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(FM'09) A Train Ride In Minsk - A Chance To Rewrite History Part III

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Thursday 26th July 2012
A relief. That was how it had felt to walk away from Somerset Park yesterday. Not knowing if the Board would keep me on, or if they would sack me as soon as a better option became available was one thing, but dealing with their unreasonable requests on finances were quite another.

I was quite looking forward to a bit of a rest as well. Maybe head off to the coast somewhere, spend some time in the sun and enjoying myself. Then when football season starts, I'll get out and about around the grounds, get my face out there, do some networking, and figure out a way to get back into football.

Or, I get an offer right away to jump back into the game. The location is, well, less than glamorous. But I look at what the club has, and I get excited at going somewhere new, and dragging a club up from the ground. The money is almost three times what I was being paid at Ayr United too, so that helps. The challenge is too much for me to say no. So I say yes. They have me on a flight that very evening.


Welcome to Part III of my save that began in 2008. If you have missed anything, then you can catch up with my time with Lurgan Celtic <here>, which was followed by my spell in Scotland with Ayr United, which came to an end prematurely due to a glitch in the game, but can be caught up with <here>.

Once again, I will endeavor to try and keep match reports a little shorter, allowing you, the reader, to have more progress per post, and allowing me to play through the match at a quicker pace. I have never before suffered a glitch playing FM'09, and I'm gutted that is has happened in this save, which was progressing nicely. But the save isn't dead, and we continue on. Thanks for reading, and feel free to post any questions or comments.


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Friday 27th July 2012
I arrive in Belarus in the middle of the 2012 season, and I have been a football manager for a little over four years now. My new club were taken over by a consortium headed by Vladislav Dedyush in 2008, just three weeks or so before the club were relegated from the nations top tier after finishing bottom of the table. Since then, they have finished 5th, 7th, and last year, 4th. Now things have started to go a little south for the club, and instead of pushing to join the bigger clubs from Minsk in the top tier, they are starting to drop ever closer to the trap door.

The club had seen enough, and have sacked Yury Kurnenin, who is also in charge of Belarus' Under-21's. Less than a week later, after hearing I had quit the Ayr United job, they made their move. They offered me a deal to the end of next season, and I negotiated an extra season on top, getting me a contract through to Winter 2014. They'll pay me £325 per week.

Lokomotiv Minsk are a professional club, and they play their games at the 2,000 capacity all seater Lokomotiv Stadium. The biggest success in the clubs history to date was when they played in the Belarusian Cup Final in 2002, losing to their city rivals, and Belarus football powerhouses, Dinamo Minsk. Have no doubt about it, this club are very much the poor relations of football in the city of Minsk. Nearly 2 million people live in this city, and you can fit 0.1% of them in our stadium. Darida, the just six years old FC Minsk club, and of course, Dinamo. They are all in front of us.

But Minsk is being overpowered as the footballing giant city in Belarus. There are new upstarts in this ex Russian state. They come from the city of Borisov, in the form of a new club. BATE are just twelve years old, but are winners of five of the last six Titles. There is work to do if Minsk is to be restored as a football powerhouse city. No one is expecting Lokomotiv to be a part of that. My job now, is to prove them wrong. My first match, is in just two days time, and it's against the current league leaders. No pressure.

On day one, after starting to get adjusted to my surroundings, I get a very important job done. 37 year old Vladimir Panteleev comes into the club as my new Assistant Manager, his first job in the game. He is an expert when it comes to coaching a team in the art of defending, and is also a motivator and disciplinarian. He'll have his work cut out, we travel to the leaders for our first match tomorrow.

Neil Hoskins.
34 years old. Welsh. Uncapped.
Reputation :- National. Contract :- Full Time, 2.5 years, £325 per week.
Previous Experience :- Sunday League Footballer.

Managerial Statistics :-
Club/Player Loyalty :- 8. Domestic Players Bias :- 15. Financial Control :- 6.
Hands On Approach :- 5. Squad Discipline :- 14. Tactical Consistency :- 16.

Season Expectations :-
Achieve A Respectable League Position (Not being judged this season).
Transfer Budget :- £193,000. Wage Budget :- £11,265 per week. Currently Spending :- £7,088 per week.

Lokomotiv Minsk.
Founded :- 2000. Nickname :- The Rail Roads Men. Status :- Professional. Reputation :- National. Value :- £1,200,000.
Chairman Status :- Enjoying Life at the Club. Finances :- Okay (£1,015,591).
Club Colours :- Home - Red with White Trim. Away - White with Black Trim.
Club Legends :- Anatoly Yurevich
Club Icons :- Dmitry Denisyuk. Favoured Personnel :- Nikolay Shvydakov.
Fierce Rivals :- None. Other Rivals :- Dinamo Minsk, Darida-TDZh
Honours :-  *Belarusian First League Winners - 2004
                      *Belarusian Second League Winners - 2001
                      *Belarusian Cup Runner's-Up - 2002

Last Season :- 4th in the Belarusian First League.

Lokomotiv Stadium, Minsk, Belarus.
Capacity :- 2,000 (all seater). Condition :- Very Good. Surface :- Grass. Surface Condition :- Very Good.
Adequate Corporate Facilities, Average Training Facilities, Good Youth Facilities.

2012 Belarusian First League Table, Up To & Including Friday 27th July 2012

| Pos   | Inf   | Team                |       | Pld   | Won   | Drn   | Lst   | For   | Ag    | G.D.  | Pts   |

| 1st   |       | Torpedo Zhodino     |       | 13    | 10    | 1     | 2     | 29    | 16    | +13   | 31    |
| 2nd   |       | Dinamo Brest        |       | 13    | 8     | 4     | 1     | 28    | 12    | +16   | 28    |
| 3rd   |       | Darida              |       | 13    | 8     | 2     | 3     | 24    | 14    | +10   | 26    |
| 4th   |       | Vertical            |       | 13    | 7     | 3     | 3     | 22    | 15    | +7    | 24    |
| 5th   |       | Lida                |       | 13    | 6     | 2     | 5     | 15    | 17    | -2    | 20    |
| 6th   |       | Vedrich Rechitsa    |       | 13    | 5     | 4     | 4     | 17    | 19    | -2    | 19    |
| 7th   |       | Baranovichi         |       | 13    | 5     | 3     | 5     | 19    | 17    | +2    | 18    |
| 8th   |       | Savit               |       | 13    | 5     | 3     | 5     | 16    | 15    | +1    | 18    |
| 9th   |       | Khimik Svetlogorsk  |       | 13    | 5     | 3     | 5     | 13    | 17    | -4    | 18    |
| 10th  |       | Zvezda-BGU          |       | 13    | 5     | 2     | 6     | 22    | 23    | -1    | 17    |
| 11th  |       | Slavia Mozyr        |       | 13    | 4     | 3     | 6     | 18    | 19    | -1    | 15    |
| 12th  |       | Lokomotiv Minsk     |       | 13    | 3     | 5     | 5     | 12    | 11    | +1    | 14    |
| 13th  |       | Mikashevichi        |       | 13    | 2     | 6     | 5     | 13    | 20    | -7    | 12    |
| 14th  |       | Belcard             |       | 13    | 3     | 2     | 8     | 19    | 27    | -8    | 11    |
| 15th  |       | Kommunalnik Zhlobin |       | 13    | 2     | 3     | 8     | 16    | 26    | -10   | 9     |
| 16th  |       | Postavy             |       | 13    | 1     | 4     | 8     | 11    | 26    | -15   | 7     |


Edited by neilhoskins77

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2012 Lokomotiv Minsk Pen Pictures

Goalkeepers :-

Dmitry Biryukov (GK). 19 years old. Belarusian (Under-19 International).
6'1. 13 stone 0 lbs.
Contract :- 6 months, £40 per week. Value :- £1,000
Joined Club :- 2008.

This Season :- League Matches - 6. Goals Conceded - 5. Clean Sheets - 2.
Career :- League Matches - 9. Goals Conceded - 5. Clean Sheets - 5.

Vladimir Zuhbaia (GK). 26 years old. Georgian (1 Under-21 Cap).
6'4. 13 stone 7 lbs.

Contract :- 1½ years, £575 per week. Value :- £4,000
Joined Club :- 2008

This Season :- League Matches - 7. Goals Conceded - 6. Clean Sheets - 2.
Careers :- League Matches - 42. Goals Conceded - 45. Clean Sheets - 9.


Defenders :-

Alexandr Mashkov (LB,CB). 18 years old. Belarusian (Uncapped).
6'1. 12 stone 10 lbs.

Contract :- 6 months, £35 per week. Value :- £1,000
Joined Club :- 2011.

This Season :- League Matches - 1. Goals - 0. Assists - 0.
Career :- League Matches - 43. Goals - 1. Assists - 4.

Pavel Lyutsko (LB, LWB, LM). 25 years old. Belarusian (1 Under-21 Cap).
5'8. 11 stone 4 lbs
Contract :- 1½ years, £775 per week. Value :- £2,000
Joined Club :- 2010.

This Season :- League Matches - 13. Goals - 0. Assists - 0.
Career :- League Matches - 93. Goals - 1. Assists - 7.

Denis Lekhavitskiy (CB). 25 years old. Belarusian (Uncapped).
5'9. 11 stone 11 lbs.

Contract :- 6 months, £95 per week. Value :- £1,000
Joined Club :- 2006.

This Season :- League Matches - 9. Goals - 0. Assists - 0.
Career :- League Matches - 85. Goals - 1. Assists - 2.

Alexey Yesipenok (CB, DM, CM). 23 years old. Belarusian (Uncapped).
6'3. 13 stone 12 lbs.

Contract :- 6 months, £250 per week. Value :- £1,000
Joined Club :- 2009.

This Season :- League Matches - 13. Goals - 0. Assists - 1.
Career :- League Matches - 67. Goals - 3. Assists - 9.

Artur Groda (CB, DM, CM). 26 years old. Belarusian (Uncapped).
6'1. 11 stone 11 lbs.

Contract :- 6 months, £110 per week. Value :- £1,000
Joined Club :- 2012.

This Season :- League Matches - 3. Goals - 0. Assists - 0.
Career :- League Matches - 149. Goals - 3. Assists - 4.

Maxim Gorbach (CB, DM, CM). 28 years old. Belarusian (Uncapped).
6'1. 13 stone 5 lbs.

Contract :- 1½ years, £775 per week. Value :- £3,000
Joined Club :- 2010.

This Season :- League Matches - 13. Goals - 0. Assists - 3.
Career :- League Matches - 218. Goals - 15. Assists - 10.

Alexey Razmyslovich (RWB, LWB, RAM, LAM). 28 years old. Belarusian (Uncapped).
5'11. 12 stone 12 lbs.

Contract :- 1½ years, £575 per week. Value :- £2,000
Joined Club :- 2010.

This Season :- League Matches - 8. Goals - 0. Assists - 0.
Career :- League Matches - 207. Goals - 21. Assists - 24.


Midfielders/Wingers :-

Georgy Schennikov (LB, LWB, LM). 21 years old. Russian (4 Under-21 Caps).
5'10. 10 stone 12 lbs.

Contract :- 1½ years, £425 per week. Value :- £5,000
Joined Club :- 2012.

This Season :- League Matches - 13. Goals - 0. Assists - 1.
Career :- League Matches - 49. Goals - 1. Assists - 5.

Alexandr Alkhovik (DM, CM). 30 years old. Belarusian (Uncapped).
5'9. 11 stone 11 lbs.

Contract :- 6 months, £35 per week. Value :- £1,000
Joined Club :- 2009.

This Season :- League Matches - 12. Goals - 0. Assists - 3.
Career :- League Matches - 114. Goals - 8. Assists - 10.

Andrey Misyuk (DM, CM). 31 years old. Belarusian (Uncapped).
5'9. 11 stone 11 lbs.

Contract :- 1½ years, £775 per week. Value :- £2,000
Joined Club :- 2010.

This Season :- League Matches - 10. Goals - 2. Assists - 1.
Career :- League Matches - 220. Goals - 29. Assists - 25.

Pavel Mikhaltsov (DM, AM, RAM, LAM). 21 years old. Belarusian (Uncapped).
6'4. 11 stone 9 lbs.

Contract :- 6 months, £130 per week. Value :- £1,000
Joined Club :- 2012.

This Season :- League Matches - 3. Goals - 0. Assists - 0.
Career :- League Matches - 61. Goals - 5. Assists - 9.

Denis Sysoev (CM). 20 years old. Belarusian (Uncapped).
6'0. 12 stone 12 lbs.

Contract :- 6 months, £220 per week. Value :- £0
Joined Club :- 2009.

This Season :- League Matches - 1. Goals - 0. Assists - 0.
Career :- League Matches - 23. Goals - 0. Assists - 1.

Alexey Breschenko (CAM, RAM, LAM). 27 years old. Belarusian (2 Under-21 Caps).
6'0. 12 stone 8 lbs.

Contract :- 6 months, £300 per week. Value :- £2,000
Joined Club :- 2010.

This Season :- League Matches - 13. Goals - 1. Assists - 0.
Career :- League Matches - 171. Goals - 15. Assists - 13.


Strikers :- 

Nikolay Shvydakov (CAM, RAM, ST). 32 years old. Belarusian (Uncapped).
5'9. 10 stone 7 lbs.

Contract :- 1½ years, £775 per week. Value :- £9,000
Joined Club :- 2005.

This Season :- League Matches - 13. Goals - 3. Assists - 0.
Career :- League Matches - 235. Goals - 60. Assists - 6.

Olexandr Golikov (ST). 20 years old. Ukrainian (Uncapped).
6'2. 13 stone 3 lbs.

Contract :- 6 months, £400 per week. Value :- £1,000
Joined Club :- 2011.

This Season :- League Matches - 13. Goals - 6. Assists - 1.
Career :- League Matches - 49. Goals - 21. Assists - 1.

Vadim Mironov (ST). 18 years old. Russian (Under-19 International).
5'11. 12 stone 6 lbs.

Contract :- On Loan for the Season from Amkar Perm (Russia), £0 per week. Value :- £525,000
Joined Club :- 2012.

This Season :- League Matches - 2. Goals - 0. Assists - 0.
Career :- League Matches - 2. Goals - 0. Assists - 0.



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Saturday 28th July 2012

Belarusian First League
Torpedo Stadium, Zhodino
Torpedo Zhodino v Lokomotiv Minsk
Attendance :-
2,724. Weather :- Breezy, 27c.

We would line up in a fairly basic 4-4-2 formation for our trip to the league leaders. The team almost picked itself, and we were behind as quickly as 45 seconds in, as we failed to clear a cross properly, and Dimitar Tsenovski found the bottom corner from 20 yards out to beat young Dmitry Biryukov, who had been given the nod in goal. Zhodino kept up the pressure, and Biryukov was beaten again in the 9th minute, Tsenovski turning provider this time with an outswinging corner that was met with a thumping header from Sergey Kondrat'ev. It had been a horrible start, and was starting to feel like a real baptism of fire. It could have got worse too, Andrey Sheryakov sending a tame header right at Biryukov when either side of him would have been a certain goal. Georgy Schennikov provided some brief respite down the left, his searing pace and no lack of skill got him into the box, but his shot was too high, and normal service was soon resumed. Alexey Filimonov launching a free kick to the edge of our box from inside his own half, Biryukov started to come for it, then changed his mind halfway, and Sergey Bubnov beat Maxim Gorbach in the air, and lofted his header over the stranded keeper to increase our embarrassment levels with less than half hour played. It was more luck than skill that got us through to half time without any further damage, Torpedo missing several chances to further increase the score.

I'm not sure that getting angry through an interpreter has quite the same impact, but it was done all the same. A lack of options on the bench made changing things drastically a pointless option right now. Still, the words did seem to have some effect, as we did settle down a little, while still being clearly the poorer of the two sides, Bubnov reminding us of that fact when he effortlessly stepped away from a tackle and sent a shot against the cross bar. I decided that having a look at a couple of other players would at least serve us well in the coming week or so, and made a pair of changes ten minutes after the restart. Predictably, it wouldn't change the course of the game, though it did even things up a little, there again, that could have just been Zhodino taking their foot off the gas, and our throats. I was preparing to make my final change when that decision was made for me in the 74th minute. Andrey Zaleskiy picked out Alexandr Kolotsey with a through ball that had the striker on the edge of our box with his back to goal. There was no finesse about Alexey Yesipenok's challenge, as he went straight through him with a reckless tackle that rightly earned him a straight red card. Olexandr Golikov was sacrificed to bring our defence back to four, and we spent the remainder of the match attempting to limit the damage, arguably our most successful feat of the day, full back Sergey Matverychik coming closest to increasing the score when his curling shot came back off the far upright.

Torpedo Zhodino (3) 3 - Dimitar Tsenovski (1), Sergey Kondrat'ev (9), Sergey Bubnov (28)
Lokomotiv Minsk (0) 0
Dmitry Biryukov; Alexey Razmyslovich, Maxim Gorbach, Alexey Yesipenok, Pavel Lyutsko; Alexandr Alkhovik, Andrey Misyuk (Denis Sysoev 54); Pavel Mikhaltsov, Georgy Schennikov; Nikolay Shvydakov © (Vadim Mironov 54), Olexandr Golikov (Denis Lekhavitskiy 74).
Unused Substitutes :- Vladimir Zahbaia (GK), Alexandr Mashkov, Artur Groda, Alexey Breschenko.
Bookings :- None. Sent Off :- Alexey Yesipenok 74
Possession :- 44% - 56%. Man of the Match :- Dimitar Tsenovski (Torpedo Zhodino).

All I can really say after that, is thank the lord that the Transfer Window is open, and remaining open for another month or so. Also, I find out after the match that in this League, we are permitted to use four substitutions, which is a bit different. Clearly, we have a lot of work ahead of us to make sure that we can be competitive for the rest of the season. Forget being top dogs in Minsk for now, that alone is going to be challenge enough for us in the interim.

Sunday 29th July
Hapless. That is how we are being described in the media today. The club is now seven matches without a win, and today I have my staff all in to work as we look for new players and new ideas. Also brought in is Alexey Yesipenok, who is very apologetic at his rush of blood, and is served with an official warning for his poor judgement that earned him a straight red card yesterday, the first Lokomotiv player of the season to earn one.

Today has been a long day, but a worthwhile one. We have a list of targets that we are going to chase, and the more we get signed this week, the better. Almost every position, with the possible exception of goalkeeper, needs to be strengthened. By the time the day is over, we have had transfer bids rejected, accepted, negotiated, the lot. We are now talking to several players. Expect arrivals soon.

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12 hours ago, gavrenwick said:

I strangely love managing in Belarus. Good luck, buddy.

Thank you Gav. I do enjoy an Eastern European save, and this one does look like a bit of a challenge. From memory, it's my first time in Belarus, and I'm loving it already. But if I can't get things straightened out at Lokomotiv, I might not get to stick around too long.

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Monday 30th July 2012
FC Minsk are fighting to avoid relegation from the top tier. One of their better players wants to leave the club, feeling that the time is right for him to try his luck elsewhere. Portuguese side Leixões are amomgst his admirers, but we attempt to steal a march. I have money to spend, and a statement of intent will really get the fans behind us. FC Minsk are surprised to find themselves negotiating with us, and possibly already resigned to losing one of their better players, they hike the price up. We don't scare that easily.

We will go into Sunday's match against Kommunalnik Zhlobin as the firm favourites, our opponents finding themselves in the bottom two at the moment. But they do have something we don't currently have. An out and out goalscorer. Not for much longer if we have our way, as we throw in an offer for him. They are not too keen to sell, which isn't surprising, but we are continuing with negotiations.

Wednesday 1st August
The first one is in through the door, and while it isn't one of those already mentioned, it is a young player from a Minsk club. The biggest Minsk club actually. 17 year old left back Maxim Ivanenko has already been capped at Under-21 level, and has never played a Senior match for Dinamo Minsk. And he won't either, as we snap up skillful teenager for £20,000, on a cheap as Belarusian chips contract of £35 a week for two and a half years. He is quick, defensively reliable, and has bags of room to get even better. He says he can't wait to get stuck in and make his debut, even though he doesn't expect to play right away. I've got news for you then young lad!

By late morning, our other full back spot is improved, with our second signing. We have paid £2,000 to Division rivals Slavia Mozyr, and secured the signing of 20 year old Dmitry Chaka. Also an Under-21 International with two caps to his name, he was an ever present for them last season when they were relegated from the top tier. 6'0 tall, and capable of playing on the right or in the centre of the back four, he is more attacking than his more junior new colleague on the left, and signs to the end of next season for £100 a week. The fans are happy with a signing of that calibre, and a good mornings work is done.

But there's plenty of time left today, and the next one isn't too far away. It's another £2,000 spent, and this time the upgrade comes in the centre of the park, with the arrival of top tier side Dnepr Mogilev's centre midfielder, Eduard Chudnovsky. More expensive on salary at £160 a week till the end of next season, the 21 year old is also a former Belarusian Under-21 International, who also has two caps to his name for that age group side. He has been an ever present for Dnepr this season, who only got him from BATE Borisov at the start of last season. I look at the lads attributes, and think he should be more productive than the two goals and two assists he has in nearly forty First Team matches, and maybe we can coax that out of him. That signing is also a fan pleaser.

Thursday 2nd August
The next deal was actually agreed in the wee small hours of this morning, and then announced at a more reasonable time of the day. Did I just say wee? I need to remember I'm not in Scotland anymore. It see's the further rebuild of our right flank, and the return of a Minsk native. 25 year old Alexey Rios can play down that right flank, or in the middle of the park. He left his home city to join Shakhter Soligorsk in his late teens, soon establishing himself in the First Team setup, and earning a couple of caps for Belarus Under-21's. This is Rios' third move in two seasons, after a spell with Neman Grodno. He's played this season so far with FC Vitebsk, but is prepared to play at a lower level to return to Minsk. It's a two and a half year deal at £250 a week, and we have paid £3,000 for him. More fan adulation is earned.

Friday 3rd August
It's been a long slog of negotiations, offers and counter offers. Last night we finally agreed a price with Kommunalnik Zhlobin for their top goalscorer Djeykhun Mursalov. £60,000 is the agreed price, a new club record fee paid out, and steep I'm told for the 21 year old left footed 6'0 striker. The contract was much more straightforward, two and a half years at £200 a week, and we have our man. 8 goals in 14 League matches so far this season, his first with the Zhlobin club who we play this weekend. It's been a break out season for him, and they cash in after signing him on a Free Transfer at the start of the season. As adept on the floor as he is in the air, I really need him to hit the ground running and start firing in some goals for us as soon as possible.

We continue to speak to FC Minsk about their forward, and we are also in talks with another club about a centre back who would improve us. We are running out of time to get anything else done ready for this weekend's next fixture though.

Saturday 4th August
As our build up for tomorrow's match begins, the rest of the Division play their matches. We're 1/4 favourites to win my first home match in charge of the Lokomotiv side, and we now sit in 13th heading into the game. A win would move us up into 11th, and within striking distance of the mid table spots that we were predicted to be occupying well before I got here.

Sunday 5th August
Match day morning, and we hear back from FC Minsk after nearly a week. They tell us the price they want for their player, and we immediately meet that price. Now we have to wait to hear if the player will agree to speak to us. I'm told not to get my hopes up when it comes to that minor detail.

Belarusian First League
Lokomotiv Stadium, Minsk
Lokomotiv Minsk v Kommunalnik Zhlobin
Attendance :-
421. Weather :- Dry, 28c.

It's a beautiful, warm, sunny day in Minsk, and the few hundred who turn out at Lokomotiv Stadium will get to see four of our five new players making their debuts from the start, which includes 17 year old left back Maxim Ivanenko making his Senior club debut for a hometown club, though not the one he joined as a Youth player, and new club record transfer Djeykhun Mursalov making his Lokomotiv debut against the club he signed from just two days ago. Eduard Chudnovsky is the only one of the new recruits not starting, he is on the bench today. Denis Lukhavitskiy is brought in at centre back to replace the suspended Alexey Yesipenok. We are lining up in the 4-2-2-2 wide that I often used at Ayr United, particularly at home.

From the off it was clear to see that this match was an entirely different proposition to last weekend. We kept the ball well, passing nicely and our new players looked to settle quickly on the whole, Djeykhun Mursalov passing up a chance to shoot early, slipping a square pass to Georgy Schennikov who stung the keepers hands with a drive that Dmitry Guschenko pushed away. Dmitry Chaka picked out skipper Nikolay Shvydakov in the box, the striker missing a great chance, seemingly unsure if he was onside or not. Not to worry, we would create plenty more chances yet, though Mursalov missed a great opportunity to get off the mark on his debut, but he wanted one too many touches on that occasion, allowing Guschenko to make a crucial save. It was being noted that our new striker looked uncomfortable under the pressure, and not especially confident. Hopefully a goal would change all that, but when it arrived in the 38th minute, it wouldn't be the big money signing. Instead, it would be Shvydakov, running from deep, playing a one-two with Alexey Rios, and then firing past the keeper to open the scoring.

1-0 up at the break, and it could have been more. It almost was seven minutes after the restart, Alexandr Alkhovik curling a free kick from the left into the far post, and teenage left back Maxim Ivanenko almost marked his Senior debut with a goal, beating a defender in the air, his header crashing back off the cross bar! That was a desperately unlucky start to a second half that offered little in terms of attacking entertainment, but plenty in the way of our Lokomotiv players showing a willingness to get stuck in and defend our lead. A double change in centre midfield with 20 minutes left saw Eduard Chudnovsky become the fifth debuting Lokomotiv player of the day, Denis Sysoev coming on at the same time. Ten minutes later, and Mursalov missed another great chance to notch a debut goal, Shvydakov playing him in, but the new boy sent his shot over the bar. He would get the hook moments later, replaced by Olexandr Golikov. But before he went, he would play a superb diagonal pass into space on the left for Schennikov to run onto, and he produced a deep cross to the far post, where Shvydakov popped up between two defenders to apply the finish, his second of the match, and fifth of the season. We could breathe a little easier....for a couple of minutes anyway. A free kick into our box found the head of Kirill Statuev, who's header back across goal picked out substitute Magomed Magomedov. He attempted to bundle the ball past Dmitry Biryukov, and in his attempt to help out, Denis Sysoev could only help the ball on past his own keeper with five minutes to play. It was back to the nervous finish we had been hoping to avoid, but the best chances fell to us, Olexandr Golikov and Schennikov both missing chances to extend our lead. For today, I'll gratefully take the two that we did get.

Lokomotiv Minsk (1) 2 - Nikolay Shvydakov (38,82)
Kommunalnik Zhlobin (0) 1 - Denis Sysoev (85 og)
Dmitry Biryukov; Dmitry Chaka, Maxim Gorbach, Denis Lekhavitskiy, Maxim Ivanenko; Alexandr Alkhovik (Eduard Chudnovsky 70), Andrey Misyuk (Denis Sysoev 70); Alexey Rios, Georgy Schennikov; Djeykhun Mursalov (Olexandr Golikov 82), Nikolay Shvydakov ©.

Unused Substitutes :- Alexandr Mashkov, Vladimir Zuhbaia (GK), Pavel Lyutsko, Alexey Breschenko.
Bookings :- None
Possession :- 59% - 41%. Man of the Match :- Nikolay Shvydakov (Lokomotiv Minsk).

So the score makes that look like a close game, but we were the better side by quite some way, and I'd have been furious had we thrown away a few points there. It's not easy to compare that performance to last weekends, the opposition were at the other end of the scale from each other. But it was much improved on last week, and our new signings hit the ground running for the most part, with club record arrival Djeykhun Mursalov the only real exception, as he looked well out of sorts in front of goal, though did redeem himself by helping to setup what proved to be the winner just as he was about to leave the park.

The general consensus in the media is that we should have won by more goals than we did, but a win is a win, and that's the first one Lokomotiv have added in the win column in eight games. That isn't a club record, thanks only to a twelve match spell without a win back in 2008 when the club suffered relegation from the top tier.

There is a little break from League action, as our next match is a Belarusian Cup game next Saturday. The Board have set us a target of reaching Round Two, which is great for us, as we don't enter the competition until that very round, so mission accomplished! We've been drawn to face Division rivals Mikashevichi away from home in the Second Round, and they are one of the few clubs below us in the League. A run in the Cup would be an ideal opportunity to help build the players confidence.

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Monday 6th August 2012
Two goal striker Nikolay Shvydakov is named in the First League team of the week, the only Lokomotiv player to be selected this week. Maybe I'll sign Aidan O'Kane.......

There's some movement at last regarding our number one target, as FC Minsk finally accept our improved offer. A contract has been offered to the player, so now we'll see how close we can get to landing him at Lokomotiv.

Tuesday 7th August
We are not resting on our laurels with only three weeks or so left of the Transfer Window, as we have more deals being discussed. A veteran striker is amongst our targets, as is some improvement to our midfield and centre defence. The centre back rejects our offer later in the day, not keen to move down a Division right now. We offer him improved terms to see if some more cash will alleviate his concerns.

Thursday 9th August
We have managed to complete the signing of another striker today, not the deal we initially intended, but one I'm very happy to get across the line. I will confess to be very surprised when BATE Borisov accepted our £10,000 offer for 18 year old striker Andrey Volodzko. He was one of the leading lights in a Youth system that is amongst the best in Eastern Europe right now. He played twice for their First Team last season, managing to notch his first ever Senior goal as well. He is only 5'8 tall, but is incredibly good in the air, and has very good pace, and a cool head in front of goal. I decided to make sure he would definitely sign for us, offering him £300 a week. He signed the deal, which will take him through the next four and a half seasons. One to watch I think.

It wasn't such good news on the FC Minsk forward, who has rejected out initial contract offer, stating that the weekly wage wasn't enough for him to consider the move viable at this point. I've asked him for another chance to submit a better deal, and we're waiting to hear back from him again to see if he's prepared to continue talking.

Friday 10th August
Mikashevichi are the firm favourites for tomorrow's Belarusian Cup Round Two tie in Luninets, a three hour drive south from the capital, and heading down towards the border with Ukraine. They managed an away win in the League last weekend, their first three point haul since mid May!

Saturday 11th August

Belarusian Cup, Round Two
Polesie, Luninets
Mikashevichi v Lokomotiv Minsk
Attendance :-
726. Weather :- Breezy, 25c.

Our starting lineup remains as it was for the win on the weekend, but there are two changes on the substitutes bench. Alexey Yesipenok is available again after serving his suspension, but has to make do with a spot on the bench, with Denis Lekhavitskiy remaining in the side. Olexandr Golikov has been left out of the matchday squad, with new signing, 18 year old striker Andrey Volodzko available for his Lokomotiv debut.

The first attack didn't come until the 11th minute in our not very attractive 'off white' jerseys, and some of our players thought it should have led to a penalty. Djeykhun Mursalov collected Maxim Ivanenko's cross into the near left channel, and the striker thought he was shoved as he attempted to control the ball, the referee not impressed though. It was clear that most good things were happening down our left side, and in particular through Georgy Schennikov. He just missed the target with a free kick, and then sent the ball to Nikolay Shvydakov, who shot on the turn, his effort coming back off the cross bar. We hadn't managed to create too much in a tight first half, but it was more than the hosts managed, a Sergey Kiturko shot over the bar from the edge of the box being the only thing to show for their efforts.

Schennikov continued his work down the left in the early stages of the second half, producing a deep cross that Alexey Rios sent back across goal, and then hitting a shot himself from the edge of the box, Roman Stepanov holding that one quite comfortably. While it wasn't a classic match by any means, we were having the better of things. So it was frustrating to get sucker punched in the 58th minute, Roman Volkov with an inswinging corner, and Artur Levitskiy crept in at the near post to glance a header, just changing the flight of the ball enough to leave keeper Dmitry Biryukov flat footed, and unable to keep the ball out. Moments like that are tough to take as a manager, and I responded with a trio of changes, the maximum allowed in this competition. Alexandr Alkhovik, a now limping Schennikov, and Mursalov were all taken off, with Eduard Chudnovsky, Pavel Lyutsko and young new signing Andrey Volodzko all coming on. I mention that only three changes were allowed as it became significant just seven minutes later, when full back Ivanenko went down and wouldn't be able to continue. Now a man down as well as a goal down, I pulled Lyutsko back into a left back role, and brought Rios in from the left to play behind the strikers, as we moved into a 4-2-1-2 with no wingers. Despite being a player down, we were the ones doing most of the attacking, probably not too surprising to hear as we had to chase the game. Volodzko was causing a nuisance to the Mikashevichi defence, dropping deep, moving out wide, and generally being a pain for them to try and mark. He set up Lyutsko for a shot from the edge of the box with just three minutes left, but Stepanov saw that one all the way. With the clock on ninety, we looked pretty much finished. Enter the skipper, again. Shvydakov collected the ball near the byline on the left from a throw in by Lyutsko. As the defender kept a bit of distance, keen to just marshall him into a dead end, the striker cut back inside on him and raced into the box. As he got towards the edge of the six yard box, and from an acute angle, he went for power. Stepanov got both hands to it, but he could only push it inside his own near post, and we were level right at the death! The home side looked crestfallen that they'd allowed that to happen so late, and set about preventing the game going into a further half hour, Victor Dotsenko pulling the trigger from the edge of the box, his shot blocked quickly. Extra time it would be then.

With a furious home side determined to get the job done, and the visiting side down a man and happy to play for penalties at this point, extra time could go one of any number of ways. Dotsenko would try his luck again from the edge of the box, Biryukov equal to it, the young keeper diving to his left and tipping the bottom corner bound effort around his post. For our part, we had set ourselves up quite nicely, and we were restricting the home side to efforts from range. Until the 111th minute, when Karen Muradyan cut us open with a through ball that Alexandr San'ko raced onto. He wasn't blessed with great pace, and had two centre backs gaining on him, so he shot from the edge of the box, Biryukov flinging himself to his right this time, and turning that one around the post too. We were happy. We had played for penalties, and that was what we would get. Sort of. With the clock into injury time at the end of Extra Time, we won a free kick. Alexey Rios whipped it in from the right, and at the far post, Volodzko tangled with goalscorer Levitskiy. The ref hesitated, and then pointed to the spot! Playing for penalties had now become singular. If we could score from this one, we wouldn't need to take any more. Shvydakov didn't hang around, placing the ball and smashing it just off centre, to the keeper's right, and just out of his reach as he took a step the other way! Game over. What's Belarusian for 'smash and grab'?

