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

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2013 Belarusian First League Table, Up To & Including Friday 31st May 2013

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

| 1st   |       | Smorgon            |       | 8     | 6     | 1     | 1     | 14    | 4     | +10   | 19    |
| 2nd   |       | Lokomotiv Minsk    |       | 8     | 5     | 2     | 1     | 15    | 6     | +9    | 17    |
| 3rd   |       | Vedrich Rechitsa   |       | 8     | 4     | 4     | 0     | 14    | 7     | +7    | 16    |
| 4th   |       | Slavia Mozyr       |       | 8     | 5     | 1     | 2     | 14    | 8     | +6    | 16    |
| 5th   |       | Savit              |       | 8     | 5     | 1     | 2     | 13    | 9     | +4    | 16    |
| 6th   |       | Khimik Svetlogorsk |       | 8     | 5     | 1     | 2     | 11    | 7     | +4    | 16    |
| 7th   |       | Mikashevichi       |       | 8     | 2     | 5     | 1     | 11    | 6     | +5    | 11    |
| 8th   |       | Vertical           |       | 8     | 3     | 1     | 4     | 9     | 14    | -5    | 10    |
| 9th   |       | Zvezda-BGU         |       | 8     | 2     | 3     | 3     | 11    | 8     | +3    | 9     |
| 10th  |       | Belcard            |       | 8     | 2     | 2     | 4     | 6     | 9     | -3    | 8     |
| 11th  |       | Belshina           |       | 8     | 2     | 2     | 4     | 3     | 7     | -4    | 8     |
| 12th  |       | Neman Mosty        |       | 8     | 2     | 1     | 5     | 14    | 13    | +1    | 7     |
| 13th  |       | Baranovichi        |       | 8     | 2     | 1     | 5     | 5     | 12    | -7    | 7     |
| 14th  |       | Lida               |       | 8     | 2     | 1     | 5     | 10    | 18    | -8    | 7     |
| 15th  |       | Livadia            |       | 8     | 2     | 1     | 5     | 5     | 17    | -12   | 7     |
| 16th  |       | Darida             |       | 8     | 1     | 1     | 6     | 1     | 11    | -10   | 4     |


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Saturday 1st June 2013
The month of June is a punctuated one in Belarusian football. There are fixtures this weekend, with us playing a home Minsk Derby tomorrow afternoon, before a two week break in the schedule for Internationals, where I will be headed to India to take charge of their National Team for the first time in a double header against Sri Lanka and Thailand. We will then return to domestic action with a match against the current league leaders FC Smorgon, before the League takes a three week break. July will be considerably more hectic, with five matches in a three week spell.

A bumper crowd is expected at Lokomotiv Stadium tomorrow as one of our city rivals cross Minsk. 9th placed Zvezda-BGU Minsk have lacked consistency, scoring four goals at home twice in a record that has seen them go unbeaten at their Darida Kuncevschina home since an opening day defeat. Away from home they have been less impressive though, notching just two goals and the same number of points from their four matches on their travels. Put that together with us sticking five past them here near the end of last season, and you have yourself a side going into this match with little expectation of turning us over. In fact, the bookies make them a 7/1 shot.

Sunday 2nd June

Belarusian First League
Lokomotiv Stadium, Minsk
Lokomotiv Minsk v Zvezda-BGU Minsk
Attendance :-
1,217. Weather :- Breezy, 16c.

The first of just two games this month, and what is not to like. It's a Minsk Derby, the weather is still warm if quite a bit cooler than last weekend, we are very much the favourites, and the stadium is over 60% full, in fact only a few hundred away from a new club record attendance. There are two changes to last weeks victory over Khimik Svetlogorsk, one by choice, one dictated by injury. In the midfield, Yuriy Ryzhko is back to add a bit of steel in the centre of the park, replacing Alexandr Degterev who is amongst the substitutes. Up front, the injury to Sergey Krot means another chance for young striker Lukasz Zuk, and there is a spot on the bench for Djeykhun Mursalov.

In front of the biggest crowd at Lokomotiv Stadium for a long time, we came out roaring. We looked to take advantage of Alexey Rios' fine form, and he easily made his way around his marker, but his cross was overhit, Maxim Ivanenko retrieving the ball but not able to get his cross in. A long ball down the centre from Dmitry Biryukov was more effective, and in a role reversal from the expected, Lukasz Zuk jumped in front of a defender and flicked it on, Nikolay Shvydakov taking it down and letting fly in one fluid movement, Olexandr Musienko producing a superb save to tip it over while back tracking towards his own goal line. Even with a couple of party piece corners, we couldn't capitalise on our early domination. From the second, Egor Grits brought the ball away for Zvezda, sending it left Alexey Timoshenko. The winger cut back inside and fed the ball to Taras Butrak, who let an unstoppable shot go from all of 35 yards that flew into the top corner for his first ever goal for Zvezda, and an outstanding 19th minute opener. Not to worry, we were still clearly the better side, and the lads would need to take that one on the chin and get it back as soon as possible. Or, we could start over playing and making silly mistakes, including coughing the ball up to Butrak, thankfully he didn't get the dip on that one. Right now, our heads were right up our own backsides, and Timoshenko was involved again, combining with Igor Mamedov to play in Dmitriy Kuzminich, who's shot at goal was thankfully, just as woeful as we were playing. We wouldn't get away with it again with two minutes remaining in the half, the same pair doing the setup work, and this time Kuzminich took the ball with his back to goal, rolling Alexey Yesipenok and striking his low shot under Biryukov's dive and into the far bottom corner. Now, we were really in trouble!

I was furious with my players at the break. As soon as the first goal went in they changed their entire mentality instead of sticking to what was proven to work. I told them they had gotten us into this mess, and they had better find a way to get us out of it, as what happened in the second half was now on them. With that challenge ringing in their ears, they emerged for the restart. They didn't exactly fill me with confidence that they were able to turn this around, Yuriy Ryzhko having to head the ball off the line following a corner, and Grits sending a shot across goal and just wide of the far post. Finally, in the 58th minute, we got our act together, predictably from a corner. Eduard Chudnovsky swung the ball to the far post, and Maxim Gorbach pulled away from his marker, before rising unchallenged to power a header home from 8 yards out to reduce the arrears to a single goal. That galvanized the side into a higher gear, Shvydakov sending a short pass to Ryzhko, his shot from the corner of the box just missing the target. Now we were very much in charge, Zvezda giving the ball away to Chudnovsky from a free kick near the edge of our box. He got the ball to Zuk, and he made a 60 yard run that saw him beat three players, before crossing to Rios, his acrobatic volley attempt missing the target. Yesipenok and Ryzkho came off as we looked to add some fresh legs, Vladimir Malykh and Igor Zangiev coming on. Five minutes later, Zangiev was chopped down 25 yards from goal by Kuzminich, the goalscorer for Zvezda earning a place in the refs book for that one. And while the Zvezda defence tried to organise themselves, Zangiev took the free kick quickly, chipping it to the left channel of the box, Georgy Schennikov catching it on the volley, going for power rather than placement, Musienko getting both hands to it, but able to push it only onto the post, and it crept over the line off the upright to level the match. There was only ever going to be one winner now if this match was to swing either way, and Gorbach only just missed the target with a free kick. As we went into injury time, Zuk was replaced by Djeykhun Mursalov as we sought to create one more chance. With seconds remaining of the three minutes injury time, Shvydakov hooked the ball towards the edge of the box after a throw in, Mursalov brought it down with his back to goal, and laid the ball off to Zangiev. The young midfielder stepped into the shot, a low curling effort that beat Musienko's dive, but found only the side netting.

Lokomotiv Minsk (0) 2 - Maxim Gorbach (58), Georgy Schennikov (72)
Zvezda-BGU Minsk (2) 2 - Taras Butrak (19), Dmitriy Kuzminich (43)
Dmitry Biryukov; Egor Romanovskiy, Alexey Yesipenok (Vladimir Malykh 66), Maxim Gorbach, Maxim Ivanenko; Eduard Chudnovsky, Yuriy Ryzhko (Igor Zangiev 66); Alexey Rios, Georgy Schennikov; Lukasz Zuk (Djeykhun Mursalov 90), Nikolay Shvydakov ©.

Unused Substitutes :- Vladimir Zuhbaia (GK), Maxim Gukailo, Alexandr Degterev, Evgeniy Drozd.
Bookings :- None
Possession :- 46% - 54%. Man of the Match :- Taras Butrak (Zvezda-BGU Minsk).

Lets start with the good points then. A very good attendance, and they went away mostly happy that we salvaged a point from a match that we looked very much like losing at half time. The other plus was the impact of Igor Zangiev when he came on. The young midfielder was superb when he came on, controlling the middle of the park, setting up the equaliser and nearly winning us the match right at the end.

Nevertheless, the focus in the media was our reaction to going behind, which wasn't a good reaction at all. We need to work on that, if we're going to put ourselves where we want to be this season, we can't afford to throw away matches by losing our composure and shape if we go behind by a goal. But, we are now five unbeaten in the League, though we have dropped from second down to fifth in a Division where just six points covers the top six with nine matches played.

We now go into an International break, and won't play until two weeks time, where we face a trip to the club with a three point cushion at the top right now, FC Smorgon. In the meantime, I'm off to India for my first crack at International football.

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Monday 3rd June 2013
Georgy Schennikov's crucial equaliser in yesterdays Minsk Derby is recognised as he is the only Lokomotiv player included in the First League Team of the Week.

Tuesday 4th June
After Austria were allocated an extra UEFA Europa League on Saturday after topping the Fair Play League, the draw was made today for the two final extra places, and they will go to Portugal and Israel.

Thursday 6th June
Belarus Under-19's played Switzerland this evening in a Friendly at the Traktor Stadium in the capital city of Minsk. Four of our players from Lokomotiv were involved in the 3-0 defeat, full backs Maxim Ivanenko and Egor Romanovskiy both playing the full ninety minutes. Midfielder Igor Zangiev also started, and captained the side as well, but was replaced in the 82nd minute, where at the same time young striker Andrey Volodzko was also brought on from the bench.

Friday 7th June
While I am in India and on the eve of my debut as boss of their National Team, bad news is relayed to me from Minsk. 20 year old left winger Alexandr Kozlov has broken his foot during an accidental collision in a training session today, and will now be out for between four and five months. It's a huge blow for the 7 times capped Belarus Under-21 International, and by the time he gets himself fit again, it could actually be the end of his season unfortunately.

While one young player is dealing with a huge disappointment, another was dealing with a big day, that didn't go quite as he would have planned. 15 year old centre midfielder Norayr Ghazaryan has yet to make his debut for our Reserve side, SKVICh. But he has been drafted into the Armenia Under-21 squad for their UEFA European Under-21 Championship Group 7 Qualifier against Romania in Craiova. He was also then selected to start the match and make his debut. They were already 2-0 down when he was shown two quick yellow cards and sent off just 42 minutes in. Strangely, Armenia didn't concede any more goals after he was dismissed, which may say a lot. Actually, the fact he was drafted into their Under-21 squad at all shows a lack of depth in Armenian football, and they maybe should be considered as a future opponent for India.

Monday 10th June
Only one Lokomotiv player was involved in Belarus Under-19's latest match at the Traktor Stadium this evening. The Friendly against San Marino was effectively wrapped up inside a quarter of an hour, Pinsk midfielder Alexandr Shperling opening the scoring inside a minute, and then our own young striker Andrey Volodzko struck twice in a minute to make it 3-0 in the 12th minute. With the foot then coming right off the gas, Belarus didn't manage another goal, though Andrea Della Valle did score a consolation for San Marino with twenty minutes remaining.

Tuesday 11th June
Sergey Krot has today returned to training with the First Team following the foot injury he suffered towards the end of last month. The striker is now in contention to face league leaders FC Smorgon this weekend.

With today's match being a Friendly, fifteen year old midfielder Norayr Ghazaryan wasn't suspended when Armenia-Under-21's travelled to face their counterparts from Turkey in Istanbul. He was substituted in the 82nd minute after a below average performance, but he wasn't the only one, as Armenia were drubbed 5-0.

Friday 14th June
After a mixed pair of results with India, I'm back in Minsk and returning to the day job, as we make the final preparations for tomorrow's match away to the league leaders. FC Smorgon have dropped just two points since their opening day defeat at home to Vertical Kalinkovichi, and they are the odds on favourites to extend their winning run to six games tomorrow. History is on their side too, as in three matches, of which two were competitive, FC Smorgon have not yet lost to Lokomotiv.

Saturday 15th June

Belarusian First League
Yunost, Smorgon
FC Smorgon v Lokomotiv Minsk
Attendance :-
2,425. Weather :- Breezy, 29c.

There is just one change from our last performance, the 2-2 draw at home in the Minsk Derby at the start of the month against Zvezda-BGU, and it comes up front with Sergey Krot replacing Lukasz Zuk in the starting eleven. That change sees Zuk drop down to the substitutes bench, with Djeykhun Mursalov left out of the matchday squad.

Roman Gaev's fourth minute corner was a training ground routine for Stanislav Mamonov, who arrived with perfect timing, beating Alexey Yesipenok in the air, but directing his header wide of the target. There wasn't a great deal more to report in the opening half hour, as we saw a pair of nervous sides who were both clearly afraid of making a major mistake. There was no mistake from Maxim Gorbach in the 33rd minute though, the centre back powering in his 5th goal of the season with a header from Eduard Chudnovsky's corner to give us the lead. Our biggest disappointment of the half would be that we didn't get a second before the break, Yuriy Ryzhko showing another side to his game with a powerful run down the right channel, before clipping a cross to the far post where he picked out the unmarked Georgy Schennikov. The Russian winger hit it first time with a half volley, but it came back off the near post, and at the break we still had only a slender lead.

Just five minutes after the restart we discovered that the advantage was too slender, Sergey Bychik slicing our defence open with a superb through ball, and Alexandr Petrov sprung our offside trap and slipped his shot under Dmitry Biryukov and into the far bottom corner of the net, knotting the match back up at a goal each. Most were expecting a return to the risk free football on show before the opening goal, but Gorbach took a chance with a long diagonal pass from left back, which Vladimir Khilkevich brought forward before drilling just wide of the near post. With just over 20 minutes to go, Chudnovsky tried to set Sergey Krot free with a through ball. It had too much weight on it, and Andrey Tarakanov came right to the edge of the box to collect the ball. He then tried to launch a quick attack, with his distribution going spectacularly wrong, as he missed his intended target and only found Nikolay Shvydakov, who found the middle of the unguarded net from 40 yards out to put us back in front, and matched Gorbach's five goals for the season. Unfortunately, that lead would be very brief, as right from kick off sub Bogdan Bidnosheya found fellow sub Sergey Kisliy, and he let fly from 30 yards with a blockbuster of a shot that rocketed past Biryukov and into the top corner to level the match once again. And a sharp five minute spell of scoring was completed moments later when Andriy Bogdanov sent in a free kick, and skipper Roman Gaev escaped his marker and side footed the ball into the roof of the net to give Smorgon their first lead of the match. The subs warmed up, and Egor Romanovskiy, Yesipenok and Ryzhko came off to be replaced by Igor Zangiev, Alexandr Degterev and Lukasz Zuk as we threw players forward looking for an equaliser. Maxim Ivanenko searched for Zuk who stretched for the ball but was just inches away from connecting, before he was given the ball again from a throw in, and squared it to Chudnovsky, who's effort lacked both power and placement, Tarakanov catching it easily and keeping Smorgon top of the table.

FC Smorgon (0) 3 - Alexandr Petrov (50), Sergey Kisliy (74), Roman Gaev (78)
Lokomotiv Minsk (1) 2 - Maxim Gorbach (33), Nikolay Shvydakov (72)
Dmitry Biryukov; Egor Romanovskiy (Alexandr Degterev 83), Alexey Yesipenok (Lukasz Zuk 83), Maxim Gorbach, Maxim Ivanenko; Eduard Chudnovsky, Yuriy Ryzhko (Igor Zangiev 83); Alexey Rios, Georgy Schennikov; Sergey Krot, Nikolay Shvydakov ©.

Unused Substitutes :- Vladimir Malykh, Vladimir Zuhbaia (GK), Maxim Gukailo, Evgeniy Drozd.
Bookings :- None
Possession :- 46% - 54%. Man of the Match :- Alexandr Petrov (FC Smorgon).

Ahhhhh, that was frustrating, but we are nowhere as proficient at defending set pieces as we are when it comes to scoring from them. We are not nearly as pessimistic as the press are about our defeat though. It's our first defeat in six, but it was spun as a result that keeps us stuck in mid table, and we are told we need to improve dramatically to live up to our promotion contender status. With a third of the season now played, we sit in sixth spot, but only four points from a promotion spot. The win for Smorgon will see them head into another fixture list lull with a three point lead over Vedrich Rechitsa.

With no First Team appearances for Lokomotiv this season, and form that isn't exactly scintillating for the Reserve side, Denis Lekhavitskiy is said to be getting increasingly frustrated with how things are going for him in his career right now. It wouldn't be a huge surprise to see the 26 year old leave the club in the not too distant future.

Monday 17th June
Our pair of goalscorers from Saturday's defeat, Maxim Gorbach and Nikolay Shvydakov are both included in the First League Team of the Week.

Wednesday 19th June
Our attempt to bring in MTZ-Ripo Minsk's utility midfielder and Belarus Under-21 International player Pawel Socha has failed. The 19 year old is out of contract, and is still on the fringes of the First Team for our cross city rivals. It's something we may revisit at a later date if the situation doesn't change for the youngster.

Thursday 20th June
Another player we are interested in has now handed in an official transfer request. 26 year old Igor Shitov is currently the first choice right back for Belarus, but he is struggling to get much of a look in with his club, Norwegian Premier Division side Lillestrøm SK, who it must be said are having a really poor season by their own lofty standards. It would be a real show of intent to get him here, but there is also interest from elsewhere and we may not have the finances, or stature to get him to Lokomotiv.

Friday 21st June
The draw is made for the First Round of the Belarusian Cup at lunchtime today, and is reasonably kind to us, as we are drawn at home to face Division rivals Dinamo-Belcard Grodno, who we already hold a win over this season. The match will take place in early July, and now becomes our next match.

Wednesday 26th June
We have another unhappy player at the club, this time it's one of our newer players, attacking midfielder Evgeniy Drozd. The 24 year old is said to be disillusioned at not becoming a regular starter at Lokomotiv Stadium, and is hoping to get more of a chance to show off his talents to the clubs supporters sooner rather than later.

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2013 Belarusian First League Table, Up To & Including Sunday 30th June 2013

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

| 1st   |       | Smorgon            |       | 10    | 8     | 1     | 1     | 19    | 7     | +12   | 25    |
| 2nd   |       | Vedrich Rechitsa   |       | 10    | 6     | 4     | 0     | 18    | 7     | +11   | 22    |
| 3rd   |       | Slavia Mozyr       |       | 10    | 7     | 1     | 2     | 19    | 9     | +10   | 22    |
| 4th   |       | Savit              |       | 10    | 6     | 1     | 3     | 15    | 11    | +4    | 19    |
| 5th   |       | Khimik Svetlogorsk |       | 10    | 6     | 1     | 3     | 14    | 11    | +3    | 19    |
| 6th   |       | Lokomotiv Minsk    |       | 10    | 5     | 3     | 2     | 19    | 11    | +8    | 18    |
| 7th   |       | Mikashevichi       |       | 10    | 3     | 5     | 2     | 12    | 7     | +5    | 14    |
| 8th   |       | Vertical           |       | 10    | 3     | 3     | 4     | 11    | 16    | -5    | 12    |
| 9th   |       | Zvezda-BGU         |       | 10    | 2     | 5     | 3     | 13    | 10    | +3    | 11    |
| 10th  |       | Lida               |       | 10    | 3     | 2     | 5     | 12    | 18    | -6    | 11    |
| 11th  |       | Neman Mosty        |       | 10    | 3     | 1     | 6     | 15    | 16    | -1    | 10    |
| 12th  |       | Belshina           |       | 10    | 2     | 4     | 4     | 3     | 7     | -4    | 10    |
| 13th  |       | Belcard            |       | 10    | 2     | 2     | 6     | 7     | 12    | -5    | 8     |
| 14th  |       | Baranovichi        |       | 10    | 2     | 1     | 7     | 7     | 17    | -10   | 7     |
| 15th  |       | Livadia            |       | 10    | 2     | 1     | 7     | 6     | 21    | -15   | 7     |
| 16th  |       | Darida             |       | 10    | 1     | 3     | 6     | 3     | 13    | -10   | 6     |


Edited by neilhoskins77

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2012/13 Season Review
(*I am of course happy to accommodate requests for players, teams and leagues to be included in reviews*)


No League season in Scotland in 2012/13 due to the game not clicking on to the new season a year ago, and it doesn't look like it's going to fix itself 

Scottish FA Cup
Dundee United beat Dunfermline Athletic 3-0 at Hampden Park, Glasgow

Scottish League Cup
Celtic beat Dundee United 2-0 at Hampden Park, Glasgow

Scottish League Challenge Cup
Partick Thistle beat Clyde 2-0 at Fir Park, Motherwell

Barclays Premier League

Champions :- Arsenal (73 pts), Runner's-Up :- Liverpool (72 pts)
Best of the Rest :- Chelsea (72 pts), Manchester City (68 pts), Tottenham Hotspur (66 pts)
Relegated :- Birmingham City (32 pts), Ipswich Town (28 pts), Stoke City (27 pts)
Top Scorers :- Eduardo (Arsenal - 25 goals), Peter Crouch (Bolton - 17 goals), Michael Owen (Newcastle - 16 goals)
Top Average Rating :- Eduardo (Arsenal - 7.63), Fernando Torres (Liverpool - 7.56), Michael Owen (Newcastle - 7.55)

It's three in a row for the Gunners, and the others are struggling to do anything about them! It was closer this time, a 3-0 win away to Reading on the last day bounced them over Liverpool, who could only draw with West Ham at Anfield when a win would have made them Champions. The Brazilian turned Croatian striker Eduardo was the main man this season at the Emirates, scoring 36 goals in all competitions. Frank Rijkaard may have some work to do if he is to keep his job at Old Trafford, with Manchester United pushed down into 6th place. They spent less than £10m last summer, and nothing at all in January. Lack of goals was their main issue, and they are bringing in Mario Gomez this summer to try and solve that problem. Their issues are not as bad as some of the clubs at the other end, Birmingham and Ipswich lost their Premier League status after just one season, failing to even take it to the last day of the season, with Reading managing to cling to safety even with that last day defeat against Arsenal.

Coca-Cola Championship
Champions :-
Portsmouth (87 pts), Runner's-Up :- Wigan Athletic (80 pts)
Playoff Winners :- Wolverhampton Wanderers (72 pts)
Also In Playoffs :- Preston North End (77 pts), Queens Park Rangers (76 pts), Hull City (73 pts)
Relegated :- Doncaster Rovers (43 pts), Tranmere Rovers (41 pts), Brighton & Hove Albion (40 pts)
Top Scorers :- Omar Koroma (QPR - 27 goals), David Bunderla (Sheff Wed - 23 goals), Danny Graham (Blackpool - 22 goals)
Top Average Rating :- Mohammed Abdellaoue (Portsmouth - 7.46), Christián Benítez (Wigan - 7.41), Andrew Keogh (Wolves - 7.41)

In their second season in the second tier, Portsmouth made sure their real life freefall was not replicated, as they secured promotion back to the Premier League with the Championship Title. Many saw that as a surprise, Pompey making a near £20m profit in their transfer dealings over the season, but they simply spent their money much smarter, clearing the decks of multiple players who hadn't been a hit at Fratton Park. They will be joined in the top tier by Wigan and Wolves who also make returns to the top table, the latter carrying some great late season form into the Playoffs and defeating QPR in extra time at Wembley. At the other end, it was fairly cut and dried who was going to be relegated from quite a way out, Doncaster the last to be confirmed as relegated, and they were still ten points away from beating the drop when you take into account their vastly inferior goal difference.

