. Having done most of my recruitment work through the winter, it's unlikely there will be a last minute flood of arrivals at the club. It's also unlikely there will be a flood of bets on us tomorrow, our away form is looking fairly miserable, but it will need to improve and quickly. Another loss on our travels tomorrow to Belshina Bobruisk will leave us as very much outsiders in the promotion race. Belshina are attempting to resurrect their season after losing half of their opening eight games. Since then though they have gone unbeaten in nine matches, and they are tough to score against, four wins and five goalless draws showing that. Their main man is forward Ivan Shelest, a 6'4 tall Ukrainian forward who is in his first season in Belarus after joining the club for £7,000 from Tytan Armyansk. Centre back Denis Lekhavitskiy looks set to be on his way before the Transfer Window comes to a close, with four offers received for him today, all from Russian First Division clubs. Shinnik Yaroslavl, Metallurg Krasnoyarsk, Mashuk-KMV Pyatigorsk and our pre-season opponents Salyut-Energia Belgorod have all met our asking price of £2,000 and been given permission to speak to the player who hasn't even looked particularly good while playing for our Reserve side SKVICh. Saturday 24th August Belarusian First League Spartak, Bobruisk Belshina Bobruisk v Lokomotiv Minsk Attendance :- 1,535. Weather :- Breezy, 26c. We arrive in Bobruisk for what is probably the biggest day of our League campaign so far. While defeat isn't exactly a full blown disaster, it will mean we will have a huge amount of work to do to get our noses back in the hunt for promotion. A draw would be slightly better, but not much. Our starting lineup shows two changes, both as a result of injuries, Maxim Ivanenko called into action on his return from his own injury, replacing Maxim Gukailo at left back, while Evgeniy Drozd steps in for Yuriy Ryzhko in the centre of the park. Striker Denis Pshenychnyi is available and is amongst the substitutes. It was a frantic start to the match, with both sides showing early nerves. Alexey Rios' cross to the near post picked out Nikolay Shvydakov. With no room for a shot, he picked out Georgy Schennikov with a pass lifted to the far post, the Russian winger catching it on the half volley, Andriy Novak blocking it, and then having to stretch out a hand to prevent Lukasz Zuk knocking in the loose rebound. Belshina counter attacked, and Volodymyr Bobylev sent a the ball down the right for them. Maxim Ivanenko thought he had it covered, but Ivan Shelest had the pace on him, our left back reached out and hauled him back to earn himself a very early yellow card, with Igor Zangiev hurt in a collision with the Belshina forward as he had chased back and tried to bail Ivanenko out. He would be okay to continue, but individual errors were starting to cause us worries, Vladimir Malykh giving the ball away in his own half, Ivavenko having to make his tackle a well timed one on Bobylev as he weaved through our defence. Our luck ran out just after the half hour mark though, Dmitry Petrenko sending a pass to Shelest, and he made ground down the right before sending a low cross into the centre, Vitaly Mironov shooting first time from near the penalty spot and guiding his shot past Vladimir Zuhbaia and into the net via the inside of the far post. Now we had a real problem, and our response was a Schennikov corner to the far post that Ivanenko headed against the outside of the upright, and a Zangiev curler from range that Novak fielded without too many difficulties. We would need a superb second half performance, and I decided that I just couldn't take the risk of Ivanenko earning a second yellow, and the left back came off, Schennikov would sit back in the full back role, and Alexey Razmyslovich would come on to play ahead of him on the left wing. Reorganising is never a great thing when you're chasing a match, but the early signs were promising in the second half, with some nice passing earning us some good possession and territory, and Razmyslovich keen to take on his marker. Zuk was coming into the match as well, and chased down a pass over the top from Zangiev and then cut into the box. Dmitriy Rogovik came across to meet him, and Zuk went over, maybe a little easily, but certainly helped on his way. The ref shook his head emphatically. When the ball went out of play, the young striker pleaded with the ref, of course it was too late by then. Rogovik wouldn't be involved the next time we attacked, as he had hurt himself conceding a free kick to the left of the box, and he was receiving treatment behind the goal. With one of their best markers out of the equation, Evgeniy Drozd whipped in the free kick, and Schennikov met it with a volley from six yards out, Novak producing a superb reaction save to keep his side in front. With Rogovik desperate for the ball to be whistled dead so he could get back on, Dmitry Schetsinskiy gave away a free kick in an almost identical position seconds later, this time Drozd's delivery was cleared, and Belshina made a change to move into a more defensive formation. I reacted by setting us up to be much more attacking, taking off Dmitry Chaka and bringing on another striker, Denis Pshenychnyi, while also restoring Schennikov to the left wing and asking Razmyslovich to join Drozd right behind three strikers now, leaving Zangiev in midfield and two centre backs behind him. With five minutes to go Schennikov sent in a corner from the right, Maxim Gorbach was up highest, and he connected with a downward header that Novak barely got enough on, sub Mikhail Yakovlev there to help him out and punt the ball clear. Malykh earned a yellow card late on when he blatantly took one for the team when he halted a counter attack in cynical fashion, but his effort was in vain, as we failed to create another clear cut chance, and we had suffered a defeat that may be very costly at the end of the season. Belshina Bobruisk (1) 1 - Vitaly Mironov (31) Lokomotiv Minsk (0) 0 Vladimir Zuhbaia; Dmitry Chaka (Denis Pshenychnyi 76), Vlladimir Malykh, Maxim Gorbach, Maxim Ivanenko (Alexey Razmyslovich 45); Igor Zangiev, Evgeniy Drozd; Alexey Rios, Georgy Schennikov; Lukasz Zuk, Nikolay Shvydakov ©. Unused Substitutes :- Alexey Yesipenok, Dmitry Biryukov (GK), Egor Romanovskiy, Mariusz Kaczmarek, Sergey Krot. Bookings :- Maxim Ivanenko 3, Vladimir Malykh 90+1 Possession :- 37% - 63%. Man of the Match :- Vitaly Mironov (Belshina Bobruisk). Look at those possession stats! Almost two thirds of the ball possession, and we couldn't find a way through. A lot of the talk after the match was about the penalty we didn't get, but we created enough to win the match, so we can't use it as an excuse. Four of our nine shots were on target, and Andriy Novak produced a couple of outstanding stops to keep us out. Belshina produced just one shot on target, but that would be enough for them today. Next Saturday is the last day of August, but we don't play until Sunday so we are done for the month. We haven't won any of our last three League matches, a really bad time to hit a poor run of form. We are still fifth, but now twelve behind the leaders, nine from a promotion spot, and seven and four respectively from the sides occupying third and fourth place. It's going to be a very tough ask now. And to top off a miserable day for us, I'm told that the player we were chasing after having a £15,000 bid accepted, has turned down our contract offer. The player was Dinamo Minsk's 24 year old right sided forward Iliya Trachinskiy, the former Belarus Under-21 International also able to provide cover at full back as well. He isn't keen to drop down a Division to get First Team football, and is still hopeful his talent will get him a move to a top tier club.