Mikashevichi (0) 1 - Artur Levitskiy (58)
Lokomotiv Minsk (0) 2 - Nikolay Shvydakov (90, 120+1 pen)
(after extra time, 1-1 after ninety minutes)
Dmitry Biryukov; Dmitry Chaka, Maxim Gorbach, Denis Lekhavitskiy, Maxim Ivanenko (inj - 74); Alexandr Alkhovik (Eduard Chudnovsky 67), Andrey Misyuk; Alexey Rios, Georgy Schennikov (Pavel Lyutsko 67); Djeykhun Mursalov (Andrey Volodzko 67), Nikolay Shvydakov ©.
Unused Substitutes :- Alexey Yesipenok, Vadimir Zuhbaia (GK), Denis Sysoev, Alexey Breschenko.
Bookings :- Denis Lekhavitskiy 118
Possession :- 40% - 60%. Man of the Match :- Nikolay Shvydakov (Lokomotiv Moscow).

When I arrived a couple of weeks ago, skipper Nikolay Shvydakov had scored three goals in nearly half a season. Now he has four goals in as many days, his second brace in as many games firing us into the Third Round of the Belarusian Cup. How about his composure to net in the final minute of normal time to keep us in the tie, and then in injury time at the end of Extra Time to give us the win? Outstanding stuff!

It's just as well that we are not short of a couple of rubles at the moment, as our reward for progression into Round Three is the appropriately worked out £3,000. Both Georgy Schennikov and Maxim Ivanenko are showing no signs of anything more than just minor knocks, and both should be available for our return to League action in midweek, a home match with Savit Mogliev, with the motivation being moving above them should we manage a win.

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Sunday 12th August 2012
Our move for a veteran striker is progressing, with his club accepting our offer, and personal terms now being discussed. Meanwhile, we are also trying to relieve BATE Borisov of another one of their talented young players. It might be a case of once bitten from them, as they are less reluctant to look favourably on our low ball offer, and have negotiated us up a bit. Still, if we can get the deal done, I'm confident we will still be getting ourselves a bargain.

A few of our players are due for contract renewal at the end of the season, and I have seen enough over the last few weeks to form a framework of opinion over who I want to keep, and who I don't envisage having a future with us here at Lokomotiv. Contract offers have been sent out for those we see with a future with our club.

Monday 13th August
BATE are certainly playing the field this time, stalling for time as they attempt to get a better deal from one of the other interested suitors of the player we are keen to add to our squad. It is quite obvious to me, that they have heard about my success at Lurgan Celtic, and they are concerned that I'm going to drag another side beginning with the letter 'L' up into the top tier! Too much?

Tuesday 14th August
We have again been given permission to discuss terms with the centre back who gave us a rejection last week as he wasn't too keen to drop down from the top tier. I have really given him something to think about this time, as our new contract offer would better than quadruple his current salary. Surely, for that kind of money, and a move into the capital, we have to have got his attention?

Savit Mogliev are one place above us in the First League table at the halfway point, and tomorrow we kick off the second half our League campaign with a home tie against them. The bookies are not really convinced by either side, and they have us as very narrow favourites (6/4) by virtue of our home advantage and improving form. However, at 13/8, they wouldn't be too shocked to see Savit get something out of the match and stay above us in the table either.

Wednesday 15th August
It's matchday in Minsk, and we have a new signing to introduce to the fans before kick off. Not that he will need introducing, as this will be his second spell at Lokomotiv. Veteran striker Sergey Krot played here between 2005-2007, scoring nine league goals in 48 appearances for us. He moved on to Shakhter Soligorsk, and then Neman Grodno, struggling to get First Team football on a regular basis with either. But then last season at this level, he scored fifteen times in 28 League matches for Khimik Svetlogorsk, and had another three for them this season as well. He is only two short of fifty career League goals. And we have signed him, for £1,000. Bargain. So what do we get as well as that goalscoring ability and veteran experience? Height. At 6'4, he is a couple of inches taller than Olexandr Golikov. I'm hoping that might give our set pieces a shot in the arm. We haven't scored from a corner yet! Outrageous.

Before the match the draw is made for the Third Round of the Belarusian Cup, and it might not be great news. After taking a bit of a thumping from Torpedo Zhodino in my first match in charge, we'll have to travel to face them again next month after being paired with them. If we're looking for a positive, it will give us a very good marker of how much progress, if any, we will have made about a month and a half after my arrival.

Belarusian First League
Lokomotiv Stadium, Minsk
Lokomotiv Minsk v Savit Mogliev
Attendance :-
411. Weather :- Wet, 24c.

Two changes are made to our lineup today, with Andrey Misyuk dropped to the bench, Eduard Chudnovsky brought into the midfield in his place, while up front, new signing Sergey Krot is brought straight into the lineup, with club record signing Djeykhun Mursalov finding himself dropped from the matchday squad today.

This wouldn't be a match for those looking for plenty of goal action apparently, with 20 minutes on the clock before anything of real note happened, Alexey Volkov picked up the ball from a short corner and then swung the ball in towards the far post. It looked to be creeping in too, but Alexandr Alkhovik got his head to it, and sent it over his own cross bar. Set pieces were appearing to be important, Andrey Divakov bringing down the ball at the near post from a corner, and then shooting on the turn, Dmitry Buryukov dealing with that without too much trouble. There was half hour on the clock before we created any issues for Savit, and Georgy Schennikov was heavily involved, first providing a cross that Sergey Krot shot wide, and then retrieving the ball from a cleared corner, and running across the park before shooting himself, that one going over the bar.

Goalless at the break, and the match had been as tight as the scoreline suggested to this point. That wouldn't really change in the second half either, Dmytro Brovkin managing to beat two in the left channel outside our box, but then sent himself tumbling to the turf as soon as he got inside the box, failing to suitably impress the Belarusian judge otherwise known as the referee. Alkhovik and Krot were both substituted twenty minutes into the second half, Denis Sysoev and Andrey Volodzko coming on in their place. Five minutes later, and Alexey Rios gave a brief glimpse of his talent on the corner of the box, dropping a shoulder to beat a defender, and then running square across the edge of the box, before shooting left footed, the shot hitting the top of the bar and carrying on into the stands. Schennikov just missed the target moments later as he aimed for the top corner with a free kick, and when Denis Lekhavitskiy started to struggle with a knock, I made my final two changes, Eduard Chudnovsky also going off, Alexey Yesipenok and Andrey Misyuk coming on. This match was drifting towards a stalemate, until with three minutes left, Denis Sysoev sent a low pass into the feet of Nikolay Shvydakov on the edge of the 'D', and the skipper rolled a defender, before sending off a left footed curling shot that beat Andrey Komarytskyi, hit the underside of the bar, bounced down on the line, hitting the bar again on it's way back up, and spinning across the goal line and into the net! It was the 32 year old strikers fifth goal in his last three outings, and it gave us a priceless three points just as it looked like we were about to leave two on the table.

Lokomotiv Minsk (0) 1 - Nikolay Shvydakov (87)
Savit Mogliev (0) 0
Dmitry Biryukov; Dmitry Chaka, Maxim Gorbach, Denis Lekhavitskiy (Alexey Yesipenok 78), Maxim Ivanenko; Alexandr Alkhovik (Denis Sysoev 65), Eduard Chudnovsky (Andrey Misyuk 78); Alexey Rios, Georgy Schennikov; Sergey Krot (Andrey Volodzko 65), Nikolay Shvydakov ©.
Unused Substitutes :- Vladimir Zuhbaia (GK), Pavel Lyutsko, Alexey Breschenko.
Bookings :- Maxim Gorbach 90+4
Possession :- 48% - 52%. Man of the Match :- Sergey Tsvetinskiy (Savit Mogliev).

He's done it again! That was a superb strike from the Club Captain, and Nikolay Shvydakov's fifth goal in the last three matches means we are now on a three match winning streak. Morale in the club is on the up, and so is our League position, as we nudge above Savit and into 10th spot. We have a more difficult run of games coming up, two away matches against sides nearer the top part of the League, followed by a return home for my first ever experience of a 'Minsk Derby', as we will play host to Darida in an early September fixture on a Sunday.

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Thursday 16th August 2012
The attendance of 411 at last nights match with Savit Mogliev has set a new club record. Not a good one either. It's the new lowest attendance for a competitive match in Lokomotiv history, five lower than the previous lowest mark set in October 2010 against Baranovichi.

Friday 17th August
Another contract offer has been sent out to the FC Minsk player that we have been chasing. I'm going to be honest, I'm starting to lose hope that we can land the player, at least during this Transfer Window. I think his demands are going to put him just out of our price range, and if he turns us down this time, we will have to draw a line under it for now.

There is better contract news internally though. Centre back Alexey Yesipenok has signed a two year contract extension to remain with the club, and has also agreed to take a pay cut after being told that he will no longer be an automatic first choice for the club, which he has been for a large part of the last two years. His salary drops from £250 a week, down to £170.

Another centre back has also put his signature on a two year extension, this time it's Denis Lekhavitskiy. His wages have increased very slightly, but at £95 per week and in his seventh year at the club, he was due a rise. He is now on £100 a week. I did say it was a very slight rise.

Next in through the door with a signed set of paperwork is midfielder, Alexandr Alkhovik. I'm going to admit to being unsure about the 30 year old. But I wasn't quite prepared to lose him on a Free Transfer at the end of the season either. So he signs on a one year extended deal, with his wage remaining as it is, £35 a week.

Finally, it's the one we really wanted, and needed, to get done. Goalkeeper Dmitry Biryukov turned 20 years old last Saturday, and he will be a lot older than that when his contract expires. He has signed a new five year deal to stay at Lokomotiv, and I told him that he's currently my number one. As such, I asked him to accept a small pay cut now, and in return, he would get a 10% rise at the end of each season, with a further 25% rise if we get promoted. He is delighted in the show of faith, and is happy to remain with the club he first came to as a 16 year old.

Tomorrow is going to be a tough away trip for us, as we take the three and a half hour bus trip to Rechitsa, which sits near the borders of both Russia and Ukraine. The club side there, Vedrich-97 Rechitsa sit 7th in the League right now, and have lost only two of their last eight League matches, which also included a run of three straight wins. There is no doubt who their main man to keep an eye on is, 26 year old striker Dmitriy Lebedev has eleven goals in fifteen League appearances so far this season, making him the League's joint top marksman.

Saturday 18th August
BATE Borisov are still playing hardball with us over our attempts to sign a second player from them this summer. They tell us that the asking price for the midfielder we want is £28,000, and there is no longer any room for negotiation. With the Window starting to move towards it's close, and other clubs also showing an interest in the player, I agree to match their asking price.

Belarusian First League
Tsentralniy, Rechitsa
Vedrich-97 Rechitsa v Lokomotiv Minsk
Attendance :-
2,184. Weather :- Dry, 13c.

This ground holds a thousand more people than ours, and is well over two thirds full this afternoon. We really have to improve our popular appeal amongst the public of Minsk. Anyway, on to more pressing tasks, and there are two changes from last time out, with both coming on the substitutes bench. Denis Sysoev and Andrey Volodzko have both been dropped from the matchday squad, replaced by winger Alexey Razmyslovich, and so far unconvincing signing, striker Djeykhun Mursalov.

We made a decent start, some slick passing and patience crafted an early opportunity, Nikolay Shvydakov playing the role of supplier, holding up the ball and slipping a pass to Eduard Chudnovsky, but his effort was pushed to safety by home custodian, Vitaliy Stepanovich. Then Georgy Schennikov failed to work the keeper with a free kick that just missed the target, but did better with a raid down the left and a cross, which picked out Sergey Krot, the striker not able to get the ball under control and get a shot in. Within moments, we were without Krot, who took a knock and was swiftly replaced by Djeykhun Mursalov. By this point Vedrich were starting to take control, but their crossing was letting them down badly, one being so bad that we actually launched a counter-attack from it, Shvydakov starting the move, Alexey Rios and Chudnovsky also involved, before Shvydakov forced an outstanding reaction stop out of Stepanovich, who denied our skipper an extension to his fine run of goalscoring. From the resulting corner, Schennikov picked out Rios, who's glancing header hit the bar before being hooked to safety. Vedrich took control before half time though, and almost reached the break with an advantage, Igor Antsypov hitting our cross bar with a half volley from 15 yards out.

All to play for then in the second half, and with a couple of Vedrich players needing to be a little careful, three of them picking up bookings in the first half. That was in evidence when Schennikov sprinted down the left after a long ball down the touchline from Maxim Ivanenko, and our winger found himself up against Sergey Duben, who was already treading a thinner line with the ref. Schennikov teased him unsuccessfully into making a challenge, before picking out Djeykhun Mursalov, who's shot was struck well, but Stepanovich made another good stop from fairly close range. We were playing well, and causing our hosts problems, Rios picking out Shvydrakov with a cross, and he let go a left footed piledriver that was just an inch or so too high, Duben doing the same with a free kick at the other end. Back at the other end near the hour mark, Rios should have done better after being played into the box by Chudnovsky, but his shot was right across goal and wide of the far post. The chances continued to come and go for both sides, though Roman Loktionov's curling shot from range was more of an opportunists strike, the ball skimming the post on it's way past the goal frame. Alexandr Alkhovik was replaced just after the hour, Alexey Yesipenok brought on and utilised as a midfielder. We were starting to ship more chances though, and Andrey Lapytov's corner was met with a firm side footed shot by Mikhail Kotin that was heading back inside the near post, until Dmitry Chaka booted it off the line. Sadly, our luck would run out with twenty minutes to play. Loktionov played his part, holding the ball up expertly on halfway, before releasing Lapytov on the left. His pass inside found Kotin, and picked out the dangerman, Dmitriy Lebedev, who let the ball run across his body to shield it from Denis Lekhavitskiy, before picking his spot with a well struck low shot, steered beyond the dive of Dmitry Biryukov. That was a hammer blow, and a hefty penalty for missing the chances we had created. We would quickly create another, Rios skipping away from a tackle and reaching the byline. He cut it back, finding Alexey Yesipenok, who squared it perfectly for Chudnovsky, his curling shot finally beating Stepanovich, but not the upright, as it bounced back off to relative safety. Lekhavitskiy took a knock soon after, landing awkwardly and appearing to pull something while jumping for a header that he lost, Biryukov tipping that one over the bar. The centre back was replaced, Andrey Misyuk coming on, which meant Yesipenok moving into the back four, while Chudnovsky also came off, Alexey Breschenko coming on as we looked to be more attacking. It wasn't to be today though, as Vedrich were too good for us, taking the ball off us and keeping it for spells by just passing around us, almost extending their lead when Lebedev tried to lift the ball over Biryukov, who made a superb recovery stop to keep the deficit down to one at least. Right at the very death, with the clock into the final moment, Shvydakov would pop up again, getting goal side of his marker near the penalty spot as Schennikov released the pass in his direction, bringing it down, and then smashing it.....a whisker wide of the target. It was not to be for us today.

Vedrich-97 Rechitsa (0) 1 - Dmitriy Lebedev (70)
Lokomotiv Minsk (0) 0
Dmitry Biryukov; Dmitry Chaka, Maxim Gorback, Denis Lekhavitskiy (inj - Andrey Misyuk 77), Maxim Ivanenko; Alexandr Alkhovik (Alexey Yesipenok 61), Eduard Chudnovsky (Alexey Breschenko 77); Alexey Rios, Georgy Schennikov; Sergey Krot (inj - Djeykhun Mursalov 15), Nikolay Shvydakov ©.
Unused Substitutes :- Vladimir Zuhbaia (GK), Pavel Lyutsko, Alexey Razmyslovich.
Bookings :- None
Possession :- 46% - 54%. Man of the Match :- Mikhail Kotin (Vedrich-97 Rechitsa).

People might say a lot of things about us, but one thing they can't accuse us of is failing to create chances. We absolutely had enough chances to not just get something from that one, but to win it. But putting them in the net is clearly a real problem for us. That was our 17th League match of the campaign, and we have managed just fifteen goals, the worst in the Division, with even the clubs in the bottom two more prolific than we are.

On the flip side, we do have the second best defence in the Division, with only Dinamo Brest, coincidentally our next opponents, shipping fewer goals than us in the League so far this season. Maybe we have just got to the bottom of why we are struggling to get fans in through the gate at Lokomotiv Stadium as well? Clearly, we are not an entertaining side to watch. I can live with that if we're fighting for Promotions, Titles or Cups. But not while we are treading water below the halfway point in the League. That isn't a good combination.

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Sunday 19th August 2012
Denis Lekhavitskiy will miss anything up to four weeks after damaging his hamstring in yesterday's match. We are not blessed with superb cover options at centre back, though that situation rectify's itself within hours, as we receive some good news on the recruitment front.

We have been chasing 20 year old centre back Vladimir Malykh for a few weeks, and finally we have secured his signing. He had been a little reluctant at first, having spent all his career in the second tier, he made a move to FC Vitebsk in the top tier at the start of the season, and wasn't too keen to come straight back down a level so quickly, especially as he had managed to become a regular for them. However, a fairly hefty pay rise, and a chance to move back to his native Minsk ultimately proved too much to resist for the 9 times capped Under-21 International, who's 3 and a half year deal is worth a sizeable £500 a week to the 6'1 ball playing centre back. While the wages are quite a lot, the Transfer Fee was not, as we paid just £2,000 for him.

Our hopes of getting that second player in from BATE Borisov are in the balance once again, with the news emerging that two other clubs are preparing to match our offer for the coveted young player. However, with our offer now accepted, and the contract offer sat with him, I am reasonably confident that the other clubs will struggle to match the package we have put together for the player. I have gone to the next level for this lad, as for me, he would be a very important signing for us to get done over the long term.

Monday 20th August
Another Minsk side, MTZ-Ripo Minsk of the top tier have unveiled themselves as one of the other clubs to be interested in the BATE Borisov player. They make it known that they have matched our offer, and are also now around the table discussing terms with the player.

His signing has become more important to us, with the news that we have failed to land our main target. FC Minsk's 27 year old forward, Alexey Dobrovolskiy, has rejected our final, and best offer for his signature, and that deal is now dead for the time being at least. He is going to be out of contract at the end of the season, so it might not be the last you hear of him.

Wednesday 22nd August
One player that you probably will have heard the last of, with this being first you'll have heard of him, is Yury Vodovozov. A 30 year old winger who was banished to the Reserves long before I arrived after playing just once for Lokomotiv in the League this season, he asked to leave a few days ago. I granted his request, and even made it easy for him by not requesting a fee for him either. He has signed for a Division rival, and one that is further up the League than us too. Khimik Svetlogorsk secure his signing on a £180 a week short term deal for the remainder of the season.

Thursday 23rd August 
The Transfer Deadline is one week from today, but for the second successive day, the main news at Lokomotiv is of a departure, rather than an arrival (bit of train based wording for you there, Lokomotiv fans). Denis Sysoev had spent three seasons in and around the First Team here, and the few appearances he had as a substitute since my arrival was his most consistent run of games. Clearly, the 20 year old was a notch or two below the level we were looking for, and he will leave to join Non-League side FC Sozh Krichev when his contract is up on December 1st.

Friday 24th August
Tomorrow will be another tough away trip, this time against second place Dinamo Brest, a four hour bus ride to the South West corner of the country, only a short distance away from the border with Poland. The G.O.S.K Brestskiy is one of the newer and better stadiums we visit in the second tier, an all seater stadium that is only seven years old and seats 10,000. They don't look like they will be a problem for us next season, as they are sat in second behind Torpedo Zhodino and look a good bet for promotion. According to the bookies, they are an even better bet to pick up three points tomorrow, 4/6 favourites actually.

We might have just improved our prospects a little bit though. Mid-afternoon, and we finally receive news that we have our man! Yuriy Ryzhko is a 22 year old with eight caps for Belarus Under-21's, and he stands 6'4 tall. He has signed for us from BATE Borisov for £28,000 today, and I'm delighted to have him on board. He can play either at centre back, defensive midfield, or in the centre of the park, and the lad oozes class. BATE sold him to Shakhter Soligorsk in 2010 after he had played just once in four and a half seasons with them, and then after he became a regular with them, they signed him back at the start of this season. He's played eleven times for them this season, and is now only two appearances away from bringing up his half century of League outings.

Saturday 25th August

Belarusian First League
G.O.S.K Brestskiy, Brest
Dinamo Brest v Lokomotiv Minsk
Attendance :-
3,911. Weather :- Dry, 20c.

The main team news for us today is the inclusion of two debutants in our starting lineup. Denis Lekhavitskiy's injury means an immediate start for new centre back, Vladimir Malykh. Just in front of him, Alexandr Alkhovik is left out, making room for the other new arrival, Yuriy Ryzhko. On the bench, Djeykhun Mursalov is once again left out, with Andrey Volodzko brought back into the matchday squad.

Nearly a quarter of an hour in, and we almost fell behind when Sergey Kozak let fly with a long range shot that took a huge deflection off the back of one of our defenders. That left Dmitry Biryukov wrong footed and out of position, so it was left to the goal frame to come to our rescue, the ball bouncing back off the angle of the metal work and Biryukov scrambled across goal to clutch the rebound. Fortunately, from that point on we did a lot better with our blocking, preventing a barrage of crosses and shots from range from troubling our young keeper at all. In fact, all he would have to deal with would be another Kozak effort that was straight at Biryukov and that he dealt with very comfortably. It was hard to work out who was more frustrated at the break, the Dinamo side, or the near 4,000 fans inside the G.O.S.K.

We started the second half well, Alexey Rios stealing the ball and trying to launch a counter attack down the right wing. That one failed, and moments later debutant Yuriy Ryzhko lost the ball in the midfield, very nearly fatally, Pavel Evseenko taking the ball from him and then squaring it to Dmitriy Zhdanok who's left footed curler only just missed the target. He had a go from much closer range moments later, Biryukov pushing that one around the post. We were starting to get overwhelmed, and I had to make a change. Sergey Krot would come off, leaving Nikolay Shvydakov as our lone striker, Alexandr Alkhovik coming on to keep a pair in centre midfield, while Ryzhko went back into his more natural habitat of the anchor role between midfield and defence. But that would only hold the tide temporarily, and when we part cleared a corner, Kozak sent it back into the box and picked out an unmarked Evseenko, who slotted the ball low into the bottom corner and broke our resistance. Now we had to go looking for a goal ourselves, but when Rios' cross wasn't of the best quality, a counter attack nearly saw us quickly go further behind, Vyacheslav Grigorov blasting a shot at goal, Biryukov managing to get a fingertip to the ball and send it over. Rios would join Eduard Chudnovsky in being repalced, Alexey Razmyslovich and Andrey Volodzko coming on as we look to go on the front foot. Dmitry Chaka managed to get forward from right back, using newly introduced right winger Razmyslovich as a decoy to get to the corner of the box, before picking out Ryzhko, who's shot was turned over by Sergey Sarharuk. The home keeper had to be off his line quickly when Chaka's long ball down the right sent Razmyslovich on the chase behind the defence, the keeper just getting there first and knocking the ball into touch, otherwise he would have left his side in real trouble. We wouldn't trouble him any further though, the best defence in the League was too good for us to breach today.

Dinamo Brest (0) 1 - Pavel Evseenko (61)
Lokomotiv Minsk (0) 0
Dmitry Biryukov; Dmitry Chaka, Maxim Gorbach, Vladimir Malykh, Maxim Ivanenko; Yuriy Ryzkho, Eduard Chudnovsky (Andrey Volodzko 69); Alexey Rios (Alexey Razmyslovich 69), Georgy Schennikov; Sergey Krot (Alexandr Alkhovik 52), Nikolay Shvydakov ©.
Unused Substitutes :- Pavel Lyutsko, Vladimir Zuhbaia (GK), Alexey Yesipenok, Alexey Breschenko.
Bookings :- Alexey Rios 36, Dmitry Chaka 43
Possession :- 53% - 47%. Man of the Match :- Pavel Evseenko (Dinamo Brest).

So while we may have shown some progression in the month or so since I arrived here, we are still the top few percent away from competing with the better teams in this Division. We spent far too much of that game on the back foot, and we need to work on making the opposition more fearful of us, and not feeling that they can throw players forward with no chance of any repercussions.

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Interesting choice of club Neil, and you know how much I love a save in old USSR. Loko look like they've got the potential to be more than they are - especially being based in the capital - but equally you'll have your work cut out attracting the cream when there are so many bigger clubs in town. Good luck to you!

Just out of interest, is your Georgy Schennikov the same man as the real-life CSKA Moscow youth graduate, first-teamer and Russian international? Because if so, that's quite the divergent path your game has taken him on!

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2 hours ago, EvilDave said:

Interesting choice of club Neil, and you know how much I love a save in old USSR. Loko look like they've got the potential to be more than they are - especially being based in the capital - but equally you'll have your work cut out attracting the cream when there are so many bigger clubs in town. Good luck to you!

Just out of interest, is your Georgy Schennikov the same man as the real-life CSKA Moscow youth graduate, first-teamer and Russian international? Because if so, that's quite the divergent path your game has taken him on!

I suspected it would be of interest to you mate. Yes, when fate decided that I should leave Scotland, this was the one job that stood out that I fancied a crack at. Enjoying it too. Won't be easy to drag them up to challenging in Belarus, or even Minsk for that matter, but should make for some interesting times.

Yes, it is the same Georgy Schennikov, with his in game name spelt wrong. Clearly this version of FM had no love for left wingers (see James McLean). I wasn't aware of the real life version until I watched a CSKA Champions League game last week and heard his name. A quick search showed him to be the very same guy. CSKA released him before he played a match for them in early 2009, and he ended up in non-league in Russia. He was bought by Lokomotiv before my arrival at the start of the current season for £35,000.

I hope you enjoy this one mate, it is already looking like a bit of a project.

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Wednesday 29th August 2012
A chance has arisen to bring in a young player who has the pace to frighten any side into thinking twice about leaving space for us to counter attack into. He currently plays for Non-League club Spartak-UOR-Snepr Shklov, they respond to our first bid quickly, telling us that we need to increase our offer. We send in an improved offer, which they still consider to be short of their asking price, though they have dropped that price slightly. Negotiations look set to continue.

Thursday 30th August
It's Transfer Deadline Day, and while we are not expecting a lot of activity today, we do get early word that Shklov have accepted our improved offer. It's for a total of £21,000, part up front, with the remainder in installments. We now have permission to discuss terms with the player, but that doesn't immediately prove successful, as he knocks back our first offer, but is happy to continue talking to us. I break this news from the window of my car. I don't care which country we're in, it's not Transfer Deadline Day until someone does it.

Discussions continue throughout the day, and eventually, a lot later than we would have liked, we manage to agree a deal. 19 year old Alexandr Kozlov will eventually cost us a total of £21,000, but the pacey five times capped Belarus Under-21 International may well turn out to be well worth the money. Lightning quick and with 35 matches under his belt for the Non-League side after failing to make the grade with Dnepr Mogliev, he already has four goals and eight assists to his name. He will have to compete against Georgy Schennikov, but it's nice to know we have a capable replacement on both wings now.

Friday 31st August
That's that for the Transfer Window then, and the squad is now locked in for the remainder of the season. The ten players we have signed are the most of any team in Belarus not surprisingly, and means the squad has, in my opinion, been improved since I arrived and should allow us to be much more competitive for the remainder of this season for a start.

Three months from today, a fair sized group of players for us will be out of contract, and as it stands, I don't expect any of those players to be offered new deals to remain with us with the exception of the ones already sitting on offers.

Saturday 1st September 2012
We're into September, and we start the new month tomorrow afternoon, with my first experience of a 'Derby Day' in Minsk as we host Darida-TDZh, who are currently 3rd and five points away from the promotion places, which increases to eight after Dinamo Brest win this afternoon with yet another clean sheet. Despite us  having home advantage, the bookies are making Darida favourites to close that gap back up to five points and re-establish their comfort zone in third as both Khimik Svetlogorsk and Vedrich Rechitsa win behind them.

Young striker, Andrey Gagiev, who is doing really well with our Reserve side, SKVICh, has signed a new deal with the club today. The 18 year old who stands 6'2 and has scored five times in six matches for the second string side has inked a contract that will take him through to the end of the 2015 season, paying him £40 per week. Also set for a longer stay with Lokomotiv is the second string's current goalkeeper, Gennady Burmistrov. The 18 year old signs through to the end of the same season for £60 per week.

Sunday 2nd September

Belarusian First League
Lokomotiv Stadium, Minsk
Lokomotiv Minsk v Darida-TDZh
Attendance :-
964. Weather :- Breezy, Showers, 19c.

Clearly a Derby Day in Minsk is good for our attendance figures, I just wished that more of them were Lokomotiv fans, as the Darida faithful made their way across the city to support their side, in the hope of seeing them improve their prospects of challenging for promotion. Our fans our hoping to see us show them that we will be in a position to compete next season, and they see one change to the matchday squad today, with Alexey Breschenko dropped, and new signing Alexandr Kozlov brought in on the bench.

Darida came flying out of the traps, and an early Alexey Martynov shot that just cleared the bar would have had the Darida fans out of their seats, if they had sat in them to start with, the noisy lot. Still, our lot were not exactly sitting on their hands either, and a great team move played Sergey Krot in on the left of the box, but his shot went across goal and wide. While the play wasn't exactly end to end, both sides were getting their chances. Martynov sent a cross right through our six yard box, while Konstantin Yakubovskiy brought a save out of Dmitry Biryukov, who pushed the ball over the bar after the shot from range. At the opposite end, a cross from Georgy Schennikov was met by a header from Nikolay Shvydakov, but he just missed the target. Our hopes weren't helped out too much when we lost right back Dmitry Chaka to injury ten minutes before the break, Alexey Razmyslovich came on, and Alexey Rios was pushed back into an emergency right back role.

I begged my players to shut the Darida fans up as soon as possible, they were giving me a real headache. A long throw from the left by Maxim Ivanenko into the Darida box found Schennikov as he snuck into the six yard box, his shot was saved superbly by Valeriy Fomichev at point blank range. A minute later another throw in provided the breakthrough. Alexey Razmyslovich brought the ball down on the edge of the box, and then passed it back to the left for Krot, who sidefooted a left footed shot from the edge of the box past Fomichev and inside the near post. It was his first for the club, only a very small part of the reason why our fans were so delighted. Five minutes later, and we used the right wing for our next attack. That meant Razmyslovich was involved again, bringing the ball down expertly on the touchline, and moving past his marker despite being afforded very little room. His cross was low, and perfect, Shvydakov walking onto it and smashing the ball just under the cross bar and into the roof of the net to double our lead in double quick time. Darida turned to their subs bench, and one of them, Alexey Petrov, let an effort from outside the box go on the hour, but that one hit the top of the bar on it's way over. We would go to the bench ourselves in the 73rd minute, Schennikov took a knock and we wouldn't risk him making it worse, Alexandr Kozlov receiving a warm welcome from our fans, and a less than warm one from the Darida contingent as he made his debut for us in a Minsk Derby. Sensing that the visitors were already on the ropes, we went for the kill, Shvydakov holding the ball up, and then laying the ball off square to Yuriy Ryzhko who hit a vicious right footed shot that only just flew wide of the top corner. I had seen enough to believe Darida were done, and replaced Vladimir Malykh and Krot with Alexey Yesipenok and Djeykhun Mursalov. That would pay a very quick dividend, Ivanenko swinging in a left footed corner, and Yesipenok headed in off the bar from no more than a yard out. Today, Minsk belongs to us!

Lokomotiv Minsk (0) 3 - Sergey Krot (48), Nikolay Shvydakov (53), Alexey Yesipenok (84)
Darida-TDZh (0) 0
Dmitry Biryukov; Dmitry Chaka (inj - Alexey Razmyslovich 36), Maxim Gorbach, Vladimir Malykh (Alexey Yesipenok 81), Maxim Ivanenko; Yuriy Ryzhko, Eduard Chudnovsky; Alexey Rios, Georgy Schennikov (inj - Alexandr Kozlov 73); Sergey Krot (Djeykhun Mursalov 81), Nikolay Shvydakov.
Unused Substitutes :- Pavel Lyutsko, Vladimir Zuhbaia (GK), Alexandr Alkhovik.
Bookings :- None
Possession :- 51% - 49%. Man of the Match :- Alexey Razmyslovich (Lokomotiv Minsk).

On my biggest day so far as Lokomotiv manager, we put in out best performance. I'd like to think we would get a few extra fans in from the back of it, but the bumper attendance was almost exclusively down to the Darida supporters. But they went home with their tails between their legs. At least it wasn't too far to travel.

In not such good news, right back Dmitry Chaka suffered a gash to his leg in the first half, and he is going to be out of action for anything up to two weeks. There is better news on Georgy Schennikov, as the left winger has not suffered any damage that should keep him out of the side for any length of time. Looks like it was a good, safe move to take him off when we did.

It's particularly good news for Schennikov, as he has been called up by Russia Under-21's for their double header of UEFA 2013 European Under-21 Championship Qualifiers, firstly at home against Hungary in Ramenskoye, followed by a trip to Turkey where they will face their hosts at the home of Besiktas in Istanbul.

He isn't the only one called up either, as two of our Belarusian players are also called up for the highest age group squad. They are both signings of mine as well which is pleasing. Eduard Chudnovsky and our latest signing Alexandr Kozlov will both hope to be involved when Belarus entertain Liechtenstein in Minsk in what is also a Euro Qualifier. That match will take place at the home of MTZ-Ripo Minsk, who play at the old 1950's built Traktor Stadium in the city. It holds 17,600 people currently.