Coca-Cola League One
Champions :-
Burnley (91 pts), Runner's-Up :- Plymouth Argyle (83 pts)
Playoff Winners :- Barnsley (79 pts)
Also In Playoffs :- Millwall (79 pts), Norwich City (75 pts), Oldham Athletic (74 pts)
Relegated :- Huddersfield Town (48 pts), Burton Albion (46 pts), Cheltenham Town (45 pts), Shrewsbury Town (42 pts)
Top Scorers :- Gary Madine (Colchester - 26 goals), Mateus Costa (Barnsley - 25 goals), James Brown (Hartlepool - 23 goals)
Top Average Rating :- James Brown (Hartlepool - 7.43), Mateus Costa (Barnsley - 7.32), Steven MacLean (Plymouth - 7.29)

Burnley return right back up to the Championship with a season that saw them runaway to the Title. Behind them it was much closer for the second promotion spot, Plymouth eventually grasping that spot ahead of Millwall and Barnsley. Those two clubs would both win their Playoff Semi-Finals and meet at Wembley. The South East London club had a player sent off before the break, but took the lead in the second half. Barnsley equalised pretty quickly, and bagged the winner against ten men in extra time to earn their return to the Championship. Meanwhile, three of last seasons promoted clubs went right back down to League Two, with only Luton Town managing to earn a second season in League One. The three others were joined in their misery by Huddersfield who failed to keep up with the large cluster of clubs ahead of them, and ended up seven points from safety.

Coca-Cola League Two
Champions :-
Bradford City (91 pts), Runner's-Up :- Wrexham (78 pts) Also Promoted :- Aldershot Town (75 pts)
Playoff Winners :- Rochdale (68 pts)
Also In Playoffs :- Wycombe Wanderers (74 pts), Exeter City (68 pts), Stockport County (68 pts)
Relegated :- Barnet (47 pts), Derby County (40 pts)
Top Scorers :- Thomas Stewart (Bradford - 21 goals), Paddy Madden (Chester - 21 goals), Peter Thompson (Stockport - 21 goals)
Top Average Rating :- Thomas Stewart (Bradford - 7.14), Clayton Donaldson (Wrexham - 7.12), Chris Dickson (Notts Co - 7.11)

Another runaway winner, this time Bradford City, who were beaten in the Playoff Final last season. Wrexham and Aldershot join them above the dotted line, and avoid the lottery of the Playoffs. There, the one side who were also involved last season would prevail, Rochdale winning 1-0 against Wycombe at Wembley in a fiery match that saw three red cards and twelve bookings! But the real story from this division was the demise of Derby County, who suffered another relegation, and will be playing non-League football next season, an astounding fall for The Rams. They will be joined by Barnet in the Blue Square Premier next season, a Division that is becoming more difficult to get out of.

Blue Square Premier League
Champions :-
Kettering Town (81 pts)
Playoff Winners :- Rushden & Diamonds (78 pts)
Also In Playoffs :- Cambridge United (79 pts), Mansfield Town (76 pts), Salisbury City (75 pts)
Relegated :- Weymouth (49 pts), Dartford (47 pts), Forest Green Rovers (44 pts), Chelmsford City (44 pts)
Top Scorers :- Graham Weir (Dorchester - 28 goals), Chris Holroyd (Cambridge - 27 goals), Elliot Benyon (Torquay - 24 goals)
Top Average Rating :- Elliot Benyon (Torquay - 7.39), Chris Holroyd (Cambridge - 7.25) Sam Smith (Rushden - 7.22)

Kettering Town got the job done and secured an immediate return to the Football League, but they had to win each of their last seven games to do so, after looking like they were going to miss out on even a Playoff spot. The other relegated side, Bury, went the opposite way, dropping out of the picture with a poor run in. A pair of early goals at Wembley saw a Rushden & Diamonds return to the Football League, at the expense of a devastated Cambridge United, who had taken a chance and spent some cash to try and secure their promotion. At the bottom, only one of the sides who came up from the sixth tier would suffer an immediate return, that one being Dartford. There was a huge effort from Weymouth to get themselves out of the relegation zone right at the death, but it didn't work, Macclesfield Town saving themselves and sending the South Coast side down.

Blue Square North
Champions :-
Tamworth (76 pts)
Playoff Winners :- Barrow (75 pts)
Also In Playoffs :- Northwich Victoria (74 pts), Farsley Celtic (71 pts), Gainsborough Trinity (68 pts)
Relegated :- Worcester City (42 pts), Hednesford Town (40 pts), Cambridge City (35 pts)
Top Scorers :- Jaimes McKee (Southport - 23 goals), Lee McEvilly (Tamworth - 20 goals), Matt Tubbs (Farsley - 20 goals)
Top Average Rating :- Graeme Armstrong (Gainsborough - 7.43), Matt Tubbs (Farsley - 7.32), Marcus Stewart (FC United - 7.11)

Blue Square South
Champions :-
Bath City (80 pts)
Playoff Winners :- St Albans City (70 pts)
Also In Playoffs :- Billericay Town (74 pts), AFC Wimbledon (71 pts), Team Bath (70 pts)
Relegated :- Farnborough (45 pts), Sutton United (33 pts), Bedford Town (26 pts)
Top Scorers :- Nicholas Bignall (Basingstoke - 26 goals), Josh Llewellyn (Team Bath - 21 goals), Richard Orr (Bishop's Stortford - 20 goals)
Top Average Rating :- David Gilroy (Bath City - 7.29), Jon Main (AFC Wimbledon - 7.16), Ricky Billing (AFC Wimbledon - 7.14)

FA Cup
Arsenal beat Middlesbrough 2-0 at Wembley Stadium, London

League Cup
Everton beat West Bromwich Albion 2-0 at Wembley Stadium, London

Community Shield
Liverpool beat Arsenal 2-0 at Wembley Stadium, London

Johnstone's Paint Trophy
Scunthorpe United beat Aldershot Town 1-0 after extra time at Wembley Stadium, London

Football Conference League Cup
Salisbury Town beat Rushden & Diamonds 1-0 at Wembley Stadium, London

FA Trophy
Woking beat Kettering Town 3-2 after extra time at Wembley Stadium, London

Northern Ireland
Premier Division
Champions :-
Portadown (65 pts), Runner's-Up :- Glentoran (62 pts)
Relegation Playoff :- Ballymena United win 3-2 on aggregate against Lisburn Distillery
Relegated :- Lurgan Celtic (41 pts)
Top Scorers :- Ömer Riza (Portadown - 23 goals), Conor Forker (Dungannon - 22 goals), James Willis (Institute - 20 goals)
Top Average Rating :- Ömer Riza (Portadown - 7.15), Rhys Griffiths (Institute - 7.09), Andrew Waterworth (Glentoran - 7.08)

In a much closer Championship race than last year, the season ended with the Belfast domination being broken, Portadown winning their first Title since 2002, and the first club outside of Linfield and Glentoran to lift the crown in the same time frame. Lots of postponed matches left a very disjointed end to the season, with Glentoran having to play a lot of games in a short space of time, which may have cost them in the run in. At the other end, Lurgan Celtic's time at the top table of Northern Irish football has come to an end, Ballymena winning on the last day of the season against Newry to make Celtic's win against Glenavon irrelevant. Ballymena would then go on to beat Distillery in the Playoff and preserve their Premier Division status.

First Division
Champions :-
Glebe Rangers (46 pts), Runner's-Up :- Distillery (45 pts)
Promotion Playoff :- Distillery lose 3-2 on aggregate to Ballymena
Relegated :- Larne (30 pts), Ballinamallard United (22 pts)
Top Scorers :- Neil Teggart (Glebe - 16 goals), Seámus Brown (Limavady - 12 goals), Conor McGourty (Donegal - 11 goals)
Top Average Rating :- Seámus Brown (Limavady - 7.22), Conor Gregg (Wakehurst - 7.01), Neil Teggart (Glebe - 6.96)

Just 24 points separated top from bottom in the First Division, as no one managed to put in enough consistency to move away from the crowd. Eventually, it would be Glebe Rangers, relegated last year, who would earn a return back to the top tier, edging past Distillery on the last day with a win at Banbridge while their rivals were losing in Donegal. And to add insult to injury, the runner's-up would then lose the Playoff for the second successive year. Both of the promoted clubs stayed up, in fact Wakehurst were only four points from reaching the Playoff. It would be Larne and Ballinamallard United who would exit via the trap door, the latter ten points from safety which was quite the surprise for most.

Second Division
Champions :-
Dergview (48 pts), Runner's-Up :- Tobermore United (45 pts)
Relegated :- Harland & Wolff Welders (31 pts), Ballymoney United (18 pts)
Top Scorers :- Michael O'Halloran (Coagh Utd - 15 goals), Kenny McGrath (Dergview - 13 goals), Ryan Kendall (Killyleagh - 11 goals)
Top Average Rating :- Gary Sheehan (H&W Welders - 7.13), Robbie Doyle (Dergview - 7.04), Kenny McGrath (Dergview - 7.03)

In the bottom tier, despite several losses on their own record, Dergview and Tobermore United managed to create enough gap back to the large group of clubs who were eager to take advantage if they were to slip up again. If you take away the top two and the club at the bottom, there were just nine points between 3rd and 13th. Cut adrift at the bottom were Ballymoney United with just 18 points and four wins all season. On the final day anyone of six clubs could have gone down with them, Oxford United Stars pulling off a win to move out of the bottom two, and push Harland & Wolff Welders into their place as they could only manage a draw at Annagh United after levelling the match twice.

Northern Irish FA Cup
Glentoran beat Dungannon 2-0 at Windsor Park, Belfast

Northern Irish League Cup
Newry City beat Portadown 2-0 at Windsor Park, Belfast

Northern Irish Intermediate League Cup
Annagh United beat Oxford United Stars 2-0 at Windsor Park, Belfast

Northern Irish Intermediate Cup
Coleraine Reserves beat Glentoran Seconds 2-1 at Seaview, Belfast

Premier League
Champions :-
Llanelli AFC (78 pts), Runner's-Up :- The New Saints (65 pts)
Relegated :- Caernarfon Town (31 pts), Caersws (29 pts)
Top Scorers :- Dave Hibbert (The New Saints - 20 goals), Billy Kee (Llanelli AFC - 18 goals), Robert Dale (Carmarthen - 18 goals)
Top Average Ratings :- Wesley Thomas (Prestatyn Town - 7.12), Robert Dale (Carmarthen - 7.12), Billy Kee (Llanelli AFC - 7.16)

Chalk up a third successive Title for Llanelli, and even with The New Saints making a bit of a comeback and finishing runner's-up, they were still 13 points behind the Champions. Even that came at a bit of a cost for TNS though, as they didn't perform well in the Cup competitions this time around. At the bottom, Caernarfon Town and Caersws never really looked like staying up once we got into the New Year, which meant Haverfordwest didn't need to worry too much about being caught and dragged into the drop zone, leaving them able to concentrate on the Welsh Cup, which they went on to win and booked a place in the Europa League Qualifying Stages.

Welsh FA Cup
Haverfordwest County beat CPD Bangor City 2-0 at Stradey Park, Llanelli

Welsh Premier League Cup
Llanelli AFC beat Newtown 1-0 at The Millennium Stadium, Cardiff

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2012/13 Season Review (continued)

Best of Europe
UEFA Champions League

Arsenal (ENG) beat Valencia (SPA) 2-1 at Lluis Companys, Barcelona, Spain

UEFA Europa League
Liverpool (ENG) beat AS Roma (ITA) 2-0 at Stade de Gerland, Lyon, France

UEFA European Super Cup
Arsenal (ENG) beat Manchester City (ENG) 4-0 at Stade Louis II, Monte Carlo, Monaco

Champions :-
Club Brugge (51 pts), Runner's-Up :- Standard de Liège (51 pts)
Top Scorer :- Dieter Van Tournhout (Antwerp - 23 goals). Top Average Rating :- Elyaniv Barda (Genk - 7.51)

Champions :-
Pris Saint-Germain (70 pts), Runner's-Up :- AJ Auxerre (67 pts)
Top Scorer :- Kévin Monnet-Paquet (AJ Auxerre - 19 goals). Top Average Rating :- Mathieu Bodmer (Olympique Lyon - 7.48)

Champions :-
FC Bayern Munich (78 pts), Runner's-Up :- Bayer 04 Leverkusen (67 pts)
Top Scorer :- Chinedu Obasi (Werder Bremen - 16 goals). Top Average Rating :- Toni Kroos (FC Bayern Munich - 7.58)

Champions :-
Ajax Amsterdam (63 pts), Runner's-Up :- Roda JC (62 pts)
Top Scorer :- Marko Markovski (Willem II - 23 goals). Top Average Rating :- Tony Koutouan (AZ Alkmaar - 7.46)

Champions :-
Inter Milan (75 pts), Runner's-Up :- Juventus (75 pts)
Top Scorer :- Antonio Cassano (Sampdoria - 19 goals). Top Average Rating :- Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus - 7.72)

Champions :-
FC Porto (71 pts), Runner's-Up :- Benfica (64 pts)
Top Scorer :- Oscar Cardozo (Benfica - 17 goals). Top Average Rating :- Rafael Sóbis (Benfica - 8.01)

Champions :-
CSKA Moscow (69 pts), Runner's Up :- Zenit St.Petersburg (64 pts)

Champions :-
Real Madrid (90 pts), Runner's-Up :- Valencia (90 pts)
Top Scorer :- David Villa (Valencia - 22 goals). Top Average Rating :- Vagner Love (Real Madrid - 7.71)

Rest of the World
FIFA Club World Championship

Arsenal (ENG) beat Atlético Mineiro (BRA) 5-0 at Yokohama International Stadium, Yokohama, Japan

Copa Libertadores
Racing Club (ARG) beat Internacional (BRA) 4-1 on aggregate

Copa Sudamericana
Cruzeiro (BRA) beat Boca Juniors (ARG) 5-3 on penalties (AET - 2-2 on aggregate)

Asian Champions League
Ulsan Hyundai (KOR) beat Suwon Blue Wings (KOR) 5-4 on aggregate

North American Champions League
Club de América (MEX) beat Deportivo Toluca (MEX) 5-2 on aggregate

OFC Champions League
Auckland City (NZL) beat AS Magenta Nickel (NCL) 3-0 at Apia Stadium, Apia, Samoa

Champions :-
Boca Juniors, Runner's-Up :- River Plate

Hyundai A-League Regular Season Champions :-
Adelaide United. Runner's-Up :- Central Coast Mariners
Hyundai A-League Grand Final Series :- Adelaide United beat Central Coast Mariners 2-1 after extra time at Hindmarsh Stadium, Adelaide

Champions :-
Internacional, Runner's-Up :- Palmeiras

United States of America
Major League Soccer Regular Season Champions :-
Kansas City Wizards, Runner's-Up :- Colorado Rapids
Major League Soccer Final :- CD Chivas USA beat New York Red Bulls 1-0 at Rentschler Field, Hartford, Connecticut


2012 Olympic Football Tournament :- Hosts :- Great Britain. Holders :- Argentina.
Final :- Brazil beat United States of America 2-1 at Wembley Stadium, London, England
Top Scorer :- Kévin Monnet-Paquet (France - 6 goals)
Top Average Rating :- Sandi Krizman (Croatia - 8.30)

2012 Asian Under-19 Championship :- Hosts :- China. Holders :- South Korea.
Final :- China beat Australia 2-0 at Birds Nest Stadium, Beijing, China
Top Scorer :- Zhao Bin (China - 8 goals)
Top Average Rating :- Li Yang (China - 7.98)

2013 South American Under-20 Championship :- Hosts :- Bolivia. Holders :- Brazil.
Champions :- Brazil (13 pts), Runner's-Up :- Colombia (12 pts), 3rd :- Uruguay (7 pts)
Top Scorer :- Javier Díaz Álvarez (Peru - 8 goals)
Top Average Rating :- Javier Díaz Álvarez (Peru - 7.57)

2012 European Under-19 Championships :- Hosts :- Finland. Holders :- England.
Final :- Italy beat Bulgaria 4-1 

FIFA World Footballer of the Year
1st :-
Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United & Portugal), 2nd :- Carlos Vela (Arsenal & Mexico), 3rd :- Karim Benzema (AS Roma & France)

UEFA European Footballer of the Year
1st :-
Carlos Vela (Arsenal & Mexico), 2nd :- Carlos Tevez (Manchester United & Argentina), 3rd :- Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United & Portugal)

UEFA European Golden Boot
1st :-
Eduardo (Arsenal - 25 goals), 2nd :- David Villa (Valencia - 22 goals), 3rd :- Vagner Love (Real Madrid - 19 goals)

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Monday 1st July 2013
We are into July, and by the end of this month I will have been doing the job here in Minsk for a year, and we are already four points better off now than we were three games further down the line last season. By the end of July, we will be halfway through the League campaign, and hopefully also have some progress in the Cup as well.

The Transfer Window is open once again, and we have a new arrival. We actually signed him last year, but he wasn't able to move to us until the Summer Window as he had already been on the books of two clubs. Ukrainian 24 year old striker Denys Pshenychnyi split last season between Russian First Division side Terek Grozny and Higher League side Shakhter Soligorsk. He agreed to move to top tier newbies Dinamo Brest, who quickly had a change of heart over the move when they brought in strikers deemed superior, and agreed to sell him right on to us for half the price. So here he is, on a two and a half year deal that will see him paid £525 per week, he's 6'2 and uses every inch of that height well in the air where he is seldom beaten due to his great combination of strength and agility. He is not lacking for ability on the floor either, where his is quick and an effective dribbler. The fans are certainly looking forward to watching him play.

Tuesday 2nd July
Tomorrow we begin our Belarusian Cup campaign, which bizarrely doesn't really run fall in line with the rest of Belarusian domestic calendar, the latter stages being played in the spring when the season is just starting more along with traditional European calendar, rather than the Summer calendar that the League uses.

Never mind, it might work out for us. We are very much the favourites for the home match with Dinamo-Belcard Grodno, the bookies making us 1/6 favourites for the match against the club ten points behind us in the League and currently sat down in 13th place. It would be a bit of a shock if we were pushed out of the Cup at the first hurdle. I tell the press that a break might have been a good thing for our players.

Wednesday 3rd July
It's Cup day, but we start our day by rejecting an offer from top tier club Shakhter Soligorsk for Alexey Rios. It wasn't a particularly difficult decision to make, as the deal was for a measly fee of £4,000. Taking into account Rios' current good form, the fact that he has expressed no desire to leave the club at all, and that if he had done Russian second tier club Shinnik Yaroslavl appeared ready to pay a lot more than four grand for the winger, it was in fact a very easy decision to make. The most puzzling aspect was that Shakhter are currently managerless, so the decision to make an offer for Rios seems to have come from Boardroom level. Maybe I should have negotiated, and said they can have him if I can be their new manager to get myself a fast track up into the top tier?

Belarusian Cup, First Round
Lokomotiv Stadium, Minsk
Lokomotiv Minsk v Dinamo-Belcard Grodno
Attendance :-
825. Weather :- Breezy, 9c.

While we are in the First League, the domestic Cup competition offers us our only route into European Football right now, but we would need some luck and some more consistent form. We kick off our campaign with a home tie against a side we're expected to beat. Vladimir Zuhbaia gets another chance to impress in goal, while Vladimir Malykh is back in the First Team to replace Alexey Yesipenok, who drops out of the squad altogether this evening. His place in the squad goes to Dmitry Chaka, who will be hoping to get on from the bench and show something after losing his regular spot at right back. Also on the bench today is new arrival and potential debutant, Denys Pshenychnyi who takes the place of Lukasz Zuk on the substitutes bench.

Our game plan was clear from the outset, switching the ball from left to right and vice versa in an attempt to stretch their notoriously fragile defence beyond it's breaking point. That allowed early crossing opportunities for both Alexey Rios and Georgy Schennikov, but neither could pick out a team mate in the early stages. When Sergey Krot moved out into the left channel as well, Belcard were overwhelmed, and Schennikov got the ball to Yuriy Ryzhko on the edge of the box, and he went for power, Denys Boyko playing it safe by punching it away from goal, and coming through that one unscathed. Chudnovsky sent the next effort just over the bar, while a Schennikov free kick from the right picked out Maxim Ivanenko at the far post, but his header only found the side netting. Andrey Leonchik attempted to take advantage of a bouncing ball near the edge of our penalty box, but he sent his shot way over the bar. Just before half time we finally found our way through, Ivanenko hoisting the ball into the box from halfway, Boyko came off his line only to be beaten to the ball by Nikolay Shvydakov, and he headed it down for Ryzhko. The midfielder didn't have a route to goal, but got the ball back to the skipper who sent it into the roof of the net, the Belcard defenders not happy, claiming Ryzhko initially controlled the knock down with his arm.

We were forced into a change at half time, and it was keeper Vladimir Zuhbaia who was injured, the Georgian suffering a hand injury that would require Dmitry Biryukov to take over in goal for the second half. At the other end of the park, we were looking for a second goal to try and kill this tie off, Rios doing some good work on the right, and his square pass across the edge of the box was struck with the outside of the boot by Chudnovsky, that one also just a little too high from the midfield playmaker. We had to survive a bit of a scare brought on by miscommunication though, Leonchik lifting the ball forward from the centre circle, and it was too far ahead of Vasyl Pavlyk. It would have easily run through to Biryukov as he came off his line, but Ivanenko ignored his call and dealt with it, sending the ball right to Yuriy Bushman who hit the ball first time and missed the open net. It wasn't long before we were back on the front foot though, and in the 65th minute Schennikov made a great run down the left and angled his sprint into the box, Pavel Andreichenkov making a rash tackle attempt to bring him down, and the ref pointed to the spot. It was a shock to see Shvydakov waste the chance by blasting his spot kick high over the bar, but within ninety seconds he would get another chance, as we were awarded a second spot kick, this time Rios making the run down the opposite flank, and he was sent to the ground by Sergey Voytas. At the second time of asking, Shvydakov made no mistake, keeping this one low and finding the bottom corner to make our lead a 2-0 one. There were twenty minutes left, and I was confident enough with our lead to make two changes, right after Vladimir Malykh picked up our first booking in what felt like forever. Ivanenko and Krot came off, and on came Maxim Gukailo and debutant Denys Pshenychnyi. Now on a booking, Malykh had to make sure his tackle was inch perfect with a quarter of an hour to go when the ball came into our box, and he was up to the task. Our new striker forced a good full stretch save from Boyko, and from the corner, Rios rounded off an impressive evening by glancing in Schennikov's delivery at the near post to confirm our safe passage into the Second Round.

Lokomotiv Minsk (1) 3 - Nikolay Shvydakov (44, 68 pen), Alexey Rios (82)
Dinamo-Belcard Grodno (0) 0
Vladimir Zuhbaia (inj - Dmitry Biryukov 45); Egor Romanovskiy, Vladimir Malykh, Maxim Gorbach, Maxim Ivanenko (Maxim Gukailo 70); Eduard Chudnovsky, Yuriy Ryzhko; Alexey Rios, Georgy Schennikov; Sergey Krot (Denys Pschenychnyi 70), Nikolay Shvydakov ©.
Unused Substitutes :- Dmitry Chaka, Igor Zangiev, Alexandr Degterev, Evgeniy Drozd.
Boookings :- Vladimir Malykh 69
Possession :- 52% - 48%. Man of the Match :- Alexey Rios (Lokomotiv Minsk).

That one turned out to be a fairly routine procession into the Second Round of the Cup, and I would like to see this kind of form taken into League matches. Even with a penalty miss, we were pretty convincing tonight, though many would point out that we should be against clubs like Dinamo-Belcard with the depth we now have in our playing squad.

That depth would take a bit of a hit over the next few weeks though, with goalkeeper Vladimir Zuhbaia ruled out for the next two weeks of a busy section of our fixture list, the Georgian suffering a broken hand in a heavy fall just before half time in that match. So it would be a further opportunity for Dmitry Biryukov to prove he is the number one keeper at the club right now.

