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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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    Ayr United FC (FM'09), Iceland (FM'09)

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  1. neilhoskins77

    (FM'09) A 'United' Front - A Chance To Rewrite History Part II

    Sunday 25th March 2012 There was more good news to come from yesterday as well. Ryan McStay's injury was nothing more than a knock, and he will probably not even miss any training sessions. It's a little worse for Magnus Eikrem, though not much. He has a dead leg, and could be back in training late in the week, but should now be considered doubtful for next weekends match with Airdrie United, who will of course be looking to take their Promotion Playoff spot right back from us. We are now on a four game winning run, matching a modern day club record that was set in January 2009. If we can extend it to five games and claim an outright club record, we will be suddenly looking in very good shape to at least extend our season. Irish centre back Andrew Hageman has confided in the backroom staff at the club that he is unhappy at being constantly overlooked for the First Team. Devann Yao is out of contract with St Mirren in the summer, and I tell the striker and yesterday's hero of the day that I would very much like him to consider signing for us to continue his development at Somerset Park. He replies that he is delighted that it's an option for him, but that his agent has advised him to keep his powder dry, and concentrate on his football for now, then evaluate what's on the table in the summer. On what is quite a busy day, the Reserves win 4-0 at Somerset Park against Peterhead this afternoon. They came back from the blow of losing David Meyler to injury just six minutes in, and Adam Campbell opened the scoring just before the half hour mark. The real damage was done in a twenty minute spell in the second half though, where Craig Fisher, Jason Gillespie and Reece Brown all found the net. After that match, Meyler requests a transfer, which is granted, while Shaun Smith completes his. The midfielder takes advantage of there being no Transfer Deadline in England's sixth tier, and he joins Blue Square North side, Droylsden. He has earned himself a hefty 130% pay rise at the same time too, and could yet earn a promotion with his new club. Monday 26th March Arbroath's promotion hopes have taken a bit of a hit today. Luke Barnett, their top scorer in the league this season, is now out of contract. The clubs attempts to get him to sign a new short term deal have failed, and Barnett has left the club. Since arriving on a Free from Crawley Town in July 2010, he made 61 league appearances and netted 13 goals and four assists from centre midfield. I'm considering offering him a deal to come to Somerset Park, and I'm not the only one. That kind of goalscoring impact from midfield cannot be ignored. It had to be one of our best performances since I arrived at Ayr on the weekend, but it was only enough to get one player in our colours in the team of the week. And it's not even Aidan O'Kane either, it's his back four colleague Anwar Uddin who is selected. I can neither confirm nor deny that Uddin was launched into the air twice by O'Kane tackles in training today. Tuesday 27th March Paul Dummett plays the full ninety minutes in a strong Wales Under-21 lineup that also includes Cardiff City right back Adam Matthews, the Birmingham City midfielder Joe Allen, and Arsenal's midfielder Aaron Ramsey. Evidently, that wasn't going to be enough though, as Greece win 1-0 in Mytilini in this age group International Friendly. Wednesday 28th March There are two pretty major games going on today, and we'll start with the most important of them. Our Under-19's plays hosts to Airdrie United's youngsters at Somerset Park, and thanks to a Chris McKay double, our young lads win 3-1. It was centre back Robbie Bradley who had opened the scoring. In a far less important match, Jamie Craggs played the full ninety minutes once more, but that will be Montserrat's last competitive match for a while. In the capital, Plymouth, it's a pair of first half goals for St Kitts & Nevis to secure a 6-1 aggregate win and a place in the Second Round of Phase One of FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifying in the North American Zone. The big guns in the continent enter the competition at this Phase, and if Richal Leitoe can earn a place in the Netherlands Antilles squad, he'll find himself up against it, as they have been paired with Canada. Another player wants to depart the club, and this time it's 22 year old Derry born Northern Irish full back, Liam McMenamin. He has played ten times for us in the league since his move here after being released by Sheffield Wednesday last summer. He had started the season quite well for us, but he never really recovered from that mistake in the Scottish League Challenge Cup Final against Raith Rovers, and Ciaran Foy didn't look back once he got his foot in the door. McMenamin's request is granted. Friday 30th March Tomorrow we're away to Airdrie United, and if you don't know how huge a match this is, then I refer you to the league table at the end of the last update. The hosts home advantage is leading to the bookies narrowly making them favourites, and I really do mean narrowly. We'll be heading there looking for a club record fifth consecutive win, and if we achieve it, our hopes of a top four finish will be hugely boosted. As it's an away match, we'll be reverting back to the 4-4-2 that got the job done a few weeks back against East Stirlingshire. Saturday 31st March Scottish Second Division New Broomfield, Airdrie Airdrie United (5th) v Ayr United (4th) Attendance :- 1,182. Weather :- Wet, 7c. It's a big day, but at this point, they are all big days of course. There is one change to report only, and that is Darren Young starting in midfield next to Ryan McStay, with Magnus Eikrem deemed not fit enough to play a full ninety minutes, his dead leg kept him from training all week, and he is only included as a substitute. The other change is the switch back to the 4-2-2 that yielded a much needed away win last time we travelled. We had a couple of hairy defensive moments in the opening ten minutes, Olafur Örn Bjarnason was easily beaten for pace by Marlon Jackson, and Aidan O'Kane missed a chance to intercept the ball and prevent Paul Di Giacomo from getting a look at goal. To be fair, both did quickly make amends, Bjarnason winning a vital header, and O'Kane having better luck preventing Jackson going past him than his skipper had. The next time Airdrie came forward it was as a result of another individual error, Stephen Grindlay's clearance wasn't good enough, and Joel Ward played in Di Giacomo, but Grindlay pushed that one over the bar. He would come to our rescue once more moments later, this time showing cat like reflexes to turn Alex Dyer's close range blasted effort over the top. Our luck would soon run out though. Richal Leitoe had tracked back to prevent a cross reaching Graeme Sharp and heading it behind. But Sharp would take an inswinging corner that evaded everyone and went right into the net! Half time, and we were a goal down. I told the players that we needed to step it up a few gears, and we managed that just ten minutes after the restart. Ciaran Foy received the ball back from Leitoe after a throw in on the right, and he quickly centered the ball for Ryan McStay. His attempted drive was blocked, but the ball rebounded right to Darren Young, and he played a diagonal pass to McStay who had quickly got on the move, and he sidefooted his shot past Joe Lindsay from the edge of the box, and we were level! Five minutes later, we had nearly managed to turn the game right on it's head, Shaun Holmes doing well on the left, Devann Yao holding the ball up, and then springing open the offside trap, Daryl Fordyce attempting to lift the ball over the advancing Lindsay, but he got enough on it to send it over the bar. O'Kane sent over the resulting corner, and Bjarnason got in front of his marker to glance his header goalwards, but we were denied again, Bobby Donnelly kicking the ball off the line. We would pay the full price for those missed chances midway through the half as well. Di Giacomo twisted Foy inside and then out, but instead of crossing, he sent the ball square to sub Ken Irons. He didn't even bother looking for a pass, instead smashing an unstoppable rocket of a shot into the top corner from 30 yards that Grindlay didn't even see let alone get near. With ten minutes left to play, and still a goal behind, O'Kane went down with an injury, and I would take the opportunity to change things up. Foy and Holmes also went off, with Magnus Eikrem, Alex Owen and James McLean all coming on in their place. We would go to a much more attacking outlook, with just two defenders remaining back. It was an all or nothing at all roll of the dice, but it would be made much more difficult when one of our two remaining defenders, Bjarnason, took a knock shortly after the changes. With all our subs used, I had no choice but to ask him to try and power through, but he was clearly struggling. Dwayne Samuels struck a shot wide of the far post as we were almost caught out moments later, and he would quickly try again after being played in by Jackson, but he steered his shot wide of the post after beating Grindlay. But the match would reach it's inevitable conclusion right at the end of the ninety minutes, ending as it started, with Jackson easily beating a now badly flagging Bjarnason, before sending a cross to the near post. Di Giacomo got in front of Anwar Uddin, but his shot hit the post, before hitting the back of Grindlay and barely crossing the line. It was his second own goal in the space of six weeks, and this one put the lid on a defeat that could undo all our good work over recent weeks. Airdrie United (1) 3 - Graeme Sharp (20), Ken Irons (68), Stephen Grindlay (90 og) Ayr United (0) 1 - Ryan McStay (55) Stephen Grindlay; Ciaran Foy (Alex Owen 80), Anwar Uddin, Olafur Örn Bjarnason © (inj - 83), Aidan O'Kane (inj - Magnus Eikrem 80); Ryan McStay, Darren Young; Richal Leitoe, Shaun Holmes (James McLean 80); Devann Yao, Daryl Fordyce. Unused Substitutes :- Marcus Hall, Peggy Lokando. Bookings :- None Possession :- 46% - 54%. Man of the Match :- Graeme Sharp (Airdrie United). That one is going to hurt, literally. Let's start from the top, where Partick Thistle continue to sit after a 6-0 home thumping of lowly Cowdenbeath. There is also no change in second place either, as Arbroath win by a single goal at another lowly side, Brechin City. There is a 2-2 draw for Stirling Albion at East Fife, which isn't enough to keep them in third place, as they are overtaken by the Airdrie United after their win over us. And as for us, well, our top four spot disappeared just as quickly as it arrived, and we have work to do once more. There are now just five matches remaining, and we are halfway through 'phase two'. We continue this tough spell of fixtures with a trip to the opposite coast of the country next week as we face Arbroath. If that wasn't a difficult enough task, we will have to do it without half of our first choice back four. Olafur Örn Bjarnason is going to miss up to a fortnight, he suffered a strained neck during an aerial challenge in the latter stages. It's even worse for Aidan O'Kane, who is going to miss anything up to a month after straining a thigh while striking the ball. This run in was never likely to be smooth, but we could certainly do without losing our top goalscorer and his supplier in chief. 2011/12 Scottish League Second Division (Top), Up To & Including Saturday 31st March 2012 | Pos | Inf | Team | | Pld | Won | Drn | Lst | For | Ag | G.D. | Pts | | 1st | | Partick Thistle | | 31 | 16 | 10 | 5 | 60 | 30 | +30 | 58 | -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- | 2nd | | Arbroath | | 31 | 17 | 7 | 7 | 48 | 23 | +25 | 58 | | 3rd | | Airdrie Utd | | 31 | 16 | 5 | 10 | 36 | 31 | +5 | 53 | | 4th | | Stirling | | 31 | 15 | 7 | 9 | 46 | 35 | +11 | 52 | -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- | 5th | | Ayr | | 31 | 14 | 8 | 9 | 42 | 38 | +4 | 50 | --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  2. neilhoskins77