2012 Belarusian First League Table, Up To & Including Sunday 2nd September 2012

| Pos   | Inf   | Team                |       | Pld   | Won   | Drn   | Lst   | For   | Ag    | G.D.  | Pts   |

| 1st   |       | Torpedo Zhodino     |       | 19    | 15    | 1     | 3     | 43    | 21    | +22   | 46    |
| 2nd   |       | Dinamo Brest        |       | 19    | 12    | 5     | 2     | 34    | 14    | +20   | 41    |
| 3rd   |       | Darida              |       | 19    | 9     | 6     | 4     | 30    | 22    | +8    | 33    |
| 4th   |       | Khimik Svetlogorsk  |       | 19    | 10    | 3     | 6     | 21    | 19    | +2    | 33    |
| 5th   |       | Vedrich Rechitsa    |       | 19    | 9     | 5     | 5     | 25    | 23    | +2    | 32    |
| 6th   |       | Lida                |       | 19    | 9     | 3     | 7     | 24    | 25    | -1    | 30    |
| 7th   |       | Baranovichi         |       | 19    | 8     | 5     | 6     | 28    | 24    | +4    | 29    |
| 8th   |       | Vertical            |       | 19    | 8     | 4     | 7     | 25    | 22    | +3    | 28    |
| 9th   |       | Savit               |       | 19    | 7     | 5     | 7     | 22    | 19    | +3    | 26    |
| 10th  |       | Zvezda-BGU          |       | 19    | 7     | 3     | 9     | 28    | 33    | -5    | 24    |
| 11th  |       | Slavia Mozyr        |       | 19    | 6     | 5     | 8     | 25    | 24    | +1    | 23    |
| 12th  |       | Lokomotiv Minsk     |       | 19    | 6     | 5     | 8     | 18    | 17    | +1    | 23    |
| 13th  |       | Mikashevichi        |       | 19    | 4     | 7     | 8     | 20    | 28    | -8    | 19    |
| 14th  |       | Belcard             |       | 19    | 4     | 3     | 12    | 25    | 34    | -9    | 15    |
| 15th  |       | Postavy             |       | 19    | 2     | 5     | 12    | 18    | 41    | -23   | 11    |
| 16th  |       | Kommunalnik Zhlobin |       | 19    | 2     | 3     | 14    | 21    | 41    | -20   | 9     |


Edited by neilhoskins77

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Monday 3rd September 2012
Yesterday's superb win against fellow Minsk club Darida saw some well deserved recognition for the club, as four of our players were named in the team of the week for the First League, the highest of any club in the Division. Teenage left back Maxim Ivanenko, unlikely goalscoring substitute Alexey Yesipenok, the man with two assists Alexey Razmyslovich, and our top scorer Nikolay Shvydakov are all named in the weekly team.

Our next League match was scheduled to take place on Wednesday evening of this week against a Slavia Mozyr side that have lost their last two and are winless in their last four, with only three wins in their last fourteen League matches. That match has now been postponed due to our International call-ups, and will instead be provisionally rescheduled for next Wednesday, the 12th.

Thursday 6th September
There is some more International recognition for a few of our players when the Under-19 squads for the International Window in September are named. But there is also one Senior call up, as our current back up keeper, Vladimir Zuhbaia, has been called into the Senior squad by Georgia for the first time, as they prepare to face England at Wembley in a FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifier.

Meanwhile, Belarus Under-19's are going to be hosting Austria in a Friendly, which will, like the Under-21's match, take place in Minsk at the Traktor Stadium. Three of our players have been called up, Maxim Ivanenko, who has been capped at the older age group level, along with Andrey Volodzko and 16 year old Reserve team left winger, Yury Murashov.

Friday 7th September
After that second announcement of International call up's, the League match with Slavia Mozyr has been pushed back once more. This time it's moved back nearly a month, to Wednesday 10th October. That date is also right before the International Window next month, so don't be surprised if that game gets moved at least once more yet.

This International Window starts today, and it starts well for Belarus. While it hasn't been a very good campaign for the Under-21's, they do conclude their UEFA 2013 European Under-21 Championship Qualifiers with a win at Traktor Stadium against a Liechtenstein side who have failed to pick up a single point. Two early goals, one set up by Alexandr Kozlov who played the whole match, guides Belarus to a 2-0 win that puts them into third ahead of Finland for now, though likely only temporarily, as they will take on Liechtenstein next week in their remaining match. Eduard Chudnovsky also played in this game, coming off the bench for the final nineteen minutes.

Saturday 8th September
Centre back Denis Lekhavitskiy has been passed fit enough to return to training after three weeks out with a thigh injury. He returns to find himself in a battle to now dislodge new signing Vladimir Malykh, who arrived around the same time that Lekhavitskiy sustained his injury.

Monday 10th September
We spent quite a bit of time, probably too much time actually, chasing the signing of forward Alexey Dobrovolskiy from FC Minsk. With his contract due to run out at the end of the season, the 6'2 attacking midfielder who was a product of Dinamo Minsk's youth system was to be one of my major winter targets. That looks unlikely now though, as he has today signed a two year contract extension, worth £70,000 a year to the player. Still big money, and more than we can afford, but he has taken a £700 a week pay cut.

Things continue to go well for Lokomotiv players on the International stage, as back at the Traktor Stadium, it's Andrey Volodzko who netted in the 13th minute to give Belarus Under-19's the lead against Austria. Unfortunately, Ried striker Markus Pranter equalised within a minute, and he would do the same twenty minutes later, right after BATE centre back Vladimir Savitskiy had put Belarus ahead for a second time. 2-2 was the final score, Maxim Ivanenko played the whole game, Yury Murashov came on as a late substitute.

Thursday 13th September
That postponed match hasn't done us any harm when it comes to injuries. If the game had gone ahead yesterday, we would have been without right back Dmitry Chaka. But the 21 year old has returned to training today, and may well be fit for our match this weekend.

Saturday 15th September
That weekend match is a second consecutive Sunday fixture, once again at home, and this time against a club we are looking to move past, though we can't achieve that this weekend. Vertical Kalinkovichi are 8th in the Division going into this weekend, five points in front of us, but we have a game in hand on them. A win tomorrow would mean we are in striking distance of moving past them, which would be good ground to make up as we go into the match sat in 12th. At 1/6, we are overwhelming favourites to get that win too. After today's results, we now know a win would push us up to 10th.

Sunday 16th September

Belarusian First League
Lokomotiv Stadium, Minsk
Lokomotiv Minsk v Vertical Kalinkovichi
Attendance :-
439. Weather :- Breezy, 24c.

We arrive to find that we have been instructed to play this home match in our away colours after Vertical arrived with only their scarlet red kit with them. With our injury worries cleared up, there are no changes to the starting eleven that produced a Minsk Derby win last time out a fortnight ago. There is one change on the substitutes bench, with Pavel Lyutsko dropped from the matchday squad to accommodate the return from injury of centre back Denis Lekhavitskiy.

A good start at home can make a big difference, and we got ours inside five minutes. Eugene Lysytsyn tried his very best to get beyond Georgy Schennikov down our left side, but the winger did a superb job not only stopping him, but taking the ball from him too. He sent it back to Maxim Ivanenko, who lifted a curling ball down the left and over the visitors defence, Nikolay Shvydakov bringing it down, and then using his strength to hold off a defender, before guiding his shot past Mikhail Yurkevich to put us in front. It was the strikers tenth of the season, and his seventh since I arrived. The Captain is enjoying a new lease of life right now. Schennikov was also enjoying himself, with a wonderful first half showing here, setting up Eduard Chudnovsky who shot over the bar, making a mazy run that saw his cross attempt from the byline blocked, and then finding Sergey Krot, who thought the ref should have pointed to the penalty spot when he was shoved off the ball. Krot then forced an outstanding point blank save from Yurkevich with a header before Schennikov went for goal himself, that one blocked. Krot did put the ball in the net on the half hour after Dmitry Chaka picked him out in the box with a through ball, but the striker hadn't quite shown enough patience, failing to stay onside. A second looked inevitable, and arrived just before the break, Schennikov whipping in a corner, and Yuriy Ryzhko thumping in a header from a couple of yards out, his first goal for the club. Andriy Alexandrov finally managed to get a shot in for Vertical in first half injury time, but his effort from the edge of the box just curled wide. It had been a very satisfactory first half.

With things going very well for us, I brought off Alexey Rios at the break to give Alexey Razmyslovich another run out down the right. He got involved quickly too, picking up the ball down the right from Chaka, and then picking out Shvydakov in the box, who turned back inside a defender before sliding a shot under the keepers dive to increase our lead to 3-0! I had subs warming up ready to be introduced, but it wasn't quick enough, as Schennikov went down with an injury in the 57th minute. Alexandr Kozlov came on in his place, with Krot replaced by Djeykhun Mursalov at the same time. But Vertical weren't quite ready to call it a day, and on the hour, they notched the best goal of the match. Valentyn Krukovets played a square pass to Lysytsyn, and he picked out the bottom corner of the net with a superb low drive from twenty five yards out. Now we would have to show some game management skills, and I was happy to see my players start to close things down, forcing Vertical to shoot from range, Nikolay Fastov's effort was easily dealt with by Dmitry Biryukov. While Vertical were trying to ensure that one goal wasn't condemned to the consolation column, we were contenting ourselves with trying to pick them apart on the counter, Ivanenko's cross picking out Razmyslovich, but he couldn't quite direct his effort onto the target. With four minutes remaining, we shut the game down entirely, Alexandr Alkhovik replacing Chudnovsky, and joining Ryzhko in sitting in front of the back four. Vertical's players were left horizontal on the turf as the three points went our way.

Lokomotiv Minsk (2) 3 - Nikolay Shvydakov (5,49), Yuriy Ryzhko (43)
Vertical Kalinkovichi (0) 1 - Eugene Lysytsyn (60)
Dmitry Biryukov; Dmitry Chaka, Maxim Gorbach, Vladimir Malykh, Maxim Ivanenko; Yuriy Ryzhko, Eduard Chudnovsky (Alexandr Alkhovik 86); Alexey Rios (Alexandr Razmyslovich 45), Georgy Schennikov (inj - Alexandr Kozlov 57); Sergey Krot (Djeykhun Mursalov 57), Nikolay Shvydakov.

Unused Substitutes :- Denis Lekhavitskiy, Vladimir Zuhbaia (GK), Alexey Yesipenok.
Bookings :- None
Possession :- 47% - 53%. Man of the Match :- Nikolay Shvydakov (Lokomotiv Minsk).

There is literally no stopping Nikolay Shvydakov right now, and that is eight goals in eight matches since I arrived at the club, and eleven in total for the season. We are up into tenth place, and if we win our game in hand, we could push ourselves up into eighth. It's too late for a run towards the a promotion spot, and the remainder of this season is all about building towards next season.

We'll spend up to the next month of the season without Georgy Schennikov however, the Russia Under-21's left winger has suffered a pulled hamstring, and will now be spending between three to four weeks on the sidelines. It's a shame, because he's superb to watch, but it does give Alexandr Kozlov a chance to impress in the coming weeks as he settles into life at Lokomotiv.

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Monday 17th September 2012
I was a little surprised that it's only Nikolay Shvydakov who was named in the latest team of the week. Maxim Ivanenko was superb yesterday, and Yuriy Ryzhko wasn't far behind him either.

Tuesday 18th September
It's an away match tomorrow evening, and a trip I've already made once before in my short time in Belarus. It's the Third Round of the Belarusian Cup, and we are on our travels to Torpedo Zhodino for the First Leg. We went there in my first game as Lokomotiv manager, and I watched us lose 3-0. Tomorrow we will be looking to bring that score down significantly, and sneak an away goal as well if the chance arises.

Wednesday 19th September

Belarusian Cup, Third Round, First Leg
Torpedo Stadium, Zhodino
Torpedo Zhodino v Lokomotiv Minsk
Attendance :-
1,910. Weather :- Gusty, 17c.

After our win last time out on the weekend, both our wingers have been changed for this evenings Belarusian Cup match. The injury to Georgy Schennikov means that Alexandr Kozlov starts on the left, while indifferent form on the right from Alexey Rios means that the start is given to Alexey Razmyslovich tonight. The spare space on the substitutes bench has gone to Pavel Lyutsko.

Things didn't exactly start particularly well for us, with Dmitry Biryukov called upon to make an early double save, firstly from Alexandr Kolotsey, who had made a powerful run right through our defence, and then secondly from the rebound, which was fired right at him by skipper Dimitar Tsenovski. There was nothing he could do ten minutes later though, Lasha Dekanosidze cutting in from the left wing, and feeding the ball to Tsenovski, who then sent it into the right channel for Alexandr Degterev, who's left footed shot was out of Biryukov's reach. Kolotsey had another go at getting his name on the scoresheet in the 25th minute, but his effort was well high and wide. A rare foray up the park for us saw Alexandr Kozlov's long ball up field taken down by Sergey Krot, and he managed to get into the box, but it was two on one, and he was outmuscled as well as outnumbered, failing to get a shot in on goal, appealing for a penalty he was never likely to get. Next, a poor piece of control from Alexey Razmyslovich meant the ball bounced out of play, and a great chance to cross the ball went begging. The next time we sent the ball into the box, we switched things up, Eduard Chudnovsky sending in the ball from a free kick on the right, and Maxim Ivanenko escaped being marked, but his header was kicked off the line by Tsenovski. After Alexey Kozlov only just missed the target with a free kick for Torpedo, we saw Ivanenko get involved once again. This time, it wasn't so good for the young full back. Denis Yakubovich picked up the ball just inside our half, and twisted to his right, cutting right between Ivanenko and our own Kozlov. The left back gave chase, only to see Yakubovich turn right back inside him and into the box. Ivanenko didn't like that, and as the Torpedo forward got to the edge of the six yard box, he brought him down and gave away a stone wall penalty. I'll have to concede that he was naive, and very lucky not to get carded. Alexey Kozlov dished out the punishment instead, striking his penalty high to Biryukov's left and into the top corner, making it 2-0 going into the break.

The second half showed no real change to the pattern of play in the early stages, with Viktor Golub connecting with a corner at the near post, the ball flying across goal and bouncing back off the far upright. Things just were not going our way, and even when we did get into a good crossing position, Dmitry Chaka make a mess of his attempted centre. Midway through the half, we did finally create a decent chance. Alexandr Kozlov's pace was on show down the left as he sprinted by two white shirted home players, his cross to the near post picking out Krot, but his half volley was well blocked by Sergey Sinevich. As our confidence grew, Yuriy Ryzkho took charge, launching three efforts at goal from range, the second the closest, a shot that was only just inches past the post. With time starting to run out to try and snatch an away goal, I turned to my bench. Putting young Ivanenko out of his misery was a mercy move, he'd had an horrendous evening, and Pavel Lyutsko came on to replace him, while Chudnovsky and Razmyslovich were replaced by Alexandr Alkhovik and Alexey Rios came on. There would be one more chance created, and it was a golden one. But it fell to Torpedo, and Tsenovski will be kicking himself after he blasted high over the bar from ten yards out, a chance to probably put this tie to bed.

Torpedo Zhodino (2) 2 - Alexandr Degterev (17), Alexey Kozlov (39 pen)
Lokomotiv Minsk (0) 0
Dmitry Biryukov; Dmitry Chaka, Maxim Gorbach, Vladimir Malykh, Maxim Ivanenko (Pavel Lyutsko 80); Yuriy Ryzkho, Eduard Chudnovsky (Alexandr Alkhovik 80); Alexey Razmyslovich (Alexey Rios 80), Alexandr Kozlov; Sergey Krot, Nikolay Shvydakov ©.
Unused Substitutes :- Denis Lekhavitskiy, Vladimir Zuhbaia (GK), Alexey Yesipenok, Djeykhun Mursalov.
Bookings :- None.
Possession :- 51% - 49%. Man of the Match :- Alexey Kozlov (Torpedo Zhodino).

Clearly we haven't improved as much as we would like to think then, as shown when we came face to face with probably the best side in our Division. We're going to have a real struggle on our hands to make it through to the next round of the Cup.

Meanwhile, I was having a mental struggle. Maxim Ivanenko had been so good since arriving at Lokomotiv in a £20,000 transfer from Dinamo Minsk, but he had a horror evening against Torpedo. It was reminding me of Liam McMenamin's nightmare outing in the Scottish Challenge Cup Final for Ayr United against Raith Rovers. There, the young Ulsterman had a tough afternoon, eventually making a mistake that would cost us a Cup. Now I was questioning myself if I had handled that situation well, and what I could do differently to get our 18 year old left back straight back into the imperious form he had shown previously.

We won't have to wait too long to give the youngster a chance to get himself back into form, as we are approaching a busy run of games, starting this weekend with a match against one of the sides threatened by relegation.

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Friday 21st September 2012
After the disappointment of finding out we weren't as good as we thought we were, the League table would suggest there is a great chance to record an away win tomorrow on our return to League action. The form table may suggest otherwise however, as our 15th placed hosts, PMC Postavy, are unbeaten in their last four matches, recording three draws and a win. The bookies ignore the relegation candidates improved form, making us Even money favourites.

Saturday 22nd September 

Belarusian First League
Gorodskoy, Postavy
PMC Postavy v Lokomotiv Minsk
Attendance :-
337. Weather :- Breezy, 23c.

Alexey Rios returns to the right wing in place of Alexey Razmyslovich in the only change to today's lineup. And he would be involved in the first incident of note in the 15th minute, Eduard Chudnovsky's free kick from the left was curled into the box, Maxim Ivanenko couldn't quite bring it down, the ball bouncing away from him and back towards the near post, where Rios was on hand to sweep the ball home from close range, netting his first goal for the club on the day he had been recalled to the starting lineup. What followed was, with the exception of a shot from Mikhail Scherbakov that was blocked after good work from Kirill Demenkovets, a procession of football at almost a walking pace for us, as we took the game by the scruff of the neck. We didn't create a huge amount, Yuriy Ryzhko curling a shot just wide, Chudnovsky leaning back a bit when he shot from the edge of the box, the ball sent well over the bar. Maybe we were suffering a little from boredom, but we certainly switched off at the back right on half time. Their Kozlov, every team must have one, sent a diagonal  through ball into the box for Demenkovets, and Vladimir Malykh's attempts to get back goal side sent their striker to the floor. The ref awarded the penalty, and showed our centre back a yellow card, which could have been a red on another day. With the clock now into first half stoppage time, centre back Alexey Butskevich sent his spot kick right down the middle, and we would head into the break all square.

I was furious at my team for switching off in such a lazy manner, and throwing away what looked a very comfortable lead. The game had turned more than just on the scoreboard too, as the Postavy players were now winning 50/50 challenges that they hadn't even bothered getting involved in earlier in the match. We were being put under unnecessary pressure now, and if sub Nikolay Kitaev had shown a more deft touch on the hour mark with Dmitry Biryukov off his line, his lobbed finish would have had our hosts in front. Scherbakov's volleyed effort five minutes later was much wilder, missing the target by a long way. Sergey Krot joined their club after receiving the ball to feet from Ivanenko. With twenty minutes remaining, I made all four of my changes to try and freshen us up and kickstart us into life. Malykh, Chudnovsky, Alexandr Kozlov and Krot were all replaced, Denis Lekhavitskiy, Alexandr Alkhovik, Alexey Razmyslovich and Djeykhun Mursalov all coming on. Eight minutes later, we were behind. Kitaev won a battle with Razmyslovich, and then found Sergey Klimchenko, who forced his way past Lekhavitskiy. The ball was centred for Alexey Sikora, who with his back to goal, let the ball run across his body, before shooting low and hard on the turn past Biryukov. We should never have lost this game!

PMC Postavy (1) 2 - Alexey Butskevich (45+1 pen), Alexey Sikora (78)
Lokomotiv Minsk (1) 1 - Alexey Rios (15)
Dmitry Biryukov; Dmitry Chaka, Maxim Gorbach, Vladimir Malykh (Denis Lekhavitskiy 70), Maxim Ivanenko; Yuriy Ryzkho, Eduard Chudnovsky (Alexandr Alkhovik 70), Alexey Rios, Alexandr Kozlov (Alexey Razmyslovich 70); Sergey Krot (Djeykhun Mursalov 70), Nikolay Shvydakov ©.

Unused Substitutes :- Vladimir Zuhbaia (GK), Alexey Yesipenok, Pavel Lyutsko.
Bookings :- Vladimir Malykh 45
Possession :- 45% - 55%. Man of the Match :- Alexey Rios (Lokomotiv Minsk).

The only good thing about that match from our point of view was Alexey Rios' response to being dropped, as he netted his first goal in Lokomotiv colours since his £3,000 move from FC Vitebsk fairly early on in my reign. I'd like to think this will be the start of some improved production from Rios, who had zero goals or assists before this afternoons match.

The way we capitulated in that match was unacceptable, and led to some very harsh words in the dressing room. We were guilty of switching off, and even when we were punished, we couldn't get our momentum back and retake control of the match. We have already learnt that we haven't improved to the level we thought we had, and now we have discovered that mentally, we have flaws that we can't afford to let linger if we are going to be a force next season.

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Monday 24th September 2012
Alexey Rios is the only Lokomotiv player named in the latest release of the team of the week.

Tuesday 25th September 
The hectic run in to the season's conclusion continues, and we take on another club that we would like to move past before the season is out, though consistency is starting to make that look a challenging prospect. FC Lida come into the match in 7th place, eight points ahead of us, though we do also have a game in hand on them. The bookies have deemed that home advantage makes us favourites, as we look to complete the double over the side we beat 1-0 away from home back in May before my arrival.

Wednesday 26th September

Belarusian First League
Lokomotiv Stadium, Minsk
Lokomotiv Minsk v FC Lida
Attendance :-
433. Weather :- Dry, 33c.

With no changes at all from last time out, we immediately set about our visitors, Eduard Chudnovsky's corner needing to be punched clear right from under his own cross bar by Vadim Osipov, while Alexey Rios' shot took a huge deflection and needed to be turned around the post by the keeper. Rios would get to the byline in the 20th minute, and his cross picked out Nikolay Shvydakov, but the skipper couldn't keep his header down. It was past the half hour mark before Lida threatened, Olexiy Rachyba taking the chance to shoot from 25 yards out, but that was a comfortable stop for Dmitry Biryukov. Then in an almost exact copy of their 20th minute link up, Rios picked out Shvydakov again, with the same result. But as half time approached, we did get it right with a header, Chudnovsky the supplier by way of a corner, and Vladimir Malykh got in front of his marker and found the net with a powerful downward header that forced it's way past Osipov to send us into the break with our noses in front.

We would have to cope without young left back Maxim Ivanenko in the second half, a late first half injury meant he was replaced at half time with Pavel Lyutsko. The second half started fairly quietly, with the most action being from a Lida sub, Sergey Tysbul's counter attack that was eventually nullified by Chudnovsky, who had made up a huge amount of ground as he had taken a corner only seconds earlier. Crosses were just starting to miss the mark from us though, both Rios and Alexandr Kozlov missing the chance to pick out fairly straightforward targets in dangerous positions. Shvydakov was having a rare off day, and I brought the striker off in the 72nd minute, giving Djeykhun Mursalov another cameo role and chance to turn his form around. But things were starting to go against us, Yuriy Ryzhko giving the ball away carelessly in midfield, and that almost proved costly, Rachyba launching a curling shot that beat Biryukov, but thumped back off the near post. The midfielder would be substituted a few minutes after that lapse of concentration, Alexandr Alkhovik coming on in his place. With just five minutes to play, sub Nikolay Cherenkov tried to force his way into our box from the left, and the ball pinged about before finding Tsybul. He went down very easily after contact from behind by Rios, but the ref signaled that he believed the Lida player had been barged over, and he awarded the spot kick. It was left to another sub, Igor German, to place his penalty out of Biryukov's reach, and our lead had gone, and we wouldn't get it back.

Lokomotiv Minsk (1) 1 - Vladimir Malykh (42)
FC Lida (0) 1 - Igor German (85 pen)
Dmitry Biryukov; Dmitry Chaka, Maxim Gorbach, Vladimir Malykh, Maxim Ivanenko (inj - Pavel Lyutsko 45); Yuriy Ryzhko (Alexandr Alkhovik 81), Eduard Chudnovsky; Alexey Rios, Alexandr Kozlov; Sergey Krot, Nikolay Shvydakov © (Djeykhun Mursalov 72).

Unused Substitutes :- Denis Lekhavitskiy, Vladimir Zuhbaia (GK), Alexey Yesipenok, Alexey Razmyslovich.
Bookings :- None
Possession :- 53% - 47%. Man of the Match :- Vladimir Malykh (Lokomotiv Minsk).

I don't want to be a manager that is constantly moaning about the officials and their decisions, but that really was a soft one, and we do seem to be conceding a few spot kicks now, that's the third consecutive match we have had one awarded against us. I decline to comment on the decision in the press conference, not willing to risk being sanctioned by the FA. Absolutely, that decision cost us a pair of points though, I didn't fancy Lida getting a goal late on.

And that wasn't quite the end of our tale of woe this evening either. Maxim Ivanenko has suffered a pulled hamstring after attempting a sprint late in the first half, and will join Georgy Schennikov in the treatment room, our first choice left sided players have both been sidelined by the same injury. Ivanenko will be out for anything up to a month, meaning he should at least return before the end of the campaign.

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Friday 28th September 2012
There was some good news from Wednesday evening. We are really starting to connect with our set pieces now, Eduard Chudnovsky's deliveries from corner kicks are finding their mark regularly, and centre back Vladimir Malykh was on the end of that one to notch his first goal as a Lokomotiv player.

Maybe we can repeat that kind of production tomorrow, when we face third place side Khimik Svetlogorsk away from home. We are the underdogs for this match, and that is not really any surprise. My team talk has been taken care of for me though, thanks to the match preview. We are described in the lead up to the match as 'relegation candidates'. It would take a huge stretch for anyone to pick us as likely to go down I'd have thought, but the description infuriated the players. Whoever wrote that may have just done us a favour.

Saturday 29th September

Belarusian First League
Bumazhnik, Svetlogorsk
Khimik Svetlogorsk v Lokomotiv Minsk
Attendance :-
3,950. Weather :- Breezy, 22c.

The absence of Maxim Ivanenko from the left side of our back four means that Pavel Lyutsko steps into the First Team today, with his place on the bench taken by Alexandr Mashkov. A quiet start to the game saw the only passage of play of note being an outrageous cross field pass from left to right by Yuriy Ryzhko, which picked out Alexey Rios without the winger even having to break stride, but his cross just failed to pick out Nikolay Shvydakov. We were much more prolific when the cross came from a dead ball though, and in the 25th minute, Eduard Chudnovsky picked out Vladimir Malykh for the second time this week, the centre back's header bulleted into the top corner to put us in front to the dismay of the large home crowd who were hoping to see their side make up some ground in the promotion race. Khimik set about getting that goal right back, Vladyslav Palamarchuk sending the ball into the path of Mikhail Gornak, his powerful drive was pushed to safety by Dmitry Biryukov. That would help us survive to the break with our single goal lead intact.

I spent most of the half time period preparing my players for the onslaught that would surely come from Khimik right from the restart. So I doubt they were prepared for what we had in store for them. Dmitry Chaka and Chudnovsky combined to send Shvydakov into space down the right channel, and Rios cleverly darted inside him to give the striker an option. The skipper picked him out, and Rios went for goal, his shot taking a deflection off a defender who was attempting a block, and the ball looped over Olexandr Bandura to double our advantage! Sergey Dedyush earned a booking as he argued with the officials, over what, I have no idea. Khimik quickly created their best chance of the match within minutes, Yury Vodovozov doing well on the right, and picking out Sergey Zabolotskiy, who arrived unmarked, but his downward header was right at Biryukov who caught the ball easily. I had already substituted Maxim Gorbach after he took a knock, Alexey Yesipenok coming on, and after their sub Sergey Konchik sent a shot only just over the bar, Alexandr Kozlov would come off next, replaced by Alexey Razmyslovich. Fresh legs would be crucial, as Khimik's forwards started to ratchet up the pressure, Pavel Navarich forcing a full stretch save out of Biryukov who tipped his effort over the bar. They just couldn't prise our defence open though, and our rearguard was sturdy, with our final couple of substitutions used wisely to break up the play and run down the clock. This was one of our more impressive wins since I arrived in Minsk.

Khimik Svetlogorsk (0) 0
Lokomotiv Minsk (1) 2
Vladimir Malykh (25), Alexey Rios (53)
Dmitry Biryukov; Dmitry Chaka, Maxim Gorbach (Alexey Yesipenok 57), Vladimir Malykh, Pavel Lyutsko (Alexandr Mashkov 86); Yuriy Ryzhko (Alexandr Alkhovik 89), Eduard Chudnovsky; Alexey Rios, Alexandr Kozlov (Alexey Razmyslovich 73); Sergey Krot, Nikolay Shvydakov ©.

Unused Substitutes :- Denis Lekhavitskiy, Vladimir Zuhbaia (GK), Djeykhun Mursalov.
Bookings :- None.
Possession :- 48% - 52%. Man of the Match :- Alexey Rios (Lokomotiv Minsk).

When we got back to Minsk, I was informed by the sports media that Khimik manager Oleg Taranukhin has blown a gasket in his post match press conference, telling the assembled hacks that he couldn't quite believe his side had been beaten, suggesting the result was nothing more than an injustice. I told the press in reply that Christmas would be here soon enough, and it might be worth someone buying Taranukhin a pair of glasses that actually worked, as clearly his current ones weren't doing the trick for him!

Best we just concentrate on ourselves, and that superb performance away from home means that we will finish the month of September in the top half of the table, and we still have a game in hand on those above us in the table, with the exception of second placed Dinamo Brest. Clearly, promotion was never on the cards for Lokomotiv, certainly during my time here, but we are now mathematically ruled out of first place. Maybe we can take Torpedo down a peg or two when we play the Second Leg of the Belarusian Cup tie next time out.

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2012 Belarusian First League Table, Up To & Including Sunday 30th September 2012

| Pos   | Inf   | Team                |       | Pld   | Won   | Drn   | Lst   | For   | Ag    | G.D.  | Pts   |

| 1st   |       | Torpedo Zhodino     |       | 24    | 18    | 3     | 3     | 50    | 22    | +28   | 57    |
| 2nd   |       | Dinamo Brest        |       | 23    | 14    | 5     | 4     | 41    | 19    | +22   | 47    |
| 3rd   |       | Baranovichi         |       | 24    | 12    | 6     | 6     | 40    | 27    | +13   | 42    |
| 4th   |       | Khimik Svetlogorsk  |       | 24    | 12    | 4     | 8     | 29    | 28    | +1    | 40    |
| 5th   |       | Vedrich Rechitsa    |       | 24    | 10    | 9     | 5     | 33    | 30    | +3    | 39    |
| 6th   |       | Darida              |       | 24    | 10    | 8     | 6     | 35    | 34    | +1    | 38    |
| 7th   |       | Lida                |       | 24    | 10    | 6     | 8     | 30    | 31    | -1    | 36    |
| 8th   |       | Lokomotiv Minsk     |       | 23    | 8     | 6     | 9     | 25    | 21    | +4    | 30    |
| 9th   |       | Savit               |       | 24    | 8     | 6     | 10    | 27    | 26    | +1    | 30    |
| 10th  |       | Vertical            |       | 24    | 8     | 6     | 10    | 30    | 32    | -2    | 30    |
| 11th  |       | Slavia Mozyr        |       | 23    | 8     | 5     | 10    | 29    | 28    | +1    | 29    |
| 12th  |       | Mikashevichi        |       | 24    | 6     | 10    | 8     | 23    | 28    | -5    | 28    |
| 13th  |       | Zvezda-BGU          |       | 24    | 7     | 6     | 11    | 34    | 42    | -8    | 27    |
| 14th  |       | Belcard             |       | 23    | 6     | 3     | 14    | 27    | 38    | -11   | 21    | 
| 15th  |       | Postavy             |       | 24    | 3     | 8     | 13    | 25    | 48    | -23   | 17    |
| 16th  |       | Kommunalnik Zhlobin |       | 24    | 2     | 5     | 17    | 24    | 48    | -24   | 11    |


Edited by neilhoskins77

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Monday 1st October 2012
We are into October, and assuming we manage to get the game in hand with Slavia Mozyr played at last, then we should end this month with only three League matches remaining. Any extra games on top of that are going to require us overturning a two goal deficit from the First Leg in the Belarusian Cup Third Round tie with Torpedo Zhodino. That won't be an easy task.

Our goalscorers from the weekend, Vladimir Malykh and Alexey Rios, who both netted their second goals of the season quickly after getting off the mark for the club, are the two Lokomotiv players named in the team of the week.

The Board declare themselves satisfied with the way things are going for us right now, particularly with that derby day win over Darida-TDZh. They are less impressed with the defeat against Dinamo Brest, and a £57,000 loss from the financial coffers, not that the loss is a particularly big deal, we are financially in a good place.

Wednesday 3rd October
Tomorrow night we'll welcome Torpedo Zhodino to the capital as we attempt to turn our Cup tie around. We have faced them twice while I've been manager of Lokomotiv, and have lost both matches with an aggregate of 5-0. We are the very slight favourites to win the Second Leg at home, but we'll need to do that convincingly if we are to dump the First League leaders and Title favourites out of the Cup.

Thursday 4th October

Belarusian Cup, Third Round, Second Leg
Lokomotiv Stadium, Minsk
Lokomotiv Minsk v Torpedo Zhodino  - (Torpedo lead 2-0 on aggregate)
Attendance :-
429. Weather :- Strong Winds, 18c.

We open the month with no changes from the starting eleven or matchday squad that ended September with a win over Khimik. Clearly Torpedo had no thoughts of coming here and sitting on their aggregate lead, and they had brought back up! Salah Al-Deen Saimand is a ten times capped Iraqi International, purchased two years ago by the club, despite being unable to play in League matches as no foreign players can be registered, but now able to help the club out with the Cup taking centre stage.

Salah Al-Seen Saimand was keen to make an impact too, breaking up play in the 5th minute with a header, and getting the ball to Dmitar Tsenovski, who in turn played it through Alexandr Degterev and Denis Yakubovich, before it eventually found Alexandr Kolotsey, his low shot towards the bottom corner was pushed aside by Dmitry Biryukov, and he needed help from Dmitry Chaka to prevent Sergey Kondrat'ev from having an open goal from the rebound. Thankfully, that early scare would not set the tone for the match, and the first half was surprisingly short on chances considering we had to win, and win well. Kolotsey failed to work Biryukov for a second time, his free kick missing the target midway through the half, while at the other end, Alexandr Kozlov and Nikolay Shvydakov failed to make the most of a counter attack following a Torpedo corner. Our best chance of the half would come in first half injury time, Pavel Lyutsko's corner was whipped in, and Alexey Rios connected at the near post, glancing his header just wide of the far post.