Our progress in the Cup netted us a very modest prize of £1,000, and we would now await the draw for the Second Round in a fortnight's time. The match saw the continued impressive form of right winger Alexey Rios, who's average rating is well into the seven's, but for a right winger in a competitive side that likes to spread the ball out wide, I would really like to see him add some more production to his stats.

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Thursday 4th July 2013
Without doubt the area of our squad that most needs a little attention is the defence. Capable of being very reliable, right down the scale to 'not to be trusted' from game to game, heck, sometimes even in the same game. Some new faces may well improve things, or even put a rocket into the current players and give them some fear of losing their places. There is money left in both the Transfer and Wage kitty, so I put in a bid for Ukrainian centre back Mykola Vlaev, who has been transfer listed by Dinamo Minsk. The competition for his signature will be fierce.

It will match the mood of Evgeniy Drozd, who once again states his unhappiness with his current amount of playing time, and may be looking to move on if the situation doesn't improve. Much less closer to our First Team is Igor Shitov will apparently not be be getting anywhere near a Lokomotiv Minsk jersey, as Lillestrøm's right back has rejected a move to join us, which isn't too surprising.

Friday 5th July
Tomorrow afternoon we return to League action with a trip to face 8th placed Vertical Kalinkovichi, who are having a better season than expected despite running with a squad that is lacking on quality and investment. The total value of their semi-professional squad is currently considered to be less than £10,000, which for comparison purposes is a little under the current suspected market value for Egor Romanovskiy or Maxim Ivanenko. Add in that they only have one win against Lokomotiv in their recent history, and the bookies have us as odds on favourites. The only bar it would seem, is our sketchy at best form on the road.

Saturday 6th July

Belarusian First League
Yunost, Kalinkovichi
Vertical Kalinkovichi v Lokomotiv Minsk
Attendance :-
1,049. Weather :- Wet, 17c.

With Vladimir Zuhbaia out of action for a couple of weeks, Dmitry Biryukov is back in the team, and we don't call anybody else up from the Reserve side at this point, so there is no keeper on the bench today. There is a change in midfield, Yuriy Ryzhko is still recovering his match fitness and this one comes too close to the last game for him to start again, so he is switched out for young Igor Zangiev to start this match. The extra spot on the substitutes bench is given to Lukasz Zuk.

It was so close to being a nightmare start for us, as with just five minutes on the clock a shot from Eugene Lysytsyn took a huge deflection off Egor Romanovskiy which took the ball past Dmitry Biryukov's dive, but fortunately, just wide of the far post. But avoidance of that nightmare start was brief, as in the 8th minute Andrey Mikhalyuk received the ball on the left from a throw in and picked out Nikolay Fastov. The midfielder settled the ball before pinging in a shot from 30 yards out that Biryukov got a fingertip to, but could only help into the top corner. Now I was going to really find out what my side were made of, and to be fair, they settled the game back down to our pace nicely, but did so without ever really threatening Vertical at all. Fastov fired us another warning shot shortly after the half hour mark, but we failed to heed the warning. With time ticking down on the first half, Vertical launched a counter attack through Fastov, and Mikhalyuk let fly from range with a shot that rattled off the bar. The ball flew up into air, spinning all the while, and that led to Maxim Ivanenko badly misjudging his leap for a header, Mykhaylo Chopyk instead stooping to head the ball into the bottom corner and send us in at half time two goals down in a game we were expected to dominate!

Needless to say I was furious at the break, and made two changes to get my point across, a very annoyed Vladimir Malykh and Sergey Krot were made the scapegoats, Maxim Gukailo pressed into service in the middle of the back four, while Denys Pschenychnyi would partner Nikolay Shvydakov up front for the second half. Thankfully we got our tails up as well, and started to play a bit of football. A lot of our work was down the left, but in the 58th minute Alexey Rios cut infield from the right, and picked out sub Denys Pschenychnyi. The striker hit a first time shot that beat Anatoliy Kundelko, but bounced back off the base of the upright. The ball hit the prone keeper and sat in the six yard box, sparking a foot race, which Rios won but the last touch came off Gennadiy Dudin, who was credited with an own goal. Not that it mattered to us, we had our foot back in the door, and that was the main priority. Our new striker was certainly causing Vertical some problems, and he was involved again when the ball eventually fell to Eduard Chudnovsky, his well struck low shot was kicked off the line by Dudin as he redeemed himself to a degree. I was now waiting for some signs of Vertical adopting a defensive mindset, and that came with just over a quarter of an hour to play. We would go for bust, Romanovskiy and Igor Zangiev coming off, Alexandr Degterev and Lukasz Zuk coming on as we went to three at the back, just Chudnovsky in midfield, with the wingers advanced further up the park and Degterev playing behind three strikers now. We were pinning Vertical right back into their own third of the park, but getting a clean shot at goal wasn't easy, and when Chudnovsky's shot from the edge of the box with five minutes left found it's way through the forest of players but was an inch or so past the far post, it looked as though our best chance had come and gone. But with the clock now running into injury time, Maxim Gorbach won a tackle on halfway to prevent a counter attack, and he fed the ball left to Georgy Schennikov. He played a one-two with Pschenychnyi and then cut a cross back to the striker. He hit his shot into the floor, which would have made it difficult enough for Kundelko, but the ball also spun off Dudin, leaving the keeper absolutely helpless as we celebrated a late, late equaliser. Unfortunate or hapless, you can choose for yourself for the Vertical left back, who had unwittingly gifted us a point.

Vertical Kalinkovichi (2) 2 - Nikolay Fastov (8), Mykhaylo Chopyk (43)
Lokomotiv Minsk (0) 2 - Gennadiy Dudin (58 og, 90+1 og)
Dmitry Biryukov; Egor Romanovskiy (Lukasz Zuk 74), Vladimir Malykh (Maxim Gukailo 45), Maxim Gorbach, Maxim Ivanenko; Eduard Chudnovsky, Igor Zangiev (Alexandr Degterev 74); Alexey Rios, Georgy Schennikov; Sergey Krot (Denys Pschenychnyi 45), Nikolay Shvydakov ©.

Unused Substitutes :- Dmitry Chaka, Yuriy Ryzhko, Evgeniy Drozd.
Bookings :- None
Possession :- 36% - 64%. Man of the Match :- Nikolay Fastov (Vertical Kalinkovichi).

What a game of two halves. We were poor in defence in the first half, and only just managed to sneak a point from the match right at the end, getting a bit of luck with both our goals. You have to feel a little bit sorry for Gennadiy Dudin, how often do you see two own goals in the same match, let alone from the same player!

That draw felt more like a win with the nature of the comeback, but there was one person who was in a sulky mood on the bus back to Minsk. That would be attacking midfielder Evgeniy Drozd, who was left on the bench once more and wasn't brought on as one of the four substitutes when we were chasing a way back into the game. His desire to stay at Lokomotiv has dropped a little further again.

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Tuesday 9th July 2013
Dinamo Minsk are trying to squeeze some more money out of us for Ukrainian centre back Mykola Vlaev, and we are running the risk of being caught in a bidding war for the 29 year old with multiple clubs interested. By lunchtime, our bid of £4,000 has been accepted, and now we are waiting our turn to negotiate personal terms with the defender.

Thursday 11th July
Things have come to a head with Evgeniy Drozd, with the 24 year old attacking midfielder today making a formal transfer request, citing a lack of First Team football as his reason and adding that he now see's his footballing future away from Lokomotiv. I tell him that right now I have to reject his request, but that in the meantime if he keeps working hard, there is plenty of football left to be played this season.

Friday 12th July
18 year old goalkeeper Gennady Burmistrov was called up from our Reserve side SKVICh just yesterday as cover, and already he is involved in some drama. He got himself involved in a training ground altercation with the man he has been called up to replace, Georgian keeper Vladimir Zuhbaia, and in the aftermath Burmistrov was heard to tell other squad members that Zuhbaia is difficult to work with and bad for team morale. When I arrived here almost a year ago, I was told that I had two very good young keepers in the squad, and many voiced the opinion that Burmistrov was the better of the two. But he has a reputation as a hot head, who is difficult to control, and already he is showing that may be the case. 

Saturday 13th July
Tomorrow we return home for another Sunday match, and this time our visitors with be FC Lida. They are currently down in 11th place, and after today's matches they see themselves now three points behind the tail of the midfield pack, so they know a defeat tomorrow will see them risk losing touch and finding themselves much closer to the relegation battle. Scoring goals is their main issue, as they have found the net just twice in their last four League matches, with both coming in the 2-0 home win against Livadia. For our part, we know a win tomorrow would nudge us up into fourth spot, just three points outside of the promotion places.

Mykola Vlaev will not be joining our promotion push however, the centre back has instead opted for a return to Ukraine, as Dinamo agree to sell him for £6,000 to First League outfit FC Zakarpattya Uzhgorod.

Sunday 14th July

Belarusian First League
Lokomotiv Stadium, Minsk
Lokomotiv Minsk v FC Lida.
Attendance :-
421. Weather :- Dry, 26c.

There are some changes for this home match in the sun as I try and appease an increasing number of players who are not happy with the amount of First Team football they are getting right now. There are two changes in the back four, Maxim Gukailo replacing Maxim Ivanenko at left back, while Dmitry Chaka comes in at centre back with Vladimir Malykh dropped once again. In midfield, Evgeniy Drozd gets a rare start, replacing Igor Zangiev to partner Eduard Chudnovsky in the centre of the park, while on the right wing Alexey Rios is rested with Alexandr Degterev starting. There is also one further change on the bench, teenage keeper Gennady Burmistrov called up for bench duties today, meaning there is no place for Lukasz Zuk.

It's a significant drop in attendance for today's match, and it wasn't just slow at the turnstiles, as the match got off to a very quiet start. It took us till midway through the first half to produce any kind of attacking intent, Alexandr Degterev taking possession on the right and running across the park to try and find a gap, eventually squaring the ball to Eduard Chudnovsky who's shot from the edge of the box was comfortably turned over the bar by Vadim Osipov. It would take Lida in excess of half an hour to provide any signs of causing us a problem, but a corner from Olexiy Rachyba found the head of Andrey Rusak, his looping header landing on the roof of the net. With five minutes left in the first half, Degterev attempted to capitalise on some confusion in the Lida defence, stealing the ball and pushing it on to Sergey Krot, the striker going for power and just missing the target, high and wide of the top corner he was aiming for. A goalless first half looked likely, until a flowing passing move involving all of our attacking players eventually saw Maxim Gukailo pick out Georgy Schennikov in the box, and he beat Osipov low at his near post to hand us a vital advantage at the break.

We had done well to carve out a lead despite creating so few chances in the first half. So it was nice to see us start the second half very much on the front foot, Gukailo sending the ball down the left flank, and Krot having too much power for the Lida defence to stop him moving forward. His cross wasn't too shabby either, low and hard towards the near post, and picking out the arrival of Nikolay Shvydakov, who volleyed the ball into the bottom corner to double our advantage just minutes after the restart. That was a huge relief, and there would be more to come on the hour mark, Maxim Gorbach moving in between a defender and the keeper to meet Chudnovsky's corner and move our advantage out to three goals. Unfortunately though, Schennikov was injured in the build up to that corner, and he was taken off right away with the game now safe, Chudnovsky and Krot also coming off as well, with Alexey Rios, Igor Zangiev and Denis Pshenychnyi coming on in their place. The changes didn't stop us trying to add to the scoreline, Gukailo chancing his arm from a free kick that curled only just wide of the upright. A rare excursion up the park from Lida saw Andrey Maslo blast a shot way over the bar, before normal service was resumed, Alexey Rios making a lung busting run down the right that took him past three players, before picking out Shvydakov, who was only denied another goal by a smart save from Osipov. Centre back Gorbach was replaced by Maxim Ivanenko with a quarter of an hour to play as we wound down the clock with no threat to us from Lida at all. A comfortable Sunday afternoon for us.

Lokomotiv Minsk (1) 3 - Georgy Schennikov (43), Nikolay Shvydakov (49), Maxim Gorbach (60)
FC Lida (0) 0
Dmitry Biryukov; Egor Romanovskiy, Dmitry Chaka, Maxim Gorbach (Maxim Ivanenko 75), Maxim Gukailo; Eduard Chudnovsky (Igor Zangiev 60), Evgeniy Drozd; Alexandr Degterev, Georgy Schennikov (inj - Alexey Rios 60); Sergey Krot (Denis Pshenychnyi 60), Nikolay Shvydakov ©.
Unused Substitutes :- Vlaimir Malykh, Gennady Burmistrov (GK), Yuriy Ryzhko.
Bookings :- None
Possession :- 51% - 49%. Man of the Match :- Maxim Gorbach (Lokomotiv Minsk).

That couldn't have gone much better, and we push ourselves back up into fourth place and just three points from the promised land of a promotion spot. There was some concern that it would have come at a cost with Georgy Schennikov going off injured, but there was good news there as well, the Russian left winger suffering no more damage than bruising to his shin, which would keep him out for no more than a week or so.

It's another great performance for Maxim Gorbach, the 29 year old centre back not only contributing to a clean sheet, but also notching his sixth goal of the campaign and his third man of the match award. His contract is due to expire at the end of the season, and right now he is enjoying playing for us. Should we reach our goals and achieve promotion this season, he would be very much in contention to keep his spot and become a top tier player.

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Monday 15th July 2013
Yesterday's very comfortable performance see's Maxim Gorbach and Georgy Schennikov both included in the First League Team of the Week. There is a good feeling around the club once again, with the media now seeing us as a club that those in front of us should be wary of with just over half the season still to play.

Wednesday 17th July
In the First Round of the Belarusian Cup, we beat Dinamo-Belcard Grodno fairly convincingly. Today is the draw for the Second Round, and once more we are out of the hat early, and more importantly still, with a home tie. The level of opposition is going to be a step up next time however, as we will be hosting current fourth placed club in the Highest League, the perceived overachieving Naftan Novopolotsk. Their star player is without doubt the 26 year old former Belarus Under-21 International forward, Dmitriy Komarovskiy. He has been superb for Naftan since arriving in 2007, and there has to be questions asked as to what more he needs to do to break into the Belarus Senior Squad. Before the tie, which is scheduled for mid-August, there is still the small matter of a UEFA Europa League Third Round Qualifier for Naftan, which has drawn them against Belgian side, RAEC Mons. It wouldn't do our chances any harm if they won that tie and took their eye off the ball in the domestic Cup competition.

Our next attempt to improve our back four has fallen by the wayside, with two offers made to domestic rival club FC Smorgon. Our bids of first £20,000, then followed quickly with an improved offer of £30,000 for 21 year old Stanislav Mamonov were both dismissed by the second tier club. Back to the drawing board it is then.

Georgian goalkeeper Vladimir Zuhbaia is back in training following his hand injury. He is still unsettled at the club despite seeing an improvement in game time this season, and there is still significant doubt over his future as a Lokomotiv player.

Thursday 18th July
20 year old Mariusz Kaczmarek is one of our new players this season, but he has been bundled into the utility player category somewhat, as he doesn't have a best position. With just two outings in the League so far, one of them coming from the substitutes bench, I'm made aware that the former Dinamo Brest and Belshina Bobruisk player is starting to become disillusioned with life at Lokomotiv.

We missed out on Stanislav Mamonov by quite some way, as he has today signed for Ukrainian First League leaders Tavria Simferopol for a sum of £140,000. He then annoyed the fans of his new club by stating that signing for Tavria was only a third or fourth option. Ouch.

Our own attempt to improve our defensive options saw us turn our attention to top tier Dnepr Mogilev player, Pavel Rybak. Despite being a regular in their First Team, they do seem fairly comfortable with letting his contract run down, and I was hoping we might be able to get him on the cheap with his current deal running out at the end of the season. No such luck, as our offer of £40,000 is met with a demand to increase it to more like £100,000. That's a little too rich for us, and even if it weren't, I don't think he is worth that kind of figure.

Friday 19th July
Tomorrow presents us with an opportunity to move ourselves above the side directly in front of us in third place, Slavia Mozyr. With us currently on a very good run of just one defeat in nine games in all competitions since early May. there is apparently only one thing that could possibly stop us. Yes, we will be relying on our rather inconsistent away form, and Slavia have lost once once at home since last summer.

Saturday 20th July

Belarusian First League
Yunost, Mozyr
Slavia Mozyr v Lokomotiv Minsk
Attendance :-
3,646. Weather :- Drizzle, 22c.

This is a fairly big game, win and we are right back in the hunt for a promotion spot. Lose however, and we risk falling back in with the chasing pack and leaving ourselves with a gap to bridge to get back towards the clubs at the top. From last time out, there is one change in the back four, with Maxim Ivanenko brought back in at left back in place of Maxim Gukailo. There is also a change in the midfield duo, Evgeniy Drozd returns to the substitutes bench, and Yuriy Ryzhko is back in the middle of the park. Alexandr Degterev switches across to the left wing, a move forced upon us by the injury to Georgy Schennikov, and allows Alexey Rios to return to the lineup on the right wing. The final change is up front, where Sergey Krot is only on the bench, Denis Pschenychnyi brought in to start. On the bench, Vladimir Zuhbaia is back, with Gennady Burmistrov returning to the Reserve side.

A big game nearly had a big start, but not in a good way for us. Evgeniy Kurlovich sent a through ball from the halfway line down the side of Dmitry Chaka, who was outpaced by Roman Vasilyuk, the home skipper cutting across Chaka to prevent him making a challenge, and then tried to round Dmitry Biryukov, the young keeper doing superbly to knock the ball away from him without also bringing him down. Our shaky start continued when Kurlovich then picked out Giorgi Chedia in the box, his shot picking out the bottom corner of the net, but he was flagged for offside. Kurlovich tried himself next time, connecting with a header that was right at Biryukov. As the midway point of the first half approached, we created our first real chance, Egor Romanovskiy sending in a cross field ball from the right touchline, and Denis Pschenychnyi drifted off the shoulder of his marker and expertly brought the ball down, before firing in a low shot, denied by Yuriy Tsigalko who had sprung off his line and made a superb block to keep the score deadlocked. The next chance came ten minutes later, Kurlovich again finding his man in the box, this time Vasilyuk, and he opted not to shoot, playing a first time pass to Mikhail Martinovich who sent a low shot beyond Biryukov's reach and inside the post to open the scoring. A goal down at the break, we now had some major work to do in the second half.

And we would have to do it without our major scoring threat as well. Striker and skipper Nikolay Shvydakov was injured just before the break, and he wouldn't be able to continue, Sergey Krot summoned from the bench to take his place as we looked to go in search of an equaliser at least. The first chance after the break would go to Slavia though, Maxim Ivanenko botching his clearance and Chedia taking the ball down and hitting a curling shot that just swerved wide of the goal frame. With things not really going our way, just past the hour mark I made two changes, Chaka and Yuriy Ryzhko replaced by Vladimir Malykh and Igor Zangiev. We soon created a great chance to level this match up, Eduard Chudnovsky threading the ball into the path of Pschenychnyi, but for a second time Tsigalko kept him out, stopping his shot from point blank range. With nothing coming from the corner, and time running down, Pschenychnyi's curling cross from the corner of the box was knocked away from Alexey Rios at the last second, and Alexander Degterev's corner picked out Maxim Gorbach, but his header was turned over the cross bar. We were knocking at the door, but we couldn't break it down, and with one last throw of the dice, Romanovskiy came off, replaced by Lukasz Zuk as we left just two at the back and went to three up front. With seconds remaining of the ninety minutes, Sergey Krot won us a free kick on the edge of the box. We needed a hero to step up, and Degterev put up his hand, his free kick curling up and over the wall, and hitting the top of the cross bar as it just failed to dip enough. Nearly, but you don't get any points for nearly.

Slavia Mozyr (1) 1 - Mikhail Martinovich (31)
Lokomotiv Minsk (0) 0
Dmitry Biryukov; Egor Romanovskiy (Lukasz Zuk 87), Dmitry Chaka (Vladimir Malykh 62), Maxim Gorbach, Maxim Ivanenko; Eduard Chudnovsky, Yuriy Ryzhko (Igor Zangiev 62); Alexey Rios, Alexandr Degterev; Denis Pschenychnyi, Nikolay Shvydakov © (inj - Sergey Krot 45).
Unused Substitutes :- Vladimir Zuhbaia (GK), Maxim Gukailo, Evgeniy Drozd.
Bookings :- None
Possession :- 47% - 53%. Man of the Match :- Mikhail Martinovich (Slavia Mozyr).

We had created enough to at least earn a point from that match, but we couldn't find a way through Slavia's defence, and now we were going to have to work very hard to get ourselves back into the promotion picture. On top of that, we would need to do so without our top scorer for a while. Nikolay Shvydakov landed awkwardly after jumping for a header, injuring his calf. That would now keep him on the sidelines for around three weeks.

Add to that the news that Shakhter Soligorsk of the top tier had sent a scouting team to watch the match, rumoured to be in preparation to make a bid for Alexey Rios, and then confirmation that we had missed out on yet another transfer target with MTZ-Ripo Minsk right back Pawel Socha instead deciding to make the move to play for FH in Iceland, meant all in all, it hadn't been our finest weekend.

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Sunday 21st July 2013
The day began with the news that one of our highly rated youngsters, 17 year old forward Nikolay Kiselev, has signed a one year deal with the club. The local lad who is in his second year on the books of Lokomotiv is well thought of by the staff, but hasn't managed to command a regular place with SKVICh so far this campaign.

A slightly older, but nonetheless still young player, has asked for a transfer today, stating that he needs to be playing regular First Team football at this stage of his career. Igor Zangiev's request has been rejected, and I tell the player that I see him as a player who very much has a role to play in the First Team at Lokomotiv over the coming months and years.

Monday 22nd July
A player who is constantly being linked with a move away from our club is Georgy Schennikov, and he refused to pour cold water on the interest of Russian First Division side, Nosta Novotroitsk. They are said to be preparing a bid of around £250,000 for the 22 year old, though that would still only be around half of our current valuation for the dangerous left winger.

Tuesday 23rd July
After the disappointment of defeat on Saturday, we are given a quick chance to get back to winning ways with a midweek match. Tomorrow night sees us return to Lokomotiv Stadium as we host 8th placed Mikashevichi. They have a squad that many believe lacks the talent to move them much further up the League than their current mid table spot, and with four wins against them in eight matches, the bookies believe home advantage is going to be enough to see us return to winning ways tomorrow evening.

Wednesday 24th July

Belarusian High League
Lokomotiv Stadium, Minsk
Lokomotiv Minsk v Mikashevichi
Attendance :-
423. Weather :- Breezy, 22c.

Vladimir Zuhbaia is back in goal for this one, with Dmitry Biryukov rested today. The two full backs are also out of the team today, Egor Romanovskiy left out altogether and Maxim Ivanenko on the bench, with Dmitry Chaka returning to his more natural right back spot, and Maxim Gukailo selected at left back. Vladimir Malykh is also brought back into the side at centre back. In the centre of the park Igor Zangiev replaces Yuriy Ryzhko, and there is good news on the left wing, where Georgy Schennikov is passed fit to play and takes the place of Alexandr Degterev. Up front, the injured Nikolay Shvydakov is replaced by Sergey Krot, and there is a place for Alexey Yesipenok on the bench today.

A win was an absolute must for us today, and the boys showed that they knew that when they put in some hefty challenges early on to prevent Mikashevichi from playing any killer through balls. One player who put in such a challenge was Igor Zangiev, and he even came out with the ball and launched a counter attack, Denis Pschenychnyi holding up the ball before spinning to his right and releasing Alexey Rios into space, the winger wasting a chance to test Pavel Shisheya, trying to cut the ball back instead and missing the mark. Shortly after Shisheya was forced into a save after a low driven shot by Eduard Chudnovsky and Pschenychnyi headed wide of goal, Rios would fully redeem himself in the 19th minute. The winger got on the end of a Georgy Schennikov corner, using the weight already on the ball, and simply redirecting it at the near post, nodding it downwards and into the net. That goal forced our visitors out of their shell a little, and Ivan Gaev sent a curler just over the angle of the goal frame, before Sergey Kiturko hit a shot from range that was too hot for Vladimir Zuhbaia to handle, but there was no one following up to punish that error. We held the lead at the break, but it was a little closer than we would like.