    (FM'09) A 'United' Front - A Chance To Rewrite History Part II

    Sunday 18th March 2012 It was mentioned in my last update that Alloa Athletic have been relegated from the second tier, collecting just sixteen points and three wins from thirty matches. They spent some money too, bringing in twelve new players including the signing of Kenny Connolly in January for £5,000, and they saw nineteen leave. Now with their fate confirmed, they are dealing with a squad of players who pretty much en masse want to leave. They have eight players who all earn at least £300 a week, something they will not be able to do when they return to the Second Division next season. There's a huge blow for our talented 17 year old forward, Patrick Fleming. The Youth Team player who has 8 goals to his name so far this season, will not be getting to double figures after suffering a dislocated shoulder during a rather innocuous looking tackle during training. His spell on the sidelines is predicted to be between 2 and 3 months. Monday 19th March To be included in the latest edition of the team of the week, you either had to play for us, East Fife or Partick Thistle, the only three clubs represented. We just edged out East Fife, providing five players to the side, Ciaran Foy, Aidan O'Kane, Anwar Uddin, Shaun Holmes and Richal Leitoe. Tuesday 20th March 20 year old former Dundee midfielder Shaun Smith is the latest to voice his displeasure at constantly being ignored for First Team football. Smith is told he can leave, which shouldn't be too much of an issue for him as his contract expires at the end of the season, and he has plenty of suitors for his signature. I tell him he can leave right away if he wants away that badly too. Wednesday 21st March The fight for Shaun Smith's services begins in earnest, with twenty clubs offering the midfielder a contract. He has offers from right across England, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland. If you were trying to objectively look at the best club to offer him a deal, it's probably Rotherham United, who are likely to claim a Playoff place at least in Coca-Cola League Two. Thursday 22nd March Alloa Athletic have lost one of their best players from their squad for next season, less than a week after they were confirmed as relegated. There is a positive though, as he is also their joint top earner at £700 a week. Talented 22 year old former Leeds United and Chelsea youngster, Tom Taiwo, has agreed to join Bristol Rovers next season. We were interested in Taiwo, but he's out of our reach with a salary like that, and will be strutting his stuff down the Gloucester Road instead of at Somerset Park. It's the first purchase by new manager Peter Jackson, who took over just ten days ago after Paul Trollope was sacked. Rovers are two points from safety in Coca-Cola League One, just behind Swindon Town who's fortunes have improved since Daryl Fordyce completed his loan spell. Derby County are still propping up the table, and relegation now looks inevitable for The Rams. Jamie Craggs has been called up again by Montserrat for the Second Leg of their FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifier with St Kitts & Nevis next week in the First Qualifying Round of the North American zone. Craggs' nation are 4-1 down from the First Leg. There is no call up for Richal Leitoe, he has been left out of the Netherlands Antilles squad. Irish centre back Andrew Hageman is reportedly unhappy he hasn't been able to get much in the way of First Team football this season. The 6'3 Drogheda native didn't actually perform too badly when he played, but the reality is that he was not reliable in the long term in the heart of our defence. His contract expires this summer, and you can expect to see Hageman depart Somerset Park. Friday 23rd March Tomorrow afternoon we return home with confidence very high after three successive wins. The visitors will be league leaders Partick Thistle as 'phase two' begins. Thistle are eight points in front of us with seven matches remaining, and are Even money favourites. They are also one of only two clubs with a better home record than us, by one point, and they are one of the three clubs in this Division that have gone unbeaten at home so far this season. I'd like to think we'll give them a run for their money tomorrow, the three meetings this season have resulted in a draw, win and then a loss for us, though the defeat was a resounding 4-0 one back in January. Saturday 24th March Scottish Second Division Somerset Park, Ayr Ayr United (5th) v Partick Thistle (1st) Attendance :- 1,169. Weather :- Wet, 8c. Spring has yet to be sprung in Scotland, but there is certainly a spring in our step as we welcome the league leaders to Somerset Park for the beginning of 'phase two'. Both the starting lineup, and matchday squad as a whole, remain unchanged. There is one important change though, as we return to the 4-2-2-2 wide formation that has served us so well at home so far this campaign. It's a bumper crowd at Somerset Park for the visit of Thistle, most of whom are hoping to see us record a fourth successive victory. And a lot of them thought we might have been awarded a penalty just two minutes in, Shaun Holmes felled just inside the penalty box from a challenge by James Hurst, the ref decided there wasn't enough in it. Hurst would be involved again in the 8th minute, failing to properly deal with Richal Leitoe's cross, Holmes and Daryl Fordyce managed to get the ball to the feet of Ryan McStay, but he missed the target. Thistle had been quiet, but that wouldn't stay the case for very long, Gary Harkins reaching the byline before clipping a cross to the far post, Ciaran Foy had to head that one from under his own bar while being pressured by Stephen McPhee, who would get a shot in moments later, Stephen Grindlay pushing that one away. The next time they attacked, Harkins would take the shot on himself, his effort only just rising above the angle of the goal frame. But the absolute gilt edged chance of the first half would fall our way. Devann Yao held the ball up, and used his strength to keep the ball away from a few defenders. He then sent it into the right channel of the box for Richal Leitoe, who brought the ball under control before sending a right footed shot across goal. David Forde got a big piece of it, but he couldn't hold onto it. The ball rolled behind him, and was now sitting in the six yard box, and out of the keepers reach. Fordyce was alert, and easily won the race to get to the loose ball first, with a simple finish to give us the lead. But he thumped the ball off the post! He looked mortified, and we could only hope we wouldn't come to rue that miss in the second half. Partick Thistle's players must have had the rollicking that I felt like giving Fordyce for missing that sitter. They came out swinging after the break, Oliver Russell sending one across goal and just wide of the far post, before Liam Buchanan had two shots blocked, and skipper Alan Archibald struck a fierce effort at goal that Grindlay pushed over the bar acrobatically. At the other end, a rehearsed training ground free kick routine almost paid off. Magnus Eikrem made to shoot, but then touched the ball sideways to Fordyce. As the wall charged at the strikers shooting lane, he pushed the ball sideways again, this time to Leitoe on the corner of the box, but the winger fluffed his lines, shanking his shot wide. Just after the hour we suffered a blow, with Ryan McStay taking a knock. He might have been able to continue, but it isn't the day for carrying someone with a knock in the centre of the park, and he departs, along with Holmes, the pair replaced by Darren Young and James McLean. A little while later, Forde matched Grindlay's superb stop from earlier in the half, Aidan O'Kane and James McLean played a one-two, and the cross was met with a perfectly struck volley by Eikrem, but it was tipped over brilliantly by Forde as it headed for the top corner. I was forced into burning my final substitution with ten minutes left, as Eikrem would go down with an injury as well. Peggy Lokando came on in his place. Then with five minutes to go, Forde's goal kick fell short of it's target, and Anwar Uddin headed the ball from the halfway line over the Thistle defence. Hurst had to turn, and by the time he did, Yao was already level with him. His strength came into play against the smaller stature full back, and he kept the ball on his left foot and away from Hurst, before sending his shot across goal, beyond Forde, and just inside the far post. I raced out of the dugout and down the touchline in celebration. That might just be the biggest goal of our season, and with the visitors unable to find an answer, it was a winning one too. His strike partner was very quick to congratulate him, and say a big thank you I'd imagine. Ayr United (0) 1 - Devann Yao (86) Partick Thistle (0) 0 Stephen Grindlay; Ciaran Foy, Anwar Uddin, Olafur Örn Bjarnason ©, Aidan O'Kane; Ryan McStay (inj - Darren Young 63), Magnus Eikrem (inj - Peggy Lokando 80); Richal Leitoe, Shaun Holmes (James McLean 63); Devann Yao, Daryl Fordyce. Unused Substitutes :- Marcus Hall, Alex Owen. Bookings :- None Possession :- 54% - 46%. Man of the Match :- Anwar Uddin (Ayr United). You can't buy moments like that. They're the moments that make this great game of ours. The world's most popular and played sport. Somerset Park was less than a sixth full, but the noise when that ball hit the net was unforgettable. And in the grand scheme of things, what did it actually give us? A chance to continue fighting? Well, a little more as a matter of fact. For starters, it meant Daryl Fordyce would be able to sleep tonight. But better than that, Stirling Albion were beaten at home, 1-0 by Brechin City. At the same time, Airdrie United were beaten too, 2-0 away to Arbroath. That latter result, along with our win, means we move into fourth by way of our now better goal difference. We are only one point behind Stirling now, and ahead of Airdrie United on goal difference. Game on! And guess who we play next weekend as well....... 2011/12 Scottish League Second Division (Top), Up To & Including Saturday 24th March 2012 | Pos | Inf | Team | | Pld | Won | Drn | Lst | For | Ag | G.D. | Pts | | 1st | | Partick Thistle | | 30 | 15 | 10 | 5 | 54 | 30 | +24 | 55 | -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- | 2nd | | Arbroath | | 30 | 16 | 7 | 7 | 47 | 23 | +24 | 55 | | 3rd | | Stirling | | 30 | 15 | 6 | 9 | 44 | 33 | +11 | 51 | | 4th | | Ayr | | 30 | 14 | 8 | 8 | 41 | 35 | +6 | 50 | -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- | 5th | | Airdrie Utd | | 30 | 15 | 5 | 10 | 33 | 30 | +3 | 50 | --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  3. neilhoskins77

    (FM'09) A 'United' Front - A Chance To Rewrite History Part II

    2011/12 Scottish League Second Division Table (Top), Up To & Including Saturday 17th March 2012 | Pos | Inf | Team | | Pld | Won | Drn | Lst | For | Ag | G.D. | Pts | | 1st | | Partick Thistle | | 29 | 15 | 10 | 4 | 54 | 29 | +25 | 55 | -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- | 2nd | | Arbroath | | 29 | 15 | 7 | 7 | 45 | 23 | +22 | 52 | | 3rd | | Stirling | | 29 | 15 | 6 | 8 | 44 | 32 | +12 | 51 | | 4th | | Airdrie Utd | | 29 | 15 | 5 | 9 | 33 | 28 | +5 | 50 | -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- | 5th | | Ayr | | 29 | 13 | 8 | 8 | 40 | 35 | +5 | 47 | --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  4. neilhoskins77

    (FM'09) A 'United' Front - A Chance To Rewrite History Part II

    Sunday 11th March 2012 Maybe the confidence from the First Team is now starting to feed down through the club, as the Reserves put in one of their best performances of the season today. The second string made the trip to Elgin City, and a four goal salvo in the first half was key in a 6-1 victory. Abdi Ibrahim, a pair from Adam Vickers and a strike from Craig Fisher had the points in the bag by the half hour mark. Sean Fitzharris and Adan Newbury increased the lead to 6-0, before Bobby Jackson pulled one back at Deanshaugh. The lead at the top of Reserve Group 3 is now seven points with only four matches remaining. Monday 12th March A trio of Ayr United players feature in the team of the week lineup, with those named including Aidan O'Kane, Olafur Örn Bjarnason and Shaun Holmes. It's the single biggest representation from one club. 17 year old Youth Team centre back Paul Mackay is out for up to a month after suffering a back strain while lifting weights. Thursday 15th March Two of our younger players have been called up for their respective nations for upcoming International matches. Goalkeeper Zannetos Mytides, who has been maturing quite well with regular football for our Reserve side, has been called up by Cyprus for their Under-21 squad as they travel to Sofia next week to face Bulgaria in their UEFA 2013 European Under-21 Championship Qualifier. There is also a call up for Paul Dummett, who is hoping to add to the ten age group caps he already has when Wales firstly face Montenegro in Swansea in the same competition, before they travel out to Greece for a Friendly fixture in Mytilini. Friday 16th March Those two wins have got us into a slightly better position, but tomorrow we have a bigger test, as we face an away trip to complete what I'm calling the first of three distinct stages. It's bottom of the table East Stirlingshire who we will face, and their poor form, combined with our improvement over the last couple of matches, has led the bookies to the conclusion that tomorrow will be our day. Nonetheless, 2/5 looks like the kind of skinny odds I'd be avoiding, though I really hope they are right. Saturday 17th March Scottish Second Division Ochilview Park, Stenhousemuir East Stirlingshire (10th) v Ayr United (5th) Attendance :- 225. Weather :- Drizzle, 12c. Some changes are made, and not necessarily just in personnel, but we'll deal with those first. Despite his excellent performance last time out, Peggy Lokando returns to the substitutes bench, with Richal Leitoe returning to the lineup. There is also a switch up front as well, with Alex Owen dropped in favour of Daryl Fordyce. Our 4-2-2-2 today becomes a more conventional 4-2-2, with our wingers being required to be more defensively responsible, which I'm hoping will work better with Leitoe and Shaun Holmes as opposed to Lokando and James McLean. We will be a little less attacking, a little less patient and quicker to build up, and a little less reliant on sending the ball wide. These are not groundbreaking huge changes, but I'm hoping they will make a difference. It certainly didn't have a bad start anyway. In the 8th minute, Ciaran Foy sent the ball into the feet of Richal Leitoe, who beat his marker for pace, and from the byline clipped a deep cross to the far post. It was over the heads of everybody, with the exception of Shaun Holmes, who netted his first goal in our colours from open play with a powerful downward header that left Tom Woodhead stranded. So that went very well, but our hosts are not a club that are in a position where they can afford to chuck the towel in. Right back Kaid Mohamed's cross was overhit, but that sent it on target, Stephen Grindlay had to back pedal and reach out to his absolute extent to get fingertips to the ball and push it over the top. That would turn out to be a rare foray forward from the home side, and a Magnus Eikrem corner went right through the goalmouth, before Holmes caused more problems, particularly for Ronan Ivory who brought him down, fortunately for him at least, it was just outside the penalty box. Anwar Uddin flicked on Eikrem's delivery, but Devann Yao's shot was blocked. The next time we got a free kick, Holmes took it himself, curling his shot around the wall, and it was headed for the top corner until Woodhead turned the shot over the bar with a superb save. We reached half time with our lead still standing at a single goal. I had to emphasize the importance of holding onto the lead we had at the break, and make sure the players didn't get complacent. We were halfway through what would be a precious win on the road. We nearly chucked that lead away quickly though, Anwar Uddin was beaten in the air, and Ryan McStay failed to track his man, Shane Huke getting into the box, but then firing his shot over the goal frame. McStay attempted to make amends on the hour, as he collected a pass on the edge of the box, and then sent in a shot on the turn. Woodhead fought it off, Yao sent the rebound into the net, but the flag was up and the striker had been caught offside. Once again we rode our luck in the 65th minute, Uddin sent the ball upfield, Simon Dogan volleyed it right back into our box, and Barry McGrory pulled off the back of our defensive line and brought the ball down, sending a shot past Grindlay's dive, but it bounced back off the far upright, before Eikrem cleared the ball under pressure from two forwards. It would be a different matter when we took our next attacking trip, Adian O'Kane switching the ball from left to right and picking out Foy, and he picked out Leitoe near the corner of the six yard box. The winger hit his shot first time, and it took a huge deflection, leaving Woodhead wrong footed, and beaten! Surely there was no coming back from that for East Stirlingshire, and I decided to use some fresh legs. Goalscorers Holmes and Leitoe were joined by Eikrem in being replaced, with James McLean, Peggy Lokando and Darren Young their replacements. The game had now died it's own little death a bit, though there was an example of the way the wingers have to work in this new system away from home. McLean chased back to cause Huke a problem, and even though he did get a cross in, Peggy Lokando had also done his tracking back, and he was the one who headed the ball clear. I like what I saw today, almost as much as I liked the three points we had just earned. East Stirlingshire (0) 0 Ayr United (1) 2 - Shaun Holmes (8), Richal Leitoe (70) Stephen Grindlay; Ciaran Foy, Anwar Uddin, Olafur Örn Bjarnason ©, Aidan O'Kane; Ryan McStay, Magnus Eikrem (Darren Young 72); Richal Leitoe (Peggy Lokando 72), Shaun Holmes (James McLean 72); Devann Yao, Daryl Fordyce. Unused Substitutes :- Marcus Hall, Alex Owen. Bookings :- None Possession :- 41% - 59%. Man of the Match :- Richal Leitoe (Ayr United). Ahhhhhh, that's more like it! We didn't have it all our own way, and at times, we rode our luck, particularly at 1-0 when that Barry McGrory shot came back off the upright. But we came away with the points, and an improvement in our very poor away record. In fact, our second win on our travels this campaign has vaulted us from 9th to 5th in the away record table, the same position we find ourselves in the actual league table. So our position hasn't improved, but our prospects have. The top four all faced off against each other, with the home sides coming out on top. Partick Thistle beat Airdrie United 2-0, while Stirling Albion beat Arbroath 1-0. Peterhead dropped points again with an away draw against Brechin, and they now sit 8 points behind us. For now, we are ruling them out of the running, but that situation could change of course. On the weekend that the first bit of business is concluded in Scotland, namely last seasons Promotion Playoff winners Alloa Athletic being relegated from the First Division with six matches still to play, we have concluded 'phase one' of our three part run in successfully, with a record of three wins out of three. Things are now expected to get much more difficult as we move into the second phase, and a match against each of the four sides above us. That will start next Saturday, with a visit from the current league leaders, Partick Thistle.
  5. neilhoskins77