  6. Tuesday 13th August 2013 There was never any doubt about him being offered a new deal, but it was just a matter of getting both the figures and the timing right. With injury depriving us of his skills in midfield for a few weeks, and about to ruin his ever present record for the season, this was a good time to give Eduard Chudnovsky a boost, and our Cup hero from the weekend has signed a contract extension to the deal that was due to expire at the end of the season. Three more years in our red and white colours for the 22 year old who has now recorded 3 goals and 7 assists in 18 games in all competitions. At a bargain £200 per week, a small increase on his existing deal, he's happy, we are happy, and the fans are very happy. With the Transfer Window closing for the season in a few weeks time, I will also be very happy if I can get a deal we are working on over the line. A player from the top tier who isn't happy with the amount of football he is getting, and would be very useful for us, not least as he is particularly versatile. We have made an offer, and now we are waiting to hear back, though I am told we're not the only club interested in his signature. Wednesday 14th August It's because of the rumoured interest from other clubs that we haven't heard anything back as yet. The players current club deem our offer to be a little on the low side, and have decided to sit on it for the time being to see if any other clubs are prepared to offer a better deal. Far more importantly however is today's draw for Round Three of the Belarusian Cup, the last sixteen stage. With the ties to be played over two legs at this stage, it would be fair to say, and not intentionally disrespectful, that most clubs would happily be paired with the only remaining non-League club in the competition, Gorodeya. We watched on as a string of Higher League clubs such as the out of sorts BATE Borisov, and the current Cup holders FC Gomel, as well as Neman Grodno and our conquerors from last season Torpedo Zhodino were all drawn against other Higher or First League opposition. With four left in the hat, we were drawn, meaning we would be home in the First Leg. We could still be drawn with Gorodeya, though we could also still be drawn with Dinamo Minsk. Fate would intervene and draw us somewhere between the two, FC Smorgon, relegated from the Higher League last season, and now odds on favourites to return to the top tier with a six point lead at the top of the First League. Oh, and did I mention that in three competitive matches against them we have lost on each occasion? It's not ideal. The First Leg is in just over a month. Friday 16th August After our Cup exploits of last weekend, it's right back into the League action tomorrow, and an away trip to Neman Mosty, who were are very much expected to beat. That said, they are not an easy side to beat at home, as they have lost only once in their last six home League matches, and with our own well documented challenges on the road, this one might not be the easy task that some are predicting. A raft of injury issues won't help much either. Saturday 17th August Belarusian First League Neman, Mosty Neman Mosty v Lokomotiv Minsk Attendance :- 1,130. Weather :- Breezy, 30c. With Eduard Chudnovsky injured, there is a chance for Igor Zangiev to start this match and show us what he can do, as he partners Yuriy Ryzhko in midfield. Up front, skipper Nikolay Shvydakov is back in the lineup after his return from injury, with Sergey Krot dropping down to the substitutes bench. With Alexandr Degterev also out with injury, and our squad depth being tested, Mariusz Kaczmarek and Alexey Razmyslovich are both called up into the matchday squad for substitute duty today. With just two minutes on the clock, Yuriy Ryzhko took a free kick quickly, playing a one-two with Lukasz Zuk and receiving the ball back in the left channel of the box, sending in a shot that Mikhail Atrashkevich managed to tip over the bar. At the other end of the park, Alexandr Satchivko curled a shot from the edge of the box that just missed the top corner. Alexey Rios did great work down the right, and Nikolay Shvydakov held the ball up before laying it off to Igor Zangiev, his shot was too high though. Moments later, from a corner, the ball was only partially cleared to Zuk, who shot back through the crowd, denied by Mikhail Gornak kicking the ball off the line. Ryzhko would have the next crack, another blistering drive that forced a superb diving save from Atrashkevich. Midway through the half, Ryzhko launched himself into a tackle to try and prevent Dmitriy Kamzolov from getting in his shot. He failed, the shot only just wide of the far post, but Ryzhko injured himself in the challenge and would have to go off, Evgeniy Drozd brought on as his replacement. Another Zangiev effort from distance after being fed the ball by Dmitry Chaka was well over the target, and it looked like a frustrating first half. But deep into the injury time caused by the Ryzhko injury, Georgy Schennikov sent the ball down the left and Zuk cut across his marker and into the box, Dmitry Manashirov grabbing a handful of his jersey and the ref pointed to the spot. It was time for the skipper to step up, and with the last kick of the first half, he sent the ball high into the corner of the net to give us a lead at the break. The second half saw Neman try and put us under a little pressure early on, and Maxim Gorohovskiy sent across an outswinging corner towards Mikhail Arushanov, who was met by a tackle from Zangiev, the Neman players appealing for a penalty, the referee was unmoved. They were persistent though, and with the second half almost halfway through, Gorohovskiy picked up a square pass from Satchivko, and then tried to lift a shot over Vladimir Zuhbaia who was well off his line, the Georgian keeper back pedalled and got fingertips to the ball and tipped it over the cross bar. That was a great save, but the biggest issue right now was the pressure we were finding ourselves under, and not just defensively, as we suffered yet another injury in the later stages, Maxim Gukailo injured as he was challenged when he tried to send in a cross. Alexey Razmyslovich came on in his place, going on the left wing with Schennikov moving back into the left back spot. At the same time, a still not quite match fit Shvydakov would be replaced by Mariusz Kaczmarek, who would sit in the anchor role as we switched to one up front in an attempt to preserve our lead. That would prove to be a mistake, as with just under five minutes left, Gornak picked out Satchivko with a square pass, and he unleashed a rocket of a shot just under the cross bar to level the match. Sergey Krot was immediately summoned to replace Chaka as we switched to three at the back and threw players forward. In fact, instead of causing a threat, we almost got caught at the other end, Viktor Taranukhin sending a diagonal pass towards Victor Yanevych that Vladimir Malykh had to leave his feet to get to, taking a huge risk as the last man, but getting a foot to the ball. I had not envisaged us being in a position where we had to save a point in that game. Neman Mosty (0) 1 - Alexandr Satchivko (86) Lokomotiv Minsk (1) 1 - Nikolay Shvydakov (45+4 pen) Vladimir Zuhbaia; Dmitry Chaka (Sergey Krot 87), Vladimir Malykh, Maxim Gorbach, Maxim Gukailo (inj - Alexey Razmyslovich 78); Igor Zangiev, Yuriy Ryzhko (inj - Evgeniy Drozd 24); Alexey Rios, Georgy Schennikov; Lukasz Zuk, Nikolay Shvydakov © (Mariusz Kaczmarek 78). Unused Substitutes :- Alexey Yesipenok, Dmitry Biryukov (GK), Egor Romanovskiy. Bookings :- None Possession :- 47% - 53%. Man of the Match :- Alexandr Satchivko (Neman Mosty). Our dodgy away form has struck again, but we should never have been in a position where we took anything but three points from that match. I'll have to carry the can for that one, my decision to go defensive with a little under fifteen minutes to play would be a mistake, but when it was clear that Nikolay Shvydakov was starting to flag, I did what I thought would be the best option. Some in the media think we were lucky to get a point here as they believe Neman should have been awarded a penalty for Igor Zangiev's early second half tackle. We're away again next weekend. Our misery at dropping two points was compounded by picking up two more injuries. Yuriy Ryzhko damaged his calf stretching to make a tackle in the first half, and he will now be out for around three weeks, his calf not the only thing being stretched, our midfield options being stretched almost to breaking point now too. The news on Maxim Gukailo isn't quite as bad, he has a gashed leg, but it will still be anything between around ten days and two weeks on the sidelines for him.
  7. Thursday 2nd September 2010 Records continue to fall pretty much every matchday in this League, and all four unbeaten clubs in the Division are now joint record holders of the longest unbeaten run record at half a dozen matches. At the other end of the table, a trio of clubs, including our latest victims Epsom & Ewell, hold the reverse record, six games without a win making the three teams the new joint record holders for that unwanted landmark. Hanworth Villa striker Darren Robinson has lowered the mark for the quickest goal in this Division's history down to 22 seconds. We have another new player arriving at the club today, and it services a position where we lack cover and experience, the defensive midfielder role. 25 year old Tim Murdoch is the latest recipient of our now famous two year £20 per week deal. The 5'9 anchor man who is adept with both feet failed to make the grade as a youngster with Carshalton Athletic, but started this season with our Division rivals, Croydon. A goal and two assists with them convinced me to offer him a deal here as he was only on an amateur contract with them. He will now compete with Ollie Jones primarily. Evesham United of the Southern Football League Premier Division have made an enquiry to ask how much we would want for Dominic Worthington. The 21 year old centre back is never going to be a world beater, but he has been playing pretty well so far this season as well. Plus, with the squad being built up to a point where we have finally got a bit of depth, it would make no sense to sell him right now. Unless United were prepared to pay well over the odds. I told them we would want £20,000 for him. Friday 3rd September We are 4/6 favourites for tomorrow afternoon's home League match with 13th placed Dorking. They have won just once this season, but they have only lost once as well, so clearly they're quite well versed in the art of the draw. Hopefully our prolific scoring form will push their record out to a pair of defeats this weekend. Yet another manager feels the need to talk up his sides prospects