With no changes at the break, Roman Volkov gave us an early indication of the Mikashevichi mindset a minute after the restart, stepping infield after receiving the ball on the left and sending in a viciously struck curling effort that Zuhbaia had to watch all the way as it cleared the target. At the other end, we should have extended our lead five minutes later, Dmitry Chaka combining well with Rios down the right flank, and the latter sent in a beautiful cross that picked out Pschenychnyi at the far post, but the striker fluffed his lines and the chance to open his Lokomotiv account, heading the ball wide of the target. Heartened by the fact that they hadn't fallen further behind, our guests probed further into Zuhbaia's handling skills, Karen Muradyan this time with the shot from 25 yards that dipped and swerved, the Georgian keeper electing to punch that one out of harms way. With the mid point of the second half almost upon us, I decided that fresh legs would be the best thing for us, and instigated a triple change, Chaka, Maxim Gukailo and Sergey Krot would all come off, Rios would move to right back with Evgeniy Drozd on the right wing, Maxim Ivanenko would play left back, and Lukasz Zuk would come on to form a strike partnership with Pschenychnyi. And Drozd almost made it a perfect change around, as he connected with a header from a Chudnovsky corner, but his powerful effort cleared the cross bar. Moments later, Pschenychnyi cut the Mikashevichi defence wide open with a through ball, and Schennikov found himself in the clear, but his attempt to place his shot low into the corner was stopped by the legs of Shisheya. There was a final change late on as Zangiev was substituted for Yuriy Ryzhko as we looked to tighten things up, but the visitors were resorting to shooting from range by this point, Pavlo Stepanets shot was well struck well but Zuhbaia never seemed concerned about it being a threat. Chudnovsky missed an injury time chance to make the win look a little more impressive, but he sent a shot over the bar after a great run and cross from Schennikov. It wasn't an emphatic performance by any means, but the three points were the most important thing.

Lokomotiv Minsk (1) 1 - Alexey Rios (19)
Mikashevichi (0) 0
Vladimir Zuhbaia; Dmitry Chaka (Evgeniy Drozd 66), Vladimir Malykh, Maxim Gorbach ©, Maxim Gukailo (Maxim Ivanenko 66); Eduard Chudnovsky, Igor Zangiev (Yuriy Ryzhko 84); Alexey Rios, Georgy Schennikov; Denis Pschenychnyi, Sergey Krot (Lukasz Zuk 66).
Unused Substitutes :- Alexey Yesipenok, Dmitry Biryukov (GK), Alexandr Degterev.
Bookings :- None
Possession :- 54% - 46%. Man of the Match :- Alexey Rios (Lokomotiv Minsk).

It wasn't convincing, or stunning in any way at all, but we are back to winning ways on a Wednesday evening that featured a full programme of fixtures. With fourteen matches played, we have won half of them, and sit in fifth spot, five points from a promotion spot and eight behind leaders FC Smorgon, who dropped a couple of points this evening, something that is becoming an increasingly rare event for them.

Alexey Rios produced a man of the match display, even after that early chance to open the scoring wasn't utilised. I paid £3,000 for the winger almost exactly a year ago now, and since then he has produced five goals and four assists in thirty league matches. It's not an enormous return, but add into the equation the fact that he has played an average rating of 7.23 over that period, and it starts to show how important he has become to the team. He is contracted through to the end of next season, but admiring glances are starting to be cast in his direction from both domestic and foreign clubs. Shakhter Soligorsk of the top tier, along with Luch-Energia Vladivostok and Shinnik Varslavl of the Russian second tier are all rumoured to be interested.

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Thursday 25th July 2013
Evgeniy Drozd has requested a transfer today, a request that has been rejected at this point. He has made eight appearances so far in the League, four of which have come from the bench. Our squad isn't deep enough that I can let him leave right now without replacing him, and as it stands I don't have any plans to bring in any more forwards.

Friday 26th July
Tomorrow will see us take the trip south west to the city of Dzerzhinsk, where we will take on Livadia, a team who look set for a season long battle to preserve their status in the First League. They sit 15th going into the match, while our win against Mikashevichi earlier in the week had left us lying in 5th place, and hoping for a win to improve our inconsistent away form and send us into August still well in contention regarding the promotion race. The bookies have no doubts, making us very heavy favourites despite our away day problems.

Before we reached the weekend and set off on that away day, we would still continue to look at options to improve our defence. Talks continue with very experienced right back Pavel Rybak, who has previously played for the club, and who we have already had a £40,000 offer for rejected by Dnepr Mogilev after they asked for £100,000. His contract is up at the end of the campaign, and we are now discussing him joining us for next season. He has rejected our first offer, but there is still some room to work with, and we are not too far apart.

Saturday 27th July

Belarusian First League
Zavety Il'icha, Dzerzhinsk
Livadia Dzerzhinsk v Lokomotiv Minsk
Attendance :-
816. Weather :- Dry, 14c.

After a clean sheet in our last outing, Vladimir Zuhbaia retains his place in goal for this away match, where the back four is also unchanged. There is a switch in midfield, with Yuriy Ryzhko stepping into the side in place of Igor Zangiev, the only change to the lineup today.

We almost had the perfect start to settle our away day nerves, Eduard Chudnovsky heading the ball over the Livadia back four and sending Denis Pshenychnyi into the box, and he tried to round Andrey Shikhantsov, but the keeper got enough of a toe on it to poke it away from the striker, who is still seeking his first Lokomotiv goal. At the other end, build up play from Yakov Kazak and Andrey Arkhiptsev set up Evgeniy Minekov for a shot from range that Vladimir Zuhbaia held easily. Sergey Krot has gone a little while without a goal, and Shikhantsov pushed his shot away too to keep us out again. He would finally be beaten in the 19th minute, Alexey Rios picking out Pshenychnyi in the box, and he slotted the ball past the keepers dive, only to see it bounce back off the upright before being cleared to safety. The first half closed with Arkhiptsev, booked by this point for a challenge on Chudnovsky in midfield, sending in a shot from range that was deflected only just wide of our goal, Zuhbaia would have been struggling to get back across and keep that one out had it been on target.

It had been a tight first half, and clearly the first goal would be crucial this afternoon. In the 54th minute, Dmitry Chaka picked out Rios with a throw in, and he sent the ball into the box for Pshenychnyi. The striker rolled Oleg Orlov, and then went down under the defenders challenge. The ref looked to his assistant for help, and with the flag raised, he awarded the spot kick, also booking the defender. Our regular penalty taker is Nikolay Shvydakov, but with the striker injured, it was Chudnovsky who picked up the ball and stepped forward. I watched on nervously from the dugout, but there was nothing to be worried about, as our midfielder picked out a spot right under the cross bar and put us ahead ten minutes into the second half. That goal hurt Livadia, who had been very much in the game, and Alexandr Tretiyak quickly became the third of their players to be booked. Arkhiptsev would try his luck once more from range, this one flashing just wide of Zuhbaia's post. I made a pair of changes in response, encouraged to do so with Pshenychnyi now struggling with a knock. He was joined by Yuriy Ryzhko, with Lukasz Zuk and Igor Zangiev both summoned from the bench. A corner gave us a chance to cement our lead, Chudnovsky whipped the ball in, and when Maxim Gorbach didn't get a good connection on it, the ball fell to Krot. The striker sent the ball towards goal, only to see it kicked off the line at the last second. That would be followed by Chudnovsky seeing his shot pushed out by Shikhantsov, and then Zuk having his shot blocked by a defender. Maxim Ivanenko and Evgeniy Drozd came on to replace Maxim Gukailo, and Rios who became the latest of our players to take a knock. Livadia would have one last go at trying to break us down, but fortunately for us, with plenty of players streaming forward, Sergey Nikitenko opted to shoot from range, missing the target to the dismay of his team mates, but the relief of our bench.

Livadia Dzerzhinsk (0) 0
Lokomotiv Minsk (0) 1
Eduard Chudnovsky (55 pen)
Vladimir Zuhbaia; Dmitry Chaka, Vladimir Malykh, Maxim Gorbach ©, Maxim Gukailo (Maxim Ivanenko 82); Eduard Chudnovsky, Yuriy Ryzhko (Igor Zangiev 68); Alexey Rios (inj - Evgeniy Drozd 82), Georgy Schennikov; Denis Pshenychnyi (Lukasz Zuk 68), Sergey Krot.

Unused Substitutes :- Alexey Yesipenok, Dmitry Biryukov, Alexandr Degterev.
Bookings :- None
Possession :- 40% - 60%. Man of the Match :- Eduard Chudnovsky (Lokomotiv Minsk).

Just like last time out, it wasn't pretty, in fact it was a pretty scruffy performance overall. But we will gladly take the win, especially on the road. With Vedrich Rechitsa slipping up, beaten away to Mikashevichi, we move ourselves up a spot into 4th as we move into August, prevented from moving up any higher by Savit Mogilev winning, joined by FC Smorgon and Slavia Mozyr, the top two also winning today.

Alexey Rios suffered nothing more than a knock, and he will be fine to train next week. The news on Denis Pshenychnyi was not as good however, the Ukrainian striker has twisted his ankle, and after getting a run of starts and not yet finding the net, he will be very frustrated to sit out the better part of a month of football, at what is now a crucial point of the season as we reach the halfway point.

A special word at this point for Eduard Chudnovsky. The 22 year old has been an ever present for us in the League this season, and as well as producing a team leading seven assists, he has also now added two goals as well, showing nerves of steel to put that penalty high out of Andrey Shikhantsov's reach and earn us three valuable points.

Sunday 28th July
Finally our recruitment efforts receive some reward, though we will have to wait a while. We have reached an agreement to sign Dnepr Mogilev's 29 year old right back Pavel Rybak at the end of the season on a Free Transfer. It will be a return to his home city for the gifted but uncapped 6'1 defender, as he spent five seasons here between 2002 and 2006, though one of them saw him go out on loan. He racked up 57 appearances in our red and white colours, before moving on to play FC Gomel, FC Minsk, Shakhter Soligorsk, and a season on loan for Slavia Mozyr. He finally ended up moving to Dnepr in a deal worth £10,000, racking up 60 plus League appearances, and nudging closer to the 300 mark for his career. With Dmitry Chaka failing to impress this season, and the supporters starting to get on his case, they will surely be pleased to hear that a replacement is on the way, though they should be aware that Rybak is a much more defensive minded player.

Monday 29th July
He might not have found the net on the weekend before getting injured, but striker Denis Pshenychnyi certainly made an impact and caused the Livadia defence some problems, and that was enough on this particular occasion to see him named in the First League Team of the Week, the only Lokomotiv player to be named.

Wednesday 31st July
With one right back already signed up for next season, I set about further increasing our options in that area of the park, sending Norwegian top tier side Lillestrøm an offer of £30,000 for their wantaway Belarus International full back Igor Shitov. The good news is that the offer was accepted by the club, but the fairly predictable response from the player was a quick no to the offer of not only dropping into the second tier of domestic football, but also take a pay cut for the pleasure as well.

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Posted (edited)

2013 Belarusian First League Table, Up To & Including Wednesday 31st July 2013

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

| 1st   |       | Smorgon            |       | 15    | 11    | 3     | 1     | 26    | 9     | +17   | 36    |
| 2nd   |       | Slavia Mozyr       |       | 15    | 10    | 3     | 2     | 26    | 11    | +15   | 33    |
| 3rd   |       | Savit              |       | 15    | 9     | 3     | 3     | 21    | 12    | +9    | 30    |
| 4th   |       | Lokomotiv Minsk    |       | 15    | 8     | 4     | 3     | 26    | 14    | +12   | 28    |
| 5th   |       | Vedrich Rechitsa   |       | 15    | 8     | 4     | 3     | 23    | 13    | +10   | 28    |
| 6th   |       | Khimik Svetlogorsk |       | 15    | 7     | 2     | 6     | 16    | 16    | 0     | 23    |
| 7th   |       | Mikashevichi       |       | 15    | 5     | 7     | 3     | 16    | 8     | +8    | 22    |
| 8th   |       | Zvezda-BGU         |       | 15    | 5     | 6     | 4     | 17    | 12    | +5    | 21    |
| 9th   |       | Belshina           |       | 15    | 4     | 7     | 4     | 8     | 9     | -1    | 19    |
| 10th  |       | Lida               |       | 15    | 5     | 2     | 8     | 16    | 26    | -10   | 17    |
| 11th  |       | Neman Mosty        |       | 15    | 5     | 1     | 9     | 18    | 23    | -5    | 16    |
| 12th  |       | Vertical           |       | 15    | 3     | 5     | 7     | 15    | 25    | -10   | 14    |
| 13th  |       | Belcard            |       | 15    | 3     | 3     | 9     | 11    | 19    | -8    | 12    |
| 14th  |       | Darida             |       | 15    | 2     | 6     | 7     | 6     | 15    | -9    | 12    |
| 15th  |       | Livadia            |       | 15    | 3     | 2     | 10    | 8     | 26    | -18   | 11    |
| 16th  |       | Baranovichi        |       | 15    | 2     | 2     | 11    | 9     | 24    | -15   | 8     |


Edited by neilhoskins77

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Posted (edited)
23 hours ago, oche balboa said:

KUTGW mate. 

Thanks very much Oche, hope you are well pal

Edited by neilhoskins77

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Thursday 1st August 2013
August is scheduled to be a relatively quiet month as far as League action is concerned, with just three fixtures due to be played, thanks in part to the Cup resuming with the Second Round fixtures. Our only home League match of August is the first game of the month, and it's a big one, as we will be visited this weekend by City rivals Darida-TDZh, who have big problems at the wrong end of the table.

That match will be followed by our Cup match against top tier club Naftan Novopolotsk, a game that everyone at the club is really looking forward to. We will then complete the month with away League matches against Neman Mosty who are caught in no mans land right now, and a Belshina Bobruisk side that haven't performed as well as expected this season, where they were expected to be pushing for promotion.

With their delight at the progression in the Cup tempered by their disappointment with Dmitry Chaka's form, plus a loss of £80,000 last month, the Board declare themselves satisfied with how things are going. Certainly not satisfied is misfit striker, and my own personal record transfer fee, Djeykhun Mursalov. With just one start this season and a couple of substitute appearances, Mursalov is now looking to move on. If anyone did come in for him, which is unlikely on his current form, I think I'd probably let him go, even with the knowledge we would be lucky to get back a fraction of the £60,000 we paid for him.

Saturday 3rd August
While the rest of the League all play their matches today, we have to wait to tomorrow for our Minsk Derby with Darida-TDZh. They are in a heap of trouble, with just three wins all season, and one of those was in the Cup to set up a Third Round tie with BATE Borisov. With a squad low on confidence and morale heading across the city to play us, the bookies have us as nailed on favourites to pick up three more points.

Should that happen, it would take us back above Vedrich Rechitsa who overtook us with a comprehensive dismantling of Neman Mosty today, and would also see us leapfrog Savit Mogilev, who were held to a goalless draw by Belshina Bobruisk. With Slavia Mozyr beaten on their travels against Khimik Svetlogorsk, it means FC Smorgon have increased their lead at the top, but there is a chance to try and close things up a bit in the pack behind them.

Sunday 4th August

Belarusian First League
Lokomotiv Stadium, Minsk
Lokomotiv Minsk v Darida-TDZh
Attendance :-
1,367. Weather :- Breezy, Wet, 9c.

After a pair of clean sheets, Vladimir Zuhbaia keeps his spot for a third successive match, behind a back four that shows one change from the last match, with Maxim Ivanenko stepping into the left back role in place of Maxim Gukailo. In the only other change to the starting lineup, injured striker Denis Pshenychnyi is replaced by Lukasz Zuk, which in turn requires one change amongst the substitutes, with misfit striker Djeykhun Mursalov summoned to join the matchday squad.

We couldn't have got off to a worse start, and it was a surprise who caused the issue as well. Eduard Chudnovsky has been one of our stand out players this season, but with barely two minutes on the clock, he coughed up the ball in the centre circle, and the ball was quickly given to Konstantin Yakubovskiy, who threaded a pass through for Alexey Martynov. His shot was under the dive of the the onrushing Vladimir Zuhbaia, and the small group of Darida fans in the away end had a very early goal to celebrate. Now we would have to go chasing this Derby, and we were so close to an equaliser in the 10th minute, Georgy Schennikov's corner met by Alexey Rios with a powerful header, but it was inches past the near post. Heartened, we continued to push on, Maxim Ivanenko and Dmitry Chaka both providing a number of crosses after advancing from their full back roles, the latter sending in one that saw Rios pushed to the floor, angrily telling the unmoved referee that he should have been awarded a penalty. Instead we would be caught out once again with ten minutes remaining in the half, Yakubovskiy's cross the from the right was brought down by Alexandr Boiko, who had replaced the injured goalscorer Martynov. With his back to goal, Chudnovsky tackled the striker, but in doing so sent the ball back towards his own goalmouth, and right to a gleeful Alexey Petrov, who slammed the ball home from close range. Now we were in real trouble, and Chudnovsky had played a part in costing us both of those goals. In a desperate attempt to try and get us back in the match quickly, Rios flung himself to the floor under a soft challenge in the Darida box, failing to fool the referee and earning himself a yellow card for his trouble. Fortunately, the winger would at least make amends for that error in judgement before the break. Yuriy Ryzhko made a timely tackle to prevent Darida launching a counter attack as the clock moved into injury time, and he got the ball to Chaka. He in turn spread it wide to Rios, and the winger beat his man and got to the byline, before sending a low cross through the six yard box and to the far post, where Lukasz Zuk was unmarked, and he guided the ball into the net to score his first ever goal in Lokomotiv colours, and more importantly, give us a shot at getting back into this match.

Despite getting ourselves back into contention in this match, I still gave my players a piece of my mind at the break, furious at the way they had conceded a pair of sloppy goals and given us a huge task to get anything from this game. I told them that I would now expect Darida to defend for their lives to try and get out of here with three points, and that I wanted to see us pressure them and make them crack. They had been forced into two changes in the first half, which would limit their ability to shut up shop as well. But shut up the shop was exactly what they were looking to do, Zuhbaia's long clearance up the park was flicked on by Zuk, and Sergey Krot held off a defender and sent in a quick shot that beat Eugeny Bodnar', but was just over the angle of the goal frame. That would be just the start of a spell where we caused Darida all sorts of problems, switching the ball left and then right and back again as we pulled their defence all over the park. Schennikov was in acres of space when Ivanenko found him, and he skipped past the challenge of Alexey Dybo before sending in a cross that Krot headed at goal, Bodnar' pushed into the air, and a defender had to clear with Zuk arriving. Zuk was then played into space by Schennikov, this time smashing his shot right at the keeper, Ryzhko forcing Bodnar' to save from point blank range when he tried to sweep the rebound home. We would have another penalty shout, Schennikov believing he had been fouled as he tried to get to the byline, the ref emphatically waving play on. Ryzhko was the next to try his luck, striking a shot from 15 yards out that Bodnar' flung a hand to and turned over the bar. When Ivanenko was injured a few moments later, I decided on an attacking change, switching us to three at the back and the same number up front as Djeykhun Mursalov replaced him. Zuk was still the man causing Darida problems though, and he linked with Schennikov to get the ball to Chudnovsky, his strike only just clearing the bar. Our visitors were sinking further and further back into their own third now, and when Bodnar' pushed an extraordinary effort from Rios from out on the touchline around the post when it looked like it was going wide anyway, we had a corner to try and capitalise on. We would do just that as well, Schennikov's delivery powered home by Rios with a thumping header from close range to finally get us even. We were absolutely the favourites to go on and win this one now, but we only had ten minutes to do it, and we had to make sure we kept Darida pinned into their own end and in the defensive mindset. A slick passing move almost found us a way through, Djeykhun Mursalov hitting a shot that Bodnar' found too hot to handle, but he managed to push it out of danger. With very little time remaining, Ryzhko and Chudnovsky, who had easily had his worst ever day in a Lokomotiv shirt, were replaced by Igor Zangiev and Alexandr Degterev. There was still time to create another chance to win it, Degterev playing in Zuk, who forced one more great save from Bodnar', the offside flag would have denied him had he hit the net anyway. Frustrating.

Lokomotiv Minsk (1) 2 - Lukasz Zuk (45+1), Alexey Rios (79)
Darida-TDZh (2) 2 - Alexey Martynov (3), Alexey Petrov (35)
Vladimir Zuhbaia; Dmitry Chaka, Vladimir Malykh, Maxim Gorbach ©, Maxim Ivanenko (inj - Djeykhun Mursalov 68); Eduard Chudnovsky (Igor Zangiev 89), Yuriy Ryhko (Alexandr Degterev 89); Alexey Rios, Georgy Schennikov; Lukasz Zuk, Sergey Krot.

Unused Substitutes :- Alexey Yesipenok, Dmitry Biryukov (GK), Maxim Gukailo, Evgeniy Drozd.
Bookings :- Alexey Rios 38
Possession :- 58% - 42%. Man of the Match :- Alexey Rios (Lokomotiv Minsk).

That was a bumper crowd, as it always seemed to be for a Minsk Derby, but that one was the highest since I had arrived here, and the best for two years. They were certainly treated to a good match, but frustrating was the right word to describe is, as the three points were there for us today. However, there was also an element of relief as well, as those two goals would have buried many other teams. They won't be held against Eduard Chudnovsky, he doesn't make too many mistakes, and he is still well in credit with us. And we could still have won it too.

One man has no doubt who was to blame for the teams failure to win the match though, me, apparently. That was the view of striker Djeykhun Mursalov, who wasn't particularly fond of the harsh team talk at half time, even though he wasn't playing at that point, and again at the end of the match when I told the players that they should have still taken the three points. Maybe he should concentrate on improving his own poor record.

That we didn't get the win means we stay down in fifth place in the League, two points behind both Vedrich Rechitsa and Savit Mogilev, and another further two behind the promotion spot held by Slavia Mozyr. It's a fortnight until we play again in the League, with next week seeing the focus switching to the Cup. That might be a good thing for us, as our injury issues continue to be a concern, Maxim Ivanenko the latest to face a spell on the sidelines, around three weeks to be precise, after he suffered a twisted knee midway through the second half.

Finally, I don't agree with the man of the match selection today. Yes, Alexey Rios did get the all important equaliser, his third League goal of the season and fourth in all competitions. For me, it would have been awarded to either Lukasz Zuk, who was a thorn in Darida's side all afternoon, or Georgy Schennikov, who earned his fifth League assist of the season and gave Alexey Dybo a torrid afternoon trying to stop him getting in crosses and preventing his runs into the box.

Monday 5th August
As if to back up my point of view, Georgy Schennikov was the only Lokomotiv player selected in this weeks First League Team of the Week.

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Thursday 8th August 2013
It had been a quiet week so far as we prepare for our visitors from the top tier in the Second Round of the Belarusian Cup. But there is a boost today when Club Captain and top scorer Nikolay Shvydakov returns to training slightly ahead of schedule. There is little chance he will be ready for the weekend, but his presence back on the training ground is great news for everyone with our injury list starting to mount.

Friday 9th August
The news that Shvydakov is close to a return has led to Djeykhun Mursalov reading the writing on the wall before it has even been written. After complaining about my team talk on the weekend, today he is complaining that he isn't being afforded the game time he deserves. It would seem his IQ is around the same number as the one in his goals tally column.