There was no doubt that we would have to be prepared to be a little more bold in the second half if the scoreline remained as it was, and the intensity level was certainly raised a few notches as we got the second half underway. Six minutes after the restart, Lyutsko picked out Yuriy Ryzhko near the corner of the box. The midfielder got his attempted crack at goal all wrong, scuffing it badly. But the ball rolled right to Shvydakov, and the skipper shot on the turn, picking out the net under the dive of Sergey Sinevich. His celebrations, and that of the home fans, were brought to an abrupt halt by the linesmans flag, video replay showing he correctly picked out the skipper as just offside when Ryzhko hit his effort. That was a blow, but we pressed on, Lyutsko in particular coming into the game more on the left, hitting a curling shot from the left corner of the box that only just flew beyond the far post. Rzykho looked like he meant to get the ball to Shvydakov this time when he picked him out just after the hour mark, the skippers route to goal blocked this time, and he squared the ball to Sergey Krot, who got well under his shot and it went high over the bar. As we continued to pour forward, Shvydakov also sent one well over the bar, while Eduard Chudnovsky was much closer with a free kick from all of thirty yards out that flashed just wide. With only a quarter of the match left, it was time for plan b, and I sacrificed Lyutsko, who's lack of match time was starting to show, and brought on another striker, Djeykhun Mursalov brought on to leave us with three at the back, and three up front. Maxim Gorbach would be the next to try his luck from a free kick, his shot was closer still, thumping the top of the bar on its way over. The clock showed 77 minutes played, and we went for bust, the other full back, Chaka, also now coming off, Alexandr Alkhovik coming on. We now had just two defenders on the park, with two in midfield, two wingers, and Ryzhko sat just behind our three strikers. Four minutes later and Gorbach sent the ball forward to Rios. The winger powered into the box, and tried to send the ball towards the far post. It missed everybody, but Kozlov retrieved it, and then stood it up to the far post, where Shvydakov was too powerful for the defenders, volleying the ball high into the net! Game on! Too late though, as Torpedo reorganised, and comfortably held us at bay to progress through to the Quarter-Finals, despite losing to us for the first time this season.

Lokomotiv Minsk (0) 1 - Nikolay Shvydakov (82)
Torpedo Zhodino (0) 0
(Torpedo Zhodino win 2-1 on aggregate)
Dmitry Biryukov; Dmitry Chaka (Alexandr Alkhovik 77), Maxim Gorbach, Vladimir Malykh, Pavel Lyutsko (Djeykhun Mursalov 66); Yuriy Ryzkho, Eduard Chudnovsky; Alexey Rios, Alexandr Kozlov; Sergey Krot, Nikolay Shvydakov ©.
Unused Substitutes :- Denis Lekhavitskiy, Vladimir Zuhbaia (GK), Alexey Yesipenok, Alexandr Mashkov, Alexey Razmyslovich.
Bookings :- None
Possession :- 46% - 54%. Man of the Match :- Alexandr Kolotsey (Torpedo Zhodino).

It was a great effort from the players, but our attempt to overturn that First Leg deficit and progress into the last eight had fallen short against Torpedo, who were rewarded with a plum test, a two legged tie with BATE Borisov when the competition restarts next spring.

Our only chance at securing any glory for the club this season had disappeared at the hands of the First League Champions elect, and we would now return to League action this weekend. With seven games remaining, all we now had to play for was earning as high a finish as possible and attempt to make ourselves a attractive proposition for any players we would like to bring in over the winter ready for our promotion assault in 2013.

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Saturday 6th October 2012
No rest for us after our Cup exit, and we are right back into League action with a Sunday match against another side from Minsk. And Zvezda-BGU Minsk have, if anything, a lower profile than us in the capital, though they do regularly get bigger attendances than us. Hopefully showing them who's the better side tomorrow will help sort that out, and at 1/6 favourites, the bookies have no doubts over who they expect to come away with the points. Their mind was likely made up when viewing Zvezda's record of five League matches, seven in all competitions, without a win.

One of our bright young stars of the future, we hope, has been called up for Belarus Under-19's today. 16 year old left winger Yury Murashov is one of our most expensive assets, with his current market value estimated at around £40,000. He has played 12 times in the League for our Youth side this season, returning two goals and three assists, and is blessed with an excellent delivery. He'll be part of the National Under-19 squad that is heading off to Oslo to compete against Northern Ireland, Norway and Ukraine in the First Qualifying Round of the UEFA 2013 European Under-19 Championships, which will be held in Belgium.

There are only three League matches taking place today, with significant results including a 1-0 defeat for Darida at home, and a 3-2 defeat for Lida away, both clubs we are hoping we can yet overtake in the League Table before the campaign comes to an end.

Sunday 7th October 2012

Belarusian First League
Lokomotiv Stadium, Minsk
Lokomotiv Minsk v Zvezda-BGU Minsk
Attendance :-
611. Weather :- Dry, 7c.

For the third successive game, the team remains as it is, with no changes amongst the substitutes either. Another visitor from across the city means another slightly improved attendance too. We didn't exactly give them a particularly warm welcome however, with Maxim Gorbach picking up an early booking for a clattering challenge on Egor Grits inside five minutes. They felt even less welcome after a quarter of an hour when Sergey Krots surged forward, but spotting no opportunity to shoot, squared the ball instead to Yuriy Ryzhko, the midfielder curling a 20 yard shot beyond the keepers reach and in off the underside of the cross bar. We almost had a second shortly after, Alexey Rios' shot on the turn pushed aside by Olexandr Musienko, but we wouldn't be held out for long. Eduard Chudnovsky sent in a corner, and nobody picked up winger Alexandr Kozlov, who opened his scoring account for the club with a half volley from close range. Still, Zvezda gave us something to think about on the half hour mark, and in spectacular fashion too! Alexey Timoshenko's deep cross from the left was headed away from the far post area by Pavel Lyutsko, but only as far as Andrey Morozov, who unleashed an unstoppable left footed volley into the near top corner, with Dmitry Biryukov well and truly stranded. We could have extended that lead back out to a two goal one before the break, Chudnovsky threading a through ball into the path of Ryzhko, but he couldn't reproduce his outstanding finish from earlier, sending this one low, and right at a relieved keeper.

Only a goal up at the break, and convinced it should have been more, I implored my players to get the job done. They didn't make me wait too long, Chudnovsky once again picking out his target with a corner, Vladimir Malykh the man in question this time, powering home a header from the edge of the six yard box within five minutes of the restart. With Zvezda keen to keep themselves in the game, too keen in the case of Roman Karakevych who was way offside when he slammed the ball into the net from ten yards, they were leaving too many gaps at the back. This time Chudnovsky was finding the net himself instead of playing provider, hitting Kozlov's square pass first time from the edge of the box, and picking out the bottom corner to make it 4-1 with a pair of Lokomotiv goals in the space of three minutes. Our opponents from across the city refused yet again to throw in the towel, Grits cross to the far post picked out Sergey Traskevich, his header was turned over the bar by Biryukov. They would create several more headed chances over the next few minutes, but a show of poor finishing gave me the confidence to use all four of my substitutions in one go just after the hour mark, which included taking the booked Gorbach out of the firing line. But with just under a quarter of an hour to go, Zvezda cut into our lead once more, Karakevych showing good footwork to beat Lyutsko on his way to the byline, before dropping a cross over Biryukov, where Morozov arrived to apply the finish for his second of the afternoon. Despite the clock being against them, Zvezda went for broke, with predictable consequences. Rios' run down the right was scintillating, and his cross picked out our so far mis-firing record signing, Djeykhun Mursalov. The forward's downward header was goal bound, before being acrobatically kicked off the line by sub Ruslan Prokhorov. He looked devastated, and probably wouldn't feel too much better with six minutes to play, when fellow sub Alexey Razmyslovich played a pass through Chudnovsky, and then Nikolay Shvydakov, the latter playing it back into the feet of Razmyslovich, who had continued his run into the box, and slotted the ball past the keeper to score his first goal in the red and white of Lokomotiv, and complete a very entertaining afternoon of football.

Lokomotiv Minsk (2) 5 - Yuriy Ryzhko (15), Alexandr Kozlov (27), Vladimir Malykh (50), Eduard Chudnovsky (53), Alexey Razmyslovich (84)
Zvezda-BGU Minsk (1) 2 - Andrey Morozov (30,77)
Dmitry Biryukov; Dmitry Chaka, Maxim Gorbach (Alexey Yesipenok 61), Vladimir Malykh, Pavel Lyutsko; Yuriy Ryzkho (Alexandr Alkhovik 61), Eduard Chudnovsky; Alexey Rios, Alexandr Kozlov (Alexey Razmyslovich 61); Sergey Krot (Djeykhun Mursalov 61), Nikolay Shvydakov ©.

Unused Substitutes :- Denis Lekhavitskiy, Vladimir Zuhbaia (GK), Alexandr Mashkov.
Bookings :- Maxim Gorbach 4
Possession :- 50% - 50%. Man of the Match :- Andrey Morozov (Zvezda-BGU Minsk).

There wasn't much that wasn't enjoyable about that performance, even Andrey Morozov's first goal of his brace was a bit special. On the downside, Maxim Gorbach's yellow card was his fifth of the campaign, and means he will now be suspended for our next match.

On the plus side, we swept aside a city rival, and including the Cup win over Torpedo Zhodino, it's now three wins on the trot. The weekend finishes with Russian left winger Georgy Schennikov passed fit for a return to training. His first game back from injury may not be for us though, as the 21 year old is called up by his homeland's Under-21 side for their 2013 UEFA European Under-21 Championship Qualifying Playoff tie with Holland, which will be played over two legs.

He is one of half a dozen players called up for International duty next week, which included one Senior call up, as Georgian goalkeeper Vladimir Zuhbaia is hoping to be involved for their FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifying double header, which starts in Tbilisi against Malta, before moving on to Piraeus for a more difficult challenge against Greece. The other four players to be called up for action during the International break are all First Team members who hope to pull on the jersey of Belarus as the Under-21's travel to face San Marino in a Friendly taking place in Acquaviva. The four are Dmitry Chaka, Vladimir Malykh, Eduard Chudnovsky and Alexandr Kozlov.

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Monday 8th October 2012
Yesterday's performance was a very good one, and earned Yuriy Ryzkho and Eduard Chudnovsky places in the latest version of the First League team of the week.

That was where the good news ended today. In a very bizarre move from the Belarusian FA, our next match, scheduled for Wednesday evening away to Slavia Mozyr, has predictably been postponed due to International call-up's. However, it has only been pushed back to next Wednesday, when several of our First Team players will still be away with their International squad's, or at best, travelling back to Belarus, leaving them unavailable to us. That game now looks like a very tough test for us.

Friday 12th October
So what should have been a week with a midweek match became a quiet week instead, with several of our players heading off on International duty. Belarus Under-21's were very nearly embarrassed by San Marino in Acquaviva. They failed to capitalise on FC Minsk striker Mikhail Galstyan's early goal, and the hosts turned the tables with a second half double from Franco Macina. It would be down to our playmaking midfielder Eduard Chudnovsky to salvage the situation, and five days after his first Lokomotiv goal, he netted his first International goal to save the age group side's embarrassment to a degree.

He wasn't the only one of our players to find the net on the International stage today either, this one in competitive circumstances. It would be Russian Under-21 winger Georgy Schennikov who would claim that goal in the Dutch town of Doetinchem, scoring with just two minutes remaining of the European Under-21 Championship Qualifying Playoff, in which he was named man of the match. Unfortunately, Danny Hoesen of Fulham and Geoffery Castillion of Ajax had already found the net as well by then, and Holland would take a slim lead to Khimki for the Second Leg next week.

Sunday 14th October
Maxim Gorbach is already suspended for the match in midweek with Slavia Mozyr, but now he has sustained a bruised head during a training ground clash of heads today, making him a doubt for the match with FC Baranovichi next weekend.

Tuesday 16th October
After an enforced break of ten days, we will return to League action tomorrow evening away to a Slavia side who are currently right behind us in the League, sitting in 9th spot. Should they beat us, they will leap above us and take our spot in the top half of the table. For various reasons, including injury, suspension and Internationals, we are without six players who would have likely started the match, and that number includes our entire starting back four if you are happy to accept Maxim Ivanenko as our first choice left back. The 18 year old is actually going to be on the bench, more through necessity than anything else, his return to training after injury just today means he will only see action in an emergency situation.

Georgy Schennikov would be another player unavailable to us tomorrow. He was at least getting a valuable 90 minutes of football under his belt however, as he played the full match for Russia Under-21's in Khimki against Holland in the Second Leg of their European Under-21 Championship Qualifying Playoff. The Russians were unable to overturn the deficit in this one, Heracles centre back Marco Stam increasing the Dutch aggregate lead, before Shinnik Yaroslavl forward Ivan Podolyak levelled the match on the evening, but the Dutch would advance to next summer's Finals in Poland, where they would be looking to defend their Title.

Wednesday 17th October

Belarusian First League
Yunost, Mozyr
Slavia Mozyr v Lokomotiv Minsk
Attendance :-
3,680. Weather :- Gusty, Drizzle, 14c.

Almost a four hour drive south of the capital, and near the border with Ukraine, we were met in the city of Mozyr by a stadium that was two thirds full, and weather that was quite mild and autumnal, the leaden skies producing drizzle, but at least keeping the temperatures up. Followers of Lokomotiv would note with interest that the team sheet included some names even the most die hard of fans would likely not recognise, as our squad that was shorn of it's International players was being propped up by youngsters plucked from the Youth side. One of those youngsters would today try and take his opportunity to make an impression at right back, as 17 year old Alexandr Dolgov was selected for the first time since my arrival. He is part of a makeshift looking back four that has Denis Lekhavitskiy and Alexey Yesipenok in the middle, with Pavel Lyutsko on the left. There is another change in midfield, with Eduard Chudnovsky replaced by Alexandr Alkhovik, and the final switch is on the wing, Alexey Razmyslovich starting on the left with both Georgy Schennikov and Alexandr Kozlov unavailable. The bench has a largely unfamiliar look about it, Maxim Ivanenko is included though, despite only returning to training yesterday. 18 year old keeper Gennady Burmistrov is called up from the Youth Team to provide cover, while there are also places for Andrey Misyuk, Alexandr Mashkov, Alexey Breschenko, and soon to be leaving midfielder Denis Sysoev.

The game started quietly enough, which suited us. With a quarter of an hour played, Nikolay Shvydakov and Alexey Razmyslovich worked the ball out of the corner near the flag after a throw in, and the latter got the ball to Alexandr Alkhovik. It wasn't immediately clear if the midfielder was shooting, or trying to play in Sergey Krot, but either way, the ball flew well wide of either target. Midway through the half, Shvydakov went close to adding to his season total, good work down the right from Alexandr Dolgov and Alexey Rios getting him into the box, but Yuriy Tsigalko blocked his shot with his legs. But Slavia would soon take control of the match, and after Mikhail Martinovich saw a shot only just clear the bar, they opened the scoring just before the half hour mark. It would come from a specialty of our own, Vyacheslav Ryabov sending in an inswinging corner kick, and Dmirty Klimovich beat Yuriy Ryzhko in the air at the far post to glance the ball into the net and put our hosts in front. We wouldn't manage to get ourselves level before the break, with our passes and crosses just a little off it's usual level so far today.

With options fairly limited from the bench, we would have to go with what we already had today, and I encouraged the players to keep their heads up and try and work their way back into this one. But Slavia remained largely in control, while not creating any gilt edged chances themselves. Skipper Dmitry Verzhbitskiy and Mantinovich both missed the targets with shots from range as the second half started to become a bit of a midfield slog. With a quarter of an hour to play, Denis Sysoev would join that battle, replacing Alexandr Alkhovik who had run out of steam. A Shvydakov curling effort from 20 yards out that flew high and wide would be the sum total of our efforts, and our mini winning run would end in very lacklustre fashion.

Slavia Mozyr (1) 1 - Dmitry Klimovich (29)
Lokomotiv Minsk (0) 0
Dmitry Biryukov; Alexandr Dolgov, Denis Lekhavitskiy, Alexey Yesipenok, Pavel Lyutsko; Yuriy Ryzkho, Alexandr Alkhovik (Denis Sysoev 75); Alexey Rios, Alexey Razmyslovich; Sergey Krot, Nikolay Shvydakov ©.
Unused Substitutes :- Maxim Ivanenko, Gennady Burmistrov (GK), Andrey Misyuk, Alexandr Mashkov, Alexey Breschenko, Djeykhun Mursalov.
Bookings :- None
Possession :- 48% - 52%. Man of the Match :- Dmitry Klimovich (Slavia Mozyr).

I'm not particularly happy that we had to play that game at all on this day, Slavia Mozyr lost no players at all to International duty. What's done is done though, and we would have to take this defeat on the chin, dropping down into the bottom half of the table as a result of it.

The press would take the opportunity to run the rule over my two and a half months or so in charge of Lokomotiv so far, particularly my dealings in the Transfer Market. On the whole, the review was largely positive, except for the 'elephant in the room' so to speak, my record fee outlay on Djeykhun Mursalov. There was no escaping the criticism for that one, it hadn't as yet paid off in the slightest.

Still, it didn't seem to be having to much of a negative impact on the overall opinion of myself, as an out of the blue job offer would prove.......

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Thursday 18th October 2012
I have been offered an opportunity to take the helm of an International side before, January 2011, less than a month after moving from Lurgan Celtic to Ayr United, I was approached by Netherlands Antilles regarding their Senior job. I declined, feeling it wasn't the right job or the right time. They hadn't played a competitive game for almost three years.

This one is slightly different however, it's in Europe for a start. I'm very keen to take a step onto the International ladder, but this one isn't exactly a plum job. Liechtenstein are ranked 131st in the latest edition of the FIFA World Rankings, which for them, is not too bad at all. They have also managed to record a win in each year since 2009, including this year. The best of those, without doubt, was a 2-0 home victory over Belgium in a European Championship Qualifier just over two years ago. This years scalp was a Friendly victory over Australia in March.

It's a rare success though, and three games into the 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifying campaign, they have failed to find the net, shipped ten goals at the other end, and failed to register a point. A youthful squad is sprinkled with experienced players, but that's part of the problem. Anyone with any sign of promise is fast tracked into the Senior squad, and quickly bred into their losing mentality. A 25 year old left back who has already amassed 45+ caps and ply's his trade in Switzerland, a centre back playing in the third tier of Italian football, and a left winger who has carved out a career in the lower levels of English football. If they had some other talent around them, it could see the land locked Central European nation turn the corner.

But with little in the way of young talent being brought through behind them, and a lack of any real professional club structure for them to move into anyway, the chances are that my reputation would only be damaged, and not enhanced by taking the job. For the second time, I reject the chance to jump onto the International stage. I hope a better opportunity comes along in the not too distant future.

Friday 19th October
With the promotion spots now already decided, there is a possibility that we will this weekend come up against an FC Baranovichi that are now suffering from a lack of motivation. With our First Team players back in Minsk and available again after International duty, the bookies have this one down as a tight match, but they are giving the hosts a slight advantage.

Saturday 20th October

Belarusian First League
Lokomotiv, Baranovichi
FC Baranovichi v Lokomotiv Minsk
Attendance :-
4,256. Weather :- Dry, 3c.

It's a shorter bus ride this weekend, less than two hours, mostly west and slightly south to the city of Baranovichi. You would think it would be a little warmer travelling west, not colder. On board the bus, we have most of our First Team regulars, with only Maxim Gorbach missing out after his clash of heads in training. Better news elsewhere though, with Dmirty Chaka, Vladimir Malykh, Eduard Chudnovsky and Georgy Schennikov all reinstated to the starting lineup, and Vladimir Zuhbaia and Alexandr Kozlov back in the squad to sit on the substitutes bench.

That perceived lack of motivation from Baranovichi wasn't in evidence in the opening seconds, Evgeniy Drozd made great ground down the right before standing up a cross to the far post, Yury Miroshnichenko meeting it with a half volley, but sending it wide of the target. The left side was looking a better option for us, Georgy Schennikov's early attempt to mark his return to the First Team with a goal was thwarted by a smart stop from Ivan Zakharov. He quickly popped up in the middle to try again, this time hitting the side netting after being picked out by Alexey Rios. The closest effort of the first half was a 30 yard drive from Dmitry Kharitonchik, his shot curling and dipping before smashing back off the angle of the goal frame, Dmitry Biryukov was left stranded by that effort. Goalless at the break, but not due to a lack of chances.

All to play for going into the second half then. But we were so very close to being undone by a corner again moments after the restart, Viktor Tchernykh's corner was met by a powerful header from Yuri Golovnitskiy, but he couldn't quite keep the ball down below the height of the cross bar. The corner taker was booked moments later, taking one for the team when he cynically stopped Eduard Chudnovsky's run over halfway as we attempted to launch a counter attack. It would take almost quarter of an hour, but he would be punished properly for that. Schennikov moved the ball on to Sergey Krot who had found some space on the left, and the big striker found enough room to get the ball into the middle. It wasn't the best cross, but it picked out Schennikov as he arrived, and the winger moved the ball on to his left foot, and drove a shot into the net to open the scoring! That was his first goal for us, just a week after netting for his nation's age group side too. He was involved again just over five minutes later, making a great run down the left, reaching the byline, and then cutting the ball back to Rios, who spun away from his marker, and drilled a low shot past Zakharov to double our lead to two goals. Vladimir Malykh was taken off as he started flagging, Denis Lekhavitskiy brought on in his place, I was that confident that we had the job done. Too confident. Miroshnichenko curled in a corner, sub Sergey Bondarenko missed it at the near post, but full back Igor Gnatyuk connected perfectly near the penalty spot, picking his spot between bodies and reducing the arrears to a single goal. With five minutes to go I brought off Rios, sending on the more defensively responsible Alexey Razmyslovich. He couldn't help Alexey Yesipenok who didn't get anything like enough power on his back pass, and was lucky that Stanislav Diordiev didn't get anything like enough direction on his shot, the ball sent way wide of the target. That would be the last of our slip ups though, and Baranovichi wouldn't find a way back. Three points on the road.

FC Baranovichi (0) 1 - Igor Gnatyuk (75)
Lokomotiv Minsk (0) 2 - Georgy Schennikov (64), Alexey Rios (71)
Dmitry Biryukov; Dmitry Chaka, Alexey Yesipenok, Vladimir Malykh (Denis Lekhavitskiy 73), Pavel Lyutsko; Yuriy Ryzkho, Eduard Chudnovsky; Alexey Rios (Alexey Razmyslovich 85), Georgy Schennikov; Sergey Krot, Nikolay Shvydakov ©.

Unused Substitutes :- Vladimir Zuhbaia (GK), Maxim Ivanenko, Alexandr Alkhovik, Alexandr Kozlov, Djeykhun Mursalov.
Bookings :- None
Possession :- 49% - 51%. Man of the Match :- Georgy Schennikov (Lokomotiv Minsk).

The six times capped Russian Under-21 International returns from injury, netting his first goal on the International stage, and now netting his first goal in a Lokomotiv jersey in his first season with the Raild-Road Men. The club paid £35,000 to sign him from now promoted side Dinamo Brest, and he has been superb since I got here. We might have ourselves a future star in the making, and with his current deal set to expire at the end of next season, I offer Schennikov a new and improved contract to get him tied to us in the longer term. It's a good time to get him around the table too, with Russian sides FC Rostov and about to be promoted Torpedo Moscow being joined by MTZ-Ripo Minsk in rumoured to be casting admiring glances his way.

He isn't the only one attracting attention either. The rumours of me moving onwards haven't stopped with the rejection of the International job.....

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Tuesday 23rd October 2012
Back in the UK, with the season just over two months old, sacking season is underway. I didn't make the decision to come to Belarus lightly, and I was very much aware when I made my decision that it may be a case of 'out of sight, out of mind' when it comes to any possible return to manage in the UK. It seems that I may not have been forgotten about after all.

I was made odds on favourite for the job at Blue Square Premier side Weymouth when they made the decision to sack Keith Garland. That was a job that I decided to distance myself from, reaffirming my desire to remain in Belarus and concentrate on the task of preparing Lokomotiv for a run at promotion next season.

I made no such statements when my name was then quickly thrown into the mix as a potential favourite for jobs that hadn't yet become available, but could be very soon. Both clubs have far bigger reputations in English football than the Weymouth's of the world, and should the jobs come up, if they wanted to speak to me, I would be very interested to hear what they had to say. Of course, I didn't divulge that information out loud, in fact, I didn't say anything at all this time. But in some quarters, my silence was perceived to say a thousand words.

Wednesday 24th October
For now though, it was very much business as usual, as I attempted to make some early moves in the soon to be Free Agent market, and try and give us a head start on our season 2013 preparations. A striker with a decent goalscoring record at this level is attempting to get himself a pay rise with Torpedo Zhodino now promotion has been confirmed, but isn't all that impressed with the reply he is getting. He doubts we have the resources to do any better. At the same club, a former Belarus Under-21 International believes he might be surplus to requirements next season, and is now sitting on a contract offer from us. If we can get him, I believe he would be an excellent addition to our squad. Not forgetting of course, our talks continue with Georgy Schennikov, as we attempt to convince the 21 year old left winger that we are just as ambitious as he is.

Friday 26th October
Our first draft of an offer to extend Georgy Schennikov's contract draws a mixed response from the winger. All the finances are in good order for him, but he isn't particularly keen to sign a five year extension that I've proposed. The second offer goes in quickly with one year taken off, but with the weekend rapidly approaching, we don't expect to hear anymore on this until after our match on Sunday.

Saturday 27th October
That match is our penultimate home fixture of the campaign, and a chance to cement our top half position following the win last time out, as we are visited by 14th placed club Dinamo-Belcard Grodno. A poor run through the summer months saw them nose dive down the table, and they are now in a battle with PMC Postavy to avoid the second relegation spot with Kommunalnik Zhoblin likely to be confirmed as relegated this weekend. It would likely be classed as an upset if we didn't secure a win tomorrow afternoon.

And speaking of upset, that describes the mood of the clubs only current Senior International player quite well. Georgian goalkeeper Vladimir Zuhbaia hasn't had a look in since I arrived, with young Belarusian stopper Dmitry Biryukov doing a good job in the main. The 6'4 keeper who is consistently named in the Georgia Senior Squad, but as yet only has a single Under-21 cap to his name feels he is starting to go stale at Lokomotiv, and at 26 years of age, wants regular First Team football. Now I have to decide if I'm going to give him a chance to prove himself here, or put my faith entirely in Biryukov and let Zuhbaia move on.

Sunday 28th October 

Belarusian First League
Lokomotiv Stadium, Minsk
Lokomotiv Minsk v Dinamo-Belcard Grodno
Attendance :-
416. Weather :- Breezy, Drizzle, 15c.

We're back at full strength for this one, with Maxim Gorbach returning to our back four in place of Alexey Yesipenok, who in turn drops to the bench, with Denis Lekhavitskiy left out of our matchday squad. Pavel Lyutsko has, for now at least, kept his place at left back ahead of Maxim Ivanenko, who remains on the bench.

Vladimir Malykh picks up an early yellow card, but Belcard weren't particularly impressive with their free kick. At the other end, Georgy Schennikov at least managed to get a shot in from his free kick, but it swung away from the target at the last moment. He would come closer moments later, latching on to the ball in the left channel of the box after Nikolay Shvydakov did great work holding the ball up and then picking out the winger, Igor Khomlyak pushing his shot away. The next chance came midway through the half, Eduard Chudnovsky playing a neat pass to Alexey Rios, and the winger slipped a ball into the box for Shvydakov. The Belcard defence stood with their arms raised for an offside decision, but left back Igor Klimuk was just a little too slow to step up. Not that the skipper was waiting around for a flag, he picked out the bottom corner expertly, and handed us the lead. We could have added to that lead before half time, Rios again the provider, swinging in a cross from the right that visiting skipper Sergey Voytas only just got to before Sergey Krot, heading the ball away from the lurking striker.

Having taken a knock just before the break, our dead ball expert Chudnovsky wasn't risked for the second half, with Alexandr Alkhovik replacing him in our midfield. That would give Rios a chance to audition for a greater role from the set pieces. His first corner didn't quite find the mark, Pavel Lyutsko beaten in the air, but the header only found Yuriy Ryzhko, who unleashed a rocket of a shot that crashed back off the bar. When the next free kick was awarded on the right, Schennikov sent in an inswinger, picking out Shvydakov at the far post, who should've done better with his header, sending it over the bar. On the hour, at the other end of the park, I had my heart in my mouth when Malykh made a last ditch tackle just inside our penalty box. Already on a booking, he judged it perfectly I'm glad to report, though the Belcard players all appealed for a spot kick. I wasn't keen to see him put in that position again, and midway through the second half I brought him off for Alexey Yesipenok. There was a chance for Rios to put the game beyond our opponents reach, but with the ball on his weaker left foot, he sent it over the bar from the edge of the box. But when Dmitry Chaka's hoist up the park was misjudged entirely by sub defender Denis Zagovalko, and Shvydakov was right behind him. The striker got to the byline, and cut the ball back into the centre for Krot, who thundered an absolutely unstoppable shot off the underside of the bar and in to make it 2-0. I was relieved for him, as he has waited quite a while since his last goal for us, nearly two months in fact. I don't think it was a conscious decision to sit back a bit, but it did happen, and Yuriy Korolyuk failed to take advantage when he sent his shot from 10 yards out over the bar. With only just over five minutes to go, I tried to kick us back into life, taking off Schennikov and Krot and replacing them with Alexandr Kozlov and Djeykhun Mursalov. But as the clock struck ninety, we got caught out. Sub Alexandr Solovjov caught Dmitry Biryukov out when he shot quickly from 20 yards out, and the young keeper was beaten by it's power. Fortunately, they hadn't got that goal five minutes earlier, or we might have coughed up that lead at the end.

Lokomotiv Minsk (1) 2 - Nikolay Shvydakov (22), Sergey Krot (73)
Dinamo-Belcard Grodno (0) 1 - Alexandr Solovjov (90+1)
Dmitry Biryukov; Dmitry Chaka, Maxim Gorbach, Vladimir Malykh (Alexey Yesipenok 67), Pavel Lyutsko; Yuriy Ryzhko, Eduard Chudnovsky (Alexandr Alkhovik 45); Alexey Rios, Georgy Schennikov (Alexandr Kozlov 84); Sergey Krot (Djeykhun Mursalov 84), Nikolay Shvydakov ©.

Unused Substitutes :- Vladimir Zuhbaia (GK), Maxim Ivanenko, Alexey Razmyslovich.
Bookings :- Vladimir Malykh 10
Possession :- 52% - 48%. Man of the Match :- Nikolay Shvydakov (Lokomotiv Minsk).

That was our final match of October, and the win takes us into 7th place with three matches to go, and still the potential to move up a spot or two yet if we can keep the end of season feeling out of our play. I'm told that Sergey Krot had played around thirteen hours of football since his last goal, so it really should be a boost for the strikers confidence to find the net at last.

Monday 29th October
Just one of our players is named in the First League team of the week, and with a goal and an assist, it's skipper Nikolay Shvydakov who takes the honour. He is now just two goals short of hitting a very respectable fifteen goals in all competitions this season.

Tuesday 30th October
Georgy Schennikov has come back to us after our second contract offer, and he has rejected this one as well. Another year has been taken off, and the offer is sent back to him again, this time proposing a three year deal.

Torpedo Zhodino's former Under-21 International attacking midfielder has rejected their latest offer, so we offer him the best deal we are able to put together to try and persuade him to join us and try and make it back to back promotions to the top tier. We have competition though, as the other promoted side, Dinamo Brest, have also now offered him a deal.

Wednesday 31st October
The final day of October, and in a months time, four players will see their contracts expire. I'm given a reminder of this, and after consulting with my backroom staff, I decide not to offer any of the quartet a new deal.

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2012 Belarusian First League Standings, Up To & Including Wednesday 31st October 2012

| Pos   | Inf   | Team                |       | Pld   | Won   | Drn   | Lst   | For   | Ag    | G.D.  | Pts   |

| 1st   | P     | Torpedo Zhodino     |       | 27    | 20    | 3     | 4     | 56    | 24    | +32   | 63    |
| 2nd   | P     | Dinamo Brest        |       | 27    | 18    | 5     | 4     | 52    | 21    | +31   | 59    |
| 3rd   |       | Vedrich Rechitsa    |       | 27    | 13    | 9     | 5     | 36    | 30    | +6    | 48    |
| 4th   |       | Khimik Svetlogorsk  |       | 27    | 13    | 6     | 8     | 31    | 29    | +2    | 45    |
| 5th   |       | Baranovichi         |       | 27    | 12    | 6     | 9     | 41    | 31    | +10   | 42    |
| 6th   |       | Darida              |       | 27    | 11    | 8     | 8     | 36    | 39    | -3    | 41    |
| 7th   |       | Lokomotiv Minsk     |       | 27    | 11    | 6     | 10    | 34    | 26    | +8    | 39    |
| 8th   |       | Slavia Mozyr        |       | 27    | 10    | 7     | 10    | 32    | 28    | +4    | 37    |
| 9th   |       | Lida                |       | 27    | 10    | 7     | 10    | 32    | 35    | -3    | 37    |
| 10th  |       | Vertical            |       | 27    | 9     | 7     | 11    | 31    | 37    | -6    | 34    |
| 11th  |       | Savit               |       | 27    | 8     | 7     | 12    | 28    | 30    | -2    | 31    |
| 12th  |       | Zvezda-BGU          |       | 27    | 8     | 6     | 13    | 42    | 50    | -8    | 30    |
| 13th  |       | Mikashevichi        |       | 27    | 6     | 10    | 11    | 24    | 34    | -10   | 28    |
| 14th  |       | Belcard             |       | 27    | 7     | 3     | 17    | 30    | 43    | -13   | 24    |
| 15th  |       | Postavy             |       | 27    | 5     | 9     | 13    | 32    | 52    | -20   | 24    |
| 16th  | R     | Kommunalnik Zhlobin |       | 27    | 3     | 5     | 19    | 26    | 54    | -28   | 14    |


Edited by neilhoskins77

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Just wanted to say good job, and I really think Eastern Europe is a fun place to manage. 

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6 hours ago, efcfan said:

Just wanted to say good job, and I really think Eastern Europe is a fun place to manage. 

Thanks very much for that, much appreciated. It is certainly a lot of fun, and a bit of a challenge dealing with the different rules etc.

I'm glad you're enjoying the read, and hope you continue to follow along.