of derailing our good early season form, 31 year old Mark Reid stating that he is relishing the prospect of putting a dent in our promotion chances. Evesham United have advised they won't be following up their interest in Dominic Worthington, which is unsurprising after I asked for £20k for a player who is worth about 1% of that at best. So instead of offloading a centre back, we bring one in. The new arrival is a fellow Welshman, 18 year old Aaron Malton, a 5'10 defender who can also play in midfield. He has spent the last two years with Blue Square Bet Premier side Wrexham, but the Racecourse Ground club cut him loose in the summer, and we have now signed him on a bargain £5 per week contract for two seasons. I suspect he'll be used more as cover than a First Team regular, but he will certainly be useful to have around. The fans are certainly delighted at the prospect of following his development. Saturday 4th September Combined Counties League, Premier Division v Dorking @ Alwyns Lane, Chertsey A little bit of rotation is necessary for our second game in four days, and Nathan Meade is left out of today's fixture, with Kevin Newell starting for the first time, and showing his versatility by filling in at left back. Craig Miller drops to the bench today as he is rested, with Mitchell Game returning following his suspension and also taking the armband to Captain the side. It's also a place on the bench only for Jamal Da Costa, which will hopefully help him understand that he is no longer an automatic choice to start for us now, Nathan Cornwell selected behind the strikers today. Dean Papali has to settle for a spot on the bench, Geoff Howell and Michael Simpson keeping him out of the side. New signing Aaron Malton is also on the bench today. A new season high attendance on a day of persistent drizzle, where the weather was not as clear as Dorking's intention to frustrate us, and not just with their formation. Still, a long ball up the park from Kevin Newell saw Geoff Howell out-muscle his marker, and slip the ball square to Michael Simpson. It was a gilt edged chance on the quarter of an hour mark, but Simpson's frustrations in front of goal continued, slicing his shot wide of the target from ten yards out. A shot from out wide on the right wasn't any closer, while Ollie Jones soon picked up the almost obligatory booking that his combative style of play seems to attract in a congested area of the park. Simpson's miss was soon forgotten when Chris Robinson's driven low cross found Howell unmarked right in front of goal and six yards out, Jon Whittle denying him with an outstanding stop with his legs from point blank range. A yard either side would have done. Mitchell Game had the final try of the half, but it wasn't troubling the Dorking keeper. Jones came off at the break, replaced by Stuart York, and Reece Tison-Lascaris pushed back into the defensive midfielder role. That had been a frustrating first half, and the second half started in the same manner, Newell volleying in a cross from the left, and Simpson getting the most deft of touches to divert it onto goal from the corner of the six yard box, Whittle getting up a hand at the last possible second to keep it out. An attempt to spring the offside trap from the back by Dominic Worthington was just a little overhit, Whittle able to get out and clear with Howell right in his face. Talking of in faces, there was a danger of Dorking crossing the line with their tackling, which they were now ramping up to break up the flow of the game, a tactic that earned them a pair of bookings in quick succession, but even that didn't seem to deter them. Why would it? It was working for them, and the chances had almost entirely dried up. With quarter of an hour remaining, I turned to my bench, Nathan Cornwell and Howell replaced by Jamal Da Costa and Dean Papali. Both got into the game quickly, but our frustration was leading us to shoot from range, and York's two efforts were well off target. There was no way through today. Chertsey Town (0) 0 Dorking (0) 0 Attendance :- 102 John Peacock; Chris Robinson, Dominic Worthington, Gary Kettle, Kevin Newell; Ollie Jones (Stuart York 45); Reece Tison-Lascaris, Mitchell Game ©; Nathan Cornwell (Jamal Da Costa 75); Michael Simpson, Geoff Howell (Dean Papali 75). Unused Substitutes :- Jamie Hatter, Luke Buckingham (GK), Aaron Malton, Craig Miller. So two points are left on the table today, dropping us back down into third place, as Dorking got the point that they had blatantly come for. There were positives for sure though, not least our fifth consecutive clean sheet, and our sixth in seven League matches, aided by the man of the match performance at left back from Kevin Newell, who had a very good outing in his first start in a Chertsey shirt. The fans were pretty happy as well despite the failure to break down the visitors defence, pleased with how we restricted their attack, with just one shot that was off target all afternoon for Dorking. Sunday 5th September League leaders Horley Town have now won six games in a row after their victory at home to Camberley Town yesterday. That is a new Combined Counties League Premier Division record. Friday 10th September Another fairly uneventful week, and another Friday where a manager gives it the big one a day before they play us. This weeks comments are from Molesey manager David Hutton, the 31 year old Uxbridge born man who is also in his first career job in the game using his press conference to suggest that myself and my club will now be under pressure to succeed after building a squad with considerable depth. The bookies weren't listening to him, ignoring the League Table that shows us eight points ahead of our hosts, and making them Even money favourites. Saturday 11th September Combined Counties League, Premier Division v Molesey @ Walton Road, West Molesey We revert to something more like our first choice eleven for this trip, Nathan Meade reinstated at left back in place of Kevin Newell who is left out, and Craig Miller is back in the midfield in place of Mitchell Game who returns to the bench. Jamal Da Costa is also back in the side today after switching with Nathan Cornwell, but up front Michael Simpson is dropped to the bench, Dean Papali selected to partner Geoff Howell. It didn't take long for us to look more dangerous than we had done in the last match, Gary Kettle lifting the ball into the left channel and Geoff Howell justified his selection by stepping inside his marker and into the box, before sending a low shot across the face of goal, just wide of the far post. Kettle was involved again shortly after, picking up a booking for a late tackle. It was the first sign of his hot headed behaviour we had heard plenty about before he joined us, but it didn't cause us too much concern as we were soon in front. Clearly being dropped had fired up Jamal Da Costa, and he picked up the ball from a Craig Miller pass, and sent in a left footed curling shot from the edge of the box that found it's way inside the post. That was not only his first goal of the season, but it was his first ever competitive goal for Chertsey. Soon enough, the yellow card count was getting close to the shots amount, Nathan Meade and Scott Norwood picking up a booking for each side. Buoyed by his goal, Da Costa almost doubled his tally just after the half hour mark, blasting in a shot from a similar area he had already netted from, Matt Nash managing to get his hands to that one and pushing it away. Five minutes later, he robbed the ball from the toe of Jamie Minton on halfway and sprinted forward. It was a three on one, with Howell and Dean Papali up with him, but Da Costa went alone, firing a shot that Nash saved with his legs. We should have had three goals at the break, but we did have three bookings, Chris Robinson the latest to be shown a card. We had a lead to defend, and our defence has been stingy to say the least this season, giving us a better than even chance of holding onto it. The fact that Molesey had been forced into two changes for injuries, one of them a serious looking injury to Matt Dawson, helped our cause too. Clearly Da Costa was in the mood today, and he would try his luck again with a curler shortly after the restart, his shot beating Nash but creeping just wide of the upright. Number two was on it's way though, and arrived in the 57th minute, Robinson curling the ball beyond the home defence, and Miller ran between the centre backs, drew Nash, and then guided his shot beyond him and into the bottom corner. Molesey would soon have their best chance so far to get themselves back into the match, sub Alvin Taylor skipping past Nathan Meade down their right and sending a cross to the far post that fellow sub Ben Pemberton won in the air, but his downward header lacked power, and John Peacock fielded it without too much trouble. With tackles still flying in, and the ref still showing yellow cards, I made a triple change. I removed two of my three booked players, Robinson and Kettle joined by Miller with Jamie Hatter, debutant Aaron Malton and Mitchell Game all coming on. That left only Meade walking the tightrope, though he was joined by Papali in the later stages. We were still looking to add to our goal tally, Howell sending in a shot that crashed back off the bar, and Da Costa trying once more with a shot that was just wide of the top corner. It wouldn't matter too much today, the three points were ours, and it was fairly convincing. Molesey (0) 0 Chertsey Town (1) 2 - Jamal Da Costa (13), Craig Miller (57) Attendance :- 57 John Peacock; Chris Robinson (Jamie Hatter 71), Dominic Worthington, Gary Kettle (Aaron Malton 71), Nathan Meade; Ollie Jones; Reece Tison-Lascaris, Craig Miller (Mitchell Game 71); Jamal Da Costa ©; Dean Papali, Geoff Howell. Unused Substitutes :- Luke Buckingham (GK), Stuart York, Nathan Cornwell, Michael Simpson. That injury to Molesey player Matt Dawson had overshadowed the match somewhat, though thankfully the news on the teenage winger wasn't as bad as first thought. He has suffered a knee cartliage injury though, and will miss a couple of months of football. That aside, our win was pretty routine today, and we are back into second place, overtaking a Wembley side who didn't play today. The recalled Nathan Meade is praised for his performance today, an outing that has earned him his second man of the match award of the season, and now see's 28 year old St Kitts & Nevis national push his average rating up over the 7.50 mark. There was also a twenty minute or so debut for teenage Welsh defender Aaron Malton, his first ever Senior match. And maybe, just maybe, we have set Jamal Da Costa on the road to winning back over the fans. Other than being a little selfish, he was superb today, without doubt my man of the match.