Saturday 10th August
It's almost three years since we came up against Naftan Novopolotsk, and they did the double over us in the second tier in that 2010 season. Our only win against them in four attempts came during the 2008 season in the Highest League. Not many people are giving us a chance of getting past them and into the Third Round this weekend, as despite being at home the bookies are offering 4/1 on us providing a Cup shock. They will bring a squad to Minsk that is sat fourth in the Highest League table, and that is packed with Belarusian, Russian and Ukrainian players. But they have also moved further afield to purchase a goalkeeper, 23 year old Diego Lima was purchased from Flamengo in the winter for £120,000 and the Brazilian has recorded nine clean sheets in the top tier so far this season. He wasn't able to help his side into the UEFA Europa League Group Stages though, they had a chance of doing something when they were beaten only 1-0 in Belgium by RAEC Mons, but they were too attacking too often at home, and were punished with a 3-0 loss. In fact, their recent form overall has been a little sketchy.

And if we were looking for some inspiration before our match tomorrow, we need look no further than today's batch of Second Round matches. Slavia Mozyr provided one shock, knocking out Higher League visitors Dinamo Brest on penalties after a 2-2 draw. Even more impressive was non-League side Gorodeya's penalty win over MTZ-Ripo Minsk. With only one non-League side playing tomorrow, they could yet end up being the only side outside the top two tiers in the last sixteen draw. 

Sunday 11th August

Belarusian Cup, Second Round
Lokomotiv Stadium, Minsk
Lokomotiv Minsk v Naftan Novopolotsk
Attendance :-
412. Weather :- Breezy, 26c.

I had been warned beforehand that the attendance for this match would be disappointing, but even that didn't prepare me for how disappointing. It was quite a shock to see the stadium only 20% full again after it had been almost three quarters full just a week ago. I told the players not to concern themselves on that, and instead to focus their attention on the opportunity of knocking a side that had been playing European football this season out of this Cup competition. Maxim Gukailo is in at left back to replace the injured Maxim Ivanenko, the only change to the starting eleven. On the bench, Egor Romanovskiy is brought into the matchday squad, and there is a return for Nikolay Shvydakov, who takes the place of Djeykhun Mursalov amongst the substitutes.

Within the opening few minutes, Vladimir Malykh made sure it would be a nervous afternoon one way or another, as he picked up an early booking for pulling the shirt of an opponent. He would have to be very careful for the rest of the match. Also having to be careful was the Naftan defence, who were guilty of allowing our full backs plenty of room on their respective flanks, and as a result crosses were being launched into their box, a 9th minute centre from Dmitry Chaka was floated onto the head of Eduard Chudnovsky, who managed to generate the power on the ball, but couldn't get the header on target. Clearly looking to make amends for his poor outing last weekend, Chudnovsky was doing a job in defence as well, timing his tackle to perfection to break up play on the edge of his own box, which led to a counter attack from Alexey Rios, who got all the way into the box before picking out Lukasz Zuk, but the young striker was off balance when he hit his shot, and it was well wide of the target. We weren't having things all our own way however, and Konstantin Sovetkin picked out Sergiy Valyaev twenty yards out, and his low shot almost took the top layer of paint from the goalpost on it's way past the upright, Vladimir Zuhbaia well beaten. But after Dmitriy Petrov sent one over the cross bar, we got ourselves down the other end, Gerogy Schennikov rolling the ball into the path of Chudnovsky, who struck it first time, a low and curling shot that Diego Lima couldn't get to, and we had a 26th minute lead! Five minutes later, in a carbon copy move, Schennikov received the ball again, this time feigning to roll it to Chudnovsky, and instead stepping away from a tackle and picking out Yuriy Ryzhko, who struck across the ball and past Lima, only to see his shot crash back off the far upright. Ten minutes before the break, Malykh had to make sure his tackle on Roman Razdelkin was perfectly timed just inside the box. He managed to achieve that, but the ball spun into the right channel where Maxim Gukailo's challenge on Petrov wasn't quite as perfect. The ref took a long and hard look, before waving play on, to the fury of the Naftan players. I've seen them given. It had been an action packed first half, and it wasn't quite done yet, Chaka playing the ball down the right wing where Sergey Krot chased it down and kept the ball in, before sending in a cross that any winger would be proud of, but one of our wingers was on the end of, Schennikov winning the ball in the air and his header thumped against the cross bar. Half time, and we could have been three goals to the good, instead of just the one.

We had a lead, and it was us who looked like the top tier side, but we would need to prepare ourselves for the kitchen sink being thrown at us in the second half. What we got instead were a hot headed Naftan side who tried to bully us off the ball and intimidate us into a surrender. It didn't work, Nikolay Ezerskiy and Sergey Shustikiov both earning bookings within ten minutes or so of the restart. We dug in, maybe digging in too much, as our man of the match so far Chudnovsky twisted his knee going in for a challenge, and he wouldn't be able to continue. Igor Zangiev would replace him, and with Malykh on a booking and the ref very much in the mindset to stamp his authority on the match, I replaced him with Alexey Yesipenok at the same time. And I was absolutely right about the ref, as he proceeded to hand out bookings to Dmitriy Komarovskiy and Vitaliy Olkhovych. The latter was for a poorly timed tackle on Alexandr Degterev, who had come on for Rios only moments earlier. With only three changes permitted in a Cup match, Degterev would have to limp on. Krot picked up a pass and waltzed through a now badly out of sorts Naftan defence, Lima pushing his shot over the bar to keep his side in the game. There were only five minutes to go by this point, and there was still time for one more. Booking that is, Yuriy Kolomoets flattening an already struggling Degterev. A late crossing opportunity for Igor Bykanov was spurned, and Naftan would go home with their tails between their legs, while we would move on to Round Three.

Lokomotiv Minsk (1) 1 - Eduard Chudnovsky (26)
Naftan Novopolotsk (0) 0
Vladimir Zuhbaia; Dmitry Chaka, Vladimir Malykh (Alexey Yesipenok 68), Maxim Gorbach ©, Maxim Gukailo; Eduard Chudnovsky (inj - Igor Zangiev 68), Yuriy Ryzhko; Alexey Rios (Alexandr Degterev 78 (inj - 82)), Georgy Schennikov; Lukasz Zuk, Sergey Krot.
Unused Substitutes :- Dmitry Biryukov (GK), Egor Romanovskiy, Evgeniy Drozd, Nikolay Shvydakov.
Bookings :- Vladimir Malykh 4
Possession :- 58% - 42%. Man of the Match :- Eduard Chudnovsky (Lokomotiv Minsk).

The media labelled it as a 'cruise to victory', and frankly, I absolutely agreed with them. We limited our visitors to scraps in our end, and they lost their composure, causing them ultimately to lose the game. £3,000 prize money is neither here nor there, but a place in the last sixteen draw on Wednesday lunchtime is reward enough, and it means we have completed the Boards objective for the Cup this season. We now just have to manage to do the same in the League and win promotion, but this performance has shown us that if we can manage that, we do have it about us to compete at the higher level.

No doubt about man of the match this time, Eduard Chudnovsky was superb at both ends of the park, and more than made up for his horror show last time out against Darida in the three quarters of the match that he featured. Unfortunately, as has often been the case of late, it would come at a price. A twisted knee will keep him out for around two to three weeks, and that isn't the only injury concern. Alexandr Degterev would join him on the sidelines for around the same amount of time, suffering a groin strain that he aggravated by playing on through the latter stages of the match. Our injury list is really starting to have an impact now.

For their own defence, Naftan's staff and officials focused entirely on the penalty that wasn't ten minutes before the break. Almost every interview, sound bite and press report featured someone from the club stating that they were denied a stone wall spot kick. I will admit that Maxim Gukailo was a little rash in his challenge, but I wouldn't call it a stone wall penalty. More like one of those where if it's for you, then you would expect it to be awarded, and if it's against you, then you'd be adamant that there was nothing in it.

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Tuesday 13th August 2013
There was never any doubt about him being offered a new deal, but it was just a matter of getting both the figures and the timing right. With injury depriving us of his skills in midfield for a few weeks, and about to ruin his ever present record for the season, this was a good time to give Eduard Chudnovsky a boost, and our Cup hero from the weekend has signed a contract extension to the deal that was due to expire at the end of the season. Three more years in our red and white colours for the 22 year old who has now recorded 3 goals and 7 assists in 18 games in all competitions. At a bargain £200 per week, a small increase on his existing deal, he's happy, we are happy, and the fans are very happy.

With the Transfer Window closing for the season in a few weeks time, I will also be very happy if I can get a deal we are working on over the line. A player from the top tier who isn't happy with the amount of football he is getting, and would be very useful for us, not least as he is particularly versatile. We have made an offer, and now we are waiting to hear back, though I am told we're not the only club interested in his signature.

Wednesday 14th August
It's because of the rumoured interest from other clubs that we haven't heard anything back as yet. The players current club deem our offer to be a little on the low side, and have decided to sit on it for the time being to see if any other clubs are prepared to offer a better deal.

Far more importantly however is today's draw for Round Three of the Belarusian Cup, the last sixteen stage. With the ties to be played over two legs at this stage, it would be fair to say, and not intentionally disrespectful, that most clubs would happily be paired with the only remaining non-League club in the competition, Gorodeya. We watched on as a string of Higher League clubs such as the out of sorts BATE Borisov, and the current Cup holders FC Gomel, as well as Neman Grodno and our conquerors from last season Torpedo Zhodino were all drawn against other Higher or First League opposition. With four left in the hat, we were drawn, meaning we would be home in the First Leg. We could still be drawn with Gorodeya, though we could also still be drawn with Dinamo Minsk. Fate would intervene and draw us somewhere between the two, FC Smorgon, relegated from the Higher League last season, and now odds on favourites to return to the top tier with a six point lead at the top of the First League. Oh, and did I mention that in three competitive matches against them we have lost on each occasion? It's not ideal. The First Leg is in just over a month.

Friday 16th August
After our Cup exploits of last weekend, it's right back into the League action tomorrow, and an away trip to Neman Mosty, who were are very much expected to beat. That said, they are not an easy side to beat at home, as they have lost only once in their last six home League matches, and with our own well documented challenges on the road, this one might not be the easy task that some are predicting. A raft of injury issues won't help much either.

Saturday 17th August

Belarusian First League
Neman, Mosty
Neman Mosty v Lokomotiv Minsk
Attendance :-
1,130. Weather :- Breezy, 30c.

With Eduard Chudnovsky injured, there is a chance for Igor Zangiev to start this match and show us what he can do, as he partners Yuriy Ryzhko in midfield. Up front, skipper Nikolay Shvydakov is back in the lineup after his return from injury, with Sergey Krot dropping down to the substitutes bench. With Alexandr Degterev also out with injury, and our squad depth being tested, Mariusz Kaczmarek and Alexey Razmyslovich are both called up into the matchday squad for substitute duty today.

With just two minutes on the clock, Yuriy Ryzhko took a free kick quickly, playing a one-two with Lukasz Zuk and receiving the ball back in the left channel of the box, sending in a shot that Mikhail Atrashkevich managed to tip over the bar. At the other end of the park, Alexandr Satchivko curled a shot from the edge of the box that just missed the top corner. Alexey Rios did great work down the right, and Nikolay Shvydakov held the ball up before laying it off to Igor Zangiev, his shot was too high though. Moments later, from a corner, the ball was only partially cleared to Zuk, who shot back through the crowd, denied by Mikhail Gornak kicking the ball off the line. Ryzhko would have the next crack, another blistering drive that forced a superb diving save from Atrashkevich. Midway through the half, Ryzhko launched himself into a tackle to try and prevent Dmitriy Kamzolov from getting in his shot. He failed, the shot only just wide of the far post, but Ryzhko injured himself in the challenge and would have to go off, Evgeniy Drozd brought on as his replacement. Another Zangiev effort from distance after being fed the ball by Dmitry Chaka was well over the target, and it looked like a frustrating first half. But deep into the injury time caused by the Ryzhko injury, Georgy Schennikov sent the ball down the left and Zuk cut across his marker and into the box, Dmitry Manashirov grabbing a handful of his jersey and the ref pointed to the spot. It was time for the skipper to step up, and with the last kick of the first half, he sent the ball high into the corner of the net to give us a lead at the break.

The second half saw Neman try and put us under a little pressure early on, and Maxim Gorohovskiy sent across an outswinging corner towards Mikhail Arushanov, who was met by a tackle from Zangiev, the Neman players appealing for a penalty, the referee was unmoved. They were persistent though, and with the second half almost halfway through, Gorohovskiy picked up a square pass from Satchivko, and then tried to lift a shot over Vladimir Zuhbaia who was well off his line, the Georgian keeper back pedalled and got fingertips to the ball and tipped it over the cross bar. That was a great save, but the biggest issue right now was the pressure we were finding ourselves under, and not just defensively, as we suffered yet another injury in the later stages, Maxim Gukailo injured as he was challenged when he tried to send in a cross. Alexey Razmyslovich came on in his place, going on the left wing with Schennikov moving back into the left back spot. At the same time, a still not quite match fit Shvydakov would be replaced by Mariusz Kaczmarek, who would sit in the anchor role as we switched to one up front in an attempt to preserve our lead. That would prove to be a mistake, as with just under five minutes left, Gornak picked out Satchivko with a square pass, and he unleashed a rocket of a shot just under the cross bar to level the match. Sergey Krot was immediately summoned to replace Chaka as we switched to three at the back and threw players forward. In fact, instead of causing a threat, we almost got caught at the other end, Viktor Taranukhin sending a diagonal pass towards Victor Yanevych that Vladimir Malykh had to leave his feet to get to, taking a huge risk as the last man, but getting a foot to the ball. I had not envisaged us being in a position where we had to save a point in that game.

Neman Mosty (0) 1 - Alexandr Satchivko (86)
Lokomotiv Minsk (1) 1 - Nikolay Shvydakov (45+4 pen)
Vladimir Zuhbaia; Dmitry Chaka (Sergey Krot 87), Vladimir Malykh, Maxim Gorbach, Maxim Gukailo (inj - Alexey Razmyslovich 78); Igor Zangiev, Yuriy Ryzhko (inj - Evgeniy Drozd 24); Alexey Rios, Georgy Schennikov; Lukasz Zuk, Nikolay Shvydakov © (Mariusz Kaczmarek 78).

Unused Substitutes :- Alexey Yesipenok, Dmitry Biryukov (GK), Egor Romanovskiy.
Bookings :- None
Possession :- 47% - 53%. Man of the Match :- Alexandr Satchivko (Neman Mosty).

Our dodgy away form has struck again, but we should never have been in a position where we took anything but three points from that match. I'll have to carry the can for that one, my decision to go defensive with a little under fifteen minutes to play would be a mistake, but when it was clear that Nikolay Shvydakov was starting to flag, I did what I thought would be the best option. Some in the media think we were lucky to get a point here as they believe Neman should have been awarded a penalty for Igor Zangiev's early second half tackle. We're away again next weekend.

Our misery at dropping two points was compounded by picking up two more injuries. Yuriy Ryzhko damaged his calf stretching to make a tackle in the first half, and he will now be out for around three weeks, his calf not the only thing being stretched, our midfield options being stretched almost to breaking point now too. The news on Maxim Gukailo isn't quite as bad, he has a gashed leg, but it will still be anything between around ten days and two weeks on the sidelines for him.

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Monday 19th August 2013
We have finally heard back from the Higher League club we are trying to buy a player from. They haven't received any other offers for the player, but they want some more money from us. They have negotiated our £10,000 offer up to £15,000, and I agree to meet their price.

I haven't yet agreed to meet Vladimir Zuhbaia's price as we negotiate a new contract with the Georgian keeper who has been enjoying a run in the First Team over recent weeks. He is out of contract at the end of the season, and I'm trying to bring down his wage a little, making the point that he is no longer the first choice that he was when he signed the current deal. He has rejected our first offer, and a second is tabled.

Hopefully we will start to see our injury problems ease a little this week, and we have 24 year old Ukrainian striker Denis Pshenychnyi back in training today. Despite not yet finding the net, the 6'2 forward has been playing quite well, and has three assists from five League matches, two of those appearances coming from the bench.

Tuesday 20th August
With our £15,000 offer accepted by his club, we can now start negotiating personal terms with the player. He isn't overly keen, despite his desperation for First Team football. However, I have offered him almost double the money he is on with his current club, and a good signing on fee as well, spurred on by our current injury woes making a new signing a good way to boost the morale of everyone at the club.

Thankfully, our injury issues are starting to clear a little, and we have another player returning to training today, with 18 year old Maxim Ivanenko's return a timely one now Maxim Gukailo has also been sidelined. Whether he can get himself fit for this Saturday's trip to Belshina Bobruisk however, is up for debate.

Wednesday 21st August
At the second time of asking, we agree a one year contract extension with Vladimir Zuhbaia that will take the Georgian goalkeeper through to the end of next season. I didn't manage to trim too much money from the 27 year old's weekly wage, managing to bring it down only from £575 to £550, however we have almost halved his appearance fee and also taken some money from his clean sheet bonus, and he has four of them to his name already this campaign.

Thursday 22nd August
26 year old out of favour centre back Denis Lekhavitskiy has been told today that he has no future at Lokomotiv Stadium, and that it would be in his interests to assist with the search for a new club. With well over a year left on his contract, I'd rather not buy him out of his deal if we can help it.

Friday 23rd August
The Transfer Window will close a week from today, and we could yet see both arrivals and departures at Lokomotiv, or we could just as easily see no business being done at all. Having done most of my recruitment work through the winter, it's unlikely there will be a last minute flood of arrivals at the club.

It's also unlikely there will be a flood of bets on us tomorrow, our away form is looking fairly miserable, but it will need to improve and quickly. Another loss on our travels tomorrow to Belshina Bobruisk will leave us as very much outsiders in the promotion race. Belshina are attempting to resurrect their season after losing half of their opening eight games. Since then though they have gone unbeaten in nine matches, and they are tough to score against, four wins and five goalless draws showing that. Their main man is forward Ivan Shelest, a 6'4 tall Ukrainian forward who is in his first season in Belarus after joining the club for £7,000 from Tytan Armyansk.

Centre back Denis Lekhavitskiy looks set to be on his way before the Transfer Window comes to a close, with four offers received for him today, all from Russian First Division clubs. Shinnik Yaroslavl, Metallurg Krasnoyarsk, Mashuk-KMV Pyatigorsk and our pre-season opponents Salyut-Energia Belgorod have all met our asking price of £2,000 and been given permission to speak to the player who hasn't even looked particularly good while playing for our Reserve side SKVICh.

Saturday 24th August

Belarusian First League
Spartak, Bobruisk
Belshina Bobruisk v Lokomotiv Minsk
Attendance :-
1,535. Weather :- Breezy, 26c.

We arrive in Bobruisk for what is probably the biggest day of our League campaign so far. While defeat isn't exactly a full blown disaster, it will mean we will have a huge amount of work to do to get our noses back in the hunt for promotion. A draw would be slightly better, but not much. Our starting lineup shows two changes, both as a result of injuries, Maxim Ivanenko called into action on his return from his own injury, replacing Maxim Gukailo at left back, while Evgeniy Drozd steps in for Yuriy Ryzhko in the centre of the park. Striker Denis Pshenychnyi is available and is amongst the substitutes.

It was a frantic start to the match, with both sides showing early nerves. Alexey Rios' cross to the near post picked out Nikolay Shvydakov. With no room for a shot, he picked out Georgy Schennikov with a pass lifted to the far post, the Russian winger catching it on the half volley, Andriy Novak blocking it, and then having to stretch out a hand to prevent Lukasz Zuk knocking in the loose rebound. Belshina counter attacked, and Volodymyr Bobylev sent a the ball down the right for them. Maxim Ivanenko thought he had it covered, but Ivan Shelest had the pace on him, our left back reached out and hauled him back to earn himself a very early yellow card, with Igor Zangiev hurt in a collision with the Belshina forward as he had chased back and tried to bail Ivanenko out. He would be okay to continue, but individual errors were starting to cause us worries, Vladimir Malykh giving the ball away in his own half, Ivavenko having to make his tackle a well timed one on Bobylev as he weaved through our defence. Our luck ran out just after the half hour mark though, Dmitry Petrenko sending a pass to Shelest, and he made ground down the right before sending a low cross into the centre, Vitaly Mironov shooting first time from near the penalty spot and guiding his shot past Vladimir Zuhbaia and into the net via the inside of the far post. Now we had a real problem, and our response was a Schennikov corner to the far post that Ivanenko headed against the outside of the upright, and a Zangiev curler from range that Novak fielded without too many difficulties.

We would need a superb second half performance, and I decided that I just couldn't take the risk of Ivanenko earning a second yellow, and the left back came off, Schennikov would sit back in the full back role, and Alexey Razmyslovich would come on to play ahead of him on the left wing. Reorganising is never a great thing when you're chasing a match, but the early signs were promising in the second half, with some nice passing earning us some good possession and territory, and Razmyslovich keen to take on his marker. Zuk was coming into the match as well, and chased down a pass over the top from Zangiev and then cut into the box. Dmitriy Rogovik came across to meet him, and Zuk went over, maybe a little easily, but certainly helped on his way. The ref shook his head emphatically. When the ball went out of play, the young striker pleaded with the ref, of course it was too late by then. Rogovik wouldn't be involved the next time we attacked, as he had hurt himself conceding a free kick to the left of the box, and he was receiving treatment behind the goal. With one of their best markers out of the equation, Evgeniy Drozd whipped in the free kick, and Schennikov met it with a volley from six yards out, Novak producing a superb reaction save to keep his side in front. With Rogovik desperate for the ball to be whistled dead so he could get back on, Dmitry Schetsinskiy gave away a free kick in an almost identical position seconds later, this time Drozd's delivery was cleared, and Belshina made a change to move into a more defensive formation. I reacted by setting us up to be much more attacking, taking off Dmitry Chaka and bringing on another striker, Denis Pshenychnyi, while also restoring Schennikov to the left wing and asking Razmyslovich to join Drozd right behind three strikers now, leaving Zangiev in midfield and two centre backs behind him. With five minutes to go Schennikov sent in a corner from the right, Maxim Gorbach was up highest, and he connected with a downward header that Novak barely got enough on, sub Mikhail Yakovlev there to help him out and punt the ball clear. Malykh earned a yellow card late on when he blatantly took one for the team when he halted a counter attack in cynical fashion, but his effort was in vain, as we failed to create another clear cut chance, and we had suffered a defeat that may be very costly at the end of the season.

Belshina Bobruisk (1) 1 - Vitaly Mironov (31)
Lokomotiv Minsk (0) 0
Vladimir Zuhbaia; Dmitry Chaka (Denis Pshenychnyi 76), Vlladimir Malykh, Maxim Gorbach, Maxim Ivanenko (Alexey Razmyslovich 45); Igor Zangiev, Evgeniy Drozd; Alexey Rios, Georgy Schennikov; Lukasz Zuk, Nikolay Shvydakov ©.
Unused Substitutes :- Alexey Yesipenok, Dmitry Biryukov (GK), Egor Romanovskiy, Mariusz Kaczmarek, Sergey Krot.
Bookings :- Maxim Ivanenko 3, Vladimir Malykh 90+1
Possession :- 37% - 63%. Man of the Match :- Vitaly Mironov (Belshina Bobruisk).

Look at those possession stats! Almost two thirds of the ball possession, and we couldn't find a way through. A lot of the talk after the match was about the penalty we didn't get, but we created enough to win the match, so we can't use it as an excuse. Four of our nine shots were on target, and Andriy Novak produced a couple of outstanding stops to keep us out. Belshina produced just one shot on target, but that would be enough for them today. Next Saturday is the last day of August, but we don't play until Sunday so we are done for the month. We haven't won any of our last three League matches, a really bad time to hit a poor run of form. We are still fifth, but now twelve behind the leaders, nine from a promotion spot, and seven and four respectively from the sides occupying third and fourth place. It's going to be a very tough ask now.