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Thursday 1st November 2012
With three wins from three, and promotion secured, Vladimir Kostyukov of Dinamo Brest has won the Manager of the Month award for October, beating Igor Frolov of Vedrich Rechitsa and myself. That effort is enough for the Board to be satisfied with the way things are going, also mentioning that they are happy with the signing of Alexey Rios, and much less so with the arrival of Andrey Volodzko. Another £45,000 has left the clubs coffers over the last month, but finances still are not a problem for the club, with nearly £800k in the bank, despite our poor attendances, with the Lokomotiv Stadium almost guaranteed to be less than 25% full unless the opponents are from across the city of Minsk.

Friday 2nd November
Ahead of our next match, a lot of the attention is on Alexey Rios, who's superb recent form was very much a subject in the pre match press conference. Our opponents are Mikashevichi, who despite being 13th are unlikely to be dragged into the relegation dogfight, with two other clubs who are equally as poor currently below them. The bookies have little doubt that we will record a win in our penultimate away match.

Saturday 3rd November

Belarusian First League
Polesie, Luninets
Mikashevichi v Lokomotiv Minsk
Attendance :-
719. Weather :- Dry, 6c.

They say you shouldn't change a winning side, but I ignore them, and make a change at left back, with Pavel Lyutsko dropped down to the substitutes bench, and teenager Maxim Ivanenko brought back into the side. Other than that, it's as we were for this one.

As I stood on the sideline contemplating how a small town club like this can get attendances that are not far off double ours, it looked like the players minds were elsewhere as well. Dmitry Biryukov was called into action inside the ten minute mark, Yury Medvedev hoisting a long ball upfield from right outside his own box, all the way to the edge of our box. There, Vladimir Malykh was beaten in the air by Dmitriy Verstak, who tried to lift his header over Biryukov, the young keeper tipping that one over the bar. They might not have scored, but that certainly put Mikashevichi's tails up, and they were soon confident enough to shoot from almost anywhere, full back Igor Nosarev's effort from an improbable position flashed right through the goalmouth. We tried to give them something to think about, but Georgy Schennikov's free kick was just a little too high. We were not the better side so far, and with the half hour mark approaching, Mikashevichi caught us right on the achilles heel. Artur Slaboshevich curled in a corner, and Malykh was beaten in the air again, Nosarev's powerful header finding the net. Things could have gotten worse yet, Karen Muradyan only just missing the target with a free kick. The respite was brief for us however, Slabosevich broke up the play in midfield and then sprung our offside trap as he sent the ball to the right for Nosarev. His cross picked out Alexandr San'ko on the far post, and he rose above Dmirty Chaka to head the ball into the bottom corner and leave us in a whole heap of trouble.

The air was turned blue in our dressing room at half time, as I let rip at my players and told them exactly how bad they had been in that first half. Needless to say, I was expecting a drastic improvement after the break. Like the rest of the day, that didn't exactly go to plan either. Ten minutes after the restart Artur Levitskiy picked out Verstak in the penalty box, and the strikers thumping shot rattled the underside of the cross bar before the ball was cleared to safety. Things weren't getting any better for us, and when Muradyan connected with Levitskiy's cross, forcing Biryukov into a superb stop, I needed to make changes. Maxim Ivanenko was sacrificed first, Djeykhun Mursalov brought on as we went to a three man defence and the same number up front in an attempt to put more pressure on our hosts. When that didn't do the trick, I brought off our other full back as well, Chaka replaced by Alexandr Alkhovik, as we go to just two at the back and push Alkhovik into midfield and allow Eduard Chudnovsky a more advanced role behind the striking trio. That at least managed to push our opponents back into their own third of the park, but unfortunately, our finishing was on about the same level as the rest of our play had been today, and Nikolay Shvydakov missed an 88th minute chance to give us a glimmer of hope, electing to take an extra touch that gave the defence a chance to close him down. With the match well into injury time, Yuriy Ryzhko, and then Alexey Rios combined to play Shvydakov in, and he sidefooted the ball home from 10 yards out. Unfortunately by that point, even that glimmer of hope had gone, and my mood hadn't improved much.

Mikashevichi (2) 2 - Igor Nosarev (29), Alexandr San'ko (44)
Lokomotiv Minsk (0) 1 - Nikolay Shvydakov (90+1)
Dmitry Biryukov; Dmitry Chaka (Alexandr Alkhovik 73), Maxim Gorbach, Vladimir Malykh, Maxim Ivanenko (Djeykhun Mursalov 64); Yuriy Ryzhko, Eduard Chudnovsky; Alexey Rios, Georgy Schennikov; Sergey Krot, Nikolay Shvydakov ©.

Unused Substitutes :- Alexey Yesipenok, Vladimir Zuhbaia (GK), Pavel Lyutsko, Alexey Razmyslovich, Alexandr Kozlov.
Bookings :- Nikolay Shvydakov 45+1
Possession :- 36% - 64%. Man of the Match :- Igor Nosarev (Mikashevichi).

Naturally I was very disappointed with that effort from team. Disappointed enough in fact that we were around an hour later than expected back into Minsk, and there may or may not have been some damage left behind. Send us the bill, which we won't pay. We effectively just handed you three points, what more do you want from us?

Hopefully Sunday will bring some good news.....

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Sunday 4th November 2012
There was some good news for our Sunday! But not all good. Let's get the not good news out of the way first. I am disappointed to report that Torpedo Zhodino's attacking midfielder Alexandr Degterev has rejected our offer to become a Lokomotiv player, and has instead accepted an offer to join the other side who have earned promotion this season, Dinamo Brest. To be absolutely honest, we offered him the best deal we could, and it was less than what he makes now, so we were always likely to be second favourites.

There is much better news later in the day however, as Georgy Schennikov signs his new contract offer. It's a three year deal that will take him through to the end of the 2015 season, and see's his weekly wage increase from £425 to £550. He is absolutely worth the extra money as far as I'm concerned. When I arrived, he had just a single assist to his name. Despite spending a period of time on the sidelines with injury, he has added three more assists and his first Lokomotiv goal to that total.

Tuesday 6th November
Tomorrow evening we play our penultimate match of the season, and our final home fixture of the campaign, and it's against the club that were crowned 2012 First League Champions on the weekend. Topredo Zhodino's win, and Dinamo Brest's draw put the leaders into an unassailable lead. We have played them three times already since I took the job at Lokomotiv, losing the first two, but gaining a win against them last time out in the Second Leg of the Cup tie. If we are going to overturn them tomorrow, we will have to be much, much better than we were in our last match. The bookies don't see it happening, and have the visitors as Even money favourites.

Wednesday 7th November

Belarusian First League
Lokomotiv Stadium, Minsk
Lokomotiv Minsk v Torpedo Zhodino
Attendance :-
435. Weather :- Breezy, 9c.

It's an unchanged starting lineup and matchday squad as we welcome Torpedo Zhodino to the capital, for what will be thankfully be the last time for a year at least, unless we get matched with them again in the Cup. Things could have got off to a poor start for us today, Alexandr Degterev, who's signature we missed out on over the weekend, slid the ball through our defence, but Dmitry Biryukov was equal to Sergey Bubnov's low shot. But we quickly got ourselves together, and Yuriy Ryzhko made a great tackle just inside his own half to allow Maxim Ivanenko and Georgy Schennikov to link up down the left, the latter's cross headed just wide of the near post by Nikolay Shvydakov. Meanwhile, Degterev really looked a class act in the Torpedo midfield, showing us what we were going to be miss out on when he picked out Bubnov in our box again, this time the shot missed the target. Torpedo started to assert themselves in the later stages of the first half, and wasted a couple of chances to go in front. Dmitriy Makar got goal side of our defence from Bubnov's flick on, but then shanked his shot well wide. Then Sergey Matveychik picked out Alexandr Terentjev in our box with a free kick, the Torpedo skipper's first touch bought him some space, but no fewer than three Lokomotiv defenders threw themselves in front of the ball to block the route to goal. Dimitar Tsenovski would chance his arm next, picked out on the edge of the box by Andrey Zaleskiy, and his low shot beat Biryukov, but came back off the upright. We were holding on a bit late on, but it was still 0-0 at half time.

Doubtless Torpedo would have been told we were there for the taking at the break. Which made our goal two minutes after the restart even sweeter. Ivanenko's throw in to Sergey Krot went straight back to the young left back, and he whipped in an early cross to the far post, where his opposite side full back Dmitry Chaka had the run on Terentjev, climbing above him and powering a header into the roof of the net, his first goal in a Lokomotiv shirt. Things were very much going our way when a Schennikov corner was headed clear, and Zaleskiy launched the ball up the park. Terentjev couldn't be flagged offside as he was in his own half, and Biryukov started to come, but changed his mind. Terentjev would fluff his lines though, sending his shot over the bar. That would be the last gift we would get from Torpedo. Five minutes later, and Bubnov's cross from the right picked out Makar at the near post, and his header flew into the roof of the net. Three minutes later, we were behind. Alexey Kozlov picked out Terentjev, who curled a shot from the corner of the box over Biryukov, and in off the underside of the cross bar. A pair of good chances to immediately get ourselves level were wasted, Eduard Chudnovsky's corner was header over at the near post by Alexey Rios, before Shvydakov rolled the ball into the path of Ryzhko, his driven shot was turned around the post by Sergey Sinevich. Another attempt from Rios was blocked before it could trouble the keeper, while Zaleskiy's effort at the other end from the edge of the box was comfortably dealt with by Biryukov. The next goal would be crucial, and it arrived in the 73rd minute, Vladimir Malykh may have misjudged the bounce of the ball, or he may have been levered off it from behind by Bubnov. Either way, the Torpedo winger burst forward, before sliding a diagonal pass into the path of Terentjev on the left. Biryukov had totally lost his bearing of where he was, and the Torpedo skipper easily finished to net his second of the match. With nothing going our way now, and Bubnov almost adding to the score when he found the net from an offside position, I made a treble change with us having nothing left to lose. Alexey Razmyslovich came closest to bringing us back into the match, but once more we have been bettered by the Champions.

Lokomotiv Minsk (0) 1 - Dmitry Chaka (47)
Torpedo Zhodino (0) 3 - Dmitriy Makar (57), Alexandr Terentjev (60,73)
Dmitry Biryukov; Dmitry Chaka, Maxim Gorbach, Vladimir Malykh (Alexey Yesipenok 84), Maxim Ivanenko; Yuriy Ryzhko, Eduard Chudnovsky; Alexey Rios (Alexey Razmyslovich 84), Georgy Schennikov; Sergey Krot (Djeykhun Mursalov 84), Nikolay Shvydakov ©.

Bookings :- None
Unused Substitutes :- Vladimir Zuhbaia (GK), Pavel Lyutsko, Alexandr Alkhovik, Alexandr Kozlov.
Possession :- 56% - 44%. Man of the Match :- Alexandr Terentjev (Torpedo Zhodino).

It's official. I really will not be disappointed to see the back of Torpedo Zhodino next season. They have been nothing but an absolute pain in the @**e since I got here! And they are also just too good for us right now. 31 year old left winger Alexandr Terentjev doesn't stand out as a player you would expect a huge amount from. But he now has six goals and four assists this season, and will return to the top tier next season with the club he joined in 2007.

Thursday 8th November
We have to try to get a jump on our rivals in preparation for next season, and I believe I have picked out a player who could help us. It will be a significant transfer fee if we can get the deal done, though not a club record fee. If it does get done, we will have to hope it works out much better than our move for Djeykhun Mursalov. As of today, we are still haggling over the potential transfer fee for the player in question.

In a case of bad timing, Georgian International goalkeeper Vladimir Zuhbaia has requested a transfer away from Lokomotiv today. I say it's bad timing as I have already decided to give him a game in Sunday's season closing match against relegated Kommunalnik Zhlobin. For now, I reject the keepers request.

Friday 9th November
Negotiations continue, and we are now at the point where the other club involved have told us how much they will want to accept the offer. It is within a reasonable amount of our original offer, and we meet their asking price, which we hope will be enough to give us the green light to start negotiating personal terms either over the weekend or early next week.

Saturday 10th November
Predictably, we are made short price favourites at 1/2 for tommorow afternoons curtain closer for the 2012 First League season. Kommunalnik have just fifteen points from their 29 matches so far, having taken just seven points since early July, which equates to twenty matches. Surely we will be able to finish the season off with a win, which would be enough to secure 7th spot if Slavia Mozyr don't win away to Zvezda-BGU Minsk. Alternatively, if we don't win, we could be overtaken by FC Lida if they win away to Dinamo-Belcard Grodno, though they would need a six or seven goal swing in goal difference to move past us.

Sunday 11th November
Matchday, and while we are making the near three hour bus trip to Zhlobin, back in Minsk, there is a small team of people who are meeting some representatives of the player we are hoping is going to be wearing the red and white of Lokomotiv next season. Our offer to his club has been accepted, and early negotiations have begun in hope of sealing an early deal.

Belarusian First League
Gorodskoy, Zhlobin
Kommunalnik Zhlobin v Lokomotiv Minsk
Attendance :-
217. Weather :- Gusty, 10c.

Vladimir Zuhbaia getting his first start since my arrival in goal ahead of Dmitry Biryukov is the only change made for our final match of the season, where we are expected to win fairly comfortably. An early Georgy Schennikov free kick swerved wildly off target, while a Nikolay Shvydakov shot from fifteen yards out was batted away by home keeper Dmitriy Guschenko. They would only manage to keep us out till the 16th minute, Yuriy Ryzhko picking a pass to Shvydakov on the edge of the box with his back to goal. The skipper touched the ball into the path of strike partner Sergey Krot, and he placed his shot into the bottom corner to open the scoring. The skippers unselfish play would be rewarded five minutes later, Alexey Rios picking up the ball on halfway and making great ground down the right, before finding Shvydakov in the box. This time he would have a go himself, shooting across goal and just inside the far post to notch his 15th of the season, the Kommunalnik defence appealing unsuccessfully for offside. The floodgates were threatening to be pushed wide open a little over five minutes later, Maxim Ivanenko playing a one-two with Ryzhko, and then crossed into the middle, no one in the defence took responsibility for dealing with it, and Shvydakov gleefully smashed it home from a few yards out to increase the lead to 3-0. That would be one of Ryzhko's last contributions, as the midfielder was substituted with an injury shortly after, Alexandr Alkhovik coming on in his place. It looked like the scoreline could be just about anything, and Shvydakov ignored the fact that Alexandr Makas was injured on the floor to shoot again, Guschenko tipping it over to deny him a first half hatrick. Eduard Chudnovsky hit the bar, and Vladimir Malykh headed wide from a corner as we continued to pressure our hosts for the remainder of the first half.

It was fairly obvious that this scoreline could turn out to be absolutely anything, but less than three minutes into the second half, it turned out to be 3-1. Andrey Kuznetsov's free kick from halfway looked like an optimistic hoof into the penalty box at best, but Denis Narkovich got goal side of Malykh, who headed over Vladimir Zuhbaia who had never really decided whether he was coming to collect it or not, and was caught halfway between, failing his first major test of the day. That was annoying, but I think it's fair to say I was never especially worried about Kommunalnik using that one as a launch pad for a comeback. For a start, they failed to create anything else of real note, while Shvydakov hadn't yet given up hope of completing his treble, latching onto a pass from Chudnovsky in the box, but this time his shot across goal was the wrong side of the far post. To be fair, he wasn't the only one to have gone off the boil. We were just a bit flat in general, with the feeling seeming to be that the job was done. I made my final three changes all at once with around a quarter of an hour left to play. But it didn't kickstart us into life, and the match finished in exactly the same way our season had, with a bit of a whimper.

Kommunalnik Zhlobin (0) 1 - Denis Narkovich (48)
Lokomotiv Minsk (3) 3 - Sergey Krot (16), Nikolay Shvydakov (21,27)
Vladimir Zuhbaia; Dmitry Chaka, Maxim Gorbach, Vladimir Malykh (Alexey Yesipenok 76), Maxim Ivanenko; Yuriy Ryzhko (inj - Alexandr Alkhovik 31), Eduard Chudnovsky; Alexey Rios, Georgy Schennikov (Alexandr Kozlov 76); Sergey Krot (Djeykhun Mursalov 76), Nikolay Shvydakov ©.

Unused Substitutes :- Dmitry Biryukov (GK), Pavel Lyutsko, Alexey Razmyslovich.
Bookings :- None
Possession :- 43% - 57%. Man of the Match :- Nikolay Shvydakov (Lokomotiv Minsk).

And with that, the 2012 season is over. If it hadn't have been, Yuriy Ryzhko would have missed the next fortnight, suffering a strained wrist falling an awkward fall. Instead, he will just miss the first two weeks of his holiday instead. A double for Nikolay Shvydakov means the striker finishes the season with 16 goals from 33 games, a very respectable return from a striker for a mid table team.

Or just above the mid table mark as it turned out, Slavia Mozyr held to a 0-0 draw back in Minsk by Zvezda-BGU, means we jump ahead of them to finish the season in seventh place. If we happen to come across them on the motorway travelling the other way on the way home, we will almost certainly make rude gestures at them from the bus window.

That finish means we have won prize money of £25,000, of which all but three grand is given straight back to be dispersed amongst the First Team squad as per their agreement with the previous management. I can't argue with that, on the whole I would say the majority of the squad have earned that bonus.

One final piece of business on the last day of the season, Nikolay Shvydakov is now able to leave the club for £160,000 without us being able to do a thing about it. The club captain has a release clause in his contract if we failed to get promoted. We did fail, and he can now leave if another club matches that asking price. Personally, I suspect that is unlikely, but I do offer our top scorer a new deal, one that doesn't have a release clause.

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2012 Belarusian First League, Final Table

| Pos   | Inf   | Team                |       | Pld   | Won   | Drn   | Lst   | For   | Ag    | G.D.  | Pts   |

| 1st   | C     | Torpedo Zhodino     |       | 30    | 23    | 3     | 4     | 65    | 26    | +39   | 72    |
| 2nd   | P     | Dinamo Brest        |       | 30    | 20    | 6     | 4     | 56    | 21    | +35   | 66    |
| 3rd   |       | Vedrich Rechitsa    |       | 30    | 15    | 9     | 6     | 43    | 37    | +6    | 54    |
| 4th   |       | Baranovichi         |       | 30    | 15    | 6     | 9     | 49    | 35    | +14   | 51    |
| 5th   |       | Khimik Svetlogorsk  |       | 30    | 13    | 7     | 10    | 33    | 34    | -1    | 46    |
| 6th   |       | Darida              |       | 30    | 11    | 10    | 9     | 39    | 44    | -5    | 43    |
| 7th   |       | Lokomotiv Minsk     |       | 30    | 12    | 6     | 12    | 39    | 32    | +7    | 42    |
| 8th   |       | Slavia Mozyr        |       | 30    | 11    | 8     | 11    | 33    | 30    | +3    | 41    |
| 9th   |       | Lida                |       | 30    | 11    | 7     | 12    | 38    | 40    | -2    | 40    |
| 10th  |       | Zvezda-BGU          |       | 30    | 9     | 8     | 13    | 45    | 52    | -7    | 35    |
| 11th  |       | Mikashevichi        |       | 30    | 8     | 11    | 11    | 28    | 36    | -8    | 35    |
| 12th  |       | Vertical            |       | 30    | 9     | 8     | 13    | 31    | 41    | -10   | 35    |
| 13th  |       | Savit               |       | 30    | 8     | 9     | 13    | 31    | 34    | -3    | 33    |
| 14th  |       | Belcard             |       | 30    | 8     | 3     | 19    | 33    | 49    | -16   | 27    |
| 15th  | R     | Postavy             |       | 30    | 6     | 9     | 15    | 37    | 57    | -20   | 27    |
| 16th  | R     | Kommunalnik Zhlobin |       | 30    | 3     | 6     | 21    | 30    | 62    | -32   | 15    |


Edited by neilhoskins77

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2012 Lokomotiv Minsk Player Stats

| Name                | Apps    | Gls  | Ast  | MoM  | Pas  | Tck  | Drb  | Sh T | Yel  | Red  | Av Rat |

| Dmitry Biryukov     | 25      | -    | -    | -    | 52%  | -    | -    | -    | -    | -    | 6.79   |
| Vladimir Zuhbaia    | 8       | -    | -    | -    | 34%  | -    | -    | -    | -    | -    | 6.45   |
| Andrey Prokofjev    | 2 (1)   | -    | -    | -    | 62%  | 2.35 | 1.17 | -    | -    | -    | 5.43   |
| Dmitry Chaka        | 18      | 1    | -    | -    | 69%  | 2.99 | 0.80 | -    | 1    | -    | 6.82   |
| Alexandr Dolgov     | 1 (1)   | -    | -    | -    | 52%  | 1.84 | 1.84 | -    | -    | -    | 6.60   |
| Alexandr Mashkov    | 0 (2)   | -    | -    | -    | -    | -    | -    | -    | -    | -    | -      |
| Maxim Ivanenko      | 13      | -    | 4    | -    | 65%  | 3.86 | 1.09 | -    | -    | -    | 6.78   |
| Pavel Lyutsko       | 20 (3)  | -    | 1    | -    | 73%  | 3.16 | 0.48 | -    | 4    | -    | 6.71   |
| Denis Lekhavitskiy  | 14 (3)  | -    | -    | 1    | 69%  | 3.32 | 0.07 | -    | 1    | -    | 6.44   |
| Vladimir Malykh     | 14      | 3    | -    | 1    | 61%  | 3.69 | 0.08 | -    | 2    | -    | 6.74   |
| Alexey Yesipenok    | 16 (8)  | 1    | 1    | -    | 79%  | 2.68 | 0.06 | -    | 1    | 1    | 6.48   |
| Maxim Gorbach       | 31      | -    | 3    | 2    | 69%  | 3.60 | -    | -    | 5    | -    | 6.84   |
| Yuriy Ryzhko        | 15      | 2    | -    | -    | 73%  | 3.17 | 0.36 | 23%  | -    | -    | 6.85   |
| Artur Groda         | 0 (3)   | -    | -    | -    | -    | -    | -    | -    | -    | -    | 5.90   |
| Georgy Schennikov   | 26      | 1    | 4    | 1    | 64%  | 2.53 | 3.69 | 32%  | 1    | -    | 6.83   |
| Alexey Rios         | 18 (1)  | 3    | 3    | 2    | 62%  | 3.35 | 7.62 | 22%  | 1    | -    | 7.26   |
| Alexey Razmyslovich | 11 (8)  | 1    | 3    | 1    | 62%  | 0.85 | 2.32 | -    | -    | -    | 6.63   |
| Alexandr Kozlov     | 6 (4)   | 1    | 2    | -    | 56%  | 2.98 | 4.96 | -    | -    | -    | 6.90   |
| Alexandr Alkhovik   | 15 (14) | -    | 3    | -    | 73%  | 2.09 | 0.06 | 31%  | 1    | -    | 6.62   |
| Andrey Misyuk       | 13 (2)  | 2    | 1    | -    | 75%  | 1.69 | 0.08 | -    | 2    | -    | 6.65   |
| Pavel Mikhaltsov    | 2 (2)   | -    | -    | -    | 62%  | 2.17 | 4.35 | -    | -    | -    | 6.07   |
| Eduard Chudnovsky   | 16 (2)  | 1    | 6    | -    | 74%  | 2.79 | 0.32 | 16%  | -    | -    | 6.81   |
| Denis Sysoev        | 0 (5)   | -    | 1    | -    | 73%  | 2.62 | 0.87 | -    | -    | -    | 6.78   |
| Alexey Breschenko   | 13 (1)  | 1    | -    | -    | 64%  | 0.08 | 0.23 | -    | 2    | -    | 6.21   |
| Nikolay Shvydakov   | 33      | 16   | 4    | 5    | 59%  | 0.18 | 1.56 | 51%  | 2    | -    | 6.94   |
| Andrey Volodzko     | 0 (3)   | -    | 1    | -    | -    | 0.91 | 3.64 | -    | -    | -    | 6.60   |
| Djeykhun Mursalov   | 2 (11)  | -    | -    | -    | 70%  | 0.44 | 2.42 | -    | -    | -    | 6.30   |
| Andrey Gagiev       | -       | -    | -    | -    | -    | -    | -    | -    | -    | -    | -      |
| Olexandr Golikov    | 14 (1)  | 6    | 1    | 2    | 46%  | -    | 0.79 | 52%  | 1    | -    | 6.73   |
| Sergey Krot         | 17      | 3    | 1    | -    | 73%  | 0.49 | 1.62 | 26%  | -    | -    | 6.69   |
| Vadim Mironov       | 0 (3)   | -    | -    | -    | -    | -    | -    | -    | -    | -    | 6.70   |


Edited by neilhoskins77

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*No update so far today as I am running a test. I have an update all ready to post, but I am starting to suspect that what happened at the end of Part II with Ayr United may also be about to happen here as well. If that's the case, then it will be game over regrettably, as it would indicate a recurring error that would prevent me playing more than one season before having to switch to a club in another nation. I will let you know once confirmed. Cheers, and apologies. I've never once had an issue with FM'09, so this is a bit of a gutter.* 

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2 hours ago, neilhoskins77 said:

*No update so far today as I am running a test. I have an update all ready to post, but I am starting to suspect that what happened at the end of Part II with Ayr United may also be about to happen here as well. If that's the case, then it will be game over regrettably, as it would indicate a recurring error that would prevent me playing more than one season before having to switch to a club in another nation. I will let you know once confirmed. Cheers, and apologies. I've never once had an issue with FM'09, so this is a bit of a gutter.* 

*Quick Update*

We're all good to carry on. The Belarusian season doesn't tick over to the next campaign till February 14th. Never been so relieved to see Valentine's Day in my life...........

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Monday 12th November 2012
Dmitry Chaka and Nikolay Shvydakov are both included in the final version of the First League Team of the Week. Neither are included in the Team of the Year for the Division however, though we do have one player included, right winger Alexey Rios. The squad have now been released on their end of season break, and are due to report back to the club on the 7th January.

Tuesday 13th November
Nikolay Shvydakov has rejected our offer of a new three year deal with a small wage increase. He only wants a two year deal, and he has taken exception at our attempt to remove the non promotion release clause. A new offer is made, with the deal set at two years, and the release clause set at a cool £½ million.

With that matter dealt with, we can get on with our afternoon's work, confirming our new signing. Yes, the first new arrival has signed his pre-contract, and will arrive at the club officially on Saturday 1st December. That player is 24 year old attacking midfielder Evgeniy Drozd. Capable of playing centre midfield, right wing, or slightly more advanced in both positions, he has spent his entire career to date with Baranovichi. He has become disillusioned that the club were not able to secure promotion, and after seven years, 141 League appearances, 7 goals and 28 assists, he is ready to move on. He is costing us £35,000, and I saw enough of him when they played us for me to consider him a player who can enhance our squad.

Thursday 15th November
A day of mixed news. It started with excellent news for the club, Nikolay Shyvdakov putting his signature on the new deal he was offered a couple of days ago. It doesn't lengthen his stay at the club, as the deal means he still only has two years remaining on his contract, but in exchange for a pay rise of £25 per week, that non promotion release clause will now cost any potential suitors £500k, instead of the £160k it had stipulated previously. And with it being a new deal, that clause is now currently deactivated.

Unfortunately, our attempts to convince Dinamo Brest right back Ilya Trachinskiy to swap the blue shirts for the red and white of the capital city Lokomotiv has failed. The 23 year old will still be moving to Minsk, it's just he has understandably decided that a move to Dinamo was a better option, and they will get him on a Free Transfer when his contract runs out at the end of the month. We are working on an alternative plan to gain our own version of revenge on our richer, more popular and infinitely more successful cross-city rivals.

Friday 16th November
Revenge would come as quickly as the following day for us on Dinamo Minsk. Highly rated midfielder and Belarus Under-19 International cap Igor Zangiev will move across the city to join us at Lokomotiv when his contract expires in a fortnight. He has been with the club for four seasons, and made his League debut in this 2012 campaign that has just finished, appearing three times from the bench in a season where Dinamo eventually finished third. It's reported that they wanted to keep him at the club, but were unwilling to meet his wage demands, Zangiev said to have asked for more money after becoming a part of the First Team setup.

Sunday 18th November
Part two of our revenge on the club from across the city was completed before the weekend was out, as we steal another of Dinamo's young players on a Free Transfer. This time it's 20 year old striker, Lukasz Zuk. He arrived at the club at the same time as Zangiev, showcasing Dinamo's reach across the country when they convinced the then 16 year to leave his home town of Grodno and reject an offer from Neman to relocate into the capital. Since then, Zuk has been a prolific goalscorer for their Reserve side without being given an opportunity to play for the First Team. Now his patience has run out, and the left footer rejects offers from relegated Belshina Bobruisk, Slavia Mozyr and Savit Mogliev to remain in the capital. Fingers crossed he will prove to be a big success at Lokomotiv.

Monday 19th November
Our preparations for the 2013 season continue with a fourth quick signing confirmed. This one is slightly different, as we bring some experience to the club. 6'3 Maxim Gukailo was a former Dinamo Minsk youngster at the turn of the century, but has made his name at Shakhter Soligorsk since he joined them in 2004. He has gone on to make over 220 League appearances for the top tier club, including 81 in the last two seasons alone, and at the age of 33 has just enjoyed his best season personally with two goals and ten assists in all competitions. He brings such impressive versatility to the club, able to play on the left or in the middle of the back four, or defensive and centre midfield. Once more it's a Free Transfer, and he could be an excellent piece of business for us.

Saturday 1st December 2012
The Transfer Window is now open! It starts with us receiving our annual fee from Russian Premier Division club, Amkar Perm, which amounts to just over £15,000. Our four new players have all arrived at the club today, and the Board have stated that they are pleased with how things are going at the club, with the Alexey Rios signing praised, and the Djeykhun Mursalov one, meh, not so much.

Sunday 2nd December
With four players arriving, I have decided to let six go, all of them saw their contracts expire yesterday without receiving a new offer, and now they have all left the club. The half dozen are Andrey Prokofjev, Alexandr Mashkov, Artur Groda, Sergey Lipovoy, Alexey Breschenko and Olexandr Golikov.

Friday 7th December
It's turning into a fairly quiet season break for us, with most of our major business done early on. I do make a bid to take top tier side FC Smorgon's 20 year old striker Vitaliy Ivanko on a Free Transfer. They tell us they want £10,000, so I offer them £5,000. That bid is rejected, and for now at least, that one has reached a dead end.

Wednesday 26th December
After a very quiet couple of weeks, we get an unwanted and late Christmas gift, interest from other clubs in Russian Under-21 International left winger Georgy Schennikov. The first bid arrives today, and is not even slightly worthy of consideration, £10,000 plus future incentives from Russian non-League club, Dinamo Stavropol.

Meanwhile, we have offered a contract to another experienced player who can be utilise in multiple positions. We tried to get him a few weeks ago, but he was not prepared to entertain discussing terms with another club while he was still in negotiations with his club. Now that prospect has disappeared, and he has left the club as a Free Agent. We are in quickly with an offer, and a good one, but there will almost certainly be competition for his signature.

The day ends with the news that our affiliation with Russian Premier Division club Amkar Perm has led to them offering to loan us a left back for the season. That could come in handy, and we await the players decision.

Thursday 27th December
We are much happier with Amkar Perm than we are with another Russian club, First Division side KamAZ Naberezhnye Chelny, who have made headlines for their interest in our left winger Georgy Schennikov. At least the price is more realistic, with KamAZ said to be aware that a bid of around £250,000 would be required.

The player himself has lent weight to the speculation, stating that while he was currently very happy at Lokomotiv, he would certainly to interested to hear what KamAZ had to say should they have an offer accepted. I made a comment to the press of my own, stating that KamAZ won't have an offer accepted, and hopefully that would be the end of the matter.

A young player will be making the reverse journey from Russia to Belarus however, as the young left back has decided that a season with us will suit him, and both parties confirm the deal. The player in question has been touted as a possible star of the future, 19 year old left back Nikolay Mironov. Already with a transfer market value of around the £¼ million mark, Mironov has played once for Amkar since arriving at the club on a Youth contract in 2010. He's 6'0 tall, deceptively strong and exceptionally hard working. His pace could be better, but his crossing off his left foot is pretty good, and he will compete against Maxim Ivanenko for a place in the side.

Monday 31st December
We miss out on the utility player who left his club after failing to agree a new contract last week. Alyaxey Pankavets, who has been capped 12 times by Belarus has elected to move to the Russian First Division, where he has signed a two year deal with FC Rostov as they look to secure a return to the top tier at the third time of asking.

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Tuesday 1st January 2013
New Year's Day, and the review of December is identical to the previous month, but with a larger loss from the bank account. Not that it's likely to cause any kind of issue for us, there is still almost £700k in the coffers.

Monday 7th January
The players report back for pre-season training today, and it's a full house of players, with no injured players.

Saturday 19th January
With not much to report in Belarus, I thought I would give you some information for England. The title of this save is 'A Chance To Rewrite History', and that is very much in evidence for a pair of English players, and not in a good way. Winger Marc Albrighton is sat in the Reserves at Aston Villa, and is considering an offer to join Llanelli, who are current back to back Welsh Premier League Champions, and are sat ten points clear in their bid to make it a hatrick.

Also potentially on the move is 22 year old Jordan Henderson. He is also sat in the Reserves, in his case at Sunderland. He is on the transfer list, and is desperate to move away from his home town to secure some First Team football and kickstart his career. His chance to leave comes in a surprising form, Irish Premier League side Drogheda United. They were taken over by multi-millionaire owners several years ago, and won the League Title in 2011, but Bohemians of Dublin have taken their crown from them, and United are looking to invest in their playing squad.

Friday 25th January
The speculation around clubs attempting to prise Georgy Schennikov away from us continues, with Russian First Division side Sibir Novosibirsk the latest to be rumoured to be preparing a bid for the Russian Under-21 International left winger. Truth be told, I'm bored of hearing it. I tell the press that we have no interest in selling one of our prize assets.

Another of our assets is Eduard Chudnovsky, and he has become the first injury victim of our pre-season training. The midfielder has damaged his back in the weights room, and will miss up to a month.

Saturday 26th January
Georgy Schennikov declares himself flattered to be linked with another club in Russia, repeating that while he is very happy at Lokomotiv, he would be interested in a move to Sibir if they were to have a bid accepted. I'm concerned that it could just be a matter of time before the winger becomes unsettled by all this attention and it starts to impact his form and happiness.