  8. Thursday 8th August 2013 It had been a quiet week so far as we prepare for our visitors from the top tier in the Second Round of the Belarusian Cup. But there is a boost today when Club Captain and top scorer Nikolay Shvydakov returns to training slightly ahead of schedule. There is little chance he will be ready for the weekend, but his presence back on the training ground is great news for everyone with our injury list starting to mount. Friday 9th August The news that Shvydakov is close to a return has led to Djeykhun Mursalov reading the writing on the wall before it has even been written. After complaining about my team talk on the weekend, today he is complaining that he isn't being afforded the game time he deserves. It would seem his IQ is around the same number as the one in his goals tally column. Saturday 10th August It's almost three years since we came up against Naftan Novopolotsk, and they did the double over us in the second tier in that 2010 season. Our only win against them in four attempts came during the 2008 season in the Highest League. Not many people are giving us a chance of getting past them and into the Third Round this weekend, as despite being at home the bookies are offering 4/1 on us providing a Cup shock. They will bring a squad to Minsk that is sat fourth in the Highest League table, and that is packed with Belarusian, Russian and Ukrainian players. But they have also moved further afield to purchase a goalkeeper, 23 year old Diego Lima was purchased from Flamengo in the winter for £120,000 and the Brazilian has recorded nine clean sheets in the top tier so far this season. He wasn't able to help his side into the UEFA Europa League Group Stages though, they had a chance of doing something when they were beaten only 1-0 in Belgium by RAEC Mons, but they were too attacking too often at home, and were punished with a 3-0 loss. In fact, their recent form overall has been a little sketchy. And if we were looking for some inspiration before our match tomorrow, we need look no further than today's batch of Second Round matches. Slavia Mozyr provided one shock, knocking out Higher League visitors Dinamo Brest on penalties after a 2-2 draw. Even more impressive was non-League side Gorodeya's penalty win over MTZ-Ripo Minsk. With only one non-League side playing tomorrow, they could yet end up being the only side outside the top two tiers in the last sixteen draw. Sunday 11th August Belarusian Cup, Second Round Lokomotiv Stadium, Minsk Lokomotiv Minsk v Naftan Novopolotsk Attendance :- 412. Weather :- Breezy, 26c. I had been warned beforehand that the attendance for this match would be disappointing, but even that didn't prepare me for how disappointing. It was quite a shock to see the stadium only 20% full again after it had been almost three quarters full just a week ago. I told the players not to concern themselves on that, and instead to focus their attention on the opportunity of knocking a side that had been playing European football this season out of this Cup competition. Maxim Gukailo is in at left back to replace the injured Maxim Ivanenko, the only change to the starting eleven. On the bench, Egor Romanovskiy is brought into the matchday squad, and there is a return for Nikolay Shvydakov, who takes the place of Djeykhun Mursalov amongst the substitutes. Within the opening few minutes, Vladimir Malykh made sure it would be a nervous afternoon one way or another, as he picked up an early booking for pulling the shirt of an opponent. He would have to be very careful for the rest of the match. Also having to be careful was the Naftan defence, who were guilty of allowing our full backs plenty of room on their respective flanks, and as a result crosses were being launched into their box, a 9th minute centre from Dmitry Chaka was floated onto the head of Eduard Chudnovsky, who managed to generate the power on the ball, but couldn't get the header on target. Clearly looking to make amends for his poor outing last weekend, Chudnovsky was doing a job in defence as well, timing his tackle to perfection to break up play on the edge of his own box, which led to a counter attack from Alexey Rios, who got all the way into the box before picking out Lukasz Zuk, but the young striker was off balance when he hit his shot, and it was well wide of the target. We weren't having things all our own way however, and Konstantin Sovetkin picked out Sergiy Valyaev twenty yards out, and his low shot almost took the top layer of paint from the goalpost on it's way past the upright, Vladimir Zuhbaia well beaten. But after Dmitriy Petrov sent one over the cross bar, we got ourselves down the other end, Gerogy Schennikov rolling the ball into the path of Chudnovsky, who struck it first time, a low and curling shot that Diego Lima couldn't get to, and we had a 26th minute lead! Five minutes later, in a carbon copy move, Schennikov received the ball again, this time feigning to roll it to Chudnovsky, and instead stepping away from a tackle and picking out Yuriy Ryzhko, who struck across the ball and past Lima, only to see his shot crash back off the far upright. Ten minutes before the break, Malykh had to make sure his tackle on Roman Razdelkin was perfectly timed just inside the box. He managed to achieve that, but the ball spun into the right channel where Maxim Gukailo's challenge on Petrov wasn't quite as perfect. The ref took a long and hard look, before waving play on, to the fury of the Naftan players. I've seen them given. It had been an action packed first half, and it wasn't quite done yet, Chaka playing the ball down the right wing where Sergey Krot chased it down and kept the ball in, before sending in a cross that any winger would be proud of, but one of our wingers was on the end of, Schennikov winning the ball in the air and his header thumped against the cross bar. Half time, and we could have been three goals to the good, instead of just the one. We had a lead, and it was us who looked like the top tier side, but we would need to prepare ourselves for the kitchen sink being thrown at us in the second half. What we got instead were a hot headed Naftan side who tried to bully us off the ball and intimidate us into a surrender. It didn't work, Nikolay Ezerskiy and Sergey Shustikiov both earning bookings within ten minutes or so of the restart. We dug in, maybe digging in too much, as our man of the match so far Chudnovsky twisted his knee going in for a challenge, and he wouldn't be able to continue. Igor Zangiev would replace him, and with Malykh on a booking and the ref very much in the mindset to stamp his authority on the match, I replaced him with Alexey Yesipenok at the same time. And I was absolutely right about the ref, as he proceeded to hand out bookings to Dmitriy Komarovskiy and Vitaliy Olkhovych. The latter was for a poorly timed tackle on Alexandr Degterev, who had come on for Rios only moments earlier. With only three changes permitted in a Cup match, Degterev would have to limp on. Krot picked up a pass and waltzed through a now badly out of sorts Naftan defence, Lima pushing his shot over the bar to keep his side in the game. There were only five minutes to go by this point, and there was still time for one more. Booking that is, Yuriy Kolomoets flattening an already struggling Degterev. A late crossing opportunity for Igor Bykanov was spurned, and Naftan would go home with their tails between their legs, while we would move on to Round Three. Lokomotiv Minsk (1) 1 - Eduard Chudnovsky (26) Naftan Novopolotsk (0) 0 Vladimir Zuhbaia; Dmitry Chaka, Vladimir Malykh (Alexey Yesipenok 68), Maxim Gorbach ©, Maxim Gukailo; Eduard Chudnovsky (inj - Igor Zangiev 68), Yuriy Ryzhko; Alexey Rios (Alexandr Degterev 78 (inj - 82)), Georgy Schennikov; Lukasz Zuk, Sergey Krot. Unused Substitutes :- Dmitry Biryukov (GK), Egor Romanovskiy, Evgeniy Drozd, Nikolay Shvydakov. Bookings :- Vladimir Malykh 4 Possession :- 58% - 42%. Man of the Match :- Eduard Chudnovsky (Lokomotiv Minsk). The media labelled it as a 'cruise to victory', and frankly, I absolutely agreed with them. We limited our visitors to scraps in our end, and they lost their composure, causing them ultimately to lose the game. £3,000 prize money is neither here nor there, but a place in the last sixteen draw on Wednesday lunchtime is reward enough, and it means we have completed the Boards objective for the Cup this season. We now just have to manage to do the same in the League and win promotion, but this performance has shown us that if we can manage that, we do have it about us to compete at the higher level. No doubt about man of the match this time, Eduard Chudnovsky was superb at both ends of the park, and more than made up for his horror show last time out against Darida in the three quarters of the match that he featured. Unfortunately, as has often been the case of late, it would come at a price. A twisted knee will keep him out for around two to three weeks, and that isn't the only injury concern. Alexandr Degterev would join him on the sidelines for around the same amount of time, suffering a groin strain that he aggravated by playing on through the latter stages of the match. Our injury list is really starting to have an impact now. For their own defence, Naftan's staff and officials focused entirely on the penalty that wasn't ten minutes before the break. Almost every interview, sound bite and press report featured someone from the club stating that they were denied a stone wall spot kick. I will admit that Maxim Gukailo was a little rash in his challenge, but I wouldn't call it a stone wall penalty. More like one of those where if it's for you, then you would expect it to be awarded, and if it's against you, then you'd be adamant that there was nothing in it.