And to top off a miserable day for us, I'm told that the player we were chasing after having a £15,000 bid accepted, has turned down our contract offer. The player was Dinamo Minsk's 24 year old right sided forward Iliya Trachinskiy, the former Belarus Under-21 International also able to provide cover at full back as well. He isn't keen to drop down a Division to get First Team football, and is still hopeful his talent will get him a move to a top tier club.

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Monday 26th August 2013
With only four days or so remaining of the Transfer Window, we are again hearing the rumours that Russian First Division club Nosta Novotroitsk are preparing a bid of around £¼million. There is nothing at all to suggest that Nosta can afford a transfer fee of that size, and while Schennikov himself does nothing to dismiss the reports, I give them no credit whatsoever, and don't even bother to reply.

Our hopes of signing Konstantn Karasev, the now 20 year old right sided Ukraine Under-21 International player from BATE Borisov, are over. The right back who I wanted to buy and convert into a right winger has elected to move to Norway, and has now signed for Stabæk for an absolute bargain fee of £7,000, and he will be hoping to help them avoid relegation for the Premier Division.

Tuesday 27th August
Good news is always welcome, and today's news is most certainly that. The 22 year old who is fast becoming our talisman, Eduard Chudnovsky, has returned to training ahead of another crucial match this weekend after recovering from his knee injury.

Wednesday 28th August
He isn't the only one back from injury either, as veteran left back Maxim Gukailo returns to training as well today. He injured his shin almost two weeks ago, and it's good to see our injury issues are quickly clearing up.

Denis Lekhavitskiy has left, joining Russian First Division side Shinnik Yaroslavl for £2,000. His new side are currently in the midfield pack, though not yet clear enough of the relegation fight to be able to stop looking over their shoulders. £100 a week is cleared from our wage bill, and we bank a couple of grand instead of paying out to release a player.

With one player gone, another tells the press that he needs more regular First Team football if he isn't going to be next in the queue to leave. 20 year old Mariusz Kaczmarek states that he wants to make a go of it at Lokomotiv, but if the route to the First Team in blocked, but he is at the age where regular football is vital to his development. I tell him that I agree with him, but I'd rather see him make his name on the park rather than in the papers. He is relishing the chance to prove he merits a place in our team.

Thursday 29th August
Our week of good news continues, with Alexandr Degterev also back in training now after three weeks on the sidelines with a groin injury. With the Transfer Window closing tomorrow, I don't now see any real need for us to try and bring in any reinforcements with our injuries clearing up nicely.

Saturday 31st August
With the Transfer Window now closed and no further departures or arrivals at the club, we can concentrate on the rest of the season and trying to get ourselves back into the promotion race. We start that process tomorrow as we are visited by the side directly above us in the League table, Savit Mogilev. A win against them would leave us four points behind them, and the news that Slavia Mozyr have been beaten today away to Zvezda-BGU Minsk is a good start to our weekend. No such luck with the other two sides above us, FC Smorgon and Vedrich Rechitsa both pick up wins.

2013 Belarusian First League Table, Up To & Including Saturday 31st August 2013

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

| 1st   |       | Smorgon            |       | 19    | 14    | 3     | 2     | 33    | 15    | +18   | 45    |
| 2nd   |       | Slavia Mozyr       |       | 19    | 12    | 3     | 4     | 39    | 18    | +21   | 39    |
| 3rd   |       | Vedrich Rechitsa   |       | 19    | 11    | 4     | 4     | 34    | 19    | +15   | 37    |
| 4th   |       | Savit              |       | 18    | 11    | 4     | 3     | 28    | 15    | +13   | 37    |
| 5th   |       | Lokomotiv Minsk    |       | 18    | 8     | 6     | 4     | 29    | 18    | +11   | 30    |
| 6th   |       | Khimik Svetlogorsk |       | 19    | 9     | 3     | 7     | 19    | 20    | -1    | 30    |
| 7th   |       | Belshina           |       | 19    | 7     | 8     | 4     | 13    | 11    | +2    | 29    |
| 8th   |       | Mikashevichi       |       | 19    | 7     | 7     | 5     | 22    | 12    | +10   | 28    |
| 9th   |       | Zvezda-BGU         |       | 19    | 7     | 6     | 6     | 25    | 20    | +5    | 27    |
| 10th  |       | Lida               |       | 19    | 7     | 2     | 10    | 22    | 33    | -11   | 23    |
| 11th  |       | Vertical           |       | 19    | 5     | 5     | 9     | 25    | 33    | -8    | 20    |
| 12th  |       | Neman Mosty        |       | 19    | 5     | 4     | 10    | 21    | 29    | -8    | 19    |
| 13th  |       | Belcard            |       | 19    | 4     | 4     | 11    | 17    | 25    | -8    | 16    |
| 14th  |       | Darida             |       | 19    | 3     | 7     | 9     | 10    | 25    | -15   | 16    |
| 15th  |       | Livadia            |       | 19    | 3     | 3     | 13    | 11    | 36    | -25   | 12    |
| 16th  |       | Baranovichi        |       | 19    | 2     | 3     | 14    | 13    | 32    | -19   | 9     |

Sunday 1st September 2013
A bunch of contracts for our players now only have three left to run. The two main ones belong to Maxim Gorbach and Alexey Razmyslovich. The jury remains out on the requirement to keep the latter, but Gorbach is absolutely a player we want to remain at Lokomotiv, and discussions start on a new deal. With Gorbach apparently willing to accept what would be a sizeable wage cut to remain at the club, it would be a surprise if these negotiations went anything other than well.

September is going to be a very, very busy month for us. Over the next four weeks our schedule has us set for half a dozen League matches, and also the First Leg of our Belarusian Cup Third Round tie. There is also a ten day break from domestic action due to an International Break, condensing all that action into an even smaller period of time. It's starting to feel like make or break time is upon us.

Belarusian First League
Lokomotiv Stadium, Minsk
Lokomotiv Minsk v Savit Mogilev
Attendance :-
440. Weather :- Gusty, Wet 3c.

I'd like to think the weather was a contributing factor to our poor attendance, but I very much doubt it, as the push on we were getting earlier in the campaign is very much over, and our figures have returned to last years lowly numbers. After a good run in the side, Vladimir Zuhbaia is dropped back to the bench today, and Dmitry Biryukov returns for his tenth League start of the season. Eduard Chudnovsky gets an immediate return to the side after his recovery from injury, displacing Evgeniy Drozd who is back on the bench. That bench also sees Maxim Gukailo return in place of Egor Romanovskiy, and Sergey Krot is dropped from the matchday squad.

An early long throw into the box from Maxim Ivanenko found Alexey Rios, and he managed to bring the ball down and wiggle himself into a bit of room to get a shot in, Mikhail Komarov blocking that effort. Rios would have another try at the quarter of an hour mark, a free kick from the right corner of the box that he swung around the wall and right across the face of the goalmouth. It wasn't long before Savit starting putting on some pressure though, and Artem Shubin reacted quickest to a flick on, and forced a smart stop out of Dmitry Biryukov, while our attacking intent was starting to become stifled by too many wayward passes. Instead, we would have to defend, Sergey Kondrat'ev's corner was met with a perfect volley by Artem Koryagin, which was kept out by an equally great save from Biryukov. He wouldn't have managed to get to Maxim Tsigalko's 25th minute curler from the edge of the box, fortunately that one was just too high. Ten minutes later, and just moments after Maxim Gorbach had been booked, the centre back launched himself into a tackle to prevent a long throw into our box finding it's target, fortunately timing that one superbly. Tsigalko had another try as the pressure on us continued, this time his shot was on target, but Biryukov was equal to that one. Still 0-0 at half time, and maybe we were a little fortunate to be on level terms.

It was a bit surprising to see Savit make a defensive move at the break, Evgeny Savostjanov replaced by Roman Trepachkin. And it was us who started the second half on the front foot, Georgy Schennikov slinging in a wicked low cross that Lukasz Zuk felt he was impeded from reaching, the ref didn't agree. We pressed on, a couple of corners forcing Savit's rearguard into some work, and to survive another penalty shout, this time Rios going over from a tackle by Sergey Tsvetinskiy as they tussled for a loose ball in the box, again the answer was no. Almost midway through the half, Nikolay Shvydakov hooked the ball goalwards from a Rios cross, Komarov blocking it, then getting lucky as the ball bounced right back to him from the shins of Zuk. That would be the skippers last contribution, as he suffered an injury and was replaced by Denis Pshenychnyi, with Igor Zangiev substituted for Mariusz Kaczmarek at the same time. Five minutes later a Rios cross was only partly cleared, and Eduard Chudnovsky brought the ball down and was pushed to the floor by Andrey Leschinskiy, third time lucky, this time the ref did point to the spot! With Shvydakov off the park, it would be one of the deputy spot kick takers who would face the pressure penalty, but it would not be Chudnovsky this time, as newly brought on Mariusz Kaczmarek is above him in the pecking order. The 20 year old confidently stepped up and struck the ball into the bottom corner to score his first ever Lokomotiv goal and earn us a priceless lead! Now we had to survive for around twenty minutes to put a vital three points on the board, and Denis Klebanyuk sent in a shot from 20 yards that was well over the bar. That was just the beginning though, and he was much closer moments later with a curling shot on the turn that got beyond Biryukov and scraped past the outside of the post. With just under ten minutes to go, Schennikov picked off a pass in midfield and sped forward, before releasing Denis Pshenychnyi between the centre backs. The striker showed great pace to get himself clear, and had just Komarov to beat. He tried to round the keeper, but pushed himself too wide and from a very acute angle he couldn't get the ball past the keeper and a chance to put this one to bed had gone. I didn't want to go to a defensive mindset after what happened last time, but with the ball not sticking up the park, we had to get more bodies back in our own third to make life difficult for Savit. So Chudnovsky and Zuk came off, with Alexey Yesipenok and Evgeniy Drozd coming on. Drozd would play just behind Pshenychnyi, with five across the back, and then Kaczmarek in front of them and Schennikov and Rios playing wing back just ahead of the full backs, designed to make it even more difficult for Savit to get crosses into our box. And difficult it was as well, Dmitry Chaka twice blocking attempts to centre the ball, and when one did get across, Gorbach won his aerial battle and cleared the ball. So they tried through the middle instead, so Chaka stepped infield to help out and marshaled Ivan Petruchik wider than he would have liked, Rios then joining him to force him away from goal. The ball came right back though, and Valeriy Tarasov took a shot from the edge of the box that thumped back off the cross bar before being cleared. Forced to resort to shooting from range, Leschinskiy and Petruchik both sent shots over the bar, and we had survived for a much needed win.

Lokomotiv Minsk (0) 1 - Mariusz Kaczmarek (73 pen)
Savit Mogilev (0) 0
Dmitry Biryukov; Dmitry Chaka, Vladimir Malykh, Maxim Gorbach, Maxim Ivanenko; Igor Zangiev (Mariusz Kaczmarek 66), Eduard Chudnovsky (Evgeniy Drozd 83); Alexey Rios, Georgy Schennikov; Lukasz Zuk (Alexey Yesipenok 83), Nikolay Shvydakov (inj - Denis Pshenychnyi 66).
Unused Substitutes :- Vladimir Zuhbaia (GK), Maxim Gukailo, Alexey Razmyslovich.
Bookings :- Maxim Gorbach 33
Possession :- 53% - 47%. Man of the Match :- Georgy Schennikov (Lokomotiv Minsk).

There is certainly a case for saying that we rode our luck there, and that was apparently the view in the media, with our win labelled as 'laboured' and 'fortuitous'. We will take it of course, and with another home match to come in midweek before the International Break, we have to try and kick on and make this the start of a good run as we snap the streak of three matches without a win.

As has often been the case this season, there is a price to pay for a win, and this time it's Nikolay Shvydakov. The striker damaged an elbow after an awkward landing from a challenge for a header, and will be out for up to two weeks. It's not a huge deal, as there is a break coming up, but he won't be available for the Wednesday evening fixture against bottom of the table side FC Baranovichi.

We will have Maxim Ivanenko available though. The left back was one of four players called up for Belarus Under-19 International duty, but he would have missed the midweek League game, and has been withdrawn from the squad as a result, the remaining trio unlikely to be involved and allowed to make the trip for a Friendly in Ritzing against Austria next Thursday. Also involved in International duty is Vladimir Zuhbaia, the goalkeeper called up into the Georgia squad for FIFA World Cup Qualifying Group 4 matches in Tbilisi against Group leaders Greece, and then against second placed Belgium in Liège. While out of contention themselves, Georgia could still have a say in who qualifies, and England would dearly love a favour from them, the three teams at the top all locked together on thirteen points.

The Board remain satisfied with how things are going, still under the impression that we can achieve promotion this season. They are happy with our 3-0 win over FC Lida, which was over six weeks ago now. They have concerns over the mood in the dressing room right now with several players considering their futures, and they are monitoring the situation. The club recorded a loss of over £38,000 in August.

Edited by neilhoskins77

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Apologies for another fairly lengthy lay off readers. Health issues once more have prevented me being able to play and write for a few weeks.


Monday 2nd September 2013
Maxim Gorbach has six goals so far this season, matching his best ever campaign from nearly a decade ago when he was starting out with Torpedo Minsk. He is in the middle of his fourth season as a Lokomotiv player, and he will be here a while yet as well, signing a two year contract extension that will take him through to the end of the 2015 campaign. But that isn't the big news, as he has also taken a pay cut to sign the new deal, almost halving his weekly salary, down from £775 to £400.

Tuesday 3rd September
After that win on the weekend, we are looking to build some much needed momentum in the League, and have the opportunity to do that tomorrow evening with a home match against bottom of the table club FC Baranovichi. Seven points from safety and anchored to the foot of the table, they don't have a win from their last eleven League matches. You can get odds as high as 10/1 on them breaking that run tomorrow at Lokomotiv Stadium.

Wednesday 4th September

Belarusian First League
Lokomotiv Stadium, Minsk
Lokomotiv Minsk v FC Baranovichi
Attendance :-
445. Weather :- Breezy, 17c.

One change for this match following our win on the weekend, and it's an enforced switch, Nikolay Shvydakov with another spell on the sidelines, and Denis Pshenychnyi replacing him, leaving us with a very young strike force starting this match up front. Evgeniy Drozd is left out of the matchday squad, Alexandr Degterev and Sergey Krot both stepping back into the squad for substitutes duty.

After a slow start to the match, we went into our default mode, trying to punish our opponents from set pieces. Georgy Schennikov's corner on the quarter of an hour mark picked out Alexey Rios at the near post, who used the power already on the ball and redirected it, the ball crashing back off the cross bar. Moments later he connected at the near post again, this time the ball delivered from the opposite side by Eduard Chudnovsky, that one flashing wide of the goal frame. At the other end, a Baranovichi counter attack saw Dmytro Semikhov send in a curling shot from range that didn't quite curl in enough to trouble Dmitry Biryukov. A through ball from Schennikov found Denys Pshenychyni, but the striker hadn't quite held his run long enough to snap the offside trap open, and then he collected the ball from Rios and tried to send it across goal, Roman Vintsukovskiy appearing to use his arm to block it, the ref not sharing that view. The next time the striker got the ball in the penalty box he was played in by Igor Zangiev and Rios, turning his marker and sending a shot across goal that just missed the target. Back to the corners then, and Schennikov went to the far post this time, Maxim Ivanenko winning the ball in the air, but not able to squeeze it on to the target, hitting the outside of the upright. Pshenychyni and Alexandr Verbitskiy got themselves involved in a tangle that resulted in both being yellow carded, before the striker hit the post with a header from close range after getting on the end of a Schennikov cross. Half time, and still goalless.

The pressure continued in the early stages of the second half, and Schennikov got into the box on the left, missing the target on the near post side. The winger got the ball again quickly, and this time he tried a cross, a low one that picked out Rios, who had got on the goal side of his marker and sidefooted the ball into the net from six yards out. It had taken a while, but we had finally found a way through. Now we were setting about getting a second and killing off our visitors, and Schennikov was really causing them problems, running past three of their defenders but then failing to pick out a team mate with his cross. Still, there was still those ever reliable corner kicks, and Schennikov picked out Rios again in the 70th minute, and the wingers header found the net via the underside of the cross bar, doubling our lead with his second goal of the evening. With the job seemingly done, I decided to ring the changes in the 77th minute, making all four of my substitutions in one go. Zangiev, Chudnovsky, Rios and Pshenychyni all came off, replaced by Mariusz Kaczmarek, Alexandr Degterev, Alexey Razmyslovich and Sergey Krot. With our visitors making their own changes in fairly quick order as well, the flow of the game was severely disrupted. That said, we did nearly get a third, and really should have got it too, Schennikov picking a pass through the Baranovichi back line to find Lukasz Zuk unmarked in the box, but he shanked his shot wide of the target. Not that it mattered too much today.

Lokomotiv Minsk (0) 2 - Alexey Rios (49,70)
FC Baranovichi (0) 0
Dmitry Biryukov; Dmitry Chaka, Vladimir Malykh, Maxim Gorbach ©, Maxim Ivanenko; Igor Zangiev (Mariusz Kaczmarek 77), Eduard Chudnovsky (Alexandr Degterev 77), Alexey Rios (ALexey Razmyslovich 77), Georgy Schennikov; Lukasz Zuk, Denys Pshenychyni (Sergey Krot 77).
Unused Substitutes :- Alexey Yesipenok, Vladimir Zuhbaia (GK), Maxim Gukailo.
Bookings :- Denys Pshenychyni 39
Possession :- 61% - 39%. Man of the Match :- Alexey Rios (Lokomotiv Minsk).

For the second match in a row it is one of our wingers who earns the man of the match award, and while it could have gone to either of the pair, it's Alexey Rios who takes the plaudits today, netting both goals to earn us three more vital points. The award could easily have gone to Georgy Schennikov, who was an absolute nuisance for the defence of the visitors all evening, and setup both goals.

It's worth noting at this point that while the season isn't quite going as we had hoped right now, our improvement on last season has been in no small part down to the increased productivity from our wingers. Last season saw Rios and Schennikov notch four goals and seven assists between them from 45 League appearances. So far this season they have combined for eight goals and nine assists in 38 League appearances.

On a two game winning streak, we are still far from out of the reckoning to earn promotion this season, which if we achieved it might make the most popular manager in Minsk. Not a title that Vladimir Kurnev will be up for, the 62 year old has been sacked by Dinamo Minsk today with the club slipping down to seventh in the top tier. The early betting has me as third favourite for his job.

Edited by neilhoskins77

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Thursday 5th September 2013
My refusal to distance myself from the rumours that I would be a candidate to take the job the at Dinamo didn't exactly go down very well, but as I didn't actually go as far as throwing my hat into the ring for the vacancy, the damage was fairly limited.

The damage to Yuriy Ryzhko's shin is all healed up, and the midfielder was back in training today, while one of his younger team mates, Egor Romanovskiy, was playing for Belarus Under-19's in Austria. The 18 year old right back, who has played seven times in the League this season for Lokomotiv, captained the side, and opened the scoring just after the half hour mark. Christian Yilmaz of Rapid Vienna equalised, before another Minsk based player, striker Igor Mamedov of Zvezda-BGU Minsk, put Belarus back in front again early in the second half. Yilmaz would have the final say though, equalising for a second time with twenty minutes remaining to leave this one in a 2-2 draw.

Friday 6th September
That empty spot in the treatment room didn't remain empty for long, as veteran utility player Maxim Gukailo twisted his knee in training this morning, and will be unavailable for between two and three weeks. While that training session was going on, illustrious neighbours Dinamo were announcing twice capped former Belarus International player Alexandr Lisovskiy as their new manager. It's his second job in the hot seat, having been manager at FC Smorgon for five seasons up till the end of the last campaign. Some in the media find his appointment a strange one, as he has no connection with the Minsk giants, but did spend five seasons as a player with BATE Borisov.

Saturday 7th September
After winning five of their first six matches in their Qualifying Group 6 for next summers FIFA World Cup Finals in Brazil, things are now starting to come apart somewhat for Belarus. Having been beaten 3-1 by Switzerland at home, they came back with a routine 5-0 win over San Marino. They will need a similar response in midweek, as they are beaten 2-0 in Vienna today by Austria. An early goal from FC Twente striker Marko Arnautovic sent the Austrians on their way, and when Saturn Moskovskaya Oblast full back Jan Tigorev was shown a straight red card midway through the first half, Belarus were punished by Hamburger SV winger Ümit Korkmaz, who scored just one minute later. Austria would also finish the match with ten men, Middlesbrough centre back Emanuel Pogatetz picking up a second booking in the 70th minute. That leaves Belarus top of the group by virtue of goal difference only now ahead of Israel who put seven past San Marino in Ramat-Gan. The two nations meet in midweek at the Dinamo Stadium in Minsk. With away matches against the Czech Republic and Switzerland next month, a win is vital for Belarus in that match.

Sunday 8th September
Moving away from Belarus altogether for just a moment, the news has reached me that a player I signed twice has been forced to retire through injury. 23 year old left winger James McLean never realised the potential that many believed he had, but when he signed for one of my teams for the first time at Lurgan Celtic, he was a big part in the club winning promotion as Northern Irish Second Division Champions in 2010. Later that same year I moved on to Scotland and took over at Ayr United, with the winger one of five players I took with me from my old club. Unfortunately, a cruciate ligament injury has now brought down the curtain on a career that never really threatened to reach the heights of its real life path.

Monday 9th September
Alexey Rios is the only player from Lokomotiv selected in the First League Team of the Week.

Wednesday 11th September
It's a huge evening for football in Belarus, and a full house of 40,000 pack into the Dinamo Stadium to watch the National Team take on Israel. They would go home happy as well, Sampdoria midfielder Mikhail Sivakov opening the scoring with a penalty just after the half hour mark, and Bursaspor attacking midfielder Anton Putsilo scoring the second with twenty minutes left, securing a huge 2-0 win. They are now three points in front of Israel with just two matches remaining, and Czech Republic and Switzerland are just a point further back. A win in the Czech Republic next month will secure Belarus' place in the World Cup. Failure to win will mean they will likely need a win in Switzerland in their final match. A far superior goal difference is a plus, though the Czech's do still have a home match with San Marino in the last round.

Friday 13th September
Those of a superstitious nature will have been pleased that Belarus didn't have to play their International match on this notoriously unlucky day. With attention returning to domestic matters this weekend, there is nothing unlucky about our news that Nikolay Shvydakov is back in training today after recovering from his arm injury, the skipper will be in contention for a place in the side for tomorrows League match.

That match will be against one of the clubs that are currently ahead of us and that we will be looking to overtake before the seasons end, Vedrich-97 Rechitsa. They are sat in third place going into this match having won their last three games, and hold a four point advantage over us. A win today will put us within striking distance of them, but we will have to overcome our still erratic away form, and on that basis, the bookies have the home side as slight favourites.

Our opponents manager Igor Frolov has commented on how his sides chances will depend on their ability to be able to deal with our current man in form, right winger Alexey Rios. I tell the press that right now, he is on top form and we were hopeful it would continue for some time yet too.

Saturday 14th September

Belarusian First League
Tsentralniy, Rechitsa
Vedrich-97 Rechitsa v Lokomotiv Minsk
Attendance :-
2,573. Weather :- Dry, 16c.

There are just two changes from the win over bottom of the table FC Baranovichi last time out, and both are amongst the substitutes, with the starting eleven remaining unchanged. Maxim Gukailo's injury see's a recall to the matchday squad for Belarus Under-19 Captain and right back, Egor Romanovskiy. Further down the substitutes bench, Sergey Krot is dropped, with our own Captain and talisman striker Nikolay Shvydakov back in the fold following his injury.