    (FM'09) A 'United' Front - A Chance To Rewrite History Part II

    Sunday 4th March 2012 The Reserves are back in action again today at Somerset Park, and they have come away with another win, as they defeat Annan Athletic 3-1. It was Bryan Gilfillan from the penalty spot that gave us a first half lead, and in the second half, Craig Fisher netted our second, before Ewan Hughes put the ball into his own net. Robert Crank did pull one back for Annan, in a match that saw Marc McCann set up two goals in a man of the match display from the Northern Irish winger who joins Dumbarton in the summer. Monday 5th March A league leading four Ayr United players are included in the latest edition of the team of the week. Anwar Uddin, Olafur Örn Bjarnason, Aidan O'Kane and Shaun Holmes are the players that are named. Wednesday 7th March Stirling Albion play their game in hand at Central Park, and they earn a 2-0 win, unfortunately. They move back ahead of Airdrie United and into third place, meaning that we return to being six points back from Airdrie, instead of only four behind Albion. Nine games to go. Friday 9th March We might not be the red hot favourites that we were last weekend when Brechin City came to visit, but at a price of 1/2 with the bookies, you won't find too many punters backing anything other than another Ayr United win when East Fife come to visit tomorrow afternoon. Let's hope it's not us who are the almost obligatory 'coupon busters' tomorrow. There is a certain right winger who is hoping he can boost our hopes of improving our home record even further. Talented Netherlands Antilles International forward Richal Leitoe returned to training today, and has declared himself available for the match. That would be a pleasant boost to for us as we look to close that gap a little this weekend. Saturday 10th March Scottish Second Division Somerset Park, Ayr Ayr United (5th) v East Fife (7th) Attendance :- 881. Weather :- Wet, 14c. And so we move on to the next one, and what is effectively the second round of a ten game sprint to save our season, and quite possibly my job. East Fife arrive on the West Coast on a mild, but wet day as we seek a second consecutive victory at home against a team lower than us in the table. There is just one change today, and it comes amongst the substitutes, with Ryan Stevenson left out of the squad, and Richal Leitoe included on the bench after his return to training yesterday. Shaun Holmes twisted and turned like an eel in a tank on the left wing in the 12th minute, eventually doing enough to earn one of those corners that we are oh so dangerous from. Not this time though unfortunately. In fact, it would be East Fife who would create the first real chance, but their skipper Chris Templeman sent his shot on the turn over the bar. With just five minutes remaining in the first half, we really should have been in front. Some sharp, short passing allowed Magnus Eikrem to play Peggy Lokando into space down the right, and the winger got to the byline, before standing up a cross towards the far post area. Devann Yao pulled off the back of his marker, and went for power. That would regrettably be at the expense of direction, and he put his header far too close to Glyn Garner, who clawed the ball away, and kept this one scoreless going into the half time break. I would be surprised if a fair few of the almost 900 strong crowd inside Somerset Park today didn't hear a fair bit of the rallying call that dominated the half time team talk. Lokando had created the best chance in the match so far, and he would trump that effort in the 53rd minute, making a mazy run that got him into the right channel of the box, before going down under Jim Lauchlan's rather clumsy challenge. The visitors from the Kingdom of Fife were furious with that decision to award us a penalty, and Shaun Holmes didn't improve their mood any when he drilled the penalty kick low into the bottom corner to hand us a lead that delighted the home fans. As the hour mark arrived, I decided to make a pair of changes to try and keep us on top, Aidan O'Kane and Alex Owen substituted, with Marcus Hall and Daryl Fordyce brought on in their places. But it was Lokando once more who provided the spark, the winger given the ball by Ciaran Foy, and he skipped past Ryan Blackadder before sending a low cross into the middle, which Devann Yao sidefooted home to double our lead. Paul McManus immediately tried to pull a goal back for East Fife, but Anwar Uddin didn't give him too much space, and Stephen Grindlay saved the shot down at his near post. Instead, the action returned to the other end of the park, where Holmes' corner was headed in at the far post by Olafur Örn Bjarnason to extend our advantage to a three goal one. That was my signal to get Richal Leitoe a little bit of match time while the pressure was off, and Lokando was given a rapturous ovation as he made his way to the dugout. East Fife welcomed Leitoe into the game by bagging themselves a consolation goal, Darren Smith's cross was cleared, but sub Anthony Malbon retrieved the ball and sent a shot through the crowded penalty box and inside the near post. Fortunately, a consolation was all that it would be, McManus blasting an 88th minute shot well over our bar, and the only damage done was just very slight to our goal difference. Ayr United (0) 3 - Shaun Holmes (54 pen), Devann Yao (63), Olafur Örn Bjarnason (72) East Fife (0) 1 - Anthony Malbon (78) Stephen Grindlay; Ciaran Foy, Anwar Uddin, Olafur Örn Bjarnason ©, Aidan O'Kane (Marcus Hall 61); Ryan McStay, Magnus Eikrem; Peggy Lokando (Richal Leitoe 78), Shaun Holmes; Devann Yao, Alex Owen (Daryl Fordyce 61). Unused Substitutes :- Darren Young, James McLean. Bookings :- None Possession :- 49% - 51%. Man of the Match :- Olafur Örn Bjarnason (Ayr United). That was another excellent home outing, particularly in the second half. East Fife were particularly aggrieved about the award of the penalty, and I told the press that it's probably one of those that you're happy to get, but not happy if it's given against you. I was a little surprised that Peggy Lokando wasn't awarded the man of the match prize today, the winger was absolutely outstanding. Seriously Congo FA people, get the lad involved! But lets take a moment to appreciate the goalscoring exploits of our Captain and 28 times capped Icelandic veteran centre half. Olafur Örn Bjarnason has to be a candidate for signing of the season after his Free Transfer from Accrington Stanley last summer. He now has six league goals this season, matching his best ever league goalscoring season that was achieved back in 2000 with Grindavík, his second spell with the club. He now has 35 league goals in his 21 season career as a professional to date. There is good news from elsewhere as well, with Stirling Albion beaten 2-1 at Peterhead. With Airdrie winning 4-0 at home, and Arbroath holding Partick Thistle to a 1-1 draw, three of the four sides above us have dropped points this weekend, and we are now four points back from Stirling with eight games remaining. Next weekend we go back on our travels, and our away form has to improve.
  6. neilhoskins77

    (FM'09) A 'United' Front - A Chance To Rewrite History Part II

    Sunday 26th February 2012 That defeat against Stirling Albion yesterday was our first defeat in five, with our strikers failing to consistently find the net still one of our real problems. In the summer, we have Danny Carey-Bertram arriving at the club from AFC Telford United. They are pushing hard to try and earn promotion from the Blue Square North up into the Blue Square Premier. But their boss Rob Smith isn't happy with his striker, saying that he has lost his focus since agreeing his summer move north of the border. He might be right too, as they have won only three of their last twelve matches since we entered 2012, and held scoreless six times in that run of matches. Carey-Bertram has found the net only three times since the turn of the year, and each time has been in the games that United have won. Smith has concerns that his striker is going missing in matches and has lost his hunger since agreeing to end his time at The New Bucks Head at the end of the season. Monday 27th February Despite the defeat at Forthbank Stadium on the weekend, centre back Anwar Uddin has been included in the team of the week. His centre back partner in his early games for us, Bryan Gilfillan, has as yet failed to attract a bid for his services as we continue our attempts to move him on. Tuesday 28th February Another centre back who's time is up at Somerset Park, is David Partridge. The Welsh International defender is suffering with a cold, and is immediately sent home for the rest of the week to minimise the risk of him giving it to other members of the squad. Thursday 1st March 2012 It's March, and we are preparing for a huge month that is scheduled to feature half of our remaining ten league matches, starting with a home match against Brechin City on Saturday afternoon. There is a great boost for us announced today as well, with young on loan striker Devann Yao named February's Second Division Young Player of the Month, an award that the American forward has credited me for, telling the press it's been great to play for a manager who has faith in his abilities. I tell him that I'd like to see that faith repaid with an increase in the goals tally. Anwar Uddin was third in the Player of the Month announcement. The Board are still of the opinion that we should be performing better in the league, and that I should be doing a better job overall, with the negative atmosphere in the dressing room one of their major concerns. They are happy with the loan arrival of Devann Yao, but we have lost money again this month, with another £26,500 leaving the clubs coffers. Not that it is too much of an issue at this stage, the club has almost £200,000 in the bank account. Friday 2nd March 8th placed Brechin City are our visitors tomorrow afternoon, and they have failed to win any of their last seven matches. We are the red hot favourites for the match at 1/6, and rightly so too. If we can't win this one, then we don't deserve to be speaking about getting our noses back into the promotion fight. In fact, we should all give up and go home if we can't secure the maximum points against City. The Under-19's play a rare Friday afternoon match at Somerset Park, with Annan Athletic's youngsters the visitors. Defender Paul Mackay had already netted his second goal of the season when Athletic's defender Bobby McLaren was given a 7th minute straight red card for an elbow. Mackay grabbed his second of the match just before the half hour, and left winger Pat McDonald, who has been getting some games since Jimmy Ferguson left on loan, scored his first of the season five minutes later to wrap up the scoring. Saturday 3rd March Scottish Second Division Somerset Park, Ayr Ayr United (5th) v Brechin City (8th) Attendance :- 871. Weather :- Drizzle, 9c. Every game is going to have a big match feel about it from now on, and we start at home against a Brechin City side we are expected to beat, a feeling that would become the base theme of our pre match team talk today. In the only change from last weeks defeat in Stirling, I switch things around on the right wing, as Daryl Fordyce returns to the bench, and Peggy Lokando is selected as a more traditional winger option. A good start was going to be crucial for us today. It came early too, Aidan O'Kane's free kick from the right was curled to the far post, and despite being held by a defender, and falling backwards, Olafur Örn Bjarnason managed to get enough on it with his right foot to divert the ball into the bottom corner and give us a 6th minute advantage. The possibility of City causing us too many problems wasn't something we had considered, but we had to think about it a bit more when Jordan White sent a through ball between our defenders, only to watch Ryan Charles scuff his left footed shot well wide of the mark. Ok, so they had our attention now, and they were doing a good job of preventing us from creating chances, though they weren't creating too much of anything themselves either, Jamie Davidson missing the target with a 25 yard effort. Seán Friars did manage to work Stephen Grindlay before the break, our keeper tipping his shot over the bar. We held that lead through to the break, but things might be about to get a little more tricky for us. Both Alex Owen and Peggy Lokando collected knocks near the end of the first half, neither particularly serious, but today was absolutely not the day for taking risks, so Daryl Fordyce and Ryan Stevenson replaced them at the break. It didn't look like too bad a swap either when Fordyce knocked down a long ball forward, and Devann Yao took a pot shot, James Spencer pushing that one over the bar. From the corner, O'Kane put plenty of pace on his delivery, and almost picked out his favourite target, Bjarnason just failing to get his head to that one. Spencer had to be alert again a few minutes later, as Magnus Eikrem's free kick got up and over the wall, and back down to hit the target, City's keeper scrambling across his goalmouth and managing to get his hand to it and keep that one out. We really needed to get one of these chances on the scoreboard to nip the threat from Brechin in the bud, and that would finally happen with just under quarter of an hour remaining. Eikrem's corner wasn't cleared properly, but sub Nick McAusland got his header all wrong, managing to send it back into the danger zone. Anwar Uddin was on hand to win a header of his own, and he looped it over Spencer and into the far corner to finally double our lead and give us some much needed breathing room. One of our subs would need to be replaced himself in the latter stages, Ryan Stevenson came off to be replaced by Darren Young, and the physio would have his work cut out, with three players now nursing potential injuries. City hadn't quite given up yet, but their final chance also went to waste when James Scott's square pass was half volleyed inches wide by Ryan Adams. Mission complete. Only nine more to go. Ayr United (1) 2 - Olafur Örn Bjarnason (6), Anwar Uddin (77) Brechin City (0) 0 Stephen Grindlay; Ciaran Foy, Anwar Uddin, Olafur Örn Bjarnason ©, Aidan O'Kane; Ryan McStay, Magnus Eikrem; Peggy Lokando (inj - Ryan Stevenson 45 (inj - Darren Young 82)), Shaun Holmes; Devann Yao, Alex Owen (Daryl Fordyce 45). Unused Substitutes :- Marcus Hall, James McLean. Bookings :- Olafur Örn Bjarnason 63, Devann Yao 74 Possession :- 47% - 53%. Man of the Match :- Anwar Uddin (Ayr United). We could have won that match by enough goals to really send out a message to the rest of the league, but as it was, we would have to be happy with the three points. Oh, and the news from the physio that none of the three players who had to leave the park this afternoon are going to miss any match time, which is very welcome news. Stirling Albion didn’t play today as their scheduled opponents Cowdenbeath were getting drubbed 9-0 by Celtic in the Scottish Cup, so that match has been rescheduled for midweek. That leaves Airdrie United to move back into third for now at least, as they defeat East Fife 1-0 at home. We do get some good news, as Peterhead are beaten 2-0 at Arbroath, moving us six points ahead of the club who are rapidly falling away from contention to try and snatch a Promotion Playoff spot for themselves.
  7. neilhoskins77

    (FM'09) A 'United' Front - A Chance To Rewrite History Part II

    You know what @mark wilson27, I didn't actually realise how bad it was until I wrote that piece a few days ago and looked into it, and was prompted to include it in the story. I like to play no more than a few matches in front of the thread, as I prefer not to let knowing outcomes influence my thoughts at the time. Rest assured though, I am looking into options to improve our away form. Hope you're enjoying the story mate.
  8. neilhoskins77

    (FM'09) A 'United' Front - A Chance To Rewrite History Part II

    Sunday 19th February 2012 Predictably, both of the young Ghanaian players fail to earn work permits to join us, and that effort to improve our squad for the run in has now hit a brick wall. They are both quite gifted talents, and I'll certainly be keeping an eye on their progress. It will be particularly interesting to see where they end up next. Our Reserve side put in a very good performance at Links Park this afternoon to defeat the second string of Montrose. A goal in the first half from the departing Abdi Ibrahim had us on our way, though we did get some good fortune just before the break when Alex Shearer blasted a spot kick over the top for Montrose. We would then miss one of our own early in the second half, Sean Fitzharris seeing his effort saved. In a match that wasn't as close as the score suggested, we would finally put some daylight between us in injury time, Craig Fisher netting a confidence boosting winner, and giving us a four point lead in the Group 3 Reserve league. Monday 20th February Aidan O'Kane is the only Ayr United player named in the Second Division team of the week. I'm so glad he isn't on a bonus for that, as we'd be bankrupt. Thursday 23rd February It's a big European night for two of Scotland's clubs, as they fight to remain in the UEFA Europa League. We start in Kiev, where Aberdeen chucked the kitchen sink at Dinamo as they fought to overturn a two goal deficit from the First Leg at Pittodrie. And The Dons would find a way through too in front of a poorly attended match, but it would take them 86 minutes to open the scoring through Lewis Alessandra, and that goal would not be enough, as Aberdeen exit in the First Knockout Round, losing 2-1 on aggregate. So it would be left to Celtic to uphold the honour of Scotland in European competition this season, as they went to Istanbul after a 1-1 draw last week at Celtic Park with Fenerbaçhe. There was most certainly no issue with poor attendance at the Sükrü Saraçoglu, the place was jam packed well before kick off. Those yellow and blue clad fans would be making plenty of noise too on the hour mark, when Argentine forward Daniel Ludueña, who they signed for a bargain £2.5 million back in 2008, found the net to give the Turkish side the advantage. Celtic could not recover from that despite their best efforts, and all they had to show for their endeavor was a very late red card for French left back Lucien Aubey, who has now seen red three times this campaign in all competitions. That would be game over for the Scottish clubs in Europe for another season. Friday 24th February I did say our next match would be a huge one, and we have reached the eve of that clash. Tomorrow we will travel into the central belt of the nation, as we line up against the side immediately above us in the league table and in the place that we need to reach as a minimum, Stirling Albion. As it stands, we are four points behind them with eleven games remaining. If we lose to them tomorrow afternoon, it will be a seven point gap with ten remaining, and we would have to then be seen as outsiders to extend our season. The bookies make Albion fairly firm favourites at 4/6. Saturday 25th February We are really struggling for team spirit and unity. The squad know it, I know it, the Board are not happy about it. So on the eve of a big match, I don't want to be informed that a player who I'd expect to know better has spouted off in the press. The culprit this time is 33 year old former Manchester United youngster and England Under-21 International midfielder, Mark Wilson. The timing was clearly very poor, and while I'm not sure that Wilson is calculating enough to do that on purpose, if it had been down to me, he would have been sacked first thing this morning. I was talked down though, and instead issued a statement that Wilson was absolutely free to find another club. I had to stop myself from adding that I would doubt anyone would want to take on a player who thinks that this behaviour is the way to get things done. Scottish Second Division Forthbank Stadium, Stirling Stirling Albion (4th) v Ayr United (5th) Attendance :- 627. Weather :- Strong Winds, Showers, 10c. This is our biggest match to date this season, more important than a Cup Final, that's for sure. Failure to get the job done today will leave us as very much the underdogs to earn a spot in the top four this season. If we are to get ourselves a result, we'll have to do so without the injured winger Richal Leitoe. It's Daryl Fordyce who is selected to replace him, with Peggy Lokando brought up from the Reserves to provide cover from the subs bench. It was Stirling Albion who made the better start, winger Kris Maxwell going the long way around to get himself into a shooting position from the edge of the six yard box, Stephen Grindlay blocking that one without too much trouble. He was almost troubled again within a minute or two, Nathan Cartman collecting a square pass from Pat McWalter on the edge of the box and letting fly, but his shot was too high. Cartman had another go from a free kick, failing to hit the top corner he was aiming for. The domination continued though, and Darryl Knights set off on a mazy run that cut right through us, before slipping the ball to Liam O'Loughlin, and Grindlay had to be alert to push his shot around the post. Meanwhile, it would take us almost half an hour to get into a position to take a shot, Magnus Eikrem's effort from a free kick beat the wall, but curled wide of the target. There was still enough time in the first half for Albion to try their luck once more, Rene Steer made a great run down their left, and then turned inside Ciaran Foy and Daryl Fordyce once he hit the byline, sending over a cross shot that beat Grindlay but came back off the cross bar. We were pretty lucky to get to the break without being behind, and I told the players that they would need to be fully focused to make sure we stayed in this one. That would be much needed too, as Albion won a series of corners early in the second half, Foy, Olafur Örn Bjarnason and then finally Anwar Uddin all having to make crucial blocks, headers or tackles. But our luck would run out just after the hour mark. O'Loughlin's run down the left and subsequent cross were dealt with by Ryan McStay to concede another corner. Liam Corr's delivery was much deeper this time, and it swung in with the wind too. It bypassed Grindlay, and Foy jumped to try and meet it. He missed it too, and it hit the inside of the post, bounced back across goal and struck Grindlay, rebounding off the prone keeper and into the net! Cartman's shooting from range hadn't improved during the match, and he missed the target again after a series of quick passes got the ball to him 25 yards out. Sub Marlon Broomes tried his luck from distance too, but he didn't fare any better, his shot beating Grindlay, and also the post. I tried a treble substitution to turn the tide, full back Foy and Aidan O'Kane joining Shaun Holmes in being withdrawn, as Ryan Stevenson, Peggy Lokando and James McLean all came on. I would leave just two at the back in an attempt to force an equalizer, as Fordyce joined Stevenson behind the front two, with Lokando and McLean going on the wings. It nearly backfired quickly, as O'Loughlin found acres of room down the left, and his cross was deep enough to cut out our two remaining defenders and find sub Owen Morrison. But he sent his volley into the ground, and that took all the pace off it, leaving Grindlay with a fairly routine save. The clock was ticking down and about to hit ninety when Eikrem sent the ball down the right for Lokando, and his cross was headed behind by Craig Gupwell. With O'Kane already replaced, it would be McLean who would deliver the corner. But that was very easily dealt with, and we had lost the game that we really couldn't afford to lose. Stirling Albion (0) 1 - Stephen Grindlay (62 og) Ayr United (0) 0 Stephen Grindlay; Ciaran Foy (Ryan Stevenson 73), Anwar Uddin, Olafur Örn Bjarnason ©, Aidan O'Kane (Peggy Lokando 73); Ryan McStay, Magnus Eikrem; Daryl Fordyce, Shaun Holmes (James McLean 73); Devann Yao, Alex Owen. Unused Substitutes :- Marcus Hall, Darren Young. Bookings :- None Possession :- 52% - 48%. Man of the Match :- Darryl Knights (Stirling Albion). It wasn't the fact that we had lost that was depressing me. It was more the manner that we were beaten that was causing me an issue. The biggest game of our season so far in my opinion, and we failed to manage a shot on target, despite managing to have nearly half of the possession. When you dig a little deeper into the stats, it was very clear to see where our problems lie this season, and as illustrated below, our away form has been alarmingly bad. Last season, we collected 20 points more at home than we did on our travels. Right now, that total is 22 points more at home. |2011/12 Home Record | | Pld | Won | Drn | Lst | For | Ag | G.D. | Pts | ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- | Ayr | | 13 | 9 | 3 | 1 | 24 | 15 | +9 | 30 | ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- |2011/12 Away Record | | Pld | Won | Drn | Lst | For | Ag | G.D. | Pts | ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- | Ayr | | 13 | 1 | 5 | 7 | 9 | 19 | -10 | 8 | ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- That away record is awful, in fact, it's as bad as the teams right at the bottom. That has to improve hugely in the final five away matches of the season, one solitary win on our travels against Brechin City early in the new year, is obviously one of the root causes of our issues. Are we out of the running now? Well, no, not quite. We are certainly going to need some help, but that may come in the fixture list. Our next three matches are all against clubs below us, two at home, followed by three away. No if's, or but's, we have to win all three of those fixtures, and hope that either Airdrie United or Stirling Albion, also drop some points for us to close the gap up. Then it's the four clubs above us, one after the other, one at home followed by two away, and then another at home. It's quite likely that by the time those fixtures are done in mid April, we'll either be right in the mix again, or out of the running. If we are still in the running, then we finish with three of the sides below us, one at home, and then completing the season with two away matches. Your guess is as good as mine! 2011/12 Scottish League Second Division Table, Up To & Including Saturday 25th February 2012 | Pos | Inf | Team | | Pld | Won | Drn | Lst | For | Ag | G.D. | Pts | | 1st | | Partick Thistle | | 26 | 14 | 8 | 4 | 51 | 28 | +23 | 50 | -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- | 2nd | | Arbroath | | 26 | 14 | 6 | 6 | 42 | 21 | +21 | 48 | | 3rd | | Stirling | | 26 | 13 | 6 | 7 | 40 | 30 | +10 | 45 | | 4th | | Airdrie Utd | | 26 | 13 | 5 | 8 | 28 | 26 | +2 | 44 | -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- | 5th | | Ayr | | 26 | 10 | 8 | 8 | 33 | 34 | -1 | 38 | | 6th | | Peterhead | | 26 | 9 | 8 | 9 | 35 | 36 | -1 | 35 | | 7th | | East Fife | | 26 | 10 | 4 | 12 | 34 | 45 | -11 | 34 | | 8th | | Brechin | | 26 | 7 | 2 | 17 | 29 | 37 | -8 | 23 | -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- | 9th | | Cowdenbeath | | 26 | 5 | 7 | 14 | 23 | 39 | -16 | 22 | -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- | 10th | | East Stirlingshire | | 26 | 5 | 6 | 15 | 17 | 36 | -19 | 21 | --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  9. neilhoskins77

    (FM'09) A 'United' Front - A Chance To Rewrite History Part II

    The European Catch-Up For some reason, I have forgotten to keep you updated with going's on in European competition for Scotland's clubs, so we'll have a little catch up session now if that's okay with you all. We'll start with the UEFA Champions League, and the Group Stages, where both Celtic and Rangers are involved. Lets begin with the Hoops, who are drawn into Group D, and will quite fancy their chances of being competitive and sneaking into the Knockout Stages. They start at home with a win over the Norwegian side, SK Brann. Things get decidedly more difficult for them in Matchday's two and three, as they suffer consecutive away losses, firstly against Fiorentina, and then against Valencia. When the Spaniards completed the double over Celtic with a win in Glasgow, it looked very gloomy for the Scottish club, but a Brann win over Fiorentina on the same night opened things up somewhat, though Valencia were untouchable as they had four wins from four. Celtic would win in Norway in Matchday 5 to keep themselves in the hunt, and Valencia won in Italy, setting up an exciting conclusion in the final round of matches. Celtic knew a win over Fiorentina in Glasgow would likely put them through. But they couldn't break down Viola, and a 0-0 draw would mean they went out on goal difference, with the only consolation being their reallocation into the Knockout Stages of the UEFA Europa League. It would be a different story for he Blue half of Glasgow in Group E, though not for the better. Handed a pretty tough draw, they started at Anfield in one of the 'Battle of Britain' fixtures that the media are so fond of. Rangers were outclassed on Merseyside, losing 3-1 to Liverpool, but a home draw with German side Werder Bremen, followed by a very credible point in Italy against Sampdoria, left Rangers very much in the hunt. That would be as good as it would get for them though, as successive defeats in Glasgow to the Italians and Liverpool, both single goal games, meant they headed into the final round knowing their European adventure was over for the season. A defeat in Bremen left them with just two points from their six matches. Scotland's sole representative in the UEFA Europa League Group Stages were Aberdeen, and few gave them too much hope of progressing through Group J when they were drawn with Juventus, Newcastle United and Israeli big spenders Hapoel Tel-Aviv. There was plenty of egg on face then when The Dons opened with six points out of six without conceding a goal either, beating Newcastle 2-0 at Pittodrie, before heading to Israel and managing a 1-0 win over Hapoel. In mid October, the old lady of Italian football, Juve, headed to North East Scotland, and Aberdeen were not disgraced in a 1-0 defeat. When they then headed over the border to St James' Park, and earned a 1-1 draw against the English Premier League side thanks to a late Nejc Pecnik equalizer. Aberdeen looked in great shape to progress, but it looked in much more doubt when Hapoel gained revenge with a 1-0 win in Scotland on the penultimate matchday. So Aberdeen would travel to Italy, knowing if they didn't manage to get a result, a Newcastle win in Israel could knock them out if the goal difference was also made up. The Dons were thrashed 5-0 at the Delle Alpin in Turin, but Newcastle lost 1-0 in Tel-Aviv, and Aberdeen squeezed into the Knockout Stages to join Celtic. Sunday 12th February 2012 Bryan Gilfillan is selected to play for the Reserves today after being excluded from the First Team squad for his poor attitude. The 27 year old former Northern Irish Under-21 International was man of the match in the 0-0 draw with the Albion Rovers second string at Somerset Park. Defence's were very much on top in a match where the weather meant playing conditions were difficult. Monday 13th February Both of our full backs are given the weekly honour this week, with Ciaran Foy and Aidan O'Kane named in the team of the week. Wednesday 15th February A pair of young forwards from Ghana have accepted offers to join us as Free Agents, but both are likely to need Work Permits with them only being age group Internationals. We apply for the paperwork, more in hope than expectation. Richal Leitoe is left out of the Netherlands Antilles matchday squad that plays the 1st Leg of their World Cup Qualifier with Grenada in St George's. They made the 2nd Leg pretty much redundant as they won 3-0 without our flying winger. There was a place for Jamie Craggs in Monteserrat's match against St Kitts & Nevis in Basseterre. The visiting underdogs took the lead as well through Gainsborough Trinity stiker Tesfaye Bramble, who was once a target while I was manager at Lurgan Celtic. That gave him four goals in nine caps, but was as good as it good for Monteserrat, as the hosts scored twice in each half to secure a 4-1 win that you'd say will likely put them into the next phase. Craggs played the entire match, and actually gave a pretty good account of himself as well. Thursday 16th February Scotland's two remaining representatives in Europe both start their First Knockout Round ties at home in the UEFA Europe League, though neither have been given particularly easy draws. Aberdeen face Ukrainian heavyweight side, Dinamo Kiev in a First Leg that ends 10 v 10. The Dons were already two goals down after strikes from Humberto Suarzo and Loïc Rémy when goalkeeper Ryan Esson was red carded for a professional foul outside the box early in the second half. Dinamo failed to take full advantage of that, and finished light on numbers themselves when defender Andriy Rusol was also red carded. Aberdeen now have a monster task on their hands after that 2-0 defeat. Further south, in Glasgow, the visitors are Turkish club Fenerbaçhe as Celtic aim to make the best of their consolation prize entry into the second tier competition. They were behind on half hour though, as Turkish International striker Semih Sentürk netted the only goal of the first half. There would be a response early in the second half however, as Scott Brown found an equalizer. The match ended 1-1, and it will be all to play for next week in Istanbul. Friday 17th February The league leaders Arbroath will travel from the East Coast tomorrow, and look to consolidate their position at the top on the West Coast. They have won two of their last three, and are unbeaten in that trio of fixtures as the race hots up not only to secure a Playoff place, but also to finish on top of the pile and avoid the need to play any extra fixtures with an automatic promotion spot. Our great home form leads the bookies to making us short price favourites at 4/5. It's two wins each in the four matches between the sides since I arrived in Ayr. Saturday 18th February It's a long trip north for our young players, but it was worth it, as they earn a 2-1 win at Balmoor Stadium in Peterhead. An entertaining 20 minutes spell before half time saw Simon McAllister put us in front, before Ross McGregor netted an equalizer. Patrick Fleming netted what would turn out to be the winner right on half time. Scottish Second Division Somerset Park, Ayr Ayr United (5th) v Arbroath (1st) Attendance :- 935. Weather :- Dry, 11c. There was only the single change for us in this one, with Shaun Holmes returning to the left wing in place of James McLean. Not that it would make too much difference in the early stages, as we had an appalling start to our Saturday afternoon. There were just three minutes on the clock when Bryan Scott played a one-two with Tom Mullen that opened up our defence, and Olafur Örn Bjarnason felt he had no option but to take Scott down. Unfortunately, he got there a yard or so too late, and the foul was just inside the box, giving ref Aitken an easy decision to award a penalty. There were a long few seconds while we waited on the colour of the card, which fortunately was yellow. Luke Barrett handed out his own punishment, slamming the ball right down the middle, and giving the league leaders a 4th minute advantage. And our start would show no sign of improvement when influential right winger Richal Leitoe went down with an injury in the 10th minute that would require him to be taken off. Had his long midweek flight for nothing contributed? It's uncertain we'll ever know, but now we had to rearrange, Ryan Stevenson coming on to play in the midfield, with Magnus Eikrem moved out onto the right wing. We now had little pace on either wing, but it didn't seem to hamper us too badly, as Holmes got past Steven Weir pretty easily and won us a corner. Nothing came of that set piece, but a short while later, Aidan O'Kane's throw in was flicked on, and Devann Yao unleashed a shot that was only just over the top of the goal frame. The American striker would make up for that on the half hour, another throw in, this time from the other side by Ciaran Foy, was flicked onto Holmes, with Jamie Jones keeping his shot out, but unable to prevent Yao was thumping home the rebound to score his first goal for the club since joining us on loan. After the way things had begun for us, I was very happy that we went into the break level, as we were living on the edge a bit, with Bjarnason refusing to hold back on his challenges twice, despite being on a yellow already. Fortunately, he timed them both perfectly. So the second half began with all to play for, which I was pretty relieved about given how the match had started for us. Though the second half almost started as badly as the first when Weir's long throw in was allowed to bounce in our penalty box, and Barrett hooked a shot that fortunately only hit the side netting. Ian Gee also went close to putting Arbroath back in front, his rising shot was just too high after Foy had lost a duel with Mullen. With things not really going our way, I made a change up front, replacing Alex Owen with Daryl Fordyce. That did help the ball stick a bit better up the park and our hold up play was better, but we were still making too many individual errors, and Bjarnason was almost punished for failing to properly control the ball on the edge of his own box, and it bounced off his shins right to sub Danny Pilkington, but he rushed his shot and sent it way over the bar. With fifteen minutes to go, I made my final change, as Holmes was replaced by James McLean. Five minutes later he went on a mazy run across the park that resulted in him eventually winning us a corner. And the man who had become somewhat of the villain of the peace today made everything alright, as O'Kane's cross found it's way into a group of players in front of keeper Jones, and the only white shirted player amongst them, Bjarnason, got just enough on his header to redirect the ball inside the far post and give us a priceless lead! It was a lead we would hold onto fairly easily, and might even have extended, but Ryan Stevenson volleyed O'Kane's free kick delivery over the bar. Ayr United (1) 2 - Devann Yao (30), Olafur Örn Bjarnason (81) Arbroath (1) 1 - Luke Barrett (4 pen) Stephen Grindlay; Ciaran Foy, Anwar Uddin, Olafur Örn Bjarnason ©, Aidan O'Kane; Ryan McStay, Magnus Eikrem; Richal Leitoe (inj - Ryan Stevenson 11), Shaun Holmes (James McLean 75); Devann Yao, Alex Owen (Daryl Fordyce 61). Unused Substitutes :- Marcus Hall, Darren Young. Bookings :- Olafur Örn Bjarnason 3 Possession :- 58% - 42%. Man of the Match :- Devann Yao (Ayr United). It's a priceless victory for us, but it would once more prove to be a quite expensive one. Richal Leitoe is playing at an average of well over 7.00 since arriving, and has also contributed a goal and three assists. He will now be out for anything up to a month though, as he has suffered a twisted knee after turning sharply early in the match. We have plenty of players who can replace the 28 year old in terms of playing in the same position. We don't I suspect, have anyone who can replace what he has brought us since arriving at the club. On the positive side, Devann Yao is off the mark, notching the first goal of his Senior career. The 6'4 American/Ivorian striker has put himself about nicely since he arrived, always eager for the ball and happy to go into the channels to drag defenders out of position and make room for others. He's a strong, hard working team player, and I think this level probably suits him a lot more than the SPL level he was previously operating at. Also on the plus side, we are now four matches unbeaten, but the next one is a really big one for us, and could go a long way to setting the tone for the remainder of the season.
  10. neilhoskins77

    (FM'09) A 'United' Front - A Chance To Rewrite History Part II

    Thursday 9th February 2012 It's no surprise at all to hear the news that Richal Leitoe has been called up by Netherlands Antilles for their vital 2014 FIFA World Cup First Phase Qualifier fixture in the North American section, as they face a two legged tie with Grenada. It's the Dutch outpost nations first competitive fixture for four years. They lost to the Cayman Islands at this stage in Qualifying last time out. More of a shock is the inclusion of 22 year old attacking midfielder Jamie Craggs in the Montserrat squad. Yeah, remember him? Not only has Craggs failed to get a look in with the First Team, he has also failed to get into the Reserve side as well. It's pretty clear his days with the club are numbered already, though there have been no takers to see what he can do on loan. He will be hoping to show his talents when his nation go into their own tie with St Kitts & Nevis, a fixture they are very much the underdogs for. Friday 10th February Tomorrow we host the side right behind us in the fight to be first in the queue to steal a place in the Promotion Playoffs. Sixth placed Peterhead have a slight edge over us in the four meetings since I arrived, with two wins to our one. This might be the biggest meeting yet though, with neither side able to afford to drop too many more points with the number of matches remaining leaving little room for error. I tell the press that a run of games close together might be good for us to help string a few performances together. Saturday 11th February Let's hope the Saturday morning Youth fixture isn't an omen for our weekend, as the youngsters are beaten 2-1 down in the Borders against Berwick Rangers age group side. Stuart Moore gave Rangers the lead, before centre back Grant Gilmour levelled just after the half hour mark. Moore would strike again early in the second half though, and that would be enough for them today. Scottish Second Division Somerset Park, Ayr Ayr United (5th) v Peterhead (6th) Attendance :- 874. Weather :- Dry, 10c. I make one change from the draw in Cowdenbeath during midweek. Shaun Holmes has scored twice in as many games from the penalty spot, but he isn't fit enough to play two matches in four days, and so he is replaced by James McLean, who is raring to go after seeing Holmes take his spot and give him some serious competition for the number eleven jersey. A fifth minute Magnus Eikrem corner dropped slightly lower than expected, but Olafur Örn Bjarnason still managed to connect with a flying diving header that came back off the near post. Aidan O'Kane managed to feed the loose back back to Eikrem, but his shot from out wide was high over the bar. Ryan McStay got considerably closer when his curling shot from the edge of the box flashed just wide of the post. But it would be James McLean who would open the scoring, O'Kane playing the winger into the left channel of the box, and he darted past David Donald and shot across Michal Kula and inside the far post. The confidence was flowing through the team now, and Devann Yao took the ball down from Alex Owen's flick on, and produced a shot on the turn that was too hot for Kula to handle, and he had to be light on his feet to turn Owen's shot from the rebound around the post. Peterhead had to defend robustly as we put together a quick series of corners that saw Eikrem manage to hit the target, but Kula pushed his shot around the post, and Bjarnason sent a header against the cross bar, before Yao shot over the top. The best chance we would get would come just after the half hour mark when Yao moved out wide, and then sent in a cross to the far post. Richal Leitoe beat a defender in the air, but sent his header just wide of the post. Obviously all those missed chances would bite us sooner or later, and Scott Gemmill moved in from the right wing just before half time, and picked out the run of Jamie Tolley down the middle, and he took the ball in his stride and slotted it under Stephen Grindlay's dive and into the bottom corner to level the match up. I tried to keep calm during the break, telling the players how happy I was with the amount of chances we had managed to create, now I just needed them to put a couple of them up on the scoreboard. Someone who had done that, Tolley, became the first player to have their name taken by the ref after clattering into Eikrem early after the restart. But it was the visitors who were looking the sharper, with Gemmill smacking a shot off the top of our cross bar. I need to get the groundsman to check there isn't a slope on this pitch. Fortunately, they were nowhere near as proficient at creating chances as we were, and after they made a few changes and switched to a 4-4-2, the match ground into a bit of a midfield battle. As we approached the latter stages, I made a pair of changes, Eikrem and Yao replaced by Darren Young and Daryl Fordyce. That didn't go so well, Martin Bavidge making a great run down the right before sending the ball to Anthony Pulis. He lifted a cross towards the penalty spot, and sub Aidan Collins met it with a directed header that beat Grindlay and found the net to give Peterhead the lead. It was his first game, and goal, since signing for The Blue Toon in the Transfer Window. We needed to get that back quickly, McLean evading Donald and sending in a cross. Fordyce got the ball down, but couldn't find space to turn, so instead sent the ball back to Ryan McStay. With two players converging on him, he sent the ball square to the right for Ciaran Foy, and the full took a touch, before arrowing a low shot past Kula's dive and inside the far post. It was his first goal for the club too, and it might prove to be a very important one! Ayr United (1) 2 - James McLean (17), Ciaran Foy (83) Peterhead (1) 2 - Jamie Tolley (44), Aidan Collins (79) Stephen Grindlay; Ciaran Foy, Anwar Uddin, Olafur Örn Bjarnason ©, Aidan O'Kane; Ryan McStay (Ryan Stevenson 85), Magnus Eikrem (Darren Young 77); Richal Leitoe, James McLean; Devann Yao (Daryl Fordyce 77), Alex Owen. Unused Substitutes :- Marcus Hall, Shaun Holmes. Bookings :- None Possession :- 52% - 48%. Man of the Match :- Ciaran Foy (Ayr United). Once more we are in the situation where we won't know if that's a good point or not, but it certainly felt like a decent result after falling behind fairly late on. For a full back who plays in a similar way to Aidan O'Kane, it's hard to work out how it has taken Ciaran Foy over a year to notch not only his first goal for the club, but the first goal of his career. At least he picked a very good time to score it. His strike means we remain ahead of Peterhead, and still in the fight to go up.
  11. neilhoskins77

    (FM'09) A 'United' Front - A Chance To Rewrite History Part II

    Thank you mate. Hope you're well.
  12. neilhoskins77

    (FM'09) A 'United' Front - A Chance To Rewrite History Part II

    Wednesday 1st February 2012 While my job is not currently considered to be in danger, the Board do feel that I should be doing a slightly better job. In particular, the negativity in the dressing room is a big concern of theirs, and they believe it could be an issue that may even derail our promotion bid. They are however delighted with the addition of Magnus Eikrem, but there is also another negative, a loss of almost £25,000 in January. A 2-0 win for our Youth side at Somerset Park against the youngsters of Ross County means that there is now a second Group 3 league that we are top of. There might well be a second talented 'McStay' in our ranks as well, as 19 year old midfielder Stevie opened the scoring in the first half, with 16 year old striker Patrick Barron wrapping up the points with just a few minutes left to play. Saturday 4th February With only three matches taking place on this Saturday afternoon as the Scottish Cup takes centre stage, the main attraction is a top four clash between Stirling Albion and Patrick Thistle, who play out a 2-2 draw at Forthbank Stadium. That gives Arbroath the chance to take over at the top as they beat East Fife 1-0 at home. Our next opponents in midweek, Cowdenbeath, produce the shock of the round in the Cup, as they produce a win over our nearest rivals, Kilmarnock, at Central Park. They are rewarded with a potential money spinning Quarter-Final tie at Celtic, as the Old Firm are kept apart in the last eight draw. Tuesday 7th February That victory over Killie hasn't improved the bookies opinion of Cowdenbeath's fortunes in the league. Four straight league defeats, and a win for East Stirlingshire on Saturday has left our opponents floundering down in 10th place. We're odds on favourites for a win tomorrow night, and I tell the press that I'm hoping that the confidence from our last outing will see us through a winnable but tricky fixture. Wednesday 8th February Scottish Second Division Central Park, Cowdenbeath Cowdenbeath (10th) v Ayr United (5th) Attendance :- 203. Weather :- Drizzle, 11c. The first of a four day double header of fixtures as we approach the run in for the 2011/12 season. There's no reason to make any changes to the starting lineup from the win against Airdrie last time out, though there is one change made amongst the substitutes. Bryan Gilfillan is furious after being made the odd man out in the back four when Olafur Örn Bjaranason returned to the side. His hissy fit means he has been dropped out of the matchday squad, and Marcus Hall will act as cover for the defence, with new signing Darren Young brought in and lined up for a potential debut from the bench. Our hosts came out fighting, Johnny Flynn-O'Connor sent the ball to the edge of the box, where David Irwin had two attempts at a strike that were both blocked, the second one right back to Flynn-O'Connor. He gave it back to Irwin again, and this time he did get his shot through, but it just missed the target. Skipper of the home side, Mark Baxter, tried to force a through ball into the box, but Shaun Holmes blocked it and attempted to launch a counter attack, which was thwarted by Baxter pulling him back by the jersey, yet somehow escaping a booking. When we did get into their penalty box, Holmes' shot was blocked, and Ryan McStay saw his effort pushed aside by Martin Rice. And the keeper would have to be in top form again shortly after, Richal Leitoe skinned Kasali Yinka Casal and sent in a cross that was just behind Alex Owen, but found Devann Yao, who's firmly struck shot was kept out. When Holmes forced yet another save out of Rice, I was becoming very encouraged by our ability to get beyond their defence. Leitoe miscued a volley that went harmlessly wide, while Olafur Örn Bjarnason would have been disappointed when he sent a header from Aidan O'Kane's corner just over the target. Magnus Eikrem also missed a golden chance to open the scoring when he fired wide from Holmes' cut back from the byline. You can imagine my disappointment when neither O'Kane or Anwar Uddin could prevent Kyle Lambert from sending over his cross from the right, and with others chasing back to fill in the gaps, Eikrem was hopelessly outmatched in the centre and Noel Johnston's downward header found the net. I'm quite fond of kicking a water bottle every now and then, and I got some pretty good air and distance on this one. I couldn't believe we were going in at half time behind in this one. The air was more blue than the Cowdenbeath players shirts at the break, and I told the players to sort themselves out in the second half. We had made, and missed, enough chances to win a couple of matches, and my encouragement from earlier had given way to frustration. We hadn't seen much of arguably Cowdenbeath's best player in the first half. Left winger Chris Arthur set about addressing that, and he played a one-two that sent him into acres of space, and then sent a cross to the far post, O'Kane had to judge it perfectly to get himself in front of Lambert and prevent the winger having a tap in. The pattern of the first half started to repeat itself as we began to take control, Holmes sending in a cross that Yao brought down, and then played to Ciaran Foy at the edge of the box, but he blasted his shot high and wide. O'Kane sent in the next cross, this time to Ryan McStay on the edge of the box, but he couldn't keep his shot down either. As we approached the final ten minutes, Uddin broke up an attempted counter attack, and Foy sent the ball down the line for Leitoe. As he did umpteen times last week, Leitoe showed his ability to beat a man, and Yinka Casal took the bait, lunging into a tackle and sending our winger to the turf, giving the ref an easy decision to make. The Nigerian full back was rightly booked, and Holmes sent the spot kick high into the net and out of Rice's reach to square the match up. Sensing an opportunity to win this match yet, I opted for fresh legs, with Eikrem and Own replaced by Darren Young and Daryl Fordyce. Our new midfielder almost marked his debut for us in style when he picked up the ball from a cleared corner, and he smashed a shot towards the target, missing the top corner by inches. I brought on James McLean late on to try and inject some late pace into our side, but it was too little too late. Cowdenbeath (1) 1 - Noel Johnston (32) Ayr United (0) 1 - Shaun Holmes (79 pen) Stephen Grindlay; Ciaran Foy, Anwar Uddin, Olafur Örn Bjarnason ©, Aidan O'Kane; Ryan McStay, Magnus Eikrem (Darren Young 80); Richal Leitoe, Shaun Holmes (James McLean 88); Devann Yao, Alex Owen (Daryl Fordyce 80). Unused Substitutes :- Marcus Hall, Ryan Stevenson. Bookings :- None Possession :- 40% - 60%. Man of the Match :- Noel Johnston (Cowdenbeath). Only time will tell if that turns out to be a point earned, or two thrown away. But I know where my money would be at the moment, and I told the players after the match that we can't keep throwing away that many chances and still expect to come away with the points. It had been a very frustrating evening.
  13. neilhoskins77