Thursday 31st January
The final day of the month, and a loan offer we made to High League club Neman Grodno has been rejected. The subject of the offer was teenage left winger Maciej Bednarz. The 17 year old, who is playing at his home town club, but played 3 Senior games on loan at cross town rivals Dinamo-Belcard Grodno last season, just his second as a Senior player. We have sent an improved offer, this time covering his £35 per week wage. If we get him, he would be used as cover for Georgy Schennikov and Alexandr Kozlov.

Friday 1st February 2013
We have parted with some cash today, but not in return for a new player. Well, not yet anyway. We have paid £2,000 to Lokomotiv ATP Ruzaevka, a Russian non-League club, and another £2,250 to Inter Boyarka, also a non-League club, but this time from Ukraine. These are our affiliate clubs, and we can loan them players, and also match any bids that are accepted for their players.

Thursday 7th February
Our bid to sign Maciej Bednarz on loan has failed after the player rejected the move to Lokomotiv for the season.

Sunday 10th February
Some superb news for the club today, as we have signed a new major kit sponsor. It's a three year deal, and it will pay the club £275,000 in each of those three seasons. For a club of our relative small stature, that is a great bit of business.

Wednesday 13th February
Awards night in Belarus. Despite not winning the League Title, beaten to it by FC Gomel, it's BATE and their squad who clean up. Brazilian striker Luís claims three awards, Best Signing, Best Foreign Player, and Best Striker. We also get an award, or rather, one of our players does. It's not one for the mantelpiece, as Djeykhun Mursalov is voted the joint worst signing in the First League alongside Mikashevichi centre back Yury Medvedev. I'm taking consolation from the fact they paid more than twice the amount we shelled out.

Thursday 14th February
After the FA Awards night, we have our own in-club event, where unsurprisingly, Nikolay Shvydakov walks away with the Player of the Year award, as voted by the fans. The Best XI is announced by the supporters spokesperson. It's our regular first choice lineup from latter in the season, with two differences. Pavel Lyutsko and Alexandr Alkhovik are voted in ahead of Maxim Ivanenko and Yuriy Ryzhko.

In addition, three players have been inducted into the clubs All Time Best XI, and there is a surprise or two here as well, though the trio are all only included on the substitutes bench for this  Maxim Gorbach is included, perhaps the most acceptable of the three. Young goalkeeper Dmitry Biryukov is also included, but the biggest surprise is Ukrainian striker Olexandr Golikov, who was released when the season ended. Denis Lekhavitskiy is the only member of our current squad who is a part of the Lokomotiv's All Time Greatest XI, with Nikolay Shvydakov also named as a substitute for the mythical team.

The club have been given £50,000 as their share of the TV rights for the coming 2013 season, leaving us with a current balance slightly north of £900,000. The expectations for the new season have seen the Board set the minimum expectation as promotion to the High League. As such, they have handed me a Transfer Budget of £90,000, and a weekly Wage Budget of £11,250. The season will begin on Saturday 13th April, where we will host newly promoted Livadia Dzerzhinsk, a semi-professional club who are in the second tier for the first time since this save began. That will be followed by a Minsk Derby away to Darida-TDZh, and a home match with Belshina Bobruisk, who were relegated from the top tier last season.

The final business is the announcement of the clubs new Youth Intake. The competition to sign these young players is fierce, particularly in a city like Minsk which is saturated with football clubs, and we are quite far down the pecking order. Nine young players have arrived, eight of them from the city, and one from Yerevan, a youngster with joint Belarusian and Armenian nationality.

So, who do we have? Two goalkeepers, Eugeny Lebedev, who I don't believe will go very far, and Nikolay Lazarev, who is predicted by Assistant Manager of the club Vladimir Panteleev to be the best of the crop. I'm going to have to disagree on that one. We have a pair of defenders, Maxim Gusev, a centre back certainly worth keeping an eye on, and Igor Stepanov, a full back who can play on either side and also looks a fairly decent prospect. On to a pair of midfielders, centre midfielder Norayr Ghazaryan the player from Yerevan who will, in my humble opinion, end up back there before he gets anywhere near our First Team, and Vladimir Simonov, and attacking midfielder who has bags of flair and tricks, but I'm not sure he has the ability to produce the crucial pass. Finally, a trio of forwards. Alexandr Nekrasov who is unlikely to be good enough, and Sergey Zubkov and Vitaly Lebedev, both decent enough prospects who could make the grade.

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A bonus weekend update as there was no post on Wednesday. Have a great weekend everyone.


Friday 15th February 2013
Pre-Season has been arranged, and it will begin in early March. It was initially a six match schedule, but I cancelled one of the games as they were too close together. We'll start in Russia, and a trip to play a second tier club, Salyut-Energia Belgorod. We'll return home from there and play again five days later, with our big match, a visit from the heavyweights of Belarusian football, Dinamo Minsk. Believe me, the fans are very much looking forward to that one. Eight days later we're on the road again, as we'll travel to Grodno to face non-League club, Khimik Grodno. We were due to play again two days later, which is the match that got cancelled. Instead, it will be four days later when we play again, and host a new rival. Belshina Bobruisk are one of our early League opponents, and we might need to consider how we're going to play it against them, keeping our cards close to our chest may be prudent. We complete our season preparations four days later, with a visit to another non-League club. I'm assuming Pinsk is a new place very close to Minsk, it is in the alphabet at least.

He had already given us the knock back once. Surely it was madness to try again? But we were given the encouraging signs. The club weren't so sure about him now, they have bought in other players, and he has slipped down the pecking order already. Our £10,000 offer is accepted quickly, 100% profit for them, they got him for nothing after all. He isn't so sure, we offer him everything we can. We're hopeful, it might be a big one for us.

Sunday 17th February
He said yes! The contract was good enough, and he was keen to move his family into a metropolitan area. At the second time of asking, Alexandr Degterev is a Lokomotiv player! And we don't have to wait until the summer either, as he never actually turned out for Dinamo Brest, he can join and play for us right away! I'm delighted. And so are the fans, turning up at the Lokomotiv Stadium to welcome the 26 year old left footed forward who can play anywhere from midfield forward and on any side, and has been capped twelve times for Belarus at Under-21 level.

Monday 18th February
I'd like to trim a bit of fat from the squad, and the wage budget while I'm at it. Two players are put on the transfer list, Pavel Lyutsko and Andrey Misyuk. Both attract immediate interest in the Transfer Market, though the latter does need his asking price brought down a notch before a bid arrives.

Neman Grodno's cheeky 17 year old left sided player Maciej Bednarz, who rejected a loan move to us, has instead opted to join cross city First league side Dinamo-Belcard Grodno on loan for the season. We look forward to coming up against him, and hopefully showing him he made a poor decision.

Tuesday 19th February
Pavel Lyutsko has an opportunity to move to Russia, in fact, for the side we begin our pre-season schedule against. Salyut-Energia Belgorod have met the asking price of £5,000, and he has been given permission to discuss terms with them. Andrey Misyuk has also been given permission to speak to a club after his revised asking price was met, FC Baranovichi offering the £2,000 we were asking. There was also a bid from Belshina Bobruisk, but it fell short of our valuation.

Thursday 21st February
It's the dreaded financial summary day. It's announced that Lokomotiv Minsk have lost £275,000 over the last financial year, which equates to 43% of the clubs turnover, which came in at £625,000. Of the loss, by far the biggest reason was the acquisition of new players, not all by myself I might add, which came to around £200,000.

Not that I am necessarily quite finished with my squad overhaul yet. BATE Borisov are sitting on a bid from us for one of their one young defenders who likes very talented.

Friday 22nd February
The rebuild would continue with the signing of a striker on Friday, though we will have to wait a little while for his arrival. It's a £5,000 transfer fee for 24 year old Ukrainian striker Denys Pshenychnyi, who came through the ranks at Shakhter Donetsk. He moved on to play for Terek Grozny in Russia, before spending part of last season in Belarus' top tier with another Shakhter, this time Soligorsk. The next part of the story is one you have heard before, as Pshenychnyi had a deal agreed with Dinamo Brest, but the newly promoted side have had a change of heart on the 6'2 left footer, and we are delighted to have his signature. Because he appeared for both Terek and Shakter Soligorsk last season, he can't play for us until the summer, with his arrival scheduled for the 1st July. At his height, he is as good in the air as you'd expect, but he also has exceptional feet, and very good pace, making for a striker who is more than capable of creating chances for himself.

The books are balanced a little with the news that the Pavel Lyutsko deal is done, and the left sided player will move to Salyut-Energia Belgorod in Russia for £5,000. He had three years with Lokomotiv after signing from FC Vitebsk in 2010. I would say the club got value for their £7,000 purchase, Lyutsko going on to make 67 League appearances for the Rail-Road Men, scoring once, and assisting seven times. His previous club get £1,000 from this deal due to a sell on clause. I'm not concerned by that, we have just saved £775 a week on the wage bill.

Saturday 23rd February
I was hoping to save another £775 a week today, but Andrey Misyuk has rejected the move to FC Baranovichi. At the moment, the defensive midfielder is not too keen on moving away from Minsk. I have reduced the asking price for a second time, as I would dearly like to get Misyuk off the wage bill now.

Part of the reason for that is because his replacement has completed his move to Lokomotiv today. 20 year old Mariusz Kaczmarek has been capped at Under-19 level, and signs for us from Belshina Bobruisk on a Free Transfer. The 6'3 youngster has spent most of his career at hometown club Dinamo Brest, playing fourteen League matches, before moving on to Belshina and failing to make the First Team there. He can play centre back, defensive midfield and centre midfield, and is going to provide competition for Yuriy Ryzhko in our squad amongst others.

Monday 25th February
With interest from other clubs leading to our offer being beaten, I have had to raise my offer for BATE's talented young defender.

Tuesday 26th February
That offer to BATE has now been accepted, along with the offers they have received from the other two clubs who are interested in his services. While we are there, we also make them offer for a very classy 19 year old Ukrainian who is sat in their Reserves, and is currently a right back, but would I believe be an ideal candidate to be pushed further up the park as a right winger. That offer is quickly accepted, and while the player isn't initially too keen, he might change his tune when he sees the colour of our money.

Thursday 28th February
Despite my best efforts, we have been unable to move Andrey Misyuk on as yet. He has rejected another contract, this time from Russian First Division club Metallurg-Kuzbass Novokuznetsk. He says they were unable to meet his wage or bonus demands after we accepted their £1,000 offer for him.

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Friday 1st March 2013
With the new season only a month away now and the pre-season matches only days away, the Board have brought their assessment down to just satisfied right now. The club did make a profit of £189,000 in February, not to be sneezed at in the slightest.

My plan to steal another player from BATE is foiled, as the player I had my eye on to convert into a right winger has rejected our offer, the 19 year old stating that right now, he isn't prepared to drop down the Divisions.

Saturday 2nd March
That players decision clearly didn't have any impact on his younger team mate, who this morning has rejected an offer from Kommunalnik Slonim, and will join us at Lokomotiv Minsk for a fee of £12,000. The player is 17 year old right back Egor Romanovskiy, a BATE youth player for two years without making a First Team appearance, but already a Belarus Under-19 International. He is quick, strong, good in the air, and has some skill when passing the ball. As an added bonus, he can also be effective with free kicks. It's a three year deal, and he will be paid £75 per week.

Sunday 3rd March.
The latest club to be linked with a potential bid for Georgy Schennikov is Chernomorets Novorossiysk of the Russian First Division. You can see why they would be interested, as over the last few years they have gone from promotion contenders to mid table, then repeated the cycle, before last year finishing just one spot above the relegation zone.

Monday 4th March
We're actually in Russia, so it will be interesting to see if the speculation over Schennikov increases while we are here, or indeed if any of the handful of clubs take the chance to put in an offer in the hope of being able to speak to the player while we are in the country.

Pre-Season Friendly
Central Salyut Stadium, Belgorod, Russia
Salyut-Energia Belgorod v Lokomotiv Minsk
Attendance :-
1,880. Weather :- Gusty, 3c.

And so it begins. The first chance for new faces to impress, and for the recognisable faces to show they are still worthy of their place in the lineup. And it's the old guard who are more prevalent here, at least to start with. From our most used lineup of the season, there are four changes. They start in goal, Vladimir Zuhbaia starts today as Dmitry Biryukov is only just getting over the flu. There are early chances to impress for two players in the back four, on loan left back Nikolay Mironov starts, as does Mariusz Kaczmarek at centre back, despite being brought in primarily to compete with Yuriy Ryzhko in midfield. Up front, the club record signing misfit Djeykhun Mursalov starts alongside skipper and last seasons top scorer, Nikolay Shvydakov.

We wouldn't have much idea of what to expect from Salyut-Energia, with the exception of their left back, we knew all about Pavel Lyutsko. It was a pretty slow start in the game, with the first chance created by our own left back, Nikolay Mironov drifting in a cross, and Nikolay Shvydakov got his head to it at the near post, trying to flick it goalwards but missing the target. But it didn't take too long for Salyut to seize control, and Alexandr Mikhnovets smashed a 20 yard effort off our cross bar after quarter of an hour. We were often the architects of our own problems, giving the ball away far too easily, and far too often. We would eventually succumb to their pressure in the 35th minute, the goal looking likely for quite some time. Pavel Dorokhin made it, taking control from a poor Eduard Chudnovsky pass, and then sprinting past Mironov and down the right channel of the box, cutting it back for Oleg Antonov near the penalty spot. His finish was superb, and looked even more spectacular when it bounced off the underside of the bar, and spun down against the inside of the upright and back up into the roof of the net. We were having all kinds of problems now, Pavel Deobald setting off at pace down the right, but his cross was unable to pick out a team mate. So next time he would have a go at goal himself, Igor Shestakov's cross wasn't cleared properly by Yuriy Ryzhko, and Deobald managed to get between two defenders and poke the loose ball into the bottom corner.

I didn't shout, or raise my voice at the players at half time. There was no point, they were all coming off apart from Vladimir Zuhbaia, as I would make ten changes, with six more players making their first appearance in a Lokomotiv shirt. Certainly we looked more positive after the restart, young full back Egor Romanovskiy breaking up play nicely and sending the ball down the right for Sergey Krot. The striker tricked his way past Georgy Mikadze, then sent a cross to the back post that Lukasz Zuk won in the air, but couldn't direct onto the target. With the experienced Maxim Gukailo now at left back, Deobald had been nullified somewhat, and a long ball down the left touchline let Zuk stretch his legs, his cross looking overhit, but Evgeny Drozd came off his wing to meet it with an outrageous volley that would've been shown all over the world if it had found the net instead of flying well high and wide of the target. Zuk was certainly getting involved, and he would get a chance to shoot when Alexandr Degterev picked him out in the box with a through ball, Sergey Losev off his line quickly to block that one. As Salyut dropped deeper and more defensive, we continued to create chances, Alexey Yesipenok headed wide from a corner, while Degterev's shot from range was punched clear by Losev, who was unwilling to risk trying to catch it. Eventually we found a way through with just over a quarter of an hour to go, Igor Zangiev receiving the ball on the corner of the box from a throw in, and he rolled it square across the edge of the box, and into the path of Krot, who placed his shot through the crowd and high into the net to reduce the arrears. The question was now, did we have a second goal in us? Alexandr Kozlov picked out Zangiev on the edge of the box, and the young midfielder let the ball run across his body before striking it with the outside of his boot, Losev well beaten, but the ball just curling away from the far post and wide. With only minutes remaining, Drozd's corner into the middle sparked a goalmouth scramble, Gukailo's shot was blocked by a defender, the ball pinged around before breaking to Degterev. He went for placement, getting it just the wrong side of the post and into the side netting. Nearly, but not quite.

Salyut-Energia Belgorod (2) 2 - Oleg Antonov (35), Pavel Deobald (42)
Lokomotiv Minsk (0) 1 - Sergey Krot (74)
Vladimir Zuhbaia; Dmitry Chaka (Egor Romanovskiy 45), Mariusz Kaczmarek (Vladimir Malykh 45), Maxim Gorbach (Alexey Yesipenok 45), Nikolay Mironov (Maxim Gukailo 45); Eduard Chudnovsky (Alexandr Degterev 45), Yuriy Ryzhko (Igor Zangiev 45); Alexey Rios (Evgeniy Drozd 45), Georgy Schennikov (Alexandr Kozlov 45); Djeykhun Mursalov (Lukasz Zuk 45), Nikolay Shvydakov © (Sergey Krot 45).

Unused Substitutes :- Dmitry Biryukov (GK), Maxim Ivanenko.
Bookings :- None
Possession :- 40% - 60%. Man of the Match :- Pavel Deobald (Salyut-Energia Belgorod).

The first half of that match made the difference between second tier outfits in Russia and Belarus look enormous. However the second half was an almost complete about turn, and as frustrating as the first half was, the second was far more encouraging for us. Our second pre-season match would be no easier, as we were going to be visited by the top dogs of our city, and original top dogs of the newly independent nation of Belarus. Eight times Belarusian Champions and three times domestic Cup Winners, and the only club from Belarus ever to be crowned the Soviet Champions when they won the League in 1982, yep, Dinamo Minsk would soon be gracing us with their presence.

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Friday 8th March 2013
A Scouting report has landed on my table for Dinamo Minsk, because there isn't a football fan in Belarus who knows all about them of course. They play defensively, and then counter attack like a snake. When they play weaker opposition (us for example), they like to keep the ball and try and grind them down. Their midfield are an organised and fluid unit, and right now their biggest threat is deemed to be Dmitriy Mozolevskiy. Capped only once by Belarus, who are currently building their squad around the nucleus of BATE Borisov's players, Mozolevskiy signed for Dinamo from one of the other clubs bearing that moniker, Dinamo Brest, for £50,000 two years ago now. He played 186 League matches for them, scoring 55 goals. In two seasons in the capital he has netted 34 more goals in 82 League matches. Dinamo have not bowed to the new trend of bringing in players from South America or Africa. Their squad is made up almost entirely of players from Belarus, with a handful of players from Russia and Ukraine.

Saturday 9th March

Pre-Season Friendly
Lokomotiv Stadium, Minsk
Lokomotiv Minsk v Dinamo Minsk
Attendance :-
832. Weather :- Strong Wind, Drizzle, 9c.

One change is all for the matchday squad for this one, Alexandr Kozlov dropped, with Alexey Razmyslovich brought into the squad. There are also a pair of changes to the starting lineup. Dmitry Biryukov starts in goal ahead of Vladimir Zuhbaia, while at left back there is a start for Maxim Gukailo ahead of on loan youngster Nikolay Mironov.

A crowd almost twice what we usually get for a League match, swelled by visiting Dinamo fans, formed a procession into Lokomotiv Stadium....to watch a procession of Dinamo attacking our goalmouth. It started within five minutes, Alexandr Kugan sending over an inswinging free kick from the left touchline, Oleg Shkabara rising above everyone at the far post, but he couldn't keep his header down, his effort over the bar. A counter attack after a poor corner by us led to Shkabara playing supplier, sending Pavel Kosinets into acres of space. He didn't have the pace to get away from the chasing back Lokomotiv defenders though, and when he tried to cut inside, Dmitry Chaka halted his run with a great tackle. Shkabara continued to be the main threat to us, and he struck a shot from range that curled wickedly and Dmitry Biryukov was forced to punch clear rather than risk trying to catch it. We were riding our luck, and it ran out midway through the first half, Andrey Tsevan's corner was an outswinger, and that allowed centre back Stepan Girskyi to get plenty of power on his header as he arrived to meet it, powering the ball into the roof of the net. I'm pleased to report we did at least try to cause Dinamo some problems as we searched for an equaliser, Georgy Schennikov making a great run down the left, and slinging a cross to the near post, Nikolay Shvydakov got in front of his marker, but headed wide of the near post. But that was only a very brief respite, and the combination than had already succeeded from a corner nearly repeated the trick, this time Girskyi missing the target with his header. Full back Sergey Perunov had the last crack of the opening half, a shot from the corner of the box that continued rising and drifted off target.

Only one down at half time? I'll take it. Last time out I changed all the outfield players at the break, this time I settle for just half of them. It didn't make too much difference to our defending from corners though. Kugan took this one, and while everyone was concerned where Girskyi was going, it was sub centre back Dmitriy Baha who powered the header home this time. Ten minutes later, the scoreboard ticked over once more, Shkabara making a great run down the right, cutting to the byline, and then cutting the ball back to Dmitriy Mozolevskiy, who unselfishly squared it on again to Kugan, who placed his shot out of Biryukov's reach. With nothing more than pride to play for here, I summoned the remainder of the fresh legs from the bench, making five more changes. Our aim now was to keep the score down, but we managed a little better than that. While we didn't threaten ourselves, we managed shackle our prestigious opponents to the point that all they created was an effort from range by Iliya Trachinskiy, which grazed the bar on its way over.

Lokomotiv Minsk (0) 0
Dinamo Minsk (1) 3
Stepan Girskyi (21), Dmitriy Baha (52), Alexandr Kugan (64)
Dmitry Biryukov; Dmitry Chaka (Egor Romanovskiy 68), Mariusz Kaczmarek (Vladimir Malykh 45), Maxim Gorbach (Alexey Yesipenok 68), Maxim Gukailo (Maxim Ivanenko 45); Eduard Chudnovsky (Igor Zangiev 68), Yuriy Ryzhko (Alexandr Degterev 45); Alexey Rios (Evgeniy Drozd 45), Georgy Schennikov (Alexey Razmyslovich 68); Djeykhun Mursalov (Sergey Krot 45), Nikolay Shvydakov © (Lukasz Zuk 68).

Unused Substitutes :- Vladimir Zuhbaia (GK), Maxim Ivanenko.
Bookings :- None
Possession :- 48% - 52%. Man of the Match :- Stepan Girskyi (Dinamo Minsk).

No shock, and very little by the way of surprise. If I was desperately looking for a crumb of comfort from that match, it would be that we nearly reached parity with Dinamo when it came to possession. Possibly that was due to them switching off slightly, or more likely, they considered it a good idea to let us have the ball, and then take their chance when we made a mistake with it? Hopefully we'll get some good from it, as it is very unlikely we are going to come up against anything even close to their level in a League match this season.

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Tuesday 12th March 2013
The groundsman needs to know what dimensions are required for the pitch this season. I tell him to keep it quite short, but make it as wide as we can to ensure there is plenty of room for our wingers to operate.

46 players will take part in the Belarus Trial Day matches later this week. My Scouts have cast their eye over the squads, and given me a list of the players they believe to be the best taking part. The overwhelming feeling is that we are unlikely to find anyone who would significantly improve our squad, but they will go ahead and scout the match anyway just in case.

Saturday 16th March
By this morning I had comprehensive scouting reports on all the players that we were looking at from yesterdays Trial match. However, none of them impressed enough to make me consider a contract offer for them at this stage, though there is a couple that we will continue to keep an eye on.

Now the attention turns to tomorrows opponents as we reach the midway point of our pre-season schedule. No one is expecting us to be given much of a test when we travel to face non-League outfit, Khimik Grodno.

Sunday 17th March

Pre-Season Friendly
Stadium of Profilaktoriy Kupalinka, Grodno
Khimik Grodno v Lokomotiv Minsk
Attendance :-
508. Weather :- Breezy, Wet, 8c.

Clearly Khimik don't have a particularly large squad, judging by the fact that we have five players more than them on our bench today. The rotation has continued for us in goal, at left back and on the left wing. There is also a change at centre back, Mariusz Kaczmarek moved onto the bench, with Vladimir Malykh resurrecting his centre back partnership with Maxim Gorbach.

We asserted ourselves right from the off, Alexey Rios' cross was blocked, Yuriy Ryzhko's attempt was too deep. But Djeykhun Mursalov retrieved the ball and picked out Eduard Chudnovsky on the edge of the box. His finish was easier than it should be, as goalie Anatoliy Baha had put himself out of position. Number two would follow quickly, Mursalov involved once more. The striker held the ball up well, and then switched play to Rios out on the right with plenty of space. His cross was a little too high for Nikolay Shvydakov, but Alexandr Kozlov arrived and half volleyed in from ten yards out, making it 2-0 with less than ten minutes on the clock. From the restart, we were at them again. Shvydakov knocked down the ball to Mursalov, and he picked out Rios on the right once again. His first touch blew him right by two defenders, and he got to the corner of the six yard box, then slid his shot under Baha to add our third. This had the look that it could literally be any number you care to choose today, and Baha was at full stretch to keep out a Shvydakov header after he got on the end of a cross from Mursalov on the left. But in a shocking turn of events, we would have to wait over ten minutes for the next goal. It was worth the wait though, Rios tracking back made a tackle in the right back position, and then sent us right back down the park with a long curling ball that split the Khimik defence wide open. Mursalov raced through the middle, drew the keeper, rounded him, and finally slotted in his first goal in a Lokomotiv shirt, even if it was an unofficial one. He looked very relieved. Kozlov nearly added a second for himself when a mazy run saw him slice through the defence, but a last ditch tackle came in just as he was about to shoot. He then got on the end of a corner too, connecting with Chudnovsky's delivery, but his header landed on the roof of the net. He would be involved in the fifth before the break though, Ryzhko's ball down the left was relying entirely on Kozlov's pace. The winger just about kept the ball in, hooking it high into the air and right under the cross bar, Mursalov was left with in easy tap in when the ball came down to make it a 5-0 half time score.

I knew that a full eleven man switch at half time was likely to spoil our rhythm, but I wanted to give as many people as possible a run out. Alexandr Degterev was certainly keen to make an impression, a free kick only just cleared the cross bar, and a corner picked out Alexey Yesipenok, who's downward header only just missed the target. We might not be finding the net like we were in the first half, but we were still playing some lovely football. Sergey Krot spread the ball to the left, and Alexey Razmyslovich danced through their defence, firing a shot that Baha managed to push away. Seconds later, he unleashed a curler that just cleared the angle of the goal frame. Khimik hadn't caused us any problems at all so far, but it the 72nd minute they sprung us wide open. Anatoliy Savitskiy found Kirill Savchenko on the edge of the box, and he touched it into the path of Andrey Tsigalko, who fired home from fifteen yards out to add a small touch of respectability to the scoreline for them. That certainly gave us a kick in the back side, and Degterev picked out Yesipenok again from a corner, and this time the centre back found the net with a downward header to make it 6-1. And he had plenty of time to deliver another good corner ten minutes from time, Evgeniy Drozd meeting that one at the near post, using the power on the delivery, and redirecting the ball inside the near post and in off the underside of the cross bar. Two of our youngsters nearly combined to add another late on, Igor Zangiev picking out the run of young full back Egor Romanovskiy who turned inside a defender, but saw sub keeper Artem Mikhalyuk deny him, turning his shot over the bar.

Khimik Grodno (0) 1 - Andrey Tsigalko (72)
Lokomotiv Minsk (5) 7 - Eduard Chudnovsky (4), Alexandr Kozlov (9), Alexey Rios (11), Djeykhun Mursalov (23,44), Alexey Yesipenok (75), Evgeniy Drozd (80)
Vladimir Zuhbaia (Dmitry Biryukov 45); Dmitry Chaka (Egor Romanovskiy 45), Vlladimir Malykh (Alexey Yesipenok 45), Maxim Gorbach (Mariusz Kaczmarek 45), Maxim Ivanenko (Nikolay Mironov 45); Eduard Chudnovsky (Alexandr Degterev 45), Yuriy Ryzhko (Igor Zangiev 45); Alexey Rios (Evgeniy Drozd 45), Alexandr Kozlov (Alexey Razmyslovich 45); Djeykhun Mursalov (Lukasz Zuk 45), Nikolay Shvydakov © (Sergey Krot 45).

Unused Substitute :- Maxim Gukailo.
Bookings :- None
Possession :- 32% - 68%. Man of the Match :- Djeykhun Mursalov (Lokomotiv Minsk).

That was a good run out, and hopefully breeds some confidence in the squad after a couple of more difficult pre season starters. And it was particularly pleasing to see Djeykhun Mursalov put the ball in the net and have a great game in general too. Hopefully that will be the spark for the striker to start finding some form and winning around the fans and media, who currently see him as an expensive (relatively speaking) flop.

Certainly the bookies don't particularly rate our chances of promotion right now. They have the two relegated clubs, Belshina Bobruisk and FC Smorgon, as the two favourites to go right back up at 7/4. Of the remaining contenders, we are seen as being behind Vedrich Rechitsa and FC Baranovichi (both 5/1), and Khimik Svetlogorsk and Slavia Mozyr (both 6/1). They have us priced at 10/1. The media experts think we will do a little better, agreeing on the top two, and predicting we will finish 4th, behind Minsk rivals Darida-TDZh.

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Wednesday 20th March 2013
We will continue our preparations for the new season tomorrow, with a return to the more difficult end of the spectrum when it comes to our pre-season fixtures. We'll be visited by Belshina Bobruisk, who have just been picked by both bookmakers and media experts as a lock for promotion back to the top tier. My plan was to play it a little cagey against them as we meet them early in the season, but now I'm very tempted to have a real go at them tomorrow and try to put a real dent in their confidence before the season even begins.

Thursday 21st March
The profile of our club continues to rise, with eight of our players called up for International duty in today's squad announcements. It speaks volumes for our recruitment policy, and it would be nice to get some more full Internationals amongst our squad soon, particularly a Belarusian. As it is, only one of the eight called up is a Senior International, and that is Georgian keeper Vladimir Zuhbaia once again. He's in the squad for their 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifier in Tbilisi against Belgium next week.

The other seven called up are all Belarus age group Internationals. Heading to Herzliya in Israel for an Under-19 Friendly International are the trio of right back Egor Romanovskiy, talented sixteen year old winger Yury Murashov and wantaway striker Andrey Volodzko. They will be joined by a quartet of Under-21 players heading to the same destination for a Friendly in the slightly older age group. Vladimir Malykh, Maxim Ivanenko, Igor Zangiev and Alexandr Kozlov will all be hoping to be involved in that one.

Pre-Season Friendly
Lokomotiv Stadium, Minsk
Lokomotiv Minsk v Belshina Bobruisk
Attendance :-
144. Weather :- Breezy, Wet, 9c.

Less changes this time around for a match we were taking seriously as a chance to lay down a marker, and maybe a challenge, against a side projected to the front runners for promotion in the coming season. The mini rotation policy continues, Dmitry Biryukov taking over in goal once more, and Alexey Razmyslovich given the chance to start on the left wing, Alexandr Kozlov rotated out of the matchday squad. Maxim Ivanenko continues at left back as he will be away on International duty for our next match.

As Friendly matches go, this one had plenty of bite and competitive nature to it, both sides taking a chance to get a feel for their opponent before they started to throw any big shots, aware that this could be a task against a side that they might be seeing plenty of this season. Yuriy Ryzhko fired the first shot across the bows, or over the bar in this case, his free kick from the edge of the box not getting the required amount of dip. At the other end, Vyacheslav Malkov had two range finders for Belshina, both off target, before Ryzhko had another go himself, opting for power from another free kick, this one wide of the mark. We were then dealt a blow, Djeykhun Mursalov denied the chance to continue his attempt to build form from last time out when he was injured just after the half hour mark, young Lukasz Zuk summoned from the bench to replace him. He wasted little time in trying to impress, showing a turn of pace to burst between the Belshina centre backs in a passage of play that led to Nikolay Shvydakov's shot being deflected wide of the target. 0-0 at the break.

Nine substitutions at the break, changing over the rest of the outfield players to join Zuk who had come into the game already. And the young striker was certainly taking his extended chance of making an impact, his movement off the ball proving difficult to cope with for the visiting defence. He won us a corner with a deflected shot ten minutes after the break. Evgeniy Drozd tried to repeat his trick from last time out, meeting Georgy Schennikov's corner at the near post, but unable to keep his header down. No matter though, as moments later Zuk collected the ball from Schennikov on the left, drifted past a defender as he moved infield, and then slid a diagonal through ball into the path of Sergey Krot, who nudged the ball past the dive of Andriy Novak and into the bottom corner to put us in front. Zuk's impressive performance continued, doing the job that would be more expected from Krot, winning the ball in the air to produce flick on's, doing sterling work holding the ball up too. His former Dinamo team mate wasn't being left in the shadows by his performance either, Igor Zangiev produced an outrageous piece of skill to keep the ball deep in the Belshina half, which led to Alexandr Degterev picking out the quickly arriving Egor Romanovskiy, the full backs curling shot just missing the mark. We continued to push forward, Zangiev sending a shot over the bar, Schennikov seeing a defender block his effort from 15 yards out when the Russian winger looked certain to score, and Maxim Gukailo's effort tipped over the bar by Novak. A second goal looked inevitable, but it didn't arrive until injury time. Zuk flicked on a clearance from Dmitry Biryukov, Schennikov made his way into the left channel of the box, and with two defenders in attendance, he found the spare man, squaring it back to Zuk, who hit a powerful shot past sub keeper Vladislav Savchenko and into the far corner to wrap up a good days work, and an especially impressive day from our young striker.

Lokomotiv Minsk (0) 2 - Sergey Krot (59), Lukasz Zuk (90+2)
Belshina Bobruisk (0) 0
Dmitry Biryukov; Dmitry Chaka (Egor Romanovskiy 45), Vladimir Malykh (Mariusz Kaczmarek 45), Maxim Gorbach (Alexey Yesipenok 45), Maxim Ivanenko (Maxim Gukailo 45); Eduard Chudnovsky (Alexandr Degterev 45), Yuriy Ryzhko (Igor Zangiev 45); Alexey Rios (Evgeniy Drozd 45), Alexey Razmyslovich (Georgy Schennikov 45); Djeykhun Mursalov (inj - Lukasz Zuk 32), Nikolay Shvydakov © (Sergey Krot 45).
Unused Substitutes :- Vladimir Zuhbaia (GK), Nikolay Mironov.
Bookings :- None
Possession :- 58% - 42%. Man of the Match :- Lukasz Zuk (Lokomotiv Minsk).

If we can repeat a performance like that when it matters against promotion candidates, we could well be about to start a season that will see the club reach the promised land of the High League, the top tier of Belarus' domestic football. I suspect it won't be as easy as that at all.

It was an outstanding all around performance from Grodno born 20 year old striker Lukasz Zuk. He has put himself firmly in contention to earn a Senior debut when the campaign kicks off. His case may be helped by the unfortunate timing of an injury for Djeykhun Mursalov. After finally showing what he could do in our pre-season rout of Khimik Grodno last weekend, the £60,000 striker has now suffered a thigh strain, which will keep him out for around a fortnight. That will prevent him taking part in the final friendly match of the schedule on Monday, and could compromise him being part of the squad for the season opener in mid April.

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Friday 22nd March 2013
With plenty of cash in the club coffers, including almost half of the Transfer Budget and over 15% of an increased Wage Budget remaining as well, I have no qualms about offering the squad an increased bonus pot for the League this season. Should we win the Title this season, they will share a kitty of £63,000, with another £50,000 on offer for success in the Belarusian Cup.

Sunday 24th March
Tomorrow evening we will complete our pre-season schedule with a match away to non-League outfit, Volna Pinsk. They are an ambitious semi-professional club who have some good financial backing and have brought in some good players. The jewel in their crown however is 17 year old forward Pavel Kosmin, a local player who has pushed his way into the Belarus Under-19 squad.

Monday 25th March

Pre-Season Friendly
Volna Stadium, Pinsk
Volna Pinsk v Lokomotiv Minsk
Attendance :-
474. Weather :- Dry, 14c.

With several players away on International duty, primarily in Israel with the Belarus age group sides, it's a small squad that make the trip to Pinsk. The starting lineup isn't too badly impacted, Maxim Gukailo replaces Maxim Ivanenko at left back, Vladimir Malykh is missing at centre back, so Alexey Yesipenok steps in. With Djeykhun Mursalov injured, Lukasz Zuk is starting up front today alongside Nikolay Shvydakov. We have just six on the bench today as I decline to call up players from the Reserve side, so a few are going to be playing the full ninety minutes for the first time.

Pinsk are a club on the up, and they were certainly up for this match. Inside the opening minute Vitaliy Kibuk's shot was blocked by Dmitry Chaka, and the ball spun into the path of Vladimir Petrov. His low shot beat Dmitry Biryukov. but cannoned back off the far post. We gathered ourselves quickly, and Georgy Schennikov got a cross in from the left at the second attempt, Alexey Rios connecting with a ferocious volley that crashed back off the angle of the goal frame. The end to end play with continued with Kibuk's shot on the turn forcing a full stretch save out of Biryukov, the keeper also having to throw himself at Nikolay Shinkarev's feet from the rebound. Schennikov passed up a chance to cross a little while later, and his cut back just missed Rios. But he nearly got lucky when he swung in a corner that came back off the face off the cross bar. The best chance for us of the first half so far would follow when Lukasz Zuk managed to earn a yard of space, and cut the ball back to full back Chaka at the edge of the box, but he blazed his shot well over the bar. We were at least starting to build some momentum though, and it would pay off right before the break. Zuk held the ball up, and the ball was played through Eduard Chudnovsky, and then Yuriy Ryzhko, who picked out Nikolay Shvydakov inside the box, and he buried his shot just inside the near post to send us into the break a goal to the good.

I made five of my six available changes at half time, leaving on loan left back Nikolay Mironov on the bench, as he hasn't been overly impressive so far in pre-season. Pinsk made several changes of their own at the break, and one of them, Sergey Tarasov, took a shot from just outside the box that took a huge deflection and once more tested Biryukov, who had to get back across his goalmouth and hold on to the ball. That was followed by an acrobatic save from a Petrov drive as the youngster continued to show why he was currently holding onto his spot as our first choice keeper. His next stop midway through the half was reasonably comfortable, Stanislav Byshovets curler lacked the power to really trouble Biryukov. The next chance would be ten minutes later, and was something our fans were becoming used to seeing, as we took full advantage of a set piece. Chudnovsky swung it in to the centre, and Mariusz Kaczmarek rose between two markers and powered his header just under the cross bar to stretch our lead to two goals. I thought that would knock the fight right out of Pinsk, but they kept coming, and with less than five minutes to play, the ball found it's way to Tarasov. His shot curled past Biryukov, but once more the woodwork intervened. The ball came back off the bar, and as it bounced back up, Byshovets headed it goalwards. Biryukov saved his best till last, getting back to his feet and reaching back to tip that one over the bar. A superb showing from the 20 year old.

Volna Pinsk (0) 0
Lokomotiv Minsk (1) 2
Nikolay Shvydakov (45+1), Mariusz Kaczmarek (77)
Dmitry Biryukov; Dmitry Chaka, Alexey Yesipenok, Maxim Gorbach (Mariusz Kaczmarek 45), Maxim Gukailo; Eduard Chudnovsky, Yuriy Ryzhko (Alexandr Degterev 45); Alexey Rios (Evgeniy Drozd 45), Georgy Schennikov (Alexey Razmyslovich 45); Lukasz Zuk, Nikolay Shvydakov © (Sergey Krot 45).

Unused Substitutes :- Nikolay Mironov.
Bookings :- None
Possession :- 45% - 55%. Man of the Match :- Mariusz Kaczmarek (Lokomotiv Minsk).

Pre-Season is over, and Dmitry Biryukov finished it in style, denying Volna Pinsk on multiple occasions, with some really top notch saves too. With Vladimir Zuhbaia away on International duty, and again not earning his first cap for Georgia, the younger keeper seems to have just tightened his grip on the number one jersey.

While our game was going on, in Israel, sixteen year old left winger Yury Murashov played the entire game in Belarus Under-19's single goal defeat to their hosts. Egor Romanovsky also played the entire match, wearing the armband too, while striker Andrey Volodzko was substituted after 51 minutes, just moments after young BATE midfielder Mikhail Vysotskiy was sent off for a second yellow, and just a minute before Maccabi Tel-Aviv winger Adnan Al-Kharashi netted the winner.

Tuesday 26th March
The Under-21's played out a much more frantic game this evening. Potential wonderkid Alex Yosef of Hapoel Tel-Aviv scored inside a minute, only to see Volyn Lutsk defensive midfielder Roman Klymenko level a few minutes later. And Belarus would hold the lead at the break thanks to a goal from Neman Grodno striker Anatoliy Kolotsey. But Israel would come right back after the break, Maccabi Petach-Tikva attacking midfielder Yoel Goldstein levelled things on his Under-21 debut, and Ya-acov Balestra of Kiryat-Shmona increased his sensational record to 11 goals in 9 caps at Under-21 to turn the game on its head. They couldn't hold out though, Dinamo Minsk midfielder Alexandr Krugan levelled with five minutes left from a free kick to end an entertaining match at 3-3. All four of our players that made the trip were involved, Alexandr Kozlov playing the entire match, Vladimir Malykh playing 77 minutes, Igor Zangiev bizarrely substituted just after the half hour mark, and Maxim Ivanenko featuring for the final thirteen minutes from the bench.

Wednesday 27th March
You know you're hurtling towards the beginning of the new campaign when you are asked to make your choice for Club Captain. There is no change for us there, with Nikolay Shvydakov remaining as Club Captain, and Maxim Gorbach continuing in his role as the deputy.

Friday 29th March
The last thing Vladimir Zuhbaia needed was something else to disrupt his preparations for the new season, but that is exactly what has happened to Georgia's third choice and as yet still uncapped at Senior level goalkeeper. He has injured his chest while lifting weights today, and will be out for around a fortnight. The season begins two weeks from this weekend.

Saturday 30th March
With the Transfer Window only days away from closing, and no further incomings to the club expected, we have submitted our squad list to the League. It is a list that contains 31 players.

Monday 1st April 2013
The Board of the club remain satisfied with how things are going right now. They are happy with the drubbing of Khimik Grodno in pre-season, but concerned with how uncompetitive we were against bitter city rivals Dinamo Minsk. The club recorded a loss of just under £60,000 for the month of March.

Wednesday 3rd April
Injury news today, and it is the tale of two strikers. Out of favour teenager Andrey Volodzko has suffered a groin strain playing for the Reserve side against Singapore side, Tanjong Pagar United. He will be out for between two and three weeks. In contrast, Djeykhun Mursalov has recovered from his thigh injury and returned to training ahead of the new campaign.

Friday 5th April
The Transfer Window has now closed until the 1st of July, when it will re-open for a two month window. No more registering players, no more transfers, the squads are locked in for the first part of the campaign. The pundits of Belarusian football have picked out two of the deals in the First League as the more impressive signings, Smorgon's signing of forward Sergey Kisliy for £8,000, and one of our own deals, the capture of veteran left sided player Maxim Gukailo on a Free Transfer. They also note that it may take a while for things to settle at Belshina Bobruisk, as they have signed sixteen players during this Transfer Window.

Sunday 7th April
The Window may be closed, but that doesn't stop us throwing our hat into the ring with a long queue of clubs who admire the talents of 25 year old Georgian midfielder, Lasha Dekanosidze. He doesn't like his chances of getting regular top tier football with new boys Torpedo Zhodino, and they have started accepting offers for him, including ours. It's a long shot that our personal terms are going to cut it given the competition we are up against.

The club have announced their final season ticket sales for the 2013 campaign at Lokomotiv Stadium. Last seasons total of 128 has been surpassed, with a total of 138 season tickets sold. That increase of ten represents an increase in sales of 7.8%.

Thursday 11th April
With the new season just a matter of days away, goalkeeper Vladimir Zuhbaia has returned to the training. The previously unsettled Georgian is currently pretty happy at the club, and is now preparing himself to try and wrestle the starting spot away from 20 year old Dmitry Biryukov.

Friday 12th April
From one Georgian to another, though this one will not be joining us. We have lost out in the race to sign Lasha Dekanosidze, with the 25 year old left footer instead agreeing to join top tier side FC Vitebsk this summer. Two second tier Russian sides also missed out on his signature.

Saturday 13th April
We are very strong favourites to get our campaign off to a winning start tomorrow when we host newly promoted club Livadia Dzerzhinsk, their first season in the second tier since this save began. They have nine new signings in their squad, though they have retained their semi-professional status and spent no money at all on their squad. Add all that into the mix with our own squad improvements, and the bookies come up with us as 2/5 favourites.

The other fourteen clubs all got started today, and if there was ever a result that would encourage us to have our heads in the game, it would be the other promoted club, Neman Mosty, thrashing FC Baranovichi 5-0 away from home! It wasn't a good start for relegated FC Smorgon either, as they lost 2-1 at home to Vertical Kalinkovichi. There were no such problems for Belshina Bobruisk, who began their campaign with a 2-0 home victory against Darida-TDZh.

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2013 Lokomotiv Minsk Pen Pictures

Goalkeepers :-

Dmitry Biryukov (GK). 20 years old. Belarusian (Under-19 International).
6'1. 13 stone 0 lbs.
Contract :- 5 years, £40 per week. Value :- £3,000
Joined Club :- 2008 on a Youth Contract.

Career Record :- League Matches - 25. Goals Conceded - 25. Clean Sheets - 8.
Lokomotiv Record :- League Matches - 25. Goals Conceded - 25. Clean Sheets - 8.

Vladimir Zuhbaia (GK). 27 years old. Georgian (Under-21 International - 1 Cap/0 Goals).
6'4. 13 stone 7 lbs.

Contract :- 1 year, £575 per week. Value :- £2,000
Joined Club :- 2008 on a Free Transfer from Spartak Nalchik (Russian Premier Division).

Career Record :- League Matches - 43. Goals Conceded - 46. Clean Sheets - 9.
Lokomotiv Record :- League Matches - 42. Goals Conceded - 46. Clean Sheets - 9.


Defenders :- 

Dmitry Chaka (RB,CB). 22 years old. Belarusian (Under-21 International - 2 Caps/0 Goals).
6'0. 12 stone 10 lbs.

Contract :- 1 year, £110 per week. Value :- £1,000
Joined Club :- 2012 from Slavia Mozyr for £2,000

Career Record :- League Matches - 57. Goals - 2. Assists - 1.
Lokomotiv Record :- League Matches - 15. Goals - 1. Assists - 0.

Maxim Ivanenko (LB). 18 years old. Belarusian (Under-21 International - 2 Caps/0 Goals).
5'11. 12 stone 3 lbs.

Contract :- 2 years, £40 per week. Value :- £20,000
Joined Club :- 2012 from Dinamo Minsk for £20,000

Career Record :- League Matches - 11. Goals - 0. Assists - 4.
Lokomotiv Record :- League Matches - 11. Goals - 0. Assists - 4.

Nikolay Mironov (LB). 19 years old. Russian (Uncapped).
6'0. 12 stone 12 lbs.

Contract :- 1 season loan, £0 per week. Value :- £12,000
Joined Club :- 2013 on loan from Amkar Perm (Russian Premier Division)

Career Record :- League Matches - 1. Goals - 0. Assists - 0.
Lokomotiv Record :- League Matches - 0. Goals - 0. Assists - 0.

Maxim Gukailo (LB,CB,DM,CM). 33 years old. Belarusian (Uncapped).
6'3. 11 stone 11 lbs.

Contract :- 2 years, £400 per week. Value :- £3,000
Joined Club :- 2013 on a Free Transfer from Shakhter Soligorsk

Career Record :- League Matches - 253. Goals - 10. Assists - 22.
Lokomotiv Record :- League Matches - 0. Goals - 0. Assists - 0.

Vladimir Malykh (CB). 21 years old. Belarusian (Under-21 International - 11 Caps/0 Goals).
6'1. 13 stone 5 lbs.

Contract :- 3 years, £550 per week. Value :- £4,000
Joined Club :- 2012 from FC Vitebsk for £2,000

Career Record :- League Matches - 33. Goals - 3. Assists - 0.
Lokomotiv Record :- League Matches - 12. Goals - 3. Assists - 0.

Alexey Yesipenok (CB,DM,CM). 24 years old. Belarusian (Uncapped).
6'3. 13 stone 12 lbs.

Contract :- 2 years, £190 per week. Value :- £3,000
Joined Club :- 2009 from BATE Borisov for £1,000

Career Record :- League Matches - 78. Goals - 4. Assists - 9.
Lokomotiv Record :- League Matches - 78. Goals - 4. Assists - 9.

Mariusz Kaczmarek (CB,DM,CM). 20 years old. Belarusian (Under-19 International).
6'3. 14 stone 0 lbs.

Contract :- 4 years, £300 per week. Value :- £2,000
Joined Club :- 2013 from Belshina Bobruisk for £2,000

Career Record :- League Matches - 14. Goals - 2. Assists - 0.
Lokomotiv Record :- League Matches - 0. Goals - 0. Assists - 0.

Maxim Gorbach (CB,DM,CM). 29 years old. Belarusian (Uncapped).
6'1. 13 stone 5 lbs.

Contract :- 1 year, £775 per week. Value :- £2,000
Joined Club :- 2010 on a Free Transfer from Neman Grodno

Career Record :- League Matches - 233. Goals - 15. Assists - 10.
Lokomotiv Record :- League Matches - 87. Goals - 1. Assists - 9.

Egor Romanovskiy (RB). 17 years old. Belarusian (Under-19 International).
5'10. 11 stone 11 lbs.

Contract :- 3 years, £75 per week. Value :- £12,000
Joined Club :- 2013 from BATE Borisov for £12,000

Career Record :- League Matches - 0. Goals - 0. Assists - 0.
Lokomotiv Record :- League Matches - 0. Goals - 0. Assists - 0.



Yuriy Ryzhko (CB,DM,CM). 23 years old. Belarusian (Under-21 International - 8 Caps/0 Goals).
6'4. 13 stone 7 lbs.

Contract :- 3 years, £900 per week. Value :- £16,000
Joined Club :- 2012 from BATE Borisov for £28,000

Career Record :- League Matches - 61. Goals - 2. Assists - 2.
Lokomotiv Record :- League Matches - 13. Goals - 2. Assists - 0.

Georgy Schennikov (LB,LM). 21 years old. Russian (Under-21 International - 6 Caps/1 Goal).
5'10. 10 stone 12 lbs.

Contract :- 3 years, £600 per week. Value :- £5,000
Joined Club :- 2012 from Dinamo Brest for £35,000

Career Record :- League Matches - 61. Goals - 2. Assists - 8.
Lokomotiv Record :- League Matches - 25. Goals - 1. Assists - 4.

Alexey Rios (RM,CM). 25 years old. Belarusian (Under-21 International - 2 Caps/0 Goals).
5'11. 11 stone 9 lbs.

Contract :- 2 years, £250 per week. Value :- £4,000
Joined Club :- 2012 from FC Vitebsk for £3,000

Career Record :- League Matches - 74. Goals - 7. Assists - 4.
Lokomotiv Record :- League Matches - 16. Goals - 3. Assists - 3.

Alexey Razmyslovich (RW,LW). 28 years old. Belarusian (Uncapped).
5'11. 12 stone 12 lbs.

Contract :- 1 year, £575 per week. Value :- £1,000
Joined Club :- 2010 from Veras Nesvizh for £7,000

Career Record :- League Matches - 217. Goals - 22. Assists - 27.
Lokomotiv Record :- League Matches - 55. Goals - 7. Assists - 14.

Alexandr Kozlov (LW). 20 years old. Belarusian (Under-21 International - 7 Caps/0 Goals).
6'0. 12 stone 10 lbs.

Contract :- 4 years, £250 per week. Value :- £12,000
Joined Club :- 2012 from Spartak Shklov for £20,000

Career Record :- League Matches - 43. Goals - 5. Assists - 9.
Lokomotiv Record :- League Matches - 8. Goals - 1. Assists - 1.

Eduard Chudnovsky (CM,RM). 22 years old. Belarusian (Under-21 International - 4 Caps/1 Goal).
5'10. 11 stone 13 lbs.

Contract :- 1 year, £170 per week. Value :- £1,000
Joined Club :- 2012 from Dnepr Mogilev from £2,000

Career Record :- League Matches - 53. Goals - 3. Assists - 8.
Lokomotiv Record :- League Matches - 15. Goals - 1. Assists - 6.

Igor Zangiev (CM). 19 years old. Belarusian (Under-21 International - 1 Cap/0 Goals).
6'0. 12 stone 8 lbs.

Contract :- 3 years, £100 per week. Value :- £3,000
Joined Club :- 2013 on a Free Transfer from Dinamo Minsk

Career Record :- League Matches - 3. Goals - 0. Assists - 0.
Lokomotiv Record :- League Matches - 0. Goals - 0. Assists - 0.

Alexandr Degterev (RW,LW,AM). 27 years old. Belarusian (Under-21 International - 12 Caps/1 Goal).
5'11. 11 stone 0 lbs.

Contract :- 2 years, £600 per week. Value :- £10,000
Joined Club :- 2013 from Dinamo Brest for £10,000

Career Record :- League Matches - 156. Goals - 24. Assists - 11.
Lokomotiv Record :- League Matches - 0. Goals - 0. Assists - 0.

Evgeniy Drozd (RW,AM). 24 years old. Belarusian (Uncapped).
5'8. 11 stone 9 lbs.

Contract :- 3 years, £325 per week. Value :- £35,000
Joined Club :- 2013 from FC Baranovichi for £35,000

Career Record :- League Matches - 141. Goals - 7. Assists - 28.
Lokomotiv Record :- League Matches - 0. Goals - 0. Assists - 0.


Strikers :- 

Nikolay Shvydakov (AM,RW,ST). 32 years old. Belarusian (Uncapped).
5'9. 10 stone 7 lbs.

Contract :- 2 years, £850 per week. Value :- £8,000
Joined Club :- 2006 (second spell) on a Free Transfer from Naftan Novopolotsk

Career Record :- League Matches - 252. Goals - 70. Assists - 10.
Lokomotiv Record :- League Matches - 194. Goals - 62. Assists - 10.

Lukasz Zuk (AM,ST). 20 years old. Belarusian (Under-19 International).
5'11. 11 stone 11 lbs.

Contract :- 3 years, £120 per week. Value :- £4,000
Joined Club :- 2013 on a Free Transfer from Dinamo Minsk

Career Record :- League Matches - 0. Goals - 0. Assists - 0.
Lokomotiv Record :- League Matches - 0. Goals - 0. Assists - 0.

Djeykhun Mursalov (ST). 22 years old. Belarusian (Uncapped).
6'0. 13 stone 3 lbs.

Contract :- 2 years, £220 per week. Value :- £22,000
Joined Club :- 2012 from Kommunalnik Zhlobin for £60,000

Career Record :- League Matches - 46. Goals - 10. Assists - 2.
Lokomotiv Record :- League Matches - 11. Goals - 0. Assists - 0.

Sergey Krot (ST). 32 years old. Belarusian (Uncapped).
6'4. 11 stone 13 lbs.

Contract :- 2 years, £250 per week. Value :- £2,000
Joined Club :- 2012 (second spell) from Khimik Svetlogorsk for £1,000

Career Record :- League Matches - 229. Goals - 51. Assists - 2.
Lokomotiv Record :- League Matches - 63. Goals - 12. Assists - 1.


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Sunday 14th April 2013

Belarusian First League
Lokomotiv Stadium, Minsk
Lokomotiv Minsk v Livadia Dzerzhinsk
Attendance :-
749. Weather :- Wet, 15c.

Clearly it wasn't the good weather that attracted a crowd almost double the normal home attendance, as we kicked off our season with the stadium around a third full, but the rain pouring down. We might have made several new signings over the winter, but there are no debutants starting today, with the side that finished the season selected to begin the 2013 campaign. There are four potential new Lokomotiv players in waiting on the bench however should they be required.

Our players were encouraged to put down a marker for the season and get the job done, and get it done well. We would get an early fright however, Vitaliy Shuganov knocking the ball down and Vladimir Karasev catching it with a half volley that was only a whisker wide of the post. Normal service, or at least what we were expecting that to be, quickly resumed however, with Georgy Schennikov in particular causing the First League newcomers some major problems. He earned us a corner in the 14th minute, and Eduard Chudnovsky whipped it towards the far post, where teenage left back Maxim Ivanenko met it with a glancing header, netting the opener, and his first ever Senior goal. Not wishing to be left out, the right side soon got in on the act. Alexey Rios looked to have run into a dead end, but he solved his problem by playing a one-two with Yuriy Ryzhko, and then crossing into the middle. Shvydakov brought the ball down, and then hit it as it rose back up off the grass, slamming it high into the roof of the net to make it a quickfire double for us to settle any opening day nerves. Sergey Krot twice came close to extending our lead still further, before we won another corner on the left. This time Chudnovsky's delivery was over hit, but Maxim Gorbach kept it from floating out, and when he headed it across goal, Alexander Gavrilovich used his hand to prevent Ivanenko getting another header at goal. Captain Shvydakov stepped up, and drove the penalty low into the bottom corner to push our advantage out to a three goal lead. That lead was still in place at half time as the foot came off the gas a little.

All had gone very much to plan in that first half, and the players were asked to keep up their work rate in the second half. The worsening conditions were not helping with good football though, Andrey Arkhiptsev's shot from range took a deflection and what should have been fairly straightforward for Dmitry Biryukov to keep in play saw the keeper slide behind the byline, unable to prevent his momentum carrying himself and ball out of play. Those conditions were making chances more difficult to come by, and Chudnovsky's shot from range that was off target was all we managed before I made two changes, Evgeniy Drozd and Lukasz Zuk coming on for their Lokomotiv debuts. Ivanenko and Malykh put in well timed tackles to preserve our clean sheet, while Zuk was putting in tackles at the other end, rushing defenders and making them cough up the ball. That led to a corner, though we made nothing from that set piece. But after two more substitutions, including Alexandr Degterev coming on for his debut, we did make a set piece routine work. It was a free kick this time, Drozd curling it in from the left wing over the heads of everyone, apart from the fourth sub, Alexandr Kozlov, who met it with a controlled volley that gave us our fourth goal on a superb opening day.

Lokomotiv Minsk (3) 4 - Maxim Ivanenko (14), Nikolay Shvydakov (16, 27 pen), Alexandr Kozlov (83)
Livadia Dzerzhinsk (0) 0 
Dmitry Biryukov; Dmitry Chaka, Vladimir Malykh, Maxim Gorbach, Maxim Ivanenko; Eduard Chudnovsky, Yuriy Ryzhko (Alexandr Degterev 74); Alexey Rios (Evgeniy Drozd 61), Georgy Schennikov (Alexandr Kozlov 74); Sergey Krot (Lukasz Zuk 61), Nikolay Shvydakov ©.
Unused Substitutes :- Alexey Yesipenok, Vladimir Zuhbaia (GK), Maxim Gukailo.
Bookings :- None
Possession :- 55% - 45%. Man of the Match :- Maxim Ivanenko (Lokomotiv Minsk).

The bar has been set, and I now expect to see my squad deal with clubs in that manner on a regular basis at Lokomotiv Stadium. Hopefully it keeps the attendance levels up at a new found level too. It was worth noting that the players worked really hard late in the game to ensure that Livadia didn't get a sniff of a consolation goal to ruin our clean sheet.

There was a disappointment though. And that is that we didn't have another game right away. We would now have to wait almost a fortnight before we could get back out on the park and play again. That's a little frustrating for us.

Monday 15th April
Maxim Ivanenko and Nikolay Shvydakov are both named in the First League Team of the Week from the opening weekend of the new campaign.

Tuesday 16th April
On his 17th birthday, left winger and one of our best young prospects at the club, Yury Murashov, has signed a new three year deal with the club on £35 per week. He had an excellent first campaign with our Reserve side SKVICh last year, notching three goals and two assists in thirteen matches.

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Tuesday 23rd April 2013
It's bad news for our 19 year old newcomer in midfield, Igor Zangiev. The Free Transfer signing from Dinamo Minsk has overdone it in the weights room, and has suffered a back strain. That will keep the once capped Belarus Under-21 International out of action for anything up to a month.

Thursday 25th April
With the preparations for the weekends game in full swing, a spanner has been thrown into the works with the loss of another of our midfielders. Yuriy Ryzhko felt unwell in training today, and after being checked over he has been diagnosed as having a virus. To minimise the risk of him passing the virus on to anyone else, he has been sent home, and will be out for anything up to two weeks.

Friday 26th April
That game we have been preparing for is the first of our 'Minsk Derby' meetings for the season, as we make the short trip to meet Darida-TDZh tomorrow. Home advantage has given them a slight edge in the opinion of the bookmakers. They may have a point, as since the save began, Lokomotiv have won only once against Darida in eight meetings, and that was the one game I was in charge for against them back in early September. However, our away form has been less than superb. They did lose their opener a fortnight ago though, losing away to Belshina Bobruisk.

Saturday 27th April

Belarusian First League
Darida Kuncevschina, Minsk
Darida-TDZh v Lokomotiv Minsk
Attendance :-
1,565. Weather :- Gusty, -2c.

Football is going through a bit of a boom in Minsk, and despite sub zero temperatures before the wind chill is even added on, it's another larger than expected crowd for this one. Vladimir Zuhbaia takes over from Dmitry Biryukov in goal, while Alexandr Degterev comes into the midfield in place of the ill Yuriy Ryzhko. That leaves a spare place on the bench, which is covered by a player hoping for a debut this afternoon, Mariusz Kaczmarek.

Alexandr Degterev almost got us off to a flying start, picking up a pass from Georgy Schennikov but sending his shot over the cross bar. At the other end of the park, Alexey Petrov gave Vladimir Zuhbaia a fairly easy starter to settle him down, that shot was right at the keeper. With our keeper settled, the game did the same, unfortunately for those in attendance into a bit of a slog. Home skipper Kirill Vertinskiy earned himself a booking, and that would cause problems down their left side. His caution meant he could do nothing about Alexey Rios when Degterev sent him beyond the defensive line. The winger got all the way to the byline, and aimed a low cross at Sergey Krot, the ball hitting the heels of Alexey Dybo and almost flying into the corner of his own net. The last chance of the half would fall our way a few minutes before the break. Krot pushed a through ball into the path of Nikolay Shvydakov, and the first touch wasn't brilliant, a little too far ahead of himself and giving Valeriy Fomichev a chance to get off his line. But it was Eugene Kovtunov who applied the pressure as he chased back, and Shvydakov went down under what he felt was a shove in the back. Nothing doing said the ref, so goalless at the break.

Straight from the restart, we put Darida under some intense pressure. An Eduard Chudnovsky corner kick was headed against the cross bar by Maxim Gorbach, and Vladimir Malykh figured he had an easy finish as the loose ball bounced up perfectly for him, but his header goalwards was cleared off the line. Degterev had a penalty shout turned down when his standing leg was taken from him as he was taking a shot, but the ref said no once again. Another Alexandr came close too, but it was Tarlikovskiy at the other end, his thundering effort only just flying wide of the mark. A pair of changes were made, Maxim Gukailo brought on for a Lokomotiv debut after his namesake Ivanenko earned a booking and then nearly got another right after. Even with that situation dealt with, we were so close to going behind, Petrov meeting a corner at the far post, but his header hit the top of the bar and went over. Krot should have put us in front with ten minutes left, a long diagonal ball over the top of the defence sent the striker in on goal, but Fomichev saved it with his legs. When Rios couldn't make the most of a superb cross from Gukailo, I turned to the bench once more, and within moments we broke the deadlock. Zuhbaia's clearance up the park was huge, Shvydakov won it in the air to knock it out to earlier sub Evgeniy Drozd, and he took a touch to settle the ball, and then used a second to scorch a 25 yard piledriver into the top corner for his first Lokomotiv goal. To make it even sweeter, he got to celebrate in front of the small corner pen section that housed the visiting Lokomotiv fans too! We should have had a quick second, Shvydakov couldn't quite keep down a header from an Alexandr Kozlov cross with the net gaping in front of him. No matter, there was still a cherry to go on top of the cake. Gukailo hoisted the ball into the sky, and Shvydakov read it better, getting goal side of Eduard Zimakov. He got into the box, and even survived an attempt by the defender to wrestle him to the turf, before slotting a low finish into the bottom corner. Today, Minsk belongs to us!

Darida-TDZh (0) 0
Lokomotiv Minsk (0) 2
Evgeniy Drozd (84), Nikolay Shvydakov (89)
Vladimir Zuhbaia; Dmitry Chaka, Vladimir Malykh, Maxim Gorbach, Maxim Ivanenko (Maxim Gukailo 68); Eduard Chudnovsky, Alexandr Degterev (Evgeniy Drozd 68); Alexey Rios, Georgy Schennikov (Alexandr Kozlov 81); Sergey Krot (Lukasz Zuk 81), Nikolay Shvydakov ©.

Unused Substitutes :- Alexey Yesipenok, Dmitry Biryukov (GK), Mariusz Kaczmarek.
Bookings :- Maxim Ivanenko 64
Possession :- 38% - 62%. Man of the Match :- Nikolay Shvydakov (Lokomotiv Minsk).

Two games in, and we have already sprinted to the top of the League, scoring six times and yet to concede a goal at all. We have a Minsk Derby victory under our belts, and even better yet, a superb away performance to boot. Attendances are on the up, fans and media are starting to take notice of us, our reputation is increasing, and the players are enjoying themselves. What a time to be alive........

..........or, what a time to head back to the UK!........

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Sunday 28th April 2013
If ever there was a case of a club hitting the self destruct button, I present you with 'Exhibit A'. Two time Champions of England, and once FA Cup Winners, they have really hit the skids at Derby County. Three relegations in five seasons, and seven managers sacked in the same time frame. Actually, make that eight, as with County now relegated down to the Blue Square Premier, the latest manager to be shown the door is Harry Dunn. The former manager at Blyth Spartans, who then had six months with Bury before being sacked by them, Dunn lasted only five months at Pride Park, and led The Rams to rock bottom of the Football League.

With their financial problems now seemingly behind them, a stadium that holds 33,500 fans, though their average has dropped to only just above the 10,000 mark, the next job is to persuade their mix of best young players and Football League experienced veterans to stay and help the club bounce back, before they sink into oblivion. Things may be going very well in Minsk, but I would jump at the chance to take on that job. I throw my own name into the mix.

It's not to be though, as by the end of the day, and 24 hours after Dunn was sacked, they have announced his replacement. In a twist of fate, the arrival is a Lurgan lad, where I started my career. 55 year old former Bristol City, Wrexham, Tranmere Rovers and Crewe Alexandra manager Jim Harvey has taken on his third manager role, leaving Forest Green Rovers after nearly seven years to move to Pride Park. He then immediately gets their fans back up, announcing that he sees his move to County as a stepping stone to a move in the right direction for himself. Unsurprisingly, that statement went down pretty badly in the East Midlands.

Monday 29th April
Nikolay Shvydakov is the only Lokomotiv Minsk representative in the latest edition of the First League Team of the Week.

FC Baranovichi have sold left winger Yury Miroshnichenko to Lithuanian club FK Atlantas Klaipeda, and we have a 20% sell on agreement after he left our club in 2012. That's the good news. The bad news is that Atlantas paid nothing up front, and will pay £5,000 over the next two years, giving us a huge windfall of £1,000. Not exactly a game changer.

Tuesday 30th April
Tomorrow is a huge early season game against the favourites for promotion this season, Belshina Bobruisk. Home advantage and some very impressive early season form has given us the advantage according to the bookies. 39 year old Belshina boss Alexandr Sednev has spoken to the press, and announced that his side are very confident of earning a win from their trip to Minsk. I reply that there is a significant amount of doubt over Belshina's promotion credentials, after they lost their first away match of the season, beaten by Savit Mogilev last time out.

Wednesday 1st May 2013
We move into a new month, and the Board remain satisfied with how things are going, in particular with our 2-0 win over Darida last time out in the Minsk Derby. A financial loss of £45,000 is really not an issue, we are on a sound footing when it comes to cash.

Alexandr Sednev continues the trash talk, stating that his side are very confident for tonight's match, and that his team fear no-one. Confidence isn't exactly short here at Lokomotiv either, especially with the news that I have been named Manager of the Month for April. It's the fifth monthly honour of my career, and my first at Lokomotiv. That allows the press to give me a right to reply, and I tell them that I'm looking forward to seeing my side extend their winning run tonight, and overpowering Belshina in the process.

Belarusian First League
Lokomotiv Stadium, Minsk
Lokomotiv Minsk v Belshina Bobruisk
Attendance :-
930. Weather :- Wet, 7c.

Some rotation has been put in place for our midweek match tonight with another game coming up this weekend. Maxim Ivanenko is switched out of the matchday squad, with Maxim Gukailo starting at left back and on loan potential debutant Nikolay Mironov brought onto the substitutes bench. Alexandr Degterev is also left out of today's squad, with weekend goalscorer Evgeniy Drozd starting in the midfield, with Alexandr Kozlov starting on the left wing, Georgy Schennikov left out of the squad. Alexey Razmyslovich and Djeykhun Mursalov are both on the bench for the first time this season.