A good start would be crucial for us today, but it almost went the other way when Igor Zangiev was caught flat footed by Denys Pshenchyni's knock down, and Roman Loktionov strode through the middle, fortunately sending his shot well wide of the target. And we would actually get our good start too, Alexey Rios rounding Alexey Krachenko and sending over a cross towards the edge of the box, Zangiev showed a deft touch to send it left and beyond a defender, right into the path of Georgy Schennikov, who lifted it beyond Ilja Kiselev and into the net to open the scoring, Vedrich complaining that the winger was offside, but it wasn't even close. Now we had to try and do what we had failed to do so often on the road this season, play smart and keep this lead intact. There were signs that our hosts might be about to lose their composure, with Andrey Bas picking up a booking for a crude challenge on Schennikov out on halfway. We were playing the ball around nicely, trying to tire out the opposition, getting the ball out wide at every opportunity, and getting our strikers in the game, Pshenychnyi cutting the ball into the path of Lukasz Zuk, only a last ditch tackle preventing him maybe adding a second. We kept turning the screw, Schennikov having a shot on the turn blocked and cleared behind, Rios' header from the resulting corner cleared off the line by Mikhail Kotin. When Vedrich did try and put pressure on us, Dmitriy Lebedev's run into the box was halted by the tag team of Zangiev and Maxim Ivanenko, the striker furious a penalty wasn't awarded. That signaled the start of a Vedrich revival, as Loktionov missed the target from a tight angle after some nice passing played him into space, before he sent a through ball into the pass of Lebedev, who again went down, this time under the challenge of Maxim Gorbach, again the referee suitably unimpressed. Our lead remained intact at the break, but it should have been more, and we might yet need more to come away with the full haul of points.

I told the players that I was pleased with their work so far, but that I wanted to see them make the most of the chances that may come our way, and make sure the points went in the bag and on the bus home with us. Vedrich would of course have other ideas, and Kotin's early second half through ball picked out Loktionov after Ivanenko stepped up and was caught out. The striker attempted to round Dmitry Biryukov, the keeper thrusting out a hand and pushing the ball away from danger at the last second. Just over ten minutes after the restart we would get a helping hand. Mere moments after picking up a booking for a push on Pshenychyni, Captain of the home side Yuriy Kartai blasted a free kick into the wall, and his frustration got the better of him as he attempted to prevent Pshenychyni counter attacking, leaving his feet and bringing down the striker on halfway, and leaving the ref with no option but to produce a quick second yellow, which as we all know, is followed by an equally swift red card. Now we had a golden opportunity to haul ourselves right back into the promotion race, only to watch it snatched from us just over ten minutes later with a piece of brilliance. With a free kick well over thirty yards out, Pavel Evseenko touched the ball sideways to Lebedev. He moved forward slowly, no one confronting him as they expected him to send a diagonal pass into the centre. He didn't. Instead, he launched a spectacular curling shot with no small amount of power from thirty yards out, with beat Biryukov all ends up and found the top corner to level the match up. It was a superb strike. Now it was our turn to face some pressure, though in fairness to my players, they didn't give up anything easy, and all Vedrich could muster was a shot from Alexandr Savinov that Biryukov caught quite easily. While a point wasn't exactly the end of the world, it wasn't the most desirable result either, and with a little over ten ticks left on the clock, I decided we should go for it. Vladimir Malykh was removed from the back four, which would be reduced to a back three with Dmitry Chaka and Ivanenko asked to pinch in, Nikolay Shvydakov came on to make it a three up front. My wide players were told to move further up the park, and Eduard Chudnovsky was moved up to play behind the strikers, leaving only Yuriy Ryzhko in midfield, as he replaced Zangiev at the same time. Did that work? Well, almost. After Savinov sent a header wide when he should have done better, a Schennikov corner found Ivanenko, and his leap and header were perfect, apart from an outstanding diving stop from Kiselev, who had no real right to get close to that one. Frustration against the ten men, if you don't believe me ask Chaka, who was frustrated enough to earn himself a late booking for a foul he didn't need to commit. 

Vedrich-97 Rechitsa (0) 1 - Dmitriy Lebedev (68)
Lokomotiv Minsk (1) 1 - Georgy Schennikov (5)
Dmitry Biryukov; Dmitry Chaka, Valdimir Malykh (Nikolay Shvydakov 79), Maxim Gorbach ©, Maxim Ivanenko; Igor Zangiev (Yuriy Ryzhko 79), Eduard Chudnovsky; Alexey Rios, Georgy Schennikov; Lukasz Zuk, Denys Pshenychyni.

Unused Substitutes :- Egor Romanovskiy, Vladimir Zuhbaia (GK), Alexey Yesipenok, Alexandr Degterev, Alexey Razmyslovich.
Bookings :- Dmitry Chaka 86
Possession :- 42% - 58%. Man of the Match :- Dmitriy Lebedev (Vedrich-97 Rechitsa).

I dread to think how many points we have lost from winning positions this season, and at some point I may work it out, but for now lets just say I'm pretty sure it's a significant number, and now it has another two added to it. Smorgon, who we face in the First Leg of our Cup tie in midweek, win again, carrying on serenely towards their seemingly inevitable promotion. Savit and Slavia Mozyr are both held to goalless draws away from home against sides they would have expected to beat, meaning we have lost nothing I guess, other than another game chalked off, a number that is starting to run down quickly as we fast approach the run-in this season.

2013 Belarusian First League, Up To & Including Saturday 14th September 2013

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

| 1st   |       | Smorgon            |       | 21    | 15    | 3     | 3     | 37    | 17    | +20   | 48    |
| 2nd   |       | Slavia Mozyr       |       | 21    | 13    | 4     | 4     | 42    | 19    | +23   | 43    |
| 3rd   |       | Vedrich Rechitsa   |       | 21    | 12    | 5     | 4     | 37    | 21    | +16   | 41    |
| 4th   |       | Savit              |       | 21    | 12    | 5     | 4     | 29    | 16    | +13   | 41    |
| 5th   |       | Lokomotiv Minsk    |       | 21    | 10    | 7     | 4     | 33    | 19    | +14   | 37    |
| 6th   |       | Khimik Svetlogorsk |       | 21    | 11    | 3     | 7     | 24    | 22    | +2    | 36    |


Edited by neilhoskins77

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Sunday 15th September 2013
On my wish list for the next Transfer Window is a Russian striker who is currently playing in the top tier here in Belarus. He ticks a lot of boxes, except for one, and that is the financial factor. He is due out of contract at the end of the season, so the fee wouldn't necessarily be an issue, but his wages would be. He would be our highest earner by quite some way, and that would be if we could get him to sign for the same money he is currently earning. That is unlikely as he has a few other suitors, so this one will have to go on the back burner for now and will likely only be revisited if we can earn promotion.

Monday 16th September
It may have been Alexey Rios who has been getting all the attention in recent weeks, but it's the opposite winger Georgy Schennikov who takes the honour of being Lokomotiv's only representative in the Team of the Week.

Tuesday 17th September
Tomorrow we move away from League action for a few hours, and focus instead on the Belarusian Cup. Few are giving us much of a chance of overturning FC Smorgon over two legs, but they have only lost once more than us in the League this season, it's the draws that have caused us the issues. If we can keep them off the scoreboard however, and then grab an away goal when we visit them for the Second Leg, we could give ourselves a shot of rolling them over and taking a place in the Quarter-Finals for ourselves. With a place in European Football up for grabs (I believe), winning the Cup would shock Belarusian football, while giving ourselves a huge lift in reputation and potentially finances. There's plenty of football to be played yet though.

Wednesday 18th September

Belarusian Cup, Third Round, First Leg
Lokomotiv Stadium, Minsk
Lokomotiv Minsk v FC Smorgon
Attendance :-
416. Weather :- Gusty, Wet, 7c.

Even the prospect of a visit from the League leaders to Minsk for a Cup match hasn't lured the fans to Lokomotiv Stadium, the weather not helping as our average attendance for the season continues to plummet. Igor Zangiev drops to the substitutes bench today, replaced by Yuriy Ryzhko in the centre of the park, while up front we have Nikolay Shvydakov returning to the starting eleven, Lukasz Zuk dropping to the bench to allow the skipper back into the lineup. 

The difference between today's two goalkeepers was highlighted early on, Dmitry Biryukov's huge clearance down the park was met by Andrey Tarakanov who came to the edge of his box to deal with the ball. When he launched the ball right back downfield, Biryukov didn't come off his line at all, creating some pressure on Maxim Gorbach who had to hook the ball behind his own goal in an awkward looking clearance. Fortunately that came to nothing, as did our counter attack where Nikolay Shvydakov let a shot go from 20 yards out, but it was weak, and off target. Back at the other end of the park, Sergey Kisliy fought off the attentions of first Vladimir Malykh and then Alexey Rios midway through the half, sending a shot just over the angle of the goal frame. We continued to ride our luck, particularly with Roman Gaev who was often found lurking on the edge of the box, his first effort bravely blocked, the second well off target. Shvydakov kept the home fans interested with another effort from the edge of the box, this time a low curler that was on target, but was dealt with fairly routinely by Tarakanov. After Gaev sent another shot just over the bar, our luck finally ran out just under ten minutes before the break. Gorbach conceded another corner, and Egor Sokolovskiy sent an outswinger to the far post, where it was met by Iraqi International defender, Jassim Mohammed Haji, the Captains downward header finding a path through the bodies and into the net to give the visitors a slender lead at the break.

It was all a little subdued at the break, both in the stands and in the dressing room. With my grasp of the dialect still not top drawer to say the least, it was my assistant who was given the task of relaying my instructions and rally the players into action as we sought to get back into the tie in the second half. Superb work down the left by Maxim Ivanenko was wasted when Yuriy Ryzhko sidefooted his shot from near the penalty spot wide of the target. Soon after Denys Pshenychnyi rounded a defender and played a diagonal pass to the right and into the path of Georgy Schennikov who was still on that side of the park after taking a corner, but he failed to hit the target with his shot. An encouraging start to the second half, but we were almost punished for failing to capitalise, Ivanenko failing to control the ball well enough after short distribution from Biryukov, and Dymtro Semenov took it from him and sent in a quick shot that the keeper was relieved to see go wide of the target. A low cross from Rios flashed through the Smorgon box without picking out a red shirt, and when it came back in from the other side, Pshenychnyi sent an effort over the bar. At the other end, a great cross from Vladimir Khilkevich midway through the half picked out Semenov as he arrived, but he couldn't keep his header down. The game was becoming a little stretched, and I wasn't convinced that would suit us, so I tried to encourage my players into a more attacking shape without making any personnel changes. That didn't appear to be working, so I started to prepare some late changes, and with fifteen minutes or so left Malykh, Ryzhko and Pshenychnyi were replaced by Alexey Yesipenok, Igor Zangiev and Lukasz Zuk. With five minutes to go Ivanenko drove infield from the left, and after creeping further across the park, he picked a through ball into the path of Rios. The winger cut back inside to avoid a tackle from Haji, and then tried a curler with his weaker left foot, which hit the oncoming Gaev as he attempted a block, and totally wrong footed Tarakanov to find the net, the Smorgon midfielder credited with an own goal. Momentum was very much with us now, and just over two minutes later Eduard Chudnovsky sent the ball down the right and played Rios into acres of space. The winger angled his run to the right edge of the box, before lifting the ball towards the near post, where sub Zuk got in front of Haji and powered his header inside the near post and into the bottom corner to totally turn around this First Leg!

Lokomotiv Minsk (0) 2 - Roman Gaev (85 og), Lukasz Zuk (88)
FC Smorgon (1) 1 - Jassim Mohammed Haji (36)
Dmitry Biryukov; Dmitry Chaka, Vladimir Malykh (Alexey Yesipenok 76), Maxim Gorbach, Maxim Ivanenko; Yuriy Ryzhko (Igor Zangiev 76), Eduard Chudnovsky; Alexey Rios, Georgy Schennikov; Denys Pshenychnyi (Lukasz Zuk 76), Nikolay Shvydakov ©.

Unused Substitutes :- Egor Romanovskiy, Vladimir Zuhbaia (GK), Alexandr Degterev, Alexey Razmyslovich.
Bookings :- None
Possession :- 48% - 52%. Man of the Match :- Jassim Mohammed Haji (FC Smorgon).

It's becoming a more frequent event that I disagree with the Man of the Match selection. Many believe that Jassim Mohammed Haji shouldn't even be playing for FC Smorgon this season. The 29 year old fifteen times capped Iraqi International defender is taking advantage of a rule that allows relegated sides to register their foreign players in a second tier league that otherwise forbids those players from taking part. He isn't the only one they have either, Hadi Ali is a 32 year old left back from Bahrain who made two appearances from the bench in the League before fate ended his season with a serious hip injury. They also have another Iraqi International defender who has spent the season in the Reserves. This is what we are up against to get promoted.

Back to Haji, who may have scored the opening goal, but he was also a part of both our goals, missing a chance to tackle Alexey Rios as he earned his space to take a shot, and then falling asleep at the near post and culpable for failing to match Lukasz Zuk's effort as he got in front of the defender and headed in the winning goal. Man of the Match? Not for me. In fact, we really didn't get much credit for that comeback victory at all.

That was a first goal in over 600 minutes of football for Zuk, and means we are now four matches unbeaten, with three wins during that spell. Undoubtedly a win over the League leaders will be a huge confidence boost for everyone at the club, and in many ways that win would have been better off coming in the League. Whether it will be enough to move on in the Cup of course remains to be seen. We will certainly be seeing plenty more of FC Smorgon, we have a home and away League match before they visit us in the League to round off the month, and we then visit them for the Second Leg of the Cup tie just four days later. Plenty to be played for in the coming weeks then as the season edges towards it's conclusion.

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Saturday 21st September 2013
With our match not scheduled until tomorrow again, we can only sit and watch on as our promotion rivals play out their matches today. The leaders FC Smorgon win, and win well, a 4-1 thumping of Darida-TDZh away from home. Vedrich Rechitsa matched their effort, winning 4-1 away to bottom of the table side FC Baranovchi. They remain third though after Slavia Mozyr won today's battle between two of the top four sides away from home against Savit Mogilev. That means a win for us tomorrow will leave is just a point from fourth spot, but still four from third place and six from a promotion spot with what will then be eight matches left to play.

Stood in our way of that are Dinamo-Belcard Grodno, sat currently in 13th place and while FC Baranovichi are all but doomed, the race to avoid the second relegation spot that comes with 15th place is heating up, and like it or not, Belcard are very much involved in that. Underestimating them would be a mistake however, as they are unbeaten in their last four matches, conceding just once, in a 1-1 draw away to Neman Mosty. They followed that up with a thumping 5-0 win at home against Livadia Dzerzhinsk and a 2-0 win away to Darida-TDZh, both clubs very much involved in the same battle as Belcard. A 0-0 draw against mid table Belshina Bobruisk last time out continued their good recent form.

Sunday 22nd September

Belarusian First League
Lokomotiv Stadium, Minsk
Lokomotiv Minsk v Dinamo-Belcard Grodno
Attendance :-
511. Weather :- Breezy, 17c.

These games are coming up thick and fast, but with every match an important one, rotation isn't really an option right now. That means the changes to the starting lineup are limited to just two, Igor Zangiev and game winner from the Cup in midweek, Lukasz Zuk, both included in the starting eleven, Yuriy Ryzhko and Denis Pshenychnyi both dropped to the substitutes bench.

With just four minutes on the clock we won a free kick near the dead ball line to the left side of the penalty box. Eduard Chudnovsky chipped the ball into the middle, and as he tried to get up for a header, Maxim Gorbach was held by Vasyl Pavlyk. It was the kind of thing you see almost routinely at corner kicks and free kicks, but the ref pointed to the spot, ignoring the protests of the Belcard players. Nikolay Shvydakov typically places his spot kicks in the corners, and is very reliable from the spot. He may have been feeling the nerves this time, as he went for power, Denys Boyko unable to keep it out as he slammed it high down the middle, right under the cross bar to give us a fifth minute lead. That was the skippers tenth goal of an injury disrupted campaign, and settled our nerves, leaving us now looking to build on that lead on this fine early autumn Sunday afternoon. We set about that primarily down the left, Maxim Ivanenko producing good work and sending Georgy Schennikov into space, his cross not getting the end result it deserved as no one reached it, but the ball was retrieved and sent to Igor Zangiev, his dipping shot only just clearing the bar. We were dominating proceedings right now, and Dmitry Chaka's cross from the right was headed away at the last second by Igor Klimuk with Shvydakov waiting to head it home from close range. Oleg Mil'to wasn't getting the support he needed around him up front for Belcard, and as a result his good hold up work was only leading to shots from distance that were not troubling Dmitry Biryukov in the slightest. Meanwhile we were creating plenty, Lukasz Zuk pulling into the left channel to help out Schennikov, the winger picking out Zangiev who struck a curling effort that had Boyko at full stretch to turn it away and past the post. That moment of magical football was followed by a moment of utter stupidity, as Zuk suffered a rush of blood to the head just before the break. Chasing a Schennikov ball over the top into the left channel of the Belcard box, he hounded Alexandr Markushevskiy into a mistake, and took the ball off his toe and towards the byline. Klimuk came across to help out, and Zuk launched himself into a ridiculous two footed lunge that felled the visiting left back, and earned our young striker a unarguable straight red card. Our second half just became more complicated.

I decided not to change things around, keeping our shape and instructions the same, but with Shvydakov as the lone striker now. That wouldn't be an easy ask for the skipper, and meant Mil'to was suddenly getting more support around him at the other end, allowing him to unleash a curler five minutes after the restart that only just went past the far upright. That left me wondering what to do for the best, and while I was doing that, Schennikov crashed to the grass clutching his ankle after a fairly innocuous coming together with Markushevskiy. With zero chance of him continuing, I decided to just make a like for like replacement for now, Alexey Razmyslovich summoned to replace him. He was involved within minutes, being sent into space after good work from Zangiev and Ivanenko. The full back overlapped too, and Razmyslovich gave him the ball back to send in a dangerous cross. Alexandr Gavryutin's attempt to clear was poor, and he only managed to glance the ball on towards the far post, Alexey Rios arriving and sending his volley into the grass, and looping over Boyko and into the net, to increase our lead despite our numerical disadvantage! You had better believe that Gavryutin was frustrated with his part in that goal, and he took it out on Razmyslovich, our substitute winger taking the ball from him, and he responded by turning him upside down with a two footed tackle that made Zuk's look decidedly meek. He became the second player to get a straight red this afternoon, and with a two goal lead on the scoreboard, we now returned to numerical parity on the park. As tempers threatened to boil over, and with Shvydakov earning himself a yellow card, it was time to try and calm tempers as Andrey Leonchik blasted a shot just wide of our goal frame. Egor Romanovskiy, Alexandr Degterev and Denys Pshenychnyi were all summoned from the bench, Chaka, Chudnovsky and Shvydakov taken off. We were now in survival for mode, and for the most part it was very straightforward. Then sub Dmytro Nikolaev found Leonchik on the left corner of our box, and he walked the line of the penalty box before striking a shot that left Biryukov clutching at thin air as the ball flew by him and into the net. Fortunately for us, there was only two minutes left to play, and with some creative time wasting, we didn't allow Belcard anywhere near our goal again today. Chalk up another win.

Lokomotiv Minsk (1) 2 - Nikolay Shvydakov (5 pen), Alexey Rios (59)
Dinamo-Belcard Grodno (0) 1 - Andrey Leonchik (88)
Dmitry Biryukov; Dmitry Chaka (Egor Romanovskiy 75), Vladimir Malykh, Maxim Gorbach, Maxim Ivanenko; Igor Zangiev, Eduard Chudnovsky (Alexandr Degterev 75); Alexey Rios, Georgy Schennikov (inj - Alexey Razmyslovich 56); Lukasz Zuk, Nikolay Shvydakov © (Denys Pshenychnyi 75).

Unused Substitutes :- Vladimir Zuhbaia (GK), Alexey Yesipenok, Yuriy Ryzhko.
Bookings :- Nikolay Shvydakov 72 Sent Off :- Lukasz Zuk 43
Possession :- 48% - 52%. Man of the Match :- Alexey Rios (Lokomotiv Minsk).

Where do you want to start? How about the extension of our unbeaten run, which is now at five games, which is four wins and a draw in four League games and one Cup match. Too little too late, or are we hitting our stride at just the right time?

If we are timing our run perfectly, we will have to keep it going without two of our players. Lukasz Zuk is given an automatic one game suspension, and is warned by the club officially regarding his on the field discipline, a warning that he accepts. Given the nature of the offence, it is highly likely that they'll add another two matches onto that automatic one match ban.

The good news for us is that Georgy Schennikov's ankle isn't broken. That good news is limited however, as the 22 year old does have a sprain to the lower part of his leg, and that will keep him sidelined for around five or six weeks. With the final League match of the campaign scheduled for six weeks away, it's possible we have seen the last of our Russian winger for the season, and many believe that he may have just played his last match in a Lokomotiv jersey given the ever circulating rumours of clubs ready to pay for his signature. On that, I guess we will just have to wait and see. If his season is done, it has seen a huge upturn in his production.

On the other wing, Alexey Rios also continues his own huge improvement in performances, getting his sixth League goal of the campaign and seventh in all competitions, to go along with his fifth Man of the Match performance in the League, a sixth overall. For the record, I would have given the award to Maxim Ivanenko this week, who once more will be under pressure for his place as Maxim Gukailo is ready to resume training after his injury.

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Saturday 21st September 2013
With our match not scheduled until tomorrow again, we can only sit and watch on as our promotion rivals play out their matches today. The leaders FC Smorgon win, and win well, a 4-1 thumping of Darida-TDZh away from home. Vedrich Rechitsa matched their effort, winning 4-1 away to bottom of the table side FC Baranovchi. They remain third though after Slavia Mozyr won today's battle between two of the top four sides away from home against Savit Mogilev. That means a win for us tomorrow will leave is just a point from fourth spot, but still four from third place and six from a promotion spot with what will then be eight matches left to play.

Stood in our way of that are Dinamo-Belcard Grodno, sat currently in 13th place and while FC Baranovichi are all but doomed, the race to avoid the second relegation spot that comes with 15th place is heating up, and like it or not, Belcard are very much involved in that. Underestimating them would be a mistake however, as they are unbeaten in their last four matches, conceding just once, in a 1-1 draw away to Neman Mosty. They followed that up with a thumping 5-0 win at home against Livadia Dzerzhinsk and a 2-0 win away to Darida-TDZh, both clubs very much involved in the same battle as Belcard. A 0-0 draw against mid table Belshina Bobruisk last time out continued their good recent form.

Sunday 22nd September

Belarusian First League
Lokomotiv Stadium, Minsk
Lokomotiv Minsk v Dinamo-Belcard Grodno
Attendance :-
511. Weather :- Breezy, 17c.

These games are coming up thick and fast, but with every match an important one, rotation isn't really an option right now. That means the changes to the starting lineup are limited to just two, Igor Zangiev and game winner from the Cup in midweek, Lukasz Zuk, both included in the starting eleven, Yuriy Ryzhko and Denis Pshenychnyi both dropped to the substitutes bench.

With just four minutes on the clock we won a free kick near the dead ball line to the left side of the penalty box. Eduard Chudnovsky chipped the ball into the middle, and as he tried to get up for a header, Maxim Gorbach was held by Vasyl Pavlyk. It was the kind of thing you see almost routinely at corner kicks and free kicks, but the ref pointed to the spot, ignoring the protests of the Belcard players. Nikolay Shvydakov typically places his spot kicks in the corners, and is very reliable from the spot. He may have been feeling the nerves this time, as he went for power, Denys Boyko unable to keep it out as he slammed it high down the middle, right under the cross bar to give us a fifth minute lead. That was the skippers tenth goal of an injury disrupted campaign, and settled our nerves, leaving us now looking to build on that lead on this fine early autumn Sunday afternoon. We set about that primarily down the left, Maxim Ivanenko producing good work and sending Georgy Schennikov into space, his cross not getting the end result it deserved as no one reached it, but the ball was retrieved and sent to Igor Zangiev, his dipping shot only just clearing the bar. We were dominating proceedings right now, and Dmitry Chaka's cross from the right was headed away at the last second by Igor Klimuk with Shvydakov waiting to head it home from close range. Oleg Mil'to wasn't getting the support he needed around him up front for Belcard, and as a result his good hold up work was only leading to shots from distance that were not troubling Dmitry Biryukov in the slightest. Meanwhile we were creating plenty, Lukasz Zuk pulling into the left channel to help out Schennikov, the winger picking out Zangiev who struck a curling effort that had Boyko at full stretch to turn it away and past the post. That moment of magical football was followed by a moment of utter stupidity, as Zuk suffered a rush of blood to the head just before the break. Chasing a Schennikov ball over the top into the left channel of the Belcard box, he hounded Alexandr Markushevskiy into a mistake, and took the ball off his toe and towards the byline. Klimuk came across to help out, and Zuk launched himself into a ridiculous two footed lunge that felled the visiting left back, and earned our young striker a unarguable straight red card. Our second half just became more complicated.