  9. Sincere apologies it's been so long since this story was updated. My focus been mainly on the Minsk story. Expect much more frequent updates from now on. Thanks. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Wednesday 1st September 2010 The monthly awards are given out today, with Chertsey featuring heavily in the consideration. It's Badshot Lea centre back Colin Hogan who takes the main Player of the Month Award however, his three goals and excellent all round performances sees him voted in front of our Michael Simpson, and Ben Grier of table toppers Horley Town. We have things very much our own way in the Young Player of the Month Award though, with a clean sweep of the top three. Craig Miller is given the award for August, with Dominic Worthington and Michael Simpson placing behind him. Finally it's the turn of the decision makers, and the Manager of the Month Award goes to Horley Town boss Lawrence Geary, who's side went unbeaten through August with four wins and a draw. That puts him in front of myself, with Ian Clarke of Wembley in third place. Combined Counties League, Premier Division v Epsom & Ewell @ Merland Rise, Tadworth Today I'm afforded the rare luxury of an unchanged lineup as we visit an Epsom & Ewell side that are yet to record a win from their opening five games, but have picked up draws in both of their home matches played so far. There is one change amongst the substitutes for us, Ian Baldwin left out of the matchday squad, and fit again Dean Papali takes his place. In our all yellow away strip, we create the first chance in the 7th minute, Geoff Howell coming deep to collect the ball, and then beating a few players before slipping a pass into the path of Jamal Da Costa, who once again showed that finishing is not his strong point, sending a shot wide of the target. Howell would be involved in the play once more in the 18th minute, the young striker chased after Nathan Meade's ball down the left, and stripped the ball away from right back Sam Innes, who's response was to hack Howell to the floor on the sideline with a vicious two footed tackle that earned him an immediate red card. That meant our hosts would have to remove a midfielder to restore their back four to full strength, while Howell would hand out his own punishment in the 21st minute, racing onto Craig Miller's through ball and lifting the ball over the advancing Denis Fisher to put us ahead. With our tails up, Epsom & Ewell would have to deal with a spell of sustained pressure, where Michael Simpson rejected a chance to shoot when put in on goal, but did send in a shot moments later which came back off the post. A short while later, Miller's drive from range was comfortably held by Fisher. The only response from the home side came in the form of a wayward shot from distance by George Burrows shortly before Ollie Jones picked up a yellow card as we held our lead through to half time. Howell continued to put in a good shift when the action resumed, holding up the ball well before laying it off to Miller, the midfielder didn't have the power to cause Fisher any trouble on this occasion. A quiet spell of the match saw home centre back Ollie Courtnage get booked for claiming a penalty that Epsom & Ewell were never likely to be awarded in one of their very rare trips up the park. Meanwhile at the other end, Simpson's bad luck in front of goal continued as he sent in a low skidding shot from an angle that beat Fisher but again came back off the frame of the goal. With just over a quarter of an hour left to play, I summoned a trio of players from the bench, replacing both midfielders Miller and Reece Tison-Lascaris with Stuart York and Mark Middleton, and also goalscorer Howells, allowing Dean Papali some game time as he seeks a return to match fitness. And Papali will have been disappointed not to score just moments after coming on, Simpson sending him beyond the back four with a through ball, and Papali curled his shot around Fisher's dive, but just inches wide of the far post. That was the last real chance we created as we settled for playing keep ball in the latter stages, York's shot from range closer to threatening any low flying aircraft than the home side's goal. Epsom & Ewell (0) 0 Chertsey Town (1) 1 - Geoff Howell (21) Attendance :- 85 John Peacock; Chris Robinson, Dominic Worthington, Gary Kettle, Nathan Meade; Ollie Jones; Reece Tison-Lascaris (Stuart York 73), Craig Miller (Mark Middleton 73); Jamal Da Costa ©; Michael Simpson, Geoff Howell (Dean Papali 73). Unused Substitutes :- Jamie Hatter, Luke Buckingham (GK), Kevin Newell, Nathan Cornwell. Considering we played over three quarters of that match against ten men, it wasn't what you would call a sparkling performance, more of a professional 'job done' kind of outing. We certainly created enough chances to put a bit more gloss on the scoreline, and Michael Simpson in particular will be disappointed that he didn't get his name on the scoresheet. It's a fourth successive win though, and keeps us in second spot in the League as it continues to form in these early stages of the season. The Board are happy enough, declaring themselves satisfied with the way things are going, giving special praise for the 8-0 thrashing of Hanworth Villa, though they have also noted that the fans are starting to single out Jamal Da Costa for some criticism. The other concern is a loss of £7,000, two thirds of which being down to our overspent wage budget. Ironically, Da Costa is the man who we pay the most by far. Right now we are just over £1,000 in debt.
  10. Thursday 1st August 2013 August is scheduled to be a relatively quiet month as far as League action is concerned, with just three fixtures due to be played, thanks in part to the Cup resuming with the Second Round fixtures. Our only home League match of August is the first game of the month, and it's a big one, as we will be visited this weekend by City rivals Darida-TDZh, who have big problems at the wrong end of the table. That match will be followed by our Cup match against top tier club Naftan Novopolotsk, a game that everyone at the club is really looking forward to. We will then complete the month with away League matches against Neman Mosty who are caught in no mans land right now, and a Belshina Bobruisk side that haven't performed as well as expected this season, where they were expected to be pushing for promotion. With their delight at the progression in the Cup tempered by their disappointment with Dmitry Chaka's form, plus a loss of £80,000 last month, the Board declare themselves satisfied with how things are going. Certainly not satisfied is misfit striker, and my own personal record transfer fee, Djeykhun Mursalov. With just one start this season and a couple of substitute appearances, Mursalov is now looking to move on. If anyone did come in for him, which is unlikely on his current form, I think I'd probably let him go, even with the knowledge we would be lucky to get back a fraction of the £60,000 we paid for him. Saturday 3rd August While the rest of the League all play their matches today, we have to wait to tomorrow for our Minsk Derby with Darida-TDZh. They are in a heap of trouble, with just three wins all season, and one of those was in the Cup to set up a Third Round tie with BATE Borisov. With a squad low on confidence and morale heading across the city to play us, the bookies have us as nailed on favourites to pick up three more points. Should that happen, it would take us back above Vedrich Rechitsa who overtook us with a comprehensive dismantling of Neman Mosty today, and would also see us leapfrog Savit Mogilev, who were held to a goalless draw by Belshina Bobruisk. With Slavia Mozyr beaten on their travels against Khimik Svetlogorsk, it means FC Smorgon have increased their lead at the top, but there is a chance to try and close things up a bit in the pack behind them. Sunday 4th August Belarusian First League Lokomotiv Stadium, Minsk Lokomotiv Minsk v Darida-TDZh Attendance :- 1,367. Weather :- Breezy, Wet, 9c. After a pair of clean sheets, Vladimir Zuhbaia keeps his spot for a third successive match, behind a back four that shows one change from the last match, with Maxim Ivanenko stepping into the left back role in place of Maxim Gukailo. In the only other change to the starting lineup, injured striker Denis Pshenychnyi is replaced by Lukasz Zuk, which in turn requires one change amongst the substitutes, with misfit striker Djeykhun Mursalov summoned to join the matchday squad. We couldn't have got off to a worse start, and it was a surprise who caused the issue as well. Eduard Chudnovsky has been one of our stand out players this season, but with barely two minutes on the clock, he coughed up the ball in the centre circle, and the ball was quickly given to Konstantin Yakubovskiy, who threaded a pass through for Alexey Martynov. His shot was under the dive of the the onrushing Vladimir Zuhbaia, and the small group of Darida fans in the away end had a very early goal to celebrate. Now we would have to go chasing this Derby, and we were so close to an equaliser in the 10th minute, Georgy Schennikov's corner met by Alexey Rios with a powerful header, but it was inches past the near post. Heartened, we continued to push on, Maxim Ivanenko and Dmitry Chaka both providing a number of crosses after advancing from their full back roles, the latter sending in one that saw Rios pushed to the floor, angrily telling the unmoved referee that he should have been awarded a penalty. Instead we would be caught out once again with ten minutes remaining in the half, Yakubovskiy's cross the from the right was brought down by Alexandr Boiko, who had replaced the injured goalscorer Martynov. With his back to goal, Chudnovsky tackled the striker, but in doing so sent the ball back towards his own goalmouth, and right to a gleeful Alexey Petrov, who slammed the ball home from close range. Now we were in real trouble, and Chudnovsky had played a part in costing us both of those goals. In a desperate attempt to try and get us back in the match quickly, Rios flung himself to the floor under a soft challenge in the Darida box, failing to fool the referee and earning himself a yellow card for his trouble. Fortunately, the winger would at least make amends for that error in judgement before the break. Yuriy Ryzhko made a timely tackle to prevent Darida launching a counter attack as the clock moved into injury time, and he got the ball to Chaka. He in turn spread it wide to Rios, and the winger beat his man and got to the byline, before sending a low cross through the six yard box and to the far post, where Lukasz Zuk was unmarked, and he guided the ball into the net to score his first ever goal in Lokomotiv colours, and more importantly, give us a shot at getting back into this match. Despite getting ourselves back into contention in this match, I still gave my players a piece of my mind at the break, furious at the way they had conceded a pair of sloppy goals and given us a huge task to get anything from this game. I told them that I would now expect Darida to defend for their lives to try and get out of here with three points, and that I wanted to see us pressure them and make them crack. They had been forced into two changes in the first half, which would limit their ability to shut up shop as well. But shut up the shop was exactly what they were looking to do, Zuhbaia's long clearance up the park was flicked on by Zuk, and Sergey Krot held off a defender and sent in a quick shot that beat Eugeny Bodnar', but was just over the angle of the goal frame. That would be just the start of a spell where we caused Darida all sorts of problems, switching the ball left and then right and back again as we pulled their defence all over the park. Schennikov was in acres of space when Ivanenko found him, and he skipped past the challenge of Alexey Dybo before sending in a cross that Krot headed at goal, Bodnar' pushed into the air, and a defender had to clear with Zuk arriving. Zuk was then played into space by Schennikov, this time smashing his shot right at the keeper, Ryzhko forcing Bodnar' to save from point blank range when he tried to sweep the rebound home. We would have another penalty shout, Schennikov believing he had been fouled as he tried to get to the byline, the ref emphatically waving play on. Ryzhko was the next to try his luck, striking a shot from 15 yards out that Bodnar' flung a hand to and turned over the bar. When Ivanenko was injured a few moments later, I decided on an attacking change, switching us to three at the back and the same number up front as Djeykhun Mursalov replaced him. Zuk was still the man causing Darida problems though, and he linked with Schennikov to get the ball to Chudnovsky, his strike only just clearing the bar. Our visitors were sinking further and further back