    (FM'09) A 'United' Front - A Chance To Rewrite History Part II

    2011/12 Scottish League Second Division Table, Up To & Including Tuesday 31st January 2012 | Pos | Inf | Team | | Pld | Won | Drn | Lst | For | Ag | G.D. | Pts | | 1st | | Arbroath | | 22 | 12 | 5 | 5 | 37 | 18 | +19 | 41 | -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- | 2nd | | Partick Thistle | | 22 | 11 | 7 | 4 | 39 | 24 | +15 | 40 | | 3rd | | Airdrie Utd | | 22 | 12 | 3 | 7 | 25 | 22 | +3 | 39 | | 4th | | Stirling | | 22 | 11 | 4 | 7 | 33 | 25 | +8 | 37 | -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- | 5th | | Ayr | | 22 | 9 | 6 | 7 | 28 | 29 | -1 | 33 | | 6th | | Peterhead | | 22 | 8 | 6 | 8 | 28 | 30 | -2 | 30 | | 7th | | East Fife | | 22 | 9 | 3 | 10 | 32 | 38 | -6 | 30 | | 8th | | Brechin | | 22 | 7 | 1 | 14 | 28 | 32 | -4 | 22 | -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- | 9th | | Cowdenbeath | | 22 | 5 | 4 | 13 | 20 | 35 | -15 | 19 | -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- | 10th | | East Stirlingshire | | 22 | 4 | 5 | 13 | 15 | 32 | -17 | 17 | --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  14. neilhoskins77

    (FM'09) A 'United' Front - A Chance To Rewrite History Part II

    Sunday 22nd January 2012 As the players gave up so easily yesterday in the first half, I decided that today they can give up their day off, as they were called in for a double training session. While they were kept busy by the coaching staff, I took a look at what the media were saying about us. Despite still being sat just outside the Promotion Playoff positions, the consensus right now is that we're too inconsistent, and ultimately, not good enough to make good on the promises I made at the start of the season. The players are all brought into a team meeting where we attempt to thrash out what has been going wrong for us. It was an honest and frank open forum discussion, where everyone was entitled to air their view without fear of repercussions. The coaching staff made full use of the opportunity, with several players told they had become lax, and maybe even lazy when it came to training sessions. I wrapped up the meeting with a rallying call. There are fifteen games remaining, and if we can get our act together, everything is still possible for us this season, but we need to start next weekend, when the league leaders come to town. While that meeting is going on, the Reserve squad are held to a 0-0 draw in Stranraer despite dominating the game for large parts. Left back Paul Dummett is named man of the match, sending over several dangerous crosses in an attempt to prise open the deadlock. Monday 23rd January It didn't look like we had much chance of landing Arvydas Novikovas on loan from Hearts anyway, but that chance was considerably reduced now that Queen of the South have also made an offer to the Lithuanian striker. We'll have to admit defeat in that one unfortunately. In an email that entirely expected, Swindon Town have requested an extension to the loan deal of Daryl Fordyce, as they ask to keep the Irish forward on loan for the remainder of the season. The emailed reply didn't take very, not because it was an easy decision to make, but because the thinking had already been done with the request being expected. And now it has been rejected, Daryl Fordyce will play for Swindon Town for the final time this during this loan period on the weekend, and will then return to Somerset Park. Tuesday 24th January There is one week remaining in the January Transfer Window, and if I'm brutally honest, I'm not sure we will get anything further done in the remaining time. My gut feeling is that we will now have to go with what we have, and hope it will be enough to get the job done. Wednesday 25th January I know who I would sign if I could make it happen. Neil Brown. The Bermuda International striker who I brought to the country originally has had a major falling out at Lurgan Celtic with his manager Graham McConnell, who has put the blame for their downturn in form squarely on the shoulders of the 21 year old. Brown has now stated that he wants out of Knockramer Park, saying that he no longer feels he can work with the manager, and that the club have been taken as far as they can. If I had the money....... Friday 27th January Home advantage is not enough to give us the edge over league leaders Airdrie United in the opinion of the bookies, who make the visitors narrow favourites at 5/4, while you can get a price of 7/4 on our inconsistent backsides either turning the corner, or raising hopes amongst the fans with another false dawn. With little prospect of any new arrivals to help the First Team arriving now, I decide to use the last of my Transfer Budget on a bid for a young striker who looks a very interesting prospect. 19 year old Dwyer Lowry is Northern Ireland Under-21 International who has been on the fringes of the First Team at Linfield this season. He hasn't yet managed to make his League debut for the Premier Division leaders, but he has been a hit in the Cup competitions, striking four goals in as many games. I offer £2,000 for him, but there are other suitors. While we are on the subject of players on the fringes of the First Team, I have an unhappy midfielder who feels frozen out right now. David Meyler has seen a drop in his playing time since the arrival of Magnus Eikrem, and has said that at his age, he needs regular match minutes to continue to improve. He's told that no one is guaranteed their place, and while that applies to him, he also goes for everyone else. If he gets his head down and works hard, there's no reason why he can't be involved. Saturday 28th January Scottish Second Division Somerset Park, Ayr Ayr United (5th) v Airdrie United (1st) Attendance :- 865. Weather :- Dry, 6c. We need to put last week behind us now, brush it under the carpet, and focus on today, and our chance to turn over the league leaders. Bryan Gilfillan, James McLean and Craig Fisher are all dropped from the starting eleven and onto the substitutes bench, and replaced by Olafur Örn Bjarnason, Shaun Holmes and Devann Yao. Last week, we started well and then got blown away. This week, we started well, and pinned our foot to the accelerator. Aidan O'Kane's third minute throw in was flicked on before being partly clear by Bobby Connelly. It went right to Magnus Eikrem though, and from 25 yards out he struck a low curling shot that beat Joe Lindsay and found the net via the inside of the upright. Shaun Holmes nearly doubled that lead in the 5th minute, Devann Yao playing him into space in the left channel, but his rising shot cleared the cross bar. But in the 7th minute we would get an even better opportunity, as Eikrem picked out Richal Leitoe. The winger jinked into the box, doing Andros Townsend for pace, and the former Spurs youngster tripped Leitoe and conceded a penalty. Holmes was given the task of doubling our lead, and drove his low left footed penalty to Lindsay's right, and became the second player to score his first goal for the club. Olafur Örn Bjarnason's 15th minute header from an O'Kane corner only just cleared the goal frame as we nearly extended our lead still further, but we wouldn't have to wait too much longer. Midway through the half, Holmes picked out Yao in the box, and the on loan striker unselfishly squared the ball to Alex Owen, who sidefooted into the net to make it 3-0. Leitoe was next to try and get in on the act, collecting a pass from Yao and then twisting past a defender and lofting a shot over Lindsay's head, but it came right back off the bar, and was headed clear. Before the break, Owen nearly added his second of the match, deciding to have a go from range after collecting the ball from Holmes, the strikers curling effort had Lindsay beaten, but just swerved away from the target. What an incredible difference from last weekends first half, and Airdrie suffered a further blow at half time as they lost their skipper and influential centre back Donnelly to injury after he suffered a knock in the closing stages of the first half. The second half started just as the first did, and in absolutely spectacular style. Ciaran Foy collected the ball from Stephen Grindlay, and then passed it forward to Leitoe. From the halfway line, the winger turned past Townsend and quickly got to full tilt down the right wing, before slicing inside sub Ken Irons and around Marc Smyth, before slamming the ball past Lindsay and inside the near post, opening his account for the club with a superb solo goal that had the fans on their feet and applauding the fleet footed winger. He had torn Townsend apart this afternoon, and within a minute of that goal, he was taken off, along with Stephen Pearson, as the shell shocked league leaders tried to change the balance of the match. They looked totally beaten, but just before the hour mark they did give us a taste of our medicine, Graeme Sharp's corner was an outswinger, and Alex Dyer got in front of Grindlay, who thought he had a clear run to collect the cross. He didn't, and Dyer's header flew past him and just under the bar. That goal could have easily caused us to start doubting ourselves, but it didn't, and we continued to ping passes around effortlessly, with the ball constantly finding it's way to Leitoe, who now had Smyth tasked with marking him, and Leitoe left him for dead twice in as many minutes. With 73 minutes on the clock, I decided to make my changes in one go, with Eikrem, Holmes and Yao replaced by Ryan Stevenson, James McLean and Craig Fisher. The last part of the match produced little in the way of goalmouth action, though Leitoe did appear to be on a personal mission to set up Craig Fisher for a goal, and he was quickly joined by James McLean, who also started slinging crosses over. It didn't happen, but that wasn't exactly going to take the shine off today for us. Ayr United (3) 4 - Magnus Eikrem (3), Shaun Holmes (7 pen), Alex Owen (22), Richal Leitoe (50) Airdrie United (0) 1 - Alex Dyer (58) Stephen Grindlay; Ciaran Foy, Anwar Uddin, Olafur Örn Bjarnason ©, Aidan O'Kane; Ryan McStay, Magnus Eikrem (Ryan Stevenson 73); Richal Leitoe, Shaun Holmes (James McLean 73); Devann Yao (Craig Fisher 73), Alex Owen. Unused Substitutes :- Bryan Gilfillan, Marcus Hall. Bookings :- None Possession :- 58% - 42%. Man of the Match :- Richal Leitoe (Ayr United). Wowzers! Who was expecting that today? I'd be lying through my teeth if I said I was! That was an outstanding comeback from last weekend, and hopefully we have reminded some people exactly of what we are capable of. The key now though will be continuing this form, as every time we have won this year so far, we have been beaten next time out. We can't afford to do that this time, as we have a ten day break, before we travel to face bottom of the table Cowdenbeath. In the two meetings so far this season, the home side has won 2-1. Richal Leitoe picks up his first man of the match award since his arrival at the club, and capped it with an absolutely outstanding goal to break his duck in our colours. Even Airdrie manager Kenny Black couldn't disguise his admiration of our wing wizard, stating to the press that he was glad his side don't have to face the likes of Leitoe every week. When we managed to land Magnus Eikrem and him, we certainly raised the bar and set a new standard for future forays into the transfer market. Saturday comes to an end, as it often has done in this tale of Ayr United with news of the striker variety. Daryl Fordyce made the last appearance of his loan spell with Swindon Town, playing in midfield in a vital 1-0 win over Port Vale, their second victory in a row. The Irish striker will travel back to Scotland on a flight in the next few days. Our effort to bring in promising young striker Dwyer Lowry has failed however, as the 19 year old Northern Irishman has elected to remain with Linfield for the remainder of the season, and will move on to Coca-Cola League Two side Lincoln City in the summer. Sunday 29th January Paul Dummett suffered bruised ribs that will keep him out for a week or so in our Reserves convincing 3-0 win at Hampden Park against Queen's Park's second string. Three goals in a half hour spell from Adam Vickers, Jason Gillespie and Reece Brown kept our lads top of the Group 3 Reserve table. Queen of the South, last years Champions, remain hot on our heels. Monday 30th January We join Partick Thistle with the joint most amount of players in the team of the week, a treble of Ciaran Foy, Aidan O'Kane and Richal Leitoe all named in the Monday morning ritual. I wasn't expecting us to welcome any more arrivals during this Transfer Window, but an opportunity presented itself to improve out squad, and I took it, especially as it came on the cheap. 33 year old defensive midfielder Darren Young has fallen out of favour at Stirling Albion after being a regular for them last season. The former Aberdeen, Dunfermline Athletic and Dundee man has made over 300 league appearances in his career to date, and is nowhere close to being past his best yet. We get him on a Free Transfer, and will pay him just £40 a week in a deal until next summer. I'll be surprised if the deal for the 8 times capped former Scotland Under-21 International will turn out to be anything other than a bargain. Tuesday 31st January After that deal, Transfer Deadline Day was never likely to be anything other than quiet for us at Somerset Park. Failed attempts to secure loan deals for youngsters Callum McKinnon, Patrick Fleming and Simon McAllister aside, there was nothing to report at all today, and we now have what we have for the remainder of the campaign.
  15. neilhoskins77