I decided not to change things around, keeping our shape and instructions the same, but with Shvydakov as the lone striker now. That wouldn't be an easy ask for the skipper, and meant Mil'to was suddenly getting more support around him at the other end, allowing him to unleash a curler five minutes after the restart that only just went past the far upright. That left me wondering what to do for the best, and while I was doing that, Schennikov crashed to the grass clutching his ankle after a fairly innocuous coming together with Markushevskiy. With zero chance of him continuing, I decided to just make a like for like replacement for now, Alexey Razmyslovich summoned to replace him. He was involved within minutes, being sent into space after good work from Zangiev and Ivanenko. The full back overlapped too, and Razmyslovich gave him the ball back to send in a dangerous cross. Alexandr Gavryutin's attempt to clear was poor, and he only managed to glance the ball on towards the far post, Alexey Rios arriving and sending his volley into the grass, and looping over Boyko and into the net, to increase our lead despite our numerical disadvantage! You had better believe that Gavryutin was frustrated with his part in that goal, and he took it out on Razmyslovich, our substitute winger taking the ball from him, and he responded by turning him upside down with a two footed tackle that made Zuk's look decidedly meek. He became the second player to get a straight red this afternoon, and with a two goal lead on the scoreboard, we now returned to numerical parity on the park. As tempers threatened to boil over, and with Shvydakov earning himself a yellow card, it was time to try and calm tempers as Andrey Leonchik blasted a shot just wide of our goal frame. Egor Romanovskiy, Alexandr Degterev and Denys Pshenychnyi were all summoned from the bench, Chaka, Chudnovsky and Shvydakov taken off. We were now in survival for mode, and for the most part it was very straightforward. Then sub Dmytro Nikolaev found Leonchik on the left corner of our box, and he walked the line of the penalty box before striking a shot that left Biryukov clutching at thin air as the ball flew by him and into the net. Fortunately for us, there was only two minutes left to play, and with some creative time wasting, we didn't allow Belcard anywhere near our goal again today. Chalk up another win.

Lokomotiv Minsk (1) 2 - Nikolay Shvydakov (5 pen), Alexey Rios (59)
Dinamo-Belcard Grodno (0) 1 - Andrey Leonchik (88)
Dmitry Biryukov; Dmitry Chaka (Egor Romanovskiy 75), Vladimir Malykh, Maxim Gorbach, Maxim Ivanenko; Igor Zangiev, Eduard Chudnovsky (Alexandr Degterev 75); Alexey Rios, Georgy Schennikov (inj - Alexey Razmyslovich 56); Lukasz Zuk, Nikolay Shvydakov © (Denys Pshenychnyi 75).

Unused Substitutes :- Vladimir Zuhbaia (GK), Alexey Yesipenok, Yuriy Ryzhko.
Bookings :- Nikolay Shvydakov 72 Sent Off :- Lukasz Zuk 43
Possession :- 48% - 52%. Man of the Match :- Alexey Rios (Lokomotiv Minsk).

Where do you want to start? How about the extension of our unbeaten run, which is now at five games, which is four wins and a draw in four League games and one Cup match. Too little too late, or are we hitting our stride at just the right time?

If we are timing our run perfectly, we will have to keep it going without two of our players. Lukasz Zuk is given an automatic one game suspension, and is warned by the club officially regarding his on the field discipline, a warning that he accepts. Given the nature of the offence, it is highly likely that they'll add another two matches onto that automatic one match ban.

The good news for us is that Georgy Schennikov's ankle isn't broken. That good news is limited however, as the 22 year old does have a sprain to the lower part of his leg, and that will keep him sidelined for around five or six weeks. With the final League match of the campaign scheduled for six weeks away, it's possible we have seen the last of our Russian winger for the season, and many believe that he may have just played his last match in a Lokomotiv jersey given the ever circulating rumours of clubs ready to pay for his signature. On that, I guess we will just have to wait and see. If his season is done, it has seen a huge upturn in his production.

On the other wing, Alexey Rios also continues his own huge improvement in performances, getting his sixth League goal of the campaign and seventh in all competitions, to go along with his fifth Man of the Match performance in the League, a sixth overall. For the record, I would have given the award to Maxim Ivanenko this week, who once more will be under pressure for his place as Maxim Gukailo is ready to resume training after his injury.

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Tuesday 24th September 2013
While we go hunting for the teams ahead of us, tomorrow night we become the hunted. As we attempt to catch up and pick off the clubs in front of us one by one, Khimik Svetlogorsk are also trying to do exactly the same, and we are first on their hit list. Right behind us in the table just three points adrift, they would need to absolutely thrash us to overtake us due to our superior goal difference. Fingers crossed we don't need to worry about that at all and we continue our good run and nudge ourselves a little closer to the dotted line. The bookies make us narrow favourites. I tell the press that we need to keep our momentum going if we are going to keep our noses in the promotion race.

Wednesday 25th September

Belarusian First League
Bumazhnik, Svetlogorsk
Khimik Svetlogorsk v Lokomotiv Minsk
Attendance :-
3,694. Weather :- Breezy, 35c.

Our two changes today are both enforced. With Georgy Schennikov out with injury, Alexey Razmyslovich is promoted into the starting eleven on the left wing. Up front, Lukasz Zuk is suspended following his weekend red card, and that means that Denys Pshenychnyi is recalled to the lineup, getting another chance to try and get the zero out of his personal goals scored column. With that pair brought into the lineup, we need to add two more players onto the substitutes bench, Evgeniy Drozd and Sergey Krot filling the gaps.

Last time out we got off to the perfect start. This time around could not have been more different. Slick passing between Igor Kuzmenok, Dmitry Demidov and finally Sergey Konchik led to the ball finding Sergey Zabolotskiy near the edge of the box, and the home teams Captain smashed an unstoppable shot into the roof of the net from 20 yards out to give Khimik a 9th minute lead. Five minutes later and Eduard Chudnovsky was caught in possession on our right near halfway. Sergey Volodzko took control and lifted the ball down the channel, sending Zabolotskiy into a foot race against Vladimir Malykh. It was a race he won easily, and then he cut back inside on the centre back and shot back inside Dmitry Biryukov's near post to double the lead and make it a five minute brace. Credit to my players though, who didn't let their heads drop, and ten minutes or so later they got a reward. Igor Zangiev collected a cleared cross, and sent the ball square to Chudnovsky. His through ball sliced the Khimik defence wide open, and Nikolay Shvydakov shot first time across Olexandr Bandura from 15 yards out, finding the far corner and halving the deficit. The game entered a period of cagey play, that saw only two more chances in the remainder of first half, both fell to Zabolotskiy as he attempted to put the stamp on a hatrick, but both were lashed well over the bar when he should have done better. Maybe slightly fortunately, we went into the break just a goal behind.

We would need to be much better in the second half, that much was clear, and we really needed to start closing down Zabolotskiy, who already had two and should have maybe had another two as well. After Konchik sent an early second half effort wide of the post, we started to gain a foothold in the match. That was thanks mainly to a couple of players who were trying to make amends for a below average first half showing. One of those was Zangiev, who showed some nifty footwork to create the space needed to get the ball to Denys Pshenychnyi, the strikers shot just off target. Another was Chudnovsky, who not only broke up play and sent the ball on to Zangiev, but he was also on hand when Pshenychnyi's cross pinballed off a defender trying to keep the ball away from Shvydakov, and the midfielder drove the ball into the bottom corner of the net from an awkward height and squared the match up around the hour mark. Now we had a half an hour shootout, with both sides really needing a win, but not able to afford a defeat. That produced some nerves of course, and some nervous moments at both ends too. Zabolotskiy wandered into our penalty box, but was too slow to shoot before being crowded out by a trio of desperately scrambling Lokomotiv players. Shvydakov would have gone in on goal unopposed had he been several years younger and considerably more fleet footed, instead he was tackled while still a good thirty yards out. Dmitriy Makar did get his shot away from 20 yards out, and it was a good one, beating Biryukov, but not the near upright, the ball crashing back off the frame of the goal and bouncing to safety. I opted for fresh legs rather than a change in approach, Alexandr Degterev and Sergey Krot firstly, replacing Alexey Razmyslovich and Pshenychnyi, followed later by Yuriy Ryzhko who came on for Chudnovsky. With just two minutes left on the clock we won a corner, Alexey Rios whipping it in, Maxim Gorbach and Malykh provided the decoy, and Degterev was left unmarked, but he couldn't keep his header down. Stalemate.

Khimik Svetlogorsk (2) 2 - Sergey Zabolotskiy (9,15)
Lokomotiv Minsk (1) 2 - Nikolay Shvydakov (25), Eduard Chudnovsky (61)
Dmitry Biryukov; Dmitry Chaka, Vladimir Malykh, Maxim Gorbach, Maxim Ivanenko; Igor Zangiev, Eduard Chudnovsky (Yuriy Ryzhko 82); Alexey Rios, Alexey Razmyslovich (Alexandr Degterev 72); Denys Pshenychnyi (Sergey Krot 72), Nikolay Shvydakov ©.

Unused Substitutes :- Egor Romanovskiy, Vladimir Zuhbaia (GK), Alexey Yesipenok, Evgeniy Drozd.
Bookings :- None
Possession :- 47% - 53%. Man of the Match :- Sergey Zabolotskiy (Khimik Svetlogorsk).

The reality is that neither side will be overly delighted, or disappointed with that result, but it makes the chances of either moving into next season's lineup for the top tier a little less likely. That is because FC Smorgon have won again, Slavia Mozyr are held at home, while in the big clash of the evening, Savit Mogilev win away against Vedrich Rechitsa.

With our next match, the final one of September, coming on Sunday against League leaders FC Smorgon, we will once more have the opportunity to see what a few of our promotion rivals can do on Saturday before our game comes around. We are quickly running out of games now though, and we don't seem to be able to make any further inroads as we seek to catch those in front of us. We will also be without Lukasz Zuk a little longer in our quest, the 20 year old striker has, as predicted, had another two matches added to his suspension following his recent red card.

My contract in Minsk still has a year a run, though with promotion requested by the Board at the start of the year, I would imagine there will be a significant amount of doubt with regard to me getting a second full season at Lokomotiv and another chance to try and move the club into the League the Board members are so keen to see the club compete in.

I guess I've always thought that if I couldn't get any success here in Belarus, I would be struggling to find a competitive position elsewhere. It may not quite be a case of 'out of sight, out of mind' however, with rumours swirling that a club in England may be interested in my services.

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Thursday 26th September 2013
The club that was rumoured to be interested in my services as their potential new manager was Oxford United. It would have maybe have been more accurate to say that the 'City interested in my services', as it turned out that the United job wasn't even available, mid table Blue Square Premier side issuing a statement that they had no intention of relieving Mickey Lewis of his services at this point.

But the 1985/86 English League Cup winners are not the only side in the City of Oxford of course, and as of recently, not the only side in the City playing in the Blue Square setup. Thirty four times winners of the Oxfordshire Senior Cup, less prestigious rivals Oxford City are in the Blue Square South, the sixth tier of football in England, for the very first time in their history in their 120th season. Their start has been fairly woeful, just a single point to show for their opening eight matches, and already six points adrift of the safety that 19th place would bring.

A new owner is in the process of making a takeover at Court Place Farm, and it appears it is they who are looking into bringing me back to the UK as a possible option to be their new manager. I have to say that they will need to talk a very good and ambitious game to get me to agree is my initial reaction. Their best two players are both defenders, and they are both on loan. The squad is threadbare, and would need some serious investment just to keep them in the Blue Square South I would think.

Saturday 28th September
While some of the clubs in close proximity to us in the League engage in their Saturday afternoon kick offs, I instead participate in an escalating war of words with the manager of the League leaders, Valeriy Bokhno. His side are being made second favourites for their trip to Lokomotiv Stadium tomorrow afternoon, not a position they have found themselves in very often this season. 

He is told that in my press conference I spoke to the media about confidence being currently very high amongst the Lokomotiv squad with our unbeaten streak up to six in all competitions, including a win at home against tomorrows opponents. Bokhno responds by telling the press that he doesn't really believe the hype, and doesn't feel that Lokomotiv have anything to feel particularly confident about. He finishes his conference with an emphatic statement, 'The League table doesn't tell lies!' Given the right to reply, I tell the media that his side are starting to look tired, and having beaten them just ten days ago, there's no reason why we can't do it again. 'With such a small squad, and so many games in a short span, I think their bubble might be about to burst' I conclude.

The reality for us right now is that we have to burst their bubble tomorrow, as today's results have not gone our way. Slavia Mozyr win 3-1 away to Neman Mosty, while Savit Mogilev are comfortable 3-0 winners at home to Mikashevichi. If our unbeaten run comes to a halt tomorrow on the penultimate day of September, we will surely be listed as 'also rans' in the race for promotion.

Sunday 29th September

Belarusian First League
Lokomotiv Stadium, Minsk
Lokomotiv Minsk v FC Smorgon
Attendance :-
523. Weather :- Gusty, Showers, 21c.

For this absolutely vital match with the top of the table side, we show one change from the midweek draw away to Khimik Svetlogorsk. That change comes up front, with still goalless Denys Pshenychnyi switched out on to the substitutes bench, and veteran striker Sergey Krot recalled to the starting lineup to partner Nikolay Shvydakov. This is the first meeting of a four day double header with Smorgon, and the second of a trio of games in a fifteen day spell, as we will face them again in Smorgon on Thursday evening in the Second Leg of our Belarusian Cup Third Round tie.

After spending a large part of the season being overlooked for younger strikers who haven't got the job done, Sergey Krot was in a rush to prove the job that was his last season should've remained his. Inside the first minute he was played into space by Alexandr Degterev on the left just outside the box. There was nothing in the way of finesse as he forced his way past a defender and into the box, sending in a powerful shot that left Andrey Tarakanov well beaten, but the ball thundered off the underside of the bar and bounced to safety. Smorgon responded, Sergey Kisliy playing a through ball in for Vladimir Khilkevich, who sent his shot well over the bar. Moments later, Nikolay Shvydakov did a much better job of working the keeper as we launched a counter attack, Krot playing the skipper through, but Tarakanov was quick off his line to narrow the angle, and saved the shot with his legs. There was nothing whatsoever the keeper could do in the 15th minute though, Maxim Ivanenko finding Krot with a throw in, and he sent the ball skywards and towards the far side of the box. When the ball did drop from the stormy looking skies, Alexey Rios was underneath it ahead of two defenders, and headed it back across goal, the ball looping beyond Tarakanov's grasp and inside the far post to open the scoring. You could almost see the shoulders of the league leaders players sag, and when Alexandr Mrinskiy's cut back found Roman Gaev, his low shot blocked by Dmitry Biryukov, they were starting to doubt themselves. They almost had more reason to as well, as we counter attacked again, Shvykakov and Krot not on the same wavelength this time. They tried the cut back again, this time our defence had it worked out, before Gaev chanced his arm from further out with a dipping effort that didn't come down quick enough. That was followed by Kisliy's free kick swerving off target as the visitors tried to get a foothold back in the game. Just before the break, Dmitry Chaka almost caught the Smorgon defence out sprinting down the right, feigning to give the ball to Rios, then powering on into the box himself and letting off an early shot that rippled the side netting, the fans in the main stand fooled into thinking he had made it 2-0.

We would absolutely have to be on our guard in the second half the players were told, as we had certainly given the nest a kick in the first half. But if Shvydakov and Krot had got their chemistry together, we could have snatched a quick second, Biryukov's long clearance down the park flicked on by Shvydakov, but Krot not quite in the position his strike partner expected. Instead Tarakanov collected and sent the ball right back down the park, no flick on required there, just a big bounce that took the ball over Maxim Gorbach and Kisliy raced onto it, but struck the ball as it rose and cleared both goal frame and stand. They had already made one change at the break, and they would be forced into more just after the hour when we found a near replica of the opening goal. Chaka's short throw found Rios, and in a role reversal from the first half, he slung over a cross from the right, and Krot got between the centre backs, heading the ball back in the direction Tarakanov had moved from and into the top corner to make it a two goal advantage. Now Smorgon would need to come looking for us, and they made two quick changes. A cross from one of those subs, Victor Dotsenko, caused us a problem as Vladimir Malykh got very little distance on his clearance, but Kisliy sent that one over the bar too with left footed half volley. Then another sub, Andrey Valeev won them a corner, but a further of their replacements Bogdan Bidnosheya couldn't find a team mate. I made a couple of late subs of my own to bring us in some fresh legs, Igor Zangiev and Degterev replaced by Yuriy Ryzhko and Alexey Razmyslovich, before Rios was in trouble, accused of diving to try and win us a late penalty with three minutes to go, earning only a booking instead. Fortunately, that would only prove to be a small dark cloud on an otherwise lovely day for us.

Lokomotiv Minsk (1) 2 - Alexey Rios (15), Sergey Krot (61)
FC Smorgon (0) 0
Dmitry Biryukov; Dmitry Chaka, Vladimir Malykh, Maxim Gorbach, Maxim Ivanenko; Igor Zangiev (Yuriy Ryzhko 84), Eduard Chudnovsky; Alexey Rios, Alexandr Degterev (Alexey Razmyslovich 84); Sergey Krot, Nikolay Shvydakov ©.
Unused Substitutes :- Egor Romanovskiy, Vladimir Zuhbaia (GK), Alexey Yesipenok, Evgeniy Drozd, Denys Pshenychnyi.
Bookings :- Alexey Rios 88
Possession :- 53% - 47%. Man of the Match :- Alexey Rios (Lokomotiv Minsk).

The league leaders head back to Smorgon with their tails between their legs, but the First League Title still firmly within their grasp. For us, it's a huge reaffirmation of our abilities, but with our result the only one that has gone our way this weekend, it hasn't done a huge amount to improve our situation. Vedrich Rechitsa win at home to stay above us, while Khimik Svetlogorsk win away to remain on our heels.

Sergey Krot's goal just after the hour mark was his first in more than thirteen hours of football, and just his second of the season. He added his second assist of the season too, and was a little unlucky to be edged out of the Man of the Match Award by Alexey Rios. It's the wingers seventh award of the season, a new Lokomotiv club record. He now also has eight goals and six assists in all competitions as well, none of which stopped me having a quiet word with him to let him know exactly how unhappy I was to see him diving, and that I didn't want to see it again.

Monday 30th September
Only one Lokomotiv player is named in the First League Team of the Week, and it isn't Alexey Rios or Sergey Krot. No, this time it's right back Dmitry Chaka, the 22 year old rewarded for his improved recent form that has seen him produce an average rating of 7.00 over his last five matches.

On the other side of the park, there is some good news. 7 times capped Belarusian Under-21 International left winger Alexandr Kozlov has earned himself a bit of a reputation for being injury prone. He is now back in training after his longest lay off to date, four months with a broken foot. The return of the 20 year old speed merchant could be perfect timing with Georgy Schennikov out of action.

Another Alexandr, who is considerably further down the line in his career could be soon making his departure from Lokomotiv Stadium. 31 year old midfielder Alexandr Alkhovik was still a fixture in the First Team setup when I arrived last season, playing 26 times. He hasn't played a single minute of First Team action this campaign though, cast adrift with the Reserves at SKVICh. To his credit, he has four goals and a whopping thirteen assists in 23 matches, but to me, that only suggests that he has likely found his level. The backroom staff believe he's disillusioned with life at the club, his contract expires in two months, and I have no plans on renewing it.

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Posted (edited)

2013 Belarusian First League Table, Up To & Including Sunday 29th September 2013

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

| 1st   |       | Smorgon            |       | 24    | 17    | 3     | 4     | 42    | 20    | +22   | 54    |
| 2nd   |       | Slavia Mozyr       |       | 24    | 15    | 5     | 4     | 46    | 20    | +26   | 50    |
| 3rd   |       | Vedrich Rechitsa   |       | 24    | 14    | 5     | 5     | 43    | 24    | +19   | 47    |
| 4th   |       | Savit              |       | 24    | 14    | 5     | 5     | 33    | 17    | +16   | 47    |
| 5th   |       | Lokomotiv Minsk    |       | 24    | 12    | 8     | 4     | 39    | 22    | +17   | 44    |
| 6th   |       | Khimik Svetlogorsk |       | 24    | 12    | 5     | 7     | 29    | 25    | +4    | 41    |
| 7th   |       | Mikashevichi       |       | 24    | 9     | 8     | 7     | 29    | 19    | +10   | 35    |
| 8th   |       | Belshina           |       | 24    | 8     | 10    | 6     | 17    | 15    | +2    | 34    |
| 9th   |       | Zvezda-BGU         |       | 24    | 8     | 6     | 10    | 31    | 28    | +3    | 30    |
| 10th  |       | Lida               |       | 24    | 8     | 3     | 13    | 26    | 38    | -12   | 27    |
| 11th  |       | Vertical           |       | 24    | 6     | 6     | 12    | 32    | 44    | -12   | 24    |
| 12th  |       | Belcard            |       | 24    | 6     | 5     | 13    | 25    | 30    | -5    | 23    |
| 13th  |       | Neman Mosty        |       | 24    | 6     | 5     | 13    | 26    | 42    | -16   | 23    |
| 14th  |       | Darida             |       | 24    | 5     | 7     | 12    | 15    | 34    | -19   | 22    |
| 15th  |       | Livadia            |       | 24    | 6     | 3     | 15    | 17    | 43    | -26   | 21    |
| 16th  |       | Baranovichi        |       | 24    | 2     | 4     | 18    | 16    | 45    | -29   | 10    |


Edited by neilhoskins77

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Tuesday 1st October 2013
October has arrived, the penultimate month of the domestic season here in Belarus. By the end of this month we will have just three matches remaining on our fixture list. That means four matches to be played this month, as well as an International Window to negotiate which will see me once more take charge of India.

It is domestic matters that are taking my attention right now, and we will start the month with the now familiar opponents of the League leaders, FC Smorgon. We face them for the third time in a spell of around a fortnight, making the hour or so journey to them for the Second Leg of our Belarusian Cup Third Round tie later this week, holding a slender one goal advantage from the home leg of the tie. Once that tie is done, we take a much shorter trip across the city of Minsk to face Zvezda-BGU Minsk on Sunday in a Minsk Derby in the League.

The International Window will follow that match, and we will resume domestic matters two weeks later with a home match against Vertical Kalinkovichi, and after that we complete the October schedule six days later with our penultimate away match against FC Lida.

After winning the Manager of the Month award for the first time in Belarus early in the season for our efforts in April, I have now won it again following our superb form in September, where we went through six League matches unbeaten, four wins and two draws, with three clean sheets as well. I pipped Oleg Taranukhin and Vyacheslav Shevchik of Khimik Svetlogorsk and Slavia Mozyr respectively for the award, the sixth such honour of my career.

The Board remain satisfied with how things are playing out with limited time left in the season now. That gives them plenty of scope to go either way should they wish if our season should end with glory, gallant failure, or even utter disappointment. They pick out the win over FC Baranovichi as their recent highlight, but note their concern over the the presence of some unhappy players in the dressing room. Our financial loss for the month is a little over £55,000, though the club still have a bank balance that is approaching the £½ million mark.

Wednesday 2nd October
Tomorrow evening we have our chