Gutted! - The 2033-34 End of Season Report
Our friendlies. Note summer vacation was in France this year.
Our European matches.
Our WPL matches.
Our League Cup matches.
Our Welsh Cup matches.
The Welsh Cup (last four rounds)
The League Cup
The Squad's stats (combined).
The Reserves. Celihueta often plays with the first team in the WPL.
The Youth Rated.
The Youth Team Stats A reminder that my youth players rated one star or better potential are made available for the Reserves.
Transfers This Season. Essentially no action.
As the saying goes, Second Place is simply First Loser.
Our first bit of Spring Euro Footie was a visit to the Riverside Stadium in Middlesbrough. Given how we had played, I had high hopes for this match; nick an away goal or two and even if we lost, we'd be in the driver's seat, I felt. Of course, we promptly lost all scoring touch, and limped (wimped, really) our way out of the Midlands 0-1 losers. So in the return fixture, we got all stern and demanding and a 5-0 spanking of 'Boro sent us through to the UCL quarter-finals.
As usual, the teams available to play in the quarter-finals were no patsies. At this point, I'm usually of the opinion that it doesn't matter who you play: either you're good enough to win, or you're going home. Since we aren't all dicey with our finances, the extra income of the semi-final round isn't that important to us to worry about sneaking into them on the basis of a lucky draw.
So I wasn't upset or pleased when we got handed Valencia. We had never played them, so I had no way to judge their ability. In the past, they've been primarily a EURO Cup team at knockout time, but they did make the UCL Final against Barcelona a couple years back, so their current squad I felt was likely to be good. Speaking of Barça, note their absence from the Q-Fs. They took a 3-0 first leg lead against Chelsea, only to let Chelsea wax them 0-4 in London. I was a bit pleased to see that result.
As it turns out, we didn't have much trouble with Valencia. A pair of 2-1 victories saw them off comfortably. At this point, my heart started racing a bit, because after all, if you make the semi-final round, you're just one lucky set of games away from a date in the Final. And the semi-final teams included Lyon, whom I felt we could beat, given the chance. O Frabjous Day, calloo, callay, I chortled.
Sure enough, it was a date with the men from the banks of the Rhône we collected. I began to plot our way to the final, where I felt certain a certain club wearing red tops and black shorts would be awaiting us. Of course, as it turned out, all the planning was almost for nothing. In the first leg, in France, they shrugged off our 18th min. opener and scored a brace immediately after, followed by one more right after the interval for good measure. Fortunately, our talisman, Barry Fitzgerald, dumped a second goal into their onion bag, allowing us to take two away goals home with our 'L'. Good thing, too, because at Bastion Gardens, we had to weather an awful storm of shots. However, Renaldo Cremers stole a goal right before the whistle ending the first half, and we made it hold up for a 3(a)-3 win on aggregate.
And, as expected, it was the Red Devils themselves who showed up in Dublin to contest the Final. I didn't expect much from the game. We've never beaten Manchester United in 6 previous efforts, though we have managed a pair of draws to go with our four losses. Further, although our squad was healthy, we hadn't had a match in 14 days, and I worried about sharpness. I toyed with the idea of trying to play them straight-up, with our potent 4-1-2-1-2 wide diamond, or possibly a 5-1-2-1-1 version. In the end, I tried something totally new: 4-2-1-1-2. In essence, I swapped our width for better deep play, without sacrificing our ability to attack in front of goal. The upside was the presence on the field of Elissalde, Azaïez, Fitzgerald and Cremers. The downside was the lack of a place for Giorgos Kotsiopoulos, our goal-creator.
It almost worked. No, you don't need to adjust the TV set: we went in at the half up 2-1! We had come back after their star striker had scored, and fired ourselves into the lead. But it didn't last long enough. A corner kick from Utd. resulted in a glancing header towards goal, and Carlos couldn't keep it out, the bad carom off the crossbar hitting him and going in. After that, neither team could manage much of a sold effort on goal. I swapped fresh legs in late, but even with the extra time to score, we couldn't poke another one by their 'keeper.
I wasn't that upset at the game going to penalties. We've had a good record over the years in penalty-kick shootouts. But this time, our youth and nerves showed. The Mancunians nailed four straight kicks (Carlos didn't even touch them). Meanwhile, we blazed one over the bar and had one saved easily. And, with that, all the effort, all the dreaming, all the hopes and excitement was over.
Domestically, we did as we usually expect. Besides the opening draw, we dropped points only one other time (a loss third game from the end). The League Cup was a blowout against the team which had beaten us in the WPL just two weeks prior. We smashed our way to the Welsh Cup final, where we played around with TNS (letting them have too much play in the process) before walking out 4-3 winners. Ho Hum, another year in Wales for Prestatyn Town Football Club (during which I managed my 1200th game in charge of PTFC).
None of that can make up for the deflated feeling after the final whistle blew in Dublin.
I did nothing to change the squad in the spring. I figured what was working should be let to work.
The WPL Player Statistics. We were dynamite. Notice our pass-completion stat leaders.
Boardroom Overview. Upgrading Youth Facilities again, as they got downgraded, again.
It's hard to put into words the feeling right now. I'm sure it will be in perspective at some point.