Evgeniy Drozd may be playing in the centre of the park today, but that didn't stop him spreading out the ball from wide. He picked out Nikolay Shvydakov, who showed excellent control, but his shot across goal was just slightly too high. Eduard Chudnovsky provided the next ball into the box, Alexey Rios the recipient this time, cutting back across goal before pinging in a left foot shot that came back off the cross bar. Chudnovsky would go for goal himself next time midway through the half, but his shot took a deflection that took it away from the goal. Rios' next attempt didn't even get that close, blocked before troubling Andriy Novak. A few minutes later, Rios was in full flight, hurdling a challenge and making it into the penalty box, before he felt he was brought down, the ref did not agree. The second half finished with a bit of a whimper, both teams giving the ball away, thankfully them more than us. Alexandr Kozlov intercepted a pass easily, but his cross just missed the head of Sergey Krot.

Goalless after a first half that saw Belshina lose two players with injuries, we continued to set about them early in the second half, Rios again involved with a superb dribble down the right, this time his cross was met by Shvydakov, but again the skipper couldn't keep his shot down. He tried again quarter of an hour later, but his shot was right at Novak. Finally, midway through the second half, Chudnovsky's corner was sent to the far post. Maxim Gorbach was afforded the time to bring the ball down, but he was at a very acute angle to goal. Cleverly, he used defender Dmitriy Rogovik, who fell for the trap, hanging out a leg to block his shot, and instead it hit his knee and flew in, Gorbach credited with the goal as his shot was on target. With a lead to defend now, I made some changes. Mariusz Kaczmarek came on to make his debut for the club, and a little while later a tired Rios and fairly ineffective Krot both came off as well, Alexey Razmyslovich and Djeykhun Mursalov making their first appearances of the season. Kaczmarek tried to mark his Lokomotiv debut in style, but his shot from 20 yards out was lacking power. With Belshina failing to cause us any real problems, I brought on another debutant late on as we killed the clock, young Russian left back Nikolay Mironov also making his Lokomotiv bow, as we made it three out of three!

Lokomotiv Minsk (0) 1 - Maxim Gorbach (68)
Belshina Bobruisk (0) 0
Vladimir Zuhbaia; Dmitry Chaka, Vladimir Malykh, Maxim Gorbach, Maxim Gukailo (Nikolay Mironov 89); Eduard Chudnovsky, Evgeniy Drozd (Mariusz Kaczmarek 74); Alexey Rios (Alexey Razmyslovich 82), Alexandr Kozlov; Sergey Krot (Djeykhun Mursalov 82), Nikolay Shvydakov ©.
Unused Substitutes :- Alexey Yesipenok, Dmitry Biryukov (GK), Lukasz Zuk.
Bookings :- None
Possession :- 64% - 36%. Man of the Match :- Maxim Gorbach (Lokomotiv Minsk).

I don't like my match reports to come across as one sided or biased. However, this time I had no choice. Belshina might be one of the favourites for promotion, but they had only just over a third of the possession, no shots on or off target, and not even a corner! Three out of three, and we have yet to concede a goal too.

Friday 3rd May
The failure to get, or even really be seriously considered for the job at Derby County has continued to irk me. I have to increase my reputation, and a potential opportunity has arisen today. Two International jobs have become vacant. One would be a long shot at best, while the other is one you would like to think I would have a pretty reasonable chance of getting. I apply for both.

Meanwhile, tomorrow will see us travel for the second time this season in the First League, and we face a stern test with a trip to fourth placed Savit Mogilev. They won their two openers, first away to Zvezda-BGU Minsk and then at home to Belshina Bobruisk, before being beaten away to Vertical Kalinkovichi in midweek. They have been through a fairly major squad overhaul during the winter as they look to push themselves up into promotion contention, and they have also clinched a deal to sign a highly rated Ukrainian Under-19 International from PFC Desna-Partner Chernigiv this coming summer. That is the same club that striker Olexandr Golikov signed for after we released him at the end of his contract following the 2012 campaign.

Saturday 4th May

Belarusian First League
Torpedo Stadium, Mogilev
Savit Mogilev v Lokomotiv Minsk
Attendance :-
1,341. Weather :- Dry, -3c.

Another bitterly cold and sub zero Saturday afternoon in this corner of Eastern Europe, as Winter flatly refused to give way to Spring in Belarus. The temperature was in the low 20's back in the UK. Todays changes see a return to goal for Dmitry Biryukov, and also a return at left back for Maxim Ivanenko, meaning Maxim Gukailo drops to the bench and Nikolay Mironov doesn't travel with the First Team squad today. In the only other change to the starting lineup, Lukasz Zuk partners Nikolay Shvydakov up front, with Sergey Krot dropped to the bench. He is joined there by Alexandr Degterev and Georgy Schennikov, both recalled to the matchday squad today, Djeykhun Mursalov is left out.

The recalled Dmitry Biryukov was called into action very early, Evgeny Savostjanov and Roman Trepachkin passed their way through our midfield far too easily, and Dmytro Brovkhin was played into our penalty box, Biryukov getting off his line quickly and blocking the orange ball that was in use today. He did put the ball in the net moments later, but he was clearly offside and that one was chalked off. In the 13th minute we finally started to get ourselves going, Maxim Ivanenko squaring the ball for Eduard Chudnovsky, and he let fly from 25 yards with a shot aimed at the top corner, Mikhail Komarov only just getting fingertips to it at the last second, a superb save. It's not very often that I have to report we were second best, but we were behind the play today, and Savostjanov played a neat pass to Maxim Tsigalko, his shot beating Biryukov but curling just wide of the target. But just after the half hour mark we were undone, Ivan Petruchik sliding the pass to Brovkhin, and his first touch got him inside of a turned Vladimir Malykh, and the striker then shot back across goal and just inside the post to hand Savit the advantage. We would have much to do in the second half.

For the first time this season I would have to raise my voice to my players, and I made my point further by making a trio of half time changes. Evgeniy Drozd, Alexandr Kozlov and Lukasz Zuk all came off, Alexandr Degterev, Georgy Schennikov and Sergey Krot coming on in their place. We started to make some inroads, Degterev finding a little space but blasting his shot high and wide as he tried to beat Komarov at his near post. An Alexey Rios header from a Chudnovsky header was turned over by Komarov as we tried to ratchet up the pressure on our hosts. We weren't getting through though, and with less than ten minutes to go, we had to go for it. Ivanenko came off, Maxim Gukailo came on to play in a midfield duo with three at the back, Chudnovsky behind the strikers and the wingers pushed right up the park, we were aiming to get the ball up field as quickly as possible. Nothing though. Savit dealt with us easily, and we created nothing. Our winning run was at an end much earlier than I would have hoped.

Savit Mogilev (1) 1 - Dmytro Brovkin (32)
Lokomotiv Minsk (0) 0
Dmitry Biryukov; Dmitry Chaka, Vladimir Malykh, Maxim Gorbach, Maxim Ivanenko (Maxim Gukailo 82); Eduard Chudnovsky, Evgeniy Drozd (Alexandr Degterev 45); Alexey Rios, Alexandr Kozlov (Georgy Schennikov 45); Lukasz Zuk (Sergey Krot 45), Nikolay Shvydakov ©.
Unused Substitutes :- Alexey Yesipenok, Vladimir Zuhbaia (GK), Alexey Razmyslovich.
Bookings :- None
Possession :- 49% - 51%. Man of the Match :- Dmytro Brovkin (Savit Mogilev).

Our achilles heel has been our away form since I got here, and after a win in a Minsk Derby, I thought we had turned the corner. Apparently not. We were nowhere near good enough today, and our good start has been undone, though we are at least still top of the table on goal difference, with three other clubs all joining us on nine points. We have work to do.......

......so maybe this isn't the best time to increase my workload. But that is exactly what is going to happen.......

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Monday 6th May 2013
On my return from India, I am given the news that Maxim Gorbach and Alexey Rios are both included in the opening Team of the Week for the First League in May. I suspect that was more to do with the midweek win over Belshina than for the weekend defeat against Savit. We do at least get a boost before returning to action in a couple of days, with Yuriy Ryzhko back in training following his illness.

Tuesday 7th May
That midweek match will be another away trip, this time against FC Baranovichi, a team who we beat on our travels back in October, and who have had an awful start to the new campaign, sitting in the relegation zone with only three points from four matches thanks to a home win over Darida-TDZh, the only club with a worse record than them. The bookies have us as narrow favourites to get our sketchy away form back on track.

Wednesday 8th May

Belarusian First League
Lokomotiv, Baranovichi
FC Baranovichi v Lokomotiv Minsk
Attendance :-
4,253. Weather :- Gusty, Wet, 11c.

Maxim Gukailo returns to the side at left back today, with Maxim Ivanenko reverting to the substitutes bench. Evgeniy Drozd is also dropped to the bench, with Mariusz Kaczmarek given a opportunity to show what he can do, partnering Eduard Chudnovsky in the centre of midfield. On the left wing, Georgy Schennikov returns to the starting eleven, with Alexandr Kozlov on the bench today, while in the final switch, Djeykhun Mursalov starts up front, Lukasz Zuk dropping out of the matchday squad today.

It was a truly awful start for us. Renat Sidelnikov gave the ball to Addo on the right from a throw in, and the Ghana born forward who was raised in Belarus danced around Mariusz Kaczmarek easily, reaching the byline before cutting across Eduard Chudnovsky and sliding his shot inside the near post past Dmitry Biryukov who was clearly expecting a cross. Five minutes played and already a goal down, I'm pleased to say our heads didn't drop. Far from it in fact. By the 10th minute we were level, Chudnovsky making amends by curling a free kick from the left into the far post, where Maxim Gukailo didn't connect perfectly, but his volley into the ground allowed the ball to loop over a defender who had got back onto the line, and the veteran had notched his first goal for Lokomotiv. Less than five minutes later and we had turned this match on its head, Gukailo involved again. His first cross attempt was blocked, but the ball came right to him and this time he caused panic at the far post, keeper Eugeny Gorodov and defender Dmitriy Zagovalko both hesitating, and Nikolay Shvydakov got in between them to nod the ball home from close range and put us in front! The early frantic pace calmed somewhat, though there were still chances. Wojciech Szwarga saw his shot bravely blocked by Biryukov, while at the other end, Alexey Rios' cross from the right was inadvertently flicked on by a defender and Zagovalko had to head it over his own bar to prevent Georgy Schennikov from having a tap in. A chance to add another before the break went begging, Djeykhun Mursalov and Shvydakov setting Rios up, but the winger wanted to take too many touches and didn't manage to get a shot away.

With things going in our favour after that hairy start to the match, we would look to keep our tempo up in the second half and capitalise on any mistakes the home side may make to push ourselves out of their reach. Their start to the second half itself was fairly tentative, and there was nearly an hour on the clock when skipper Viktor Molashko swung a free kick wide of the goal frame, one of his final contributions before being substituted. By that point Sidelnikov had gone off with an injury, and shortly after Szwarga beat several defenders on his way towards our goal, but his shot was just wide of the near post and found only the side netting. He would have another go soon after finding space just 8 yards out after a corner, his slammed shot at goal blocked by the sliding Rios, the Baranovichi players convinced it hit his arm and that they should have had a penalty, the ref disagreeing. We had already made one change, and we would be forced into another, Shvydakov going off injured and replaced by Sergey Krot. We were still looking pretty good, Schennikov in particular causing issues down the left. He won us a corner, but Gorodov claimed it easily and smashed the ball up the park. Dmitry Chaka was beaten in the air by sub Dmitry Leshkevich, and he knocked the ball on for himself. As Chaka picked himself up, the striker made his run towards goal, chased by Kaczmarek, he got into the box, and then Chaka joined the chase and hacked Leshkevich to the floor, conceding a stone wall penalty. Another sub, Mikhail Dragun, would keep his composure, sending his spot kick low into the bottom corner, out of the reach of Biryukov's dive. Now Baranovichi were looking to shut up shop, and a pair of late substitutions failed to prise them open, an Alexandr Degterev curler from 20 yards out that dipped just too late was as close as we would get.

FC Baranovichi (1) 2 - Addo (5), Mikhail Dragun (80 pen)
Lokomotiv Minsk (2) 2 - Maxim Gukailo (10), Nikolay Shvydakov (14 pen)
Dmitry Biryukov; Dmitry Chaka, Vladimir Malykh (Alexey Yesipenok 63), Maxim Gorbach, Maxim Gukailo (Maxim Ivanenko 84); Eduard Chudnovsky, Mariusz Kaczmarek (Alexandr Degterev 84); Alexey Rios, Georgy Schennikov; Djeykhun Mursalov, Nikolay Shvydakov © (inj - Sergey Krot 71).

Unused Substitutes :- Vladimir Zuhbaia (GK), Evgeniy Drozd, Alexandr Kozlov.
Bookings :- None
Possession :- 42% - 58%. Man of the Match :- Maxim Gukailo (Lokomotiv Minsk).

That was a frustrating result, Dmitry Chaka's loss of composure giving Baranovichi the chance they were looking for, and they would still argue that they should have already had a spot kick by that point. And the result was made worse with the news that we would be without our talisman striker Nikolay Shvydakov for a few weeks, the 32 year old sent to a specialist after injuring his neck, thankfully the damage was minimal and we wouldn't be without him for too long. He wouldn't be back in time for our next match though, a weekend home match with Vedrich Rechitsa, who are now sat third, one spot ahead of us.

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Thursday 9th May 2013
A day after a rush of blood to the head caused our first choice right back to cost us a pair of points, two of our younger full backs have been called up for International duty. Egor Romanovskiy and Maxim Ivanenko are both included in the Belarus Under-19 squad that will play three matches in six days in the UEFA European Under-19 Championships Second Qualifying Round. They face a mighty task to qualify, travelling to face Sweden in Boden next Monday, before returning to Minsk to play the Republic of Ireland on the Wednesday, where they will remain to play France in the final match on the Saturday. They will be buoyed by the form of the Senior side however, who have won all four of their FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifiers so far, without conceding a goal.

Despite plaudits coming the way of our young full back options, I'm still keen to land BATE Borisov's 20 year old Konstantin Karasev, who I would immediately look to convert into a right winger, convinced he has the ability to play further up the park. Our offer is accepted almost immediately, giving us the chance to discuss terms with the Ukrainian Under-21 International. It may be our last chance, the Russian clubs are starting to notice him as well.

Saturday 11th May
This weekend we return to our home stadium as we face Vedrich Rechitsa, who come into the game sat in third place after their impressive 3-0 midweek win over Belshina Bobruisk. That win leaves them in front of us by a single point, and our job tomorrow will be to try and leapfrog back over them. In eight meetings between the clubs so far, each has three wins, with the remaining two matches resulting in draws. I have only faced them once, losing 1-0 away to them in one of my early matches as Lokomotiv manager. The last time Vedrich came here was just over a year ago, and they were soundly beaten 4-0. That would do very nicely again tomorrow afternoon.

Sunday 12th May

Belarusian First League
Lokomotiv Stadium, Minsk
Lokomotiv Minsk v Vedrich-97 Rechitsa
Attendance :-
530. Weather :- Dry, 3c.

Vladimir Zuhbaia replaces Dmitry Biryukov in goal today, while the plan to play Egor Romanovskiy at right back in place of Dmitry Chaka is scuppered by the youngster going away on International duty with Belarus Under-19's. There are three other changes made though, with Evgeniy Drozd replacing Mariusz Kaczmarek in the midfield, and the injured Nikolay Shvydakov and still out of form Djeykhun Mursalov are replaced up front by Sergey Krot and Lukasz Zuk. There is a place on the bench today for young on loan left back Nikolay Mironov.

A fast start failed to produce a goal in front of a disappointingly reduced attendance, Eduard Chudnovsky had played in Alexey Rios, the wingers failure to find the net justified by the offside flag being waved. Vedrich had a couple of chances to put themselves in front, but they sent both well over the bar, and were made to pay in the 18th minute. Georgy Schennikov's inswinging corner was met by Captain for the day, Maxim Gorbach, and his powerful header found the bottom corner of the net. Chudnovsky played in Rios again midway through the half, he hit this one first time with his weaker left foot, but curled it wide of the far post. Alexandr Savinov came much closer for the visitors with his curling effort, and they did more to replicate what we were doing when they levelled the match, Pavel Evseenko's corner pinged around the box a little before Dmitriy Lebedev sidefooted the ball in from the edge of the six yard box. We could, maybe should, have taken the lead back, Chudnovsky once more the supplier, and he picked out Evgeniy Drozd, but he managed to get no power behind his shot and Ilja Kiselev made a simple save. Then, less than five minutes before the break, Evseenko hit a shot that certainly wasn't lacking power, Vladimir Zuhbaia couldn't hold on, and Roman Loktionov was first to pounce on the loose ball, which he swept in from close range. There were a few shouts that he may have been offside, but the flag stayed down and we had just suffered the same first half fate as we had inflicted ourselves last time out.

My players were told in no uncertain terms that we needed more from them in the second half, and they listened. Drozd won the ball well in midfield, and found Lukasz Zuk on the edge of the box. The striker had no route to goal, and the Vedrich defence had no answer to his cheeky backheel that played in Schennikov, who's rising left footed drive found the net just under the cross bar to get us level less than five minutes after the restart. Missed chances would continue to hinder us however, just two minutes later Schennikov supplied a perfect cross from the left wing, Sergey Krot beat his marker in the air, but the ball came back off the cross bar. When our attacking play started to falter, and Loktionov only just missed the target with a glancing header, I decided to utilise the subs. It was two players already on the park who almost came up trumps though, Schennikov's corner picking out Rios, and he also hit the bar with a header. With moments remaining, sub Djeykhun Mursalov failed to trouble Kiselev with a shot from 15 yards out. But then Schennikov played a through ball, and Krot controlled it, rounded the keeper, and slotted it home.....only to have his, and 500 fans celebrations cut short by the offside flag. It was close, very very close.

Lokomotiv Minsk (1) 2 - Maxim Gorbach (18), Georgy Schennikov (49)
Vedrich-97 Rechitsa (2) 2 - Dmitriy Lebedev (27), Roman Loktionov (41)
Vladimir Zuhbaia; Dmitry Chaka, Vladimir Malykh, Maxim Gorbach ©, Maxim Gukailo (Nikolay Mironov 74); Eduard Chudnovsky (Alexandr Degterev 74), Evgeniy Drozd; Alexey Rios, Georgy Schennikov; Lukasz Zuk (Djeykhun Mursalov 74), Sergey Krot.

Unused Substitutes :- Alexey Yesipenok, Dmitry Biryukov (GK), Mariusz Kaczmarek, Alexandr Kozlov.
Bookings :- None
Possession :- 51% - 49%. Man of the Match :- Georgy Schennikov (Lokomotiv Minsk).

On the day he had a whole host of scouts in Minsk to watch him, Georgy Schennikov turned in his best performance of the season in a match we really should have taken three points from, we created enough chances to win several games. I wasn't too worried about there being scouts from the likes of Alania Vladikavkaz, Zvezda Irkutsk, Avangard Kursk or Baltika Kaliningrad. They are all First Division sides or even lower in some cases, and I don't think they would be able to afford the kind of money it's going to take to get us to let Schennikov go anywhere. But there were two other interested First Division sides who may well be able to afford him, Terek Grozny and the new money club Anzhi Makhachkala. The manager of the latter, 40 times capped Russian International player Omari Tetradze went as far as to announce to the press that he believes Schennikov has a great future in the game, and that he would be a perfect fit for Anzhi. Worrying.

While the Russian side has a reputation that is soaring higher by the week, we have one that is struggling to get off the ground. That has led to Konstantin Karasev giving us the knock back once again. We need to face facts, until we can get ourselves promoted, attracting the next level of players is going to be a challenge.

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Monday 13th May 2013
Despite failing to keep Baranovichi and Vedrich out within the last week, or even manage to beat either, we still have two defenders named in the Belarusian First League Team of the Week, with both Maxim Gukailo and Maxim Gorbach included.

It's a busy day for another of our 'Maxim's', with young Ivanenko joining another full back Egor Romanovskiy in playing the full ninety minutes for Belarus Under-19's in Sweden. In the Boden Arena, left winger Daniel Andersson put the hosts in front, but our boy Ivanenko struck an equaliser just ten minutes later. Things looked even more rosy just before half time, when Neman Grodno's highly rated striker Anatoliy Kolotsey putting Belarus in front. Sweden mounted a huge second half offensive, and with just ten minutes left, Öster defender Peter Eriksson found a way through, and levelled the match at 2-2. A draw was still a great result for the Belarus youngsters....or would have been if Elfsborg striker Magnus Karlsson hadn't ruined it with an 89th minute strike. A tough break for the youngsters.

Wednesday 15th May
The Belarus Under-19 side play their second Group match in the Euro Under-19 Qualifiers this evening, and in Minsk they manage to go behind in the fifth minute for the second time in three days, Sporting Fingal striker Stuart Banks putting the Republic of Ireland in front. The equaliser comes even quicker than it did in Sweden, within a minute actually, scored by Mikashevichi centre back Dmitriy Kovalev. This time there would be an altogether happier ending for the hosts as well, as in front of nearly 2,500 at the city's Traktor Stadium, a 77th minute strike from Savit Mogilev forward Artem Koryagin gave Belarus the win. Both Maxim Ivanenko and Egor Romanovskiy played the full ninety minutes once again, and now Belarus plays France at the same venue on Saturday, knowing that if they win and Sweden fail to beat the Irish in Boden, then the Belarus side will be heading to Belgium for the Finals in July.

Saturday 18th May
That Group comes to a conclusion today, and it didn't end in the way everyone in Belarus would have liked. They gave their all against France at Traktor Stadium today, but a goal from Le Mans winger Tristan Baudry midway through the first half was enough to oust the home side. There was a glimmer of hope when OGC Nice defender Francois Colonna was shown a straight red card with just over ten minutes to play, but Belarus couldn't find a way through. Neither Maxim Ivanenko or Egor Romanovskiy was involved today. The win wasn't enough for the French however, as Sweden won at home to the Republic of Ireland. They will join hosts Belgium, and the other six Group winners, Spain, Portugal, Norway, Germany, Italy and the Czech Republic in the Finals later this year.

Another of our youngsters missed out on that Qualification tournament, Igor Zangiev suffered a back strain that kept him out for a month. Now the 19 year old central midfielder is back in training, and he will be focusing on trying to force his way into the First Team here at Lokomotiv and trying to help us get our promotion prospects back on track.

Monday 20th May
It might be a few days too early, but Igor Zangiev is now in contention for a Lokomotiv debut in tomorrow nights League match away to Dinamo-Belcard Grodno, where the bookies have us as short priced favourites. Maybe those odds have been helped by the news that he could potentially be joined in the matchday squad by Nikolay Shvydakov, who has returned to training today after his neck injury. After starting the season with three wins out of three, we have now picked up just two points from the last nine on offer, and have dropped down to sixth place. This match being played a night before the rest of the fixtures gives us a chance to heap some pressure on those in front of us, a situation that will be reversed this coming weekend when we don't play until Sunday.

Tuesday 21st May

Belarusian First League
Neman Stadium, Grodno
Dinamo-Belcard Grodno v Lokomotiv Minsk
Attendance :-
1,106. Weather :- Dry, 1c.

Both full backs are dropped today, Dmitry Chaka out of the matchday squad altogether and Maxim Gukailo down to the substitutes bench as Egor Romanovskiy and Maxim Ivanenko are both brought into the starting lineup after their return from International duty with Belarus Under-19's, both a Lokomotiv and Senior debut for Romanovskiy. There is also a return to the starting lineup for Yuriy Ryzhko, this time at the expense of Evgeniy Drozd, who is joined on the bench by fit again and potential debutant Igor Zangiev, and the also returning from injury skipper Nikolay Shvydakov. That means there is no place today for Alexandr Kozlov or Djeykhun Mursalov.

The match started in an end to end fashion, but with neither side actually managing to create a clear cut opportunity. Yuriy Sivakov sent a long range shot over the bar, while Alexey Rios so nearly caught out the Belcard defence with a free kick from the right, everyone moving into their penalty box to give the impression of a cross, keeper Denys Boyko leaving a lot of room for Rios to aim for when he curled the ball around the wall, his effort just a little too high. Yuriy Ryzhko wasn't punished when he gave the ball away in the centre circle, Belcard making a mess of their counter attack chance. Then with half an hour on the clock, we produced our party piece, Eduard Chudnovsky whipping in a corner, and Maxim Gorbach, once more standing in with the armband, rose to meet it with a header that found the net via the inside of the upright. That prompted Belcard to switch to a more attacking setup, which would fail spectacularly. Within moments, an attack down the left saw Maxim Ivanenko release Georgy Schennikov into space, and the winger flew into the box, where Alexandr Gavryutin misjudged his tackle and sent the Russian tumbling. The referee had no hesitation pointing to the spot, and with regular spot kick taker Nikolay Shvydakov on the bench, it would be Chudnovsky who would step up, drilling his kick low into the bottom corner to net his first goal of the season and double our lead. That would have been a great way to get to the break, but Boyko's long clearance upfield was flicked on by Yuriy Bushman and sent Oleg Mil'to in on goal. Gorbach was clever, managing to get in a little unseen shove before hooking his leg around and taking the ball. Mil'to went down, and the ref would have needed to make a decision if Bushman hadn't slammed the loose ball into the net and halved the deficit.

Clearly the next goal was going to be vital, and it would be gut check time for my players, our last two matches have ended in 2-2 draws. With an almost an hour played, Lukasz Zuk was robbed of the ball just outside the Belcard box, and Igor Klimuk wasted no time springing our offside trap. His ball over the defence sent Mil'to behind us and in on goal, and I watched from the dugout with a sense of déjà vu. This was no replay though, Vladimir Zuhbaia stood strong and blocked his shot to preserve our lead. Not prepared to sit through the third version of that particular highlight, I made a trio of substitutions. Vladimir Malykh, Ryzhko and Zuk had all been below par today, and I replaced them with Alexey Yesipenok, Alexandr Degterev and Nikolay Shvydakov. Belcard would keep coming though, Andrey Leonchik's curling effort only just missed the top corner, Yuriy Korolyuk was a little further away from a free kick. Two of our subs tried to turn the tables on Belcard with twenty minutes left to play, Degterev lifting the ball over the defence and Shvydakov was in on goal, his finish surprisingly poor for our hotshot striker, who dragged his effort across the face of goal. A couple of minutes later, Schennikov's corner was met on the half volley by Gorbach, who found the net again, but that one was chalked off, with Yesipenok deemed to have fouled sub Alexandr Markushevskiy at the near post. Fortunately, ten minutes later Belcard made an absolute mess of a Shvydakov cross, one of their own defenders flicking the ball on, another volleying the ball directly into the face of yet another defender, and Sergey Krot volleyed his first goal into the season into the top corner, snapping his goal drought. That allowed me to bring Igor Zangiev on for the last few minutes, making his debut for the club as we return to winning ways after three matches without a victory.

Dinamo-Belcard Grodno (1) 1 - Yuriy Bushman (42)
Lokomotiv Minsk (2) 3 - Maxim Gorbach (31), Eduard Chudnovsky (34 pen), Sergey Krot (86)
Vladimir Zuhbaia; Egor Romanovskiy, Vladimir Malykh (Alexey Yesipenok 62), Maxim Gorbach ©, Maxim Ivanenko; Eduard Chudnovsky, Yuriy Ryzhko (Alexandr Degterev 62); Alexey Rios (Igor Zangiev 86), Georgy Schennikov; Lukasz Zuk (Nikolay Shvydakov 62), Sergey Krot.

Unused Substitutes :- Dmitry Biryukov (GK), Maxim Gukailo, Evgeniy Drozd.
Bookings :- None
Possession :- 44% - 56%. Man of the Match :- Maxim Gorbach (Lokomotiv Minsk).

That was much better, and stopping that poor run fairly quickly and not allowing it to drag on was important for us, and meant that we could now set out about getting ourselves back on track and cement our place as promotion contenders.

From either side, Maxim Gorbach has established himself as a legitimate threat to the opposition when corners are whipped into the box by Eduard Chudnovsky or Georgy Schennikov, who have both spent plenty of time working with him in training, and picking out his intentions and preferences. He already has three goals in seven League games, a superb strike rate for a centre back.

I think the press had made a lot of our blip in form, but there is a notable boost in morale and confidence, not only in the dressing room, but also on the terraces. Now we have to try and keep it going, and we have a pair of home matches to try and do that before the next International break.

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Wednesday 22nd May 2013
Apart from the three points that we earned ourselves last night, the games this evening didn't provide any reward for us, with the sides around us all doing the job, moving us right back down to the sixth spot we were in before we played yesterday. We have a chance to overtake one of those clubs at least when we meet them in Minsk this weekend.

Friday 24th May
Our physio, who is a very good one, Vyacheslav Grantovskiy, has today signed a new contract to stay with the club. His current deal was due to expire at the end of the season, and he was quite prepared to continue on a season by season basis. I decided to offer him some security though, and he signs a deal through to the end of the 2015 season.

Saturday 25th May
While the rest of the Division are playing their round eight matches, we are preparing to play our match tomorrow, when the club placed second going into the weekend, Khimik Svetlogorsk, will visit Minsk. Like us, they only have one defeat on the board, but they also only have one draw against our two, leaving the surprise package who were not really spoken of as a promotion contender at the start of the campaign, two points in front of us. Everything points to a close match, and the bookies have us as very slight favourites, almost certainly down to our home advantage. We certainly hold an historical advantage over Khimik, as this will be our tenth meeting with them, and they have yet to earn a victory over Lokomotiv, coming out on the losing end five times out of nine.

Sunday 26th May
Leaders FC Smorgon won again yesterday, but the clubs in 3rd and 5th, and then 4th and 7th drew with each other, leaving us going into today's match knowing that a win would see us in a promotion spot at the end of the day, and by default the end of May with this being the last match of the month.

Belarusian First League
Lokomotiv Stadium, Minsk
Lokomotiv Minsk v Khimik Svetlogorsk
Attendance :-
672. Weather :- Breezy, 28c.

Dmitry Biryukov steps back into the side in place of Vladimir Zuhbaia, and there is also a change in the back four as well. Vladimir Malykh didn't have a particularly good game last time out, and he is dropped to the bench, replaced by Alexey Yesipenok. In the midfield, Yuriy Ryzhko is also on the bench today, with Alexandr Degterev brought into the starting eleven, while Lukasz Zuk suffers the same fate, with Nikolay Shvydakov claiming back his spot in the First Team, and the Captains armband.

We started at a good pace, pinning Khimik into their own end for much of the first ten minutes. Alexey Rios was tormentor in chief with the right flank our chosen route in the early stages. Sergey Drozd managed to block his first cross attempt, and then partially blocked the second to send it behind for a corner. Georgy Schennikov sent over the 13th minute corner, and Rios was brave at the near post to get his head to it, redirecting the ball high into the net to open the scoring. Khimik were not especially quick to respond and when they did try Sergey Volodzko's cross from the left found Andriy Makyk with no room to work in, crowded out by our defence, and his header was well off target. Malyk was actually much closer with a shot from range that had Dmirty Biryukov scrambling across his goalmouth, his shot just clearing the angle of the goal frame. That would be their last chance of the half, while ours came after Maxim Ivanenko made a great run down the left to win a corner, which Eduard Chudnovsky put on the head of Maxim Gorbach, but his downward header was right at Olexandr Bandura.

Ivanenko was considerably less in the good graces early after the restart. The left back chased the ball down well enough, but after securing possession he then played an outrageously dangerous pass across the edge of his own box, which was intercepted by Maxym Maxymenko. Fortunately, his finish was nearly as bad as Ivanenko's pass! Khimik were encouraged enough though, and Drozd picked out Alexey Zvonkov with a square pass on the edge of the box, his shot flying towards the top corner but rattling the cross bar as we escaped once more. Khimik escaped themselves within seconds, as we countered at the other end, Chudnovsky slipping a pass to Alexandr Degterev who sent a shot against the bar at the other end of the park. With just over an hour played, Nikolay Shvydakov injured himself on his return to starting action, and the skipper couldn't play on, replaced by Lukasz Zuk. That was a bad break for us, and less than quarter of an hour later it got worse, Sergey Krot injured as well, and he would also be forced off. He went off, along with Chudnovsky, with Yuriy Ryzhko and Igor Zangiev coming on. Zuk would play up front alone, with Zangiev asked to play in the anchor role between our defence and midfield. That proved very successful at limiting Khimik's attacking opportunities, and with very little time remaining, Degterev came off after smashing a shot well over the target. He was replaced by Evgeniy Drozd, and Khimik's increasingly faint hopes were reduced still further when Zvonkov was injured in the 90th minute after they had used all their substitutions. We had made hard work of it, but we had got ourselves three more precious points.

Lokomotiv Minsk (1) 1 - Alexey Rios (13)
Khimik Svetlogorsk (0) 0
Dmitry Biryukov; Egor Romanovskiy, Alexey Yesipenok, Maxim Gorbach, Maxim Ivanenko; Eduard Chudnovsky (Igor Zangiev 77), Alexandr Degterev (Evgeniy Drozd 88); Alexey Rios, Georgy Schennikov; Sergey Krot (inj - Yuriy Ryzhko 77), Nikolay Shvydakov © (inj - Lukasz Zuk 64).
Unused Substitutes :- Vladimir Malykh, Vladimir Zuhbaia (GK), Maxim Gukailo.
Bookings :- None
Possession :- 50% - 50%. Man of the Match :- Alexey Rios (Lokomotiv Minsk).

That was a tough afternoons work in very warm conditions as summer appears to have hit this corner of Eastern Europe. Our reward for digging in and securing the points was a leap over four other clubs, and a place in one of the two promotion spots that were being heavily fought over in a very congested top end of the First League.

The cost was another injury though. Thankfully, just the one, Nikolay Shvydakov suffering no real damage after it was feared he had re-injured his neck nearly 20 minutes into the second half. Sergey Krot had not quite managed to get away with it though, the 32 year old striker landing awkwardly coming back down from a jump for a header and damaging his foot. We have a Minsk Derby to contest in a weeks time against Zvezda-BGU Minsk, and a painkilling injection would get him through that and then leave him out for a month. With an International break coming up after that match, we decide to take our medicine, or better yet, let him take the medicine now, and we may well have him back when the domestic action restarts with a trip to face leaders FC Smorgon on the 15th June.

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