into their own third now, and when Bodnar' pushed an extraordinary effort from Rios from out on the touchline around the post when it looked like it was going wide anyway, we had a corner to try and capitalise on. We would do just that as well, Schennikov's delivery powered home by Rios with a thumping header from close range to finally get us even. We were absolutely the favourites to go on and win this one now, but we only had ten minutes to do it, and we had to make sure we kept Darida pinned into their own end and in the defensive mindset. A slick passing move almost found us a way through, Djeykhun Mursalov hitting a shot that Bodnar' found too hot to handle, but he managed to push it out of danger. With very little time remaining, Ryzhko and Chudnovsky, who had easily had his worst ever day in a Lokomotiv shirt, were replaced by Igor Zangiev and Alexandr Degterev. There was still time to create another chance to win it, Degterev playing in Zuk, who forced one more great save from Bodnar', the offside flag would have denied him had he hit the net anyway. Frustrating. Lokomotiv Minsk (1) 2 - Lukasz Zuk (45+1), Alexey Rios (79) Darida-TDZh (2) 2 - Alexey Martynov (3), Alexey Petrov (35) Vladimir Zuhbaia; Dmitry Chaka, Vladimir Malykh, Maxim Gorbach ©, Maxim Ivanenko (inj - Djeykhun Mursalov 68); Eduard Chudnovsky (Igor Zangiev 89), Yuriy Ryhko (Alexandr Degterev 89); Alexey Rios, Georgy Schennikov; Lukasz Zuk, Sergey Krot. Unused Substitutes :- Alexey Yesipenok, Dmitry Biryukov (GK), Maxim Gukailo, Evgeniy Drozd. Bookings :- Alexey Rios 38 Possession :- 58% - 42%. Man of the Match :- Alexey Rios (Lokomotiv Minsk). That was a bumper crowd, as it always seemed to be for a Minsk Derby, but that one was the highest since I had arrived here, and the best for two years. They were certainly treated to a good match, but frustrating was the right word to describe is, as the three points were there for us today. However, there was also an element of relief as well, as those two goals would have buried many other teams. They won't be held against Eduard Chudnovsky, he doesn't make too many mistakes, and he is still well in credit with us. And we could still have won it too. One man has no doubt who was to blame for the teams failure to win the match though, me, apparently. That was the view of striker Djeykhun Mursalov, who wasn't particularly fond of the harsh team talk at half time, even though he wasn't playing at that point, and again at the end of the match when I told the players that they should have still taken the three points. Maybe he should concentrate on improving his own poor record. That we didn't get the win means we stay down in fifth place in the League, two points behind both Vedrich Rechitsa and Savit Mogilev, and another further two behind the promotion spot held by Slavia Mozyr. It's a fortnight until we play again in the League, with next week seeing the focus switching to the Cup. That might be a good thing for us, as our injury issues continue to be a concern, Maxim Ivanenko the latest to face a spell on the sidelines, around three weeks to be precise, after he suffered a twisted knee midway through the second half. Finally, I don't agree with the man of the match selection today. Yes, Alexey Rios did get the all important equaliser, his third League goal of the season and fourth in all competitions. For me, it would have been awarded to either Lukasz Zuk, who was a thorn in Darida's side all afternoon, or Georgy Schennikov, who earned his fifth League assist of the season and gave Alexey Dybo a torrid afternoon trying to stop him getting in crosses and preventing his runs into the box. Monday 5th August As if to back up my point of view, Georgy Schennikov was the only Lokomotiv player selected in this weeks First League Team of the Week.
  11. July 2013 Around a month ago, India played their first International fixtures with me at the helm, recording a win against Sri Lanka, followed by a defeat to Thailand. Not a bad start, and it had certainly helped us in the FIFA World Rankings when they were released, catapulting us 18 spots from 202nd to 184th, and moving us well on towards our target of initially making up around fifty spots to at least put us in contention to play in the Continental Qualifiers. We had gained 25 ranking points from those two Friendly matches, and we were now ahead of our next opponents. As you can see from the table below, which shows the ten sides either side of us, there is still plenty of scope to improve as well, hopefully giving the players plenty of motivation to defeat Myanmar later in the year. FIFA World Rankings, July 2013 | Rank | Nation | Change | Points | | 174th | Malta | 2 | 50 | | ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| | 175th | Eritrea | 6 | 45 | | ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| | 176th | São Tomé and Principe | 3 | 42 | | ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| | 177th | Andorra | 13 | 41 | | = | Niger | 24 | 41 | | ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| | 179th | Saint Vincent and the Grenadines | 8 | 39 | | ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| | 180th | Nepal | 3 | 38 | | = | US Virgin Islands | 6 | 38 | | ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| | 182nd | Mauritius | 8 | 34 | | ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| | 183rd | Belize | - | 31 | | ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| | 184th | India | 18 | 29 | | ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| | 185th | Turks and Caicos Islands | 1 | 28 | | ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| | 186th | Bhutan | 9 | 25 | | = | British Virgin Islands | 3 | 25 | | ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| | 188th | Guam | 3 | 24 | | ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| | 189th | Myanmar | 1 | 23 | | ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| | 190th | Antigua and Barbuda | 1 | 21 | | = | Dominica | 1 | 21 | | = | Seychelles | 1 | 21 | | ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| | 193rd | Anguilla | 12 | 20 | | = | Ethiopia | 12 | 20 | | ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| Speaking of the players, there had been plenty of developments to report there as well, with players moving clubs and new players added to the National Pool, including some very interesting looking newbies. But let's start by taking a look at some of those who were involved in last months International Friendly double header. Starting at the very back, and things are a little bit up in the air for one of India's newest International players. 23 year old British/Indian goalkeeper Jasbir Singh made his International debut in the win against Sri Lanka after having a decent season for Scottish non-League side, Clachnacuddin. Now, Singh finds himself out of contract, and without a club after holding off on signing a new deal. There is still plenty of interest in his signature, Crawley Town and Stockport County amongst his suitors, but as the summer moves on, the more he will become anxious. There is also a debate to be had as to whether him being involved with the India squad is a good or bad thing for his club prospects, with Asian nations notoriously taking little notice of domestic calendars when playing their fixtures. In the defence, it is starting to look possible that another new cap, James Dissiramah will be moving on from Mumbai FC and joining perennial Title contenders, East Bengal, with an offer already accepted and personal terms being discussed. First choice right back Ajay Bailleux has gone down a different route, leaving Champions of the National Football League and largest club in the nation, Mohun Began and dropping out of the flagship competition to play for Pune FC, a risky decision for the dozen times capped defender. Finally, another foreign based new cap, as Hong Kong national Francisco Bhowmick is cut adrift by Fukien and will be playing at a significantly lower level with Kowloon City District Recreation & Sports Council. They are an amateur side, and though they have given him a full time deal, he won't be getting paid. I will need to be convinced that he will be able to move between that level, and the International stage. Into the midfield, and there is also a change of scenery for one of more experienced and influential players. 28 year old William Jidayi remains in Italy, but has swapped Salò for Ravenna, moving up a step in level as well in making the Free Transfer switch. He'll be playing in much better company, but he might have to work for a regular starting spot, with former Juventus youngster Edoardo Braiati a firm fans favourite at the club and playing in the same position. Of the strikers that were selected for the last squad, there is only one club change so far, but it's a fairly big one, and it could be a very good one too. New Dehli born Sunil Chetri has fifteen goals in 23 caps for his country so far, and wasn't doing too bad at all in Vietnam with Hoang Anh Gia Lai. Now for the first time in his career he will have a crack at club football in Europe, as he has made a £3,000 transfer to Greek second tier club AS Rodos, who finished their debut season the National B Division comfortably above the relegation zone. It will be a huge step up in quality for the 28 year old, and it will be interesting to see how he gets on. Let's move onto the new players that have become available to India, and we will start looking at these by age, starting with the youngest group, the fifteen year olds. And what a group it is, starting with the centre midfielder, Amit Singh. He is a brand new player to professional football, and he is taking his first steps with a very reputable club when it comes to nurturing young players, FC Nantes of France. Born to French parents in New Dehli, the family have since returned to Western France and Singh is very highly thought of by Nantes' coaching staff. Already an accomplished passer of the ball, and a dead ball specialist of some note, the downside of his obvious talent is that he hasn't ruled out representing France and not India. If we can convince him to join us, we will have to cap him at the first available opportunity. Less talented, but also playing in France, another midfielder worth keeping an eye on is Karan Mollah. He will be with his hometown club, AS Poissy of the French Championnat, the fourth tier that features a large amount of Reserve teams from top tier clubs. A good centre back and some decent looking left back prospects round out the youngest group of players. The 16 year old group is the largest, and it also features some very good prospects, three in particular that I'd like to tell you about. The first is Khaled Sarker, a centre midfielder who has joined the Mohun Bagan club. He will need to work hard to get into the First Team picture, but along with East Bengal, he is at one of the two best clubs in the nation and the next best option to plying his trade overseas. And overseas is where the other two players are, starting with a very welcome addition to our goalkeeping ranks. Ganesh Aerts was born in the Belgian town of Zulte, and is eligible for India through ancestry, he hasn't ever set foot in the country. Right now the six footer, who is in the Youth system of top tier club AA Gent, says he would only consider a call up from Belguim right now, but such is his talent that we will be looking to test that resolve sooner rather than later. I'd go as far as to say he would likely push to be India's number one keeper right away. Even further north in Europe, there is Sheikh Thakur, who is also eligible to play for India. Another centre midfielder, he is already part of the First Team squad for FK Viborg in the Danish Premier Division, and judging by the contract they have just handed him, he is very much part of their future plans. A creative player with a good turn of pace, he would be another superb addition to our National Pool. With a few older players, such as 19 year old AS Saint-Etienne striker Shafiqul Islam Chowdhury and 28 year old Olympic Charleroi right winger Raheem Alibhaï potentially softening their stances on turning out for India as well, our Pool of players looks like it is only going to get stronger. Add in 5 times capped striker Ranty Martins, a Nigerian born forward who is now plying his trade with Al-Nejmeh in Lebanon, three times capped Havant & Waterlooville centre back Rikki Bains, 16 year old midfielder Sachin Ali who is a New Zealand national currently playing Youth football in Australia, and 19 year old left winger Alan Cervinski, who has just moved to Australia with his family after breaking into Mumbai's First Team. He will continue his development with Toowoomba Raiders. Look out Asia, the emergence of Indian football is about to take the Continent by storm.....hopefully!
  12. 2013 Belarusian First League Table, Up To & Including Wednesday 31st July 2013 | Pos | Inf | Team | | Pld | Won | Drn | Lst | For | Ag | G.D. | Pts | | 1st | | Smorgon | | 15 | 11 | 3 | 1 | 26 | 9 | +17 | 36 | | 2nd | | Slavia Mozyr | | 15 | 10 | 3 | 2 | 26 | 11 | +15 | 33 | -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- | 3rd | | Savit | | 15 | 9 | 3 | 3 | 21 | 12 | +9 | 30 | | 4th | | Lokomotiv Minsk | | 15 | 8 | 4 | 3 | 26 | 14 | +12 | 28 | | 5th | | Vedrich Rechitsa | | 15 | 8 | 4 | 3 | 23 | 13 | +10 | 28 | | 6th | | Khimik Svetlogorsk | | 15 | 7 | 2 | 6 | 16 | 16 | 0 | 23 | | 7th | | Mikashevichi | | 15 | 5 | 7 | 3 | 16 | 8 | +8 | 22 | | 8th | | Zvezda-BGU | | 15 | 5 | 6 | 4 | 17 | 12 | +5 | 21 | | 9th | | Belshina | | 15 | 4 | 7 | 4 | 8 | 9 | -1 | 19 | | 10th | | Lida | | 15 | 5 | 2 | 8 | 16 | 26 | -10 | 17 | | 11th | | Neman Mosty | | 15 | 5 | 1 | 9 | 18 | 23 | -5 | 16 | | 12th | | Vertical | | 15 | 3 | 5 | 7 | 15 | 25 | -10 | 14 | | 13th | | Belcard | | 15 | 3 | 3 | 9 | 11 | 19 | -8 | 12 | | 14th | | Darida | | 15 | 2 | 6 | 7 | 6 | 15 | -9 | 12 | -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- | 15th | | Livadia | | 15 | 3 | 2 | 10 | 8 | 26 | -18 | 11 | | 16th | | Baranovichi | | 15 | 2 | 2 | 11 | 9 | 24 | -15 | 8 | --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  13. Thursday 25th July 2013 Evgeniy Drozd has requested a transfer today, a request that has been rejected at this point. He has made eight appearances so far in the League, four of which have come from the bench. Our squad isn't deep enough that I can let him leave right now without replacing him, and as it stands I don't have any plans to bring in any more forwards. Friday 26th July Tomorrow will see us take the trip south west to the city of Dzerzhinsk, where we will take on Livadia, a team who look set for a season long battle to preserve their status in the First League. They sit 15th going into the match, while our win against Mikashevichi earlier in the week had left us lying in 5th place, and hoping for a win to improve our inconsistent away form and send us into August still well in contention regarding the promotion race. The bookies have no doubts, making us very heavy favourites despite our away day problems. Before we reached the weekend and set off on that away day, we would still continue to look at options to improve our defence. Talks continue with very experienced right back Pavel Rybak, who has previously played for the club, and who we have already had a £40,000 offer for rejected by Dnepr Mogilev after they asked for £100,000. His contract is up at the end of the campaign, and we are now discussing him joining us for next season. He has rejected our first offer, but there is still some room to work with, and we are not too far apart. Saturday 27th July Belarusian First League Zavety Il'icha, Dzerzhinsk Livadia Dzerzhinsk v Lokomotiv Minsk Attendance :- 816. Weather :- Dry, 14c. After a clean sheet in our last outing, Vladimir Zuhbaia retains his place in goal for this away match, where the back four is also unchanged. There is a switch in midfield, with Yuriy Ryzhko stepping into the side in place of Igor Zangiev, the only change to the lineup today. We almost had the perfect start to settle our away day nerves, Eduard Chudnovsky heading the ball over the Livadia back four and sending Denis Pshenychnyi into the box, and he tried to round Andrey Shikhantsov, but the keeper got enough of a toe on it to poke it away from the striker, who is still seeking his first Lokomotiv goal. At the other end, build up play from Yakov Kazak and Andrey Arkhiptsev set up Evgeniy Minekov for a shot from range that Vladimir Zuhbaia held easily. Sergey Krot has gone a little while without a goal, and Shikhantsov pushed his shot away too to keep us out again. He would finally be beaten in the 19th minute, Alexey Rios picking out Pshenychnyi in the box, and he slotted the ball past the keepers dive, only to see it bounce back off the upright before being cleared to safety. The first half closed with Arkhiptsev, booked by this point for a challenge on Chudnovsky in midfield, sending in a shot from range that was deflected only just wide of our goal, Zuhbaia would have been struggling to get back across and keep that one out had it been on target. It had been a tight first half, and clearly the first goal would be crucial this afternoon. In the 54th minute, Dmitry Chaka picked out Rios with a throw in, and he sent the ball into the box for Pshenychnyi. The striker rolled Oleg Orlov, and then went down under the defenders challenge. The ref looked to his assistant for help, and with the flag raised, he awarded the spot kick, also booking the defender. Our regular penalty taker is Nikolay Shvydakov, but with the striker injured, it was Chudnovsky who picked up the ball and stepped forward. I watched on nervously from the dugout, but there was nothing to be worried about, as our midfielder picked out a spot right under the cross bar and put us ahead ten minutes into the second half. That goal hurt Livadia, who had been very much in the game, and Alexandr Tretiyak quickly became the third of their players to be booked. Arkhiptsev would try his luck once more from range, this one flashing just wide of Zuhbaia's post. I made a pair of changes in response, encouraged to do so with Pshenychnyi now struggling with a knock. He was joined by Yuriy Ryzhko, with Lukasz Zuk and Igor Zangiev both summoned from the bench. A corner gave us a chance to cement our lead, Chudnovsky whipped the ball in, and when Maxim Gorbach didn't get a good connection on it, the ball fell to Krot. The striker sent the ball towards goal, only to see it kicked off the line at the last second. That would be followed by Chudnovsky seeing his shot pushed out by Shikhantsov, and then Zuk having his shot blocked by a defender. Maxim Ivanenko and Evgeniy Drozd came on to replace Maxim Gukailo, and Rios who became the latest of our players to take a knock. Livadia would have one last go at trying to break us down, but fortunately for us, with plenty of players streaming forward, Sergey Nikitenko opted to shoot from range, missing the target to the dismay of his team mates, but the relief of our bench. Livadia Dzerzhinsk (0) 0 Lokomotiv Minsk (0) 1 - Eduard Chudnovsky (55 pen) Vladimir Zuhbaia; Dmitry Chaka, Vladimir Malykh, Maxim Gorbach ©, Maxim Gukailo (Maxim Ivanenko 82); Eduard Chudnovsky, Yuriy Ryzhko (Igor Zangiev 68); Alexey Rios (inj - Evgeniy Drozd 82), Georgy Schennikov; Denis Pshenychnyi (Lukasz Zuk 68), Sergey Krot. Unused Substitutes :- Alexey Yesipenok, Dmitry Biryukov, Alexandr Degterev. Bookings :- None Possession :- 40% - 60%. Man of the Match :- Eduard Chudnovsky (Lokomotiv Minsk). Just like last time out, it wasn't pretty, in fact it was a pretty scruffy performance overall. But we will gladly take the win, especially on the road. With Vedrich Rechitsa slipping up, beaten away to Mikashevichi, we move ourselves up a spot into 4th as we move into August, prevented from moving up any higher by Savit Mogilev winning, joined by FC Smorgon and Slavia Mozyr, the top two also winning today. Alexey Rios suffered nothing more than a knock, and he will be fine to train next week. The news on Denis Pshenychnyi was not as good however, the Ukrainian striker has twisted his ankle, and after getting a run of starts and not yet finding the net, he will be very frustrated to sit out the better part of a month of football, at what is now a crucial point of the season as we reach the halfway point. A special word at this point for Eduard Chudnovsky. The 22 year old has been an ever present for us in the League this season, and as well as producing a team leading seven assists, he has also now added two goals as well, showing nerves of steel to put that penalty high out of Andrey Shikhantsov's reach and earn us three valuable points. Sunday 28th July Finally our recruitment efforts receive some reward, though we will have to wait a while. We have reached an agreement to sign Dnepr Mogilev's 29 year old right back Pavel Rybak at the end of the season on a Free Transfer. It will be a return to his home city for the gifted but uncapped 6'1 defender, as he spent five seasons here between 2002 and 2006, though one of them saw him go out on loan. He racked up 57 appearances in our red and white colours, before moving on to play FC Gomel, FC Minsk, Shakhter Soligorsk, and a season on loan for Slavia Mozyr. He finally ended up moving to Dnepr in a deal worth £10,000, racking up 60 plus League appearances, and nudging closer to the 300 mark for his career. With Dmitry Chaka failing to impress this season, and the supporters starting to get on his case, they will surely be pleased to hear that a replacement is on the way, though they should be aware that Rybak is a much more defensive minded player. Monday 29th July He might not have found the net on the weekend before getting injured, but striker Denis Pshenychnyi certainly made an impact and caused the Livadia defence some problems, and that was enough on this particular occasion to see him named in the First League Team of the Week, the only Lokomotiv player to be named. Wednesday 31st July With one right back already signed up for next season, I set about further increasing our options in that area of the park, sending Norwegian top tier side Lillestrøm an offer of £30,000 for their wantaway Belarus International full back Igor Shitov. The good news is that the offer was accepted by the club, but the fairly predictable response from the player was a quick no to the offer of not only dropping into the second tier of domestic football, but also take a pay cut for the pleasure as well.