    (FM'09) A 'United' Front - A Chance To Rewrite History Part II

    Sunday 15th January 2012 Hearts 21 year old Lithuanian striker Arvydas Novikovas has signed a brand new 2 and a half year contract with the Edinburgh club, and is now looking for some First Team football, having played only four matches since arriving in Scotland in the summer of 2008. Those games were during a loan spell with Partick Thistle, during that first year in the UK, and he got his only Senior goal to date for them too. He isn't prepared to drop down to the third tier to find football though, and rejects our offer to play for us till the summer. Does our answer instead lie with Daryl Fordyce? Remember him? Deemed too wasteful and inconsistent early in the season after missing a lot of chances to score more than the 9 League goals he did net for us since his arrival a year ago, he was sent out on loan to Coca-Cola League One side, Swindon Town. They were looking to do something about their awful start, and that will have to go down as a fail, as with nineteen matches remaining, The Robins are ten points from safety with just four wins all season and the second worst goal difference in the Division. That loan spell is almost at an end, and Swindon have taken to playing Fordyce as a wide target man, where despite horrible but unsurprising average ratings in a struggling club and playing out of position (6.25 in all competitions), and just three goals, Fordyce has added a new string to his bow, as he has managed seven assists. Is it possible he could come back, and be the man to ignite us into a run of form? Even saying it out loud, I have my doubts, but I am running out of options, and he did just that last winter/spring despite his wastefulness. One more line regarding strikers for today, Alex Owen's strike 34 seconds into Saturday's match against East Stirlingshire broke a club record for the fastest goal, which had previously been held by James McLean. Monday 16th January For the first time in a while, we have multiple players in the Division's announcement of Team of the Week. Well, two anyway, and both members of our back four, Aidan O'Kane and Anwar Uddin. A fresh batch of loan offers have been sent today, and the responses from the clubs pretty quickly. There were 13 offers, and we got no's from Aberdeen, Celtic, Dundee, Hibernian, Queen of the South (twice) and Rangers (twice). We also get some positive answers, from Celtic for a second of their players, Dundee United (twice), Hearts and St Mirren. Of the clubs that said yes, each of the players said no......except one! Finally, we have a striker through the door! I'm not going to sit here and pretend that we have landed ourselves a world beater, but beggars cannot be choosers, and in this situation right now, we are indeed, the beggars. It's a 21 year old American striker from St Mirren who has said yes, and agreed to move to Somerset Park for five months to try and boost us, and himself too. New York City born Devann Yao is of Ivorian descent, and has trained as a youngster with FC Metz in France and Livorno in Italy, which resulted in him becoming a passport holder. He signed with St Mirren in 2008/09 when the save began, and made his debut last season, playing twelve times in the Scottish Premier League, with limited impact and no goals. He does bring something we do need though, and that is an alternative to Craig Fisher, our other on loan striker, who has failed miserably to provide us with a goal source. Yao is 6'4 and weighs a bit more than 14 stone. He's strong, good in the air, aggressive, but also composed. He has not inconsiderable pace to go with it as well. What I really need, is the £250,000 rated striker to get off the mark as quick as possible, and give us a huge boost. Tuesday 17th January Queen's Park have asked to keep young defensive midfielder John Robertson for an extra three months on loan. I have no issue with that, as Robertson is getting exactly what I wanted him to get, exposure to First Team football. He has played sixteen times in the League for the Glasgow club, registering one goal and one assist. His average rating is pretty unspectacular at under 6.00, but he is playing for the team in the bottom two of Scotland's third tier. There are some very encouraging signs from the now 17 year old, who has just one booking to his name, and a decent pass completion percentage all things considered. I agree to Queen's Parks request. The Reserves have played in Group 3 this afternoon away to Brechin City. A strong side comes away with a 2-0 win, with a goal in each half from a pair of players who are hoping the door is not closed on a First Team place, Peggy Lokando and Adam Vickers. The second string side currently top their League, and have a game in hand. Wednesday 18th January John Robertson has accepted Queen's Parks offer to extend the loan, and will remain with the Third Division club for another three months. His Youth team colleague, winger Jimmy Ferguson, has stubbed his toe during today's 2-0 win over Queen's Parks youngsters at a almost deserted Hampden Park, and will be out for a week. United's youngsters won the game with second half goals from Patrick Fleming and Simon McAllister. After the match, our opponents approach us with a request to loan Ferguson for three months. We negotiate the request to allow us to recall him if needed, but we also agree in principal to allow Ferguson to go there for the remainder of the campaign. The decision now lies with the player. Friday 20th January Tomorrow we'll visit one of the sides that we need to compete with if we're to earn a spot in the Promotion Playoffs at least. Partick Thistle were relegated last season via the Playoffs, and are hoping to bounce straight back up into the second tier. However, there are reports that the Glasgow club are going through a bit of a cash flow problem at the moment, and they may be forced to move on some of their more valued or higher earning players. They have spent no money on transfers this season, but do have four players who alone are earning over £800 per week, and they are also paying former England International full back Danny Mills a wage of £650 a week. They do have the best average attendance in the Division, but it's well under 2,000 at the moment, and clearly the club cannot continue to sustain their current spend levels. They do go into the match sat in third place, and hoping to make ground on top two Airdrie and Arbroath, who play each other this weekend. The bookies have Thistle as odds on favourites at 1/2. Saturday 21st January I remain hopeful of getting First Team football to an increased number of our youngsters. One of our better prospects will be looking to get stuck into competitive football for the remainder of the season, as Queen's Park accept our amended terms, and Jimmy Ferguson will join them for the rest of the campaign. The 16 year old left winger spoke to the press, probably for the first time in his young career, telling them he couldn't wait to make the step up from Reserve Team football and try and make an impact. The Under-19 side didn't miss him too much, as right winger Jamie Barron netted a brace, with defender Paul Mackay also scoring in a 3-0 win over Montrose on the road. Scottish Second Division Firhill, Glasgow Partick Thistle v Ayr United Attendance :- 1,941. Weather :- Strong Wind, Wet, 6c. We make the trek into Glasgow for a match with a Partick Thistle side that some pundits believe are there for the taking, with morale at a pretty low level as the rumoured financial issues bite harder into the club with each passing day. There are two changes made from last time out, with both coming on the substitutes bench as the starting lineup is left unchanged. Andrew Hageman is out with the bruised ribs suffered in his ridiculously short outing against East Stirlingshire, and is replaced by Olafur Örn Bjarnason, who's presence will mean that both Bryan Gilfillan and Anwar Uddin need to be at their best. At the other end of the bench, Jason Gillespie is dropped from the matchday squad, with on loan striker Devann Yao named in the squad for the first time. We started very nicely, Craig Fisher moving into the left channel and linking up with Aidan O'Kane. The left back sent the ball to Ryan McStay on the edge of the box, who laid it off to Magnus Eikrem, the Norwegian midfielders curling shot rising just too high and clearing the angle of the goal frame just two minutes in. Our strong opening took a huge backwards step very quickly though, O'Kane's backpass to Stephen Grindlay, his attempted pass to Bryan Gilfillan was cut out by Liam Buchanan, and he nudged it on to Stephen McPhee, who passed the ball beyond Grindlay's dive and into the bottom corner to put Thistle in front in the 4th minute. That was not the ideal start, and by the 7th minute, matters had become even worse. After a series of loose passes from both teams, Nick Phinn picked up the ball, and sent a through pass down the side of Buchanan, who reacted quicker than our defence, and sent a shot across goal and inside the far post to double Partick's lead. An attempt to pull one back presented itself in the 18th minute when Fisher cut the ball back from the byline, and Ryan McStay took a shot from near the penalty spot that was bravely blocked by a defender. We would regret that one too, Gary Harkins free kick was deflected behind for a corner, which Jonathan Hayes sent to the far post. James Hurst connected with a thumping header that flew past O'Kane who was guarding the upright, before coming back off the post, but the ball fell beautifully for Buchanan, and he notched his second with a volley that was unstoppable from ten yards out. The rampaging striker would try his luck for a hatrick on the half hour when Harkins flicked the ball on and he connected with another volley, Grindlay making the stop this time. He wasn't done trying though, and when Anwar Uddin didn't deal well with a long ball forward, Buchanan played a one-two with McPhee, only being prevented from getting a shot away by Uddin making some amends. It was third time lucky for, well, the third time though, as ten minutes before the break Buchanan got his head to Phinn's outwinging corner, and he glanced the ball high into the top corner. It was an outstanding first half performance from the striker. Not quite enough to help us forget we were 4-0 down though! The decibel level in our dressing room at the break would've took the paint from the wall if we'd got around to painting it back on after the last time. Gilfillan and Fisher were both taken off, with Olafur Örn Bjarnason and Devann Yao brought on in their places. The second half started positively, but that didn't mean too much, as the first half did too. Richal Leitoe did test David Forde's handling with a couple of testing crosses. To be fair, we were actually playing quite well since the restart, though clearly the damage was already very much done. Leitoe would find himself in the middle just after the hour, the winger twisted and turned to earn his yard of space, and then let fly with a shot that looked goalbound before striking McStay and deflecting harmlessly wide of the target. The Netherlands Antilles International winger continued to be involved, a cross from deep had to headed behind by Hurst as Devann Yao's eyes lit up at the prospect of a free header at the far post on his debut, Uddin headed Eikrem's corner delivery just past the near post, before the midfielder decided to chance his arm himself, sending a curling shot off the top off the cross bar. Finally, in the 72nd minute, we managed to recover at least a small piece of our dignity, Leitoe once more provided the cross, and James McLean connected with a header that found it's way into the net. The celebrations were about as short lived as our dignity had been though, as the goal was disallowed for a push on centre back Oliver Russell. The winger looked about as dejected as our fans in the away end, at least, the ones who were still there, and he was replaced by Shaun Holmes. Without doubt, the second half had been a huge improvement, but that first half performance was pretty much unforgivable! Partick Thistle (4) 4 - Stephen McPhee (4), Liam Buchanan (7,26,35) Ayr United (0) 0 Stephen Grindlay; Ciaran Foy, Bryan Gilfillan (Olafur Örn Bjarnason 45), Anwar Uddin, Aidan O'Kane ©; Ryan McStay, Magnus Eikrem; Richal Leitoe, James McLean (Shaun Holmes 76); Craig Fisher (Devann Yao 45), Alex Owen. Unused Substitutes :- Marcus Hall, Ryan Stevenson. Bookings :- None Possession :- 37% - 63%. Man of the Match :- Liam Buchanan (Partick Thistle). The fact that we had almost two thirds of the possession in that match showed what a number Thistle had done on us. They had counter attacked to perfection in the first half, and then just about kept us off the scoresheet in the second half. It was well over an hour after the match had finished before my team were allowed to leave the dressing room and board the bus back to the West Coast. If the players thought their humiliation was complete, they then had to endure the full gory details of a football phone in, which they featured heavily in, with very few escaping any kind of talent assassination from a fan base that were considerably less than impressed. They weren't exactly singing my praises either! The only thing they were happy about was that the players were subjected to the full wrath of my temper, plus that of the coaching staff, who didn't hold back. Next week we face another of the sides above us in the table, as Airdrie United will be the visitors to Somerset Park. I am under the impression that the Board won't stand for too many more performances like today's. I told them I could get this side promoted this season, and if I fail to deliver a Playoff appearance at all, there's a good chance I'll be looking for a new job before the end of the season.
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