  14. Sunday 21st July 2013 The day began with the news that one of our highly rated youngsters, 17 year old forward Nikolay Kiselev, has signed a one year deal with the club. The local lad who is in his second year on the books of Lokomotiv is well thought of by the staff, but hasn't managed to command a regular place with SKVICh so far this campaign. A slightly older, but nonetheless still young player, has asked for a transfer today, stating that he needs to be playing regular First Team football at this stage of his career. Igor Zangiev's request has been rejected, and I tell the player that I see him as a player who very much has a role to play in the First Team at Lokomotiv over the coming months and years. Monday 22nd July A player who is constantly being linked with a move away from our club is Georgy Schennikov, and he refused to pour cold water on the interest of Russian First Division side, Nosta Novotroitsk. They are said to be preparing a bid of around £250,000 for the 22 year old, though that would still only be around half of our current valuation for the dangerous left winger. Tuesday 23rd July After the disappointment of defeat on Saturday, we are given a quick chance to get back to winning ways with a midweek match. Tomorrow night sees us return to Lokomotiv Stadium as we host 8th placed Mikashevichi. They have a squad that many believe lacks the talent to move them much further up the League than their current mid table spot, and with four wins against them in eight matches, the bookies believe home advantage is going to be enough to see us return to winning ways tomorrow evening. Wednesday 24th July Belarusian High League Lokomotiv Stadium, Minsk Lokomotiv Minsk v Mikashevichi Attendance :- 423. Weather :- Breezy, 22c. Vladimir Zuhbaia is back in goal for this one, with Dmitry Biryukov rested today. The two full backs are also out of the team today, Egor Romanovskiy left out altogether and Maxim Ivanenko on the bench, with Dmitry Chaka returning to his more natural right back spot, and Maxim Gukailo selected at left back. Vladimir Malykh is also brought back into the side at centre back. In the centre of the park Igor Zangiev replaces Yuriy Ryzhko, and there is good news on the left wing, where Georgy Schennikov is passed fit to play and takes the place of Alexandr Degterev. Up front, the injured Nikolay Shvydakov is replaced by Sergey Krot, and there is a place for Alexey Yesipenok on the bench today. A win was an absolute must for us today, and the boys showed that they knew that when they put in some hefty challenges early on to prevent Mikashevichi from playing any killer through balls. One player who put in such a challenge was Igor Zangiev, and he even came out with the ball and launched a counter attack, Denis Pschenychnyi holding up the ball before spinning to his right and releasing Alexey Rios into space, the winger wasting a chance to test Pavel Shisheya, trying to cut the ball back instead and missing the mark. Shortly after Shisheya was forced into a save after a low driven shot by Eduard Chudnovsky and Pschenychnyi headed wide of goal, Rios would fully redeem himself in the 19th minute. The winger got on the end of a Georgy Schennikov corner, using the weight already on the ball, and simply redirecting it at the near post, nodding it downwards and into the net. That goal forced our visitors out of their shell a little, and Ivan Gaev sent a curler just over the angle of the goal frame, before Sergey Kiturko hit a shot from range that was too hot for Vladimir Zuhbaia to handle, but there was no one following up to punish that error. We held the lead at the break, but it was a little closer than we would like. With no changes at the break, Roman Volkov gave us an early indication of the Mikashevichi mindset a minute after the restart, stepping infield after receiving the ball on the left and sending in a viciously struck curling effort that Zuhbaia had to watch all the way as it cleared the target. At the other end, we should have extended our lead five minutes later, Dmitry Chaka combining well with Rios down the right flank, and the latter sent in a beautiful cross that picked out Pschenychnyi at the far post, but the striker fluffed his lines and the chance to open his Lokomotiv account, heading the ball wide of the target. Heartened by the fact that they hadn't fallen further behind, our guests probed further into Zuhbaia's handling skills, Karen Muradyan this time with the shot from 25 yards that dipped and swerved, the Georgian keeper electing to punch that one out of harms way. With the mid point of the second half almost upon us, I decided that fresh legs would be the best thing for us, and instigated a triple change, Chaka, Maxim Gukailo and Sergey Krot would all come off, Rios would move to right back with Evgeniy Drozd on the right wing, Maxim Ivanenko would play left back, and Lukasz Zuk would come on to form a strike partnership with Pschenychnyi. And Drozd almost made it a perfect change around, as he connected with a header from a Chudnovsky corner, but his powerful effort cleared the cross bar. Moments later, Pschenychnyi cut the Mikashevichi defence wide open with a through ball, and Schennikov found himself in the clear, but his attempt to place his shot low into the corner was stopped by the legs of Shisheya. There was a final change late on as Zangiev was substituted for Yuriy Ryzhko as we looked to tighten things up, but the visitors were resorting to shooting from range by this point, Pavlo Stepanets shot was well struck well but Zuhbaia never seemed concerned about it being a threat. Chudnovsky missed an injury time chance to make the win look a little more impressive, but he sent a shot over the bar after a great run and cross from Schennikov. It wasn't an emphatic performance by any means, but the three points were the most important thing. Lokomotiv Minsk (1) 1 - Alexey Rios (19) Mikashevichi (0) 0 Vladimir Zuhbaia; Dmitry Chaka (Evgeniy Drozd 66), Vladimir Malykh, Maxim Gorbach ©, Maxim Gukailo (Maxim Ivanenko 66); Eduard Chudnovsky, Igor Zangiev (Yuriy Ryzhko 84); Alexey Rios, Georgy Schennikov; Denis Pschenychnyi, Sergey Krot (Lukasz Zuk 66). Unused Substitutes :- Alexey Yesipenok, Dmitry Biryukov (GK), Alexandr Degterev. Bookings :- None Possession :- 54% - 46%. Man of the Match :- Alexey Rios (Lokomotiv Minsk). It wasn't convincing, or stunning in any way at all, but we are back to winning ways on a Wednesday evening that featured a full programme of fixtures. With fourteen matches played, we have won half of them, and sit in fifth spot, five points from a promotion spot and eight behind leaders FC Smorgon, who dropped a couple of points this evening, something that is becoming an increasingly rare event for them. Alexey Rios produced a man of the match display, even after that early chance to open the scoring wasn't utilised. I paid £3,000 for the winger almost exactly a year ago now, and since then he has produced five goals and four assists in thirty league matches. It's not an enormous return, but add into the equation the fact that he has played an average rating of 7.23 over that period, and it starts to show how important he has become to the team. He is contracted through to the end of next season, but admiring glances are starting to be cast in his direction from both domestic and foreign clubs. Shakhter Soligorsk of the top tier, along with Luch-Energia Vladivostok and Shinnik Varslavl of the Russian second tier are all rumoured to be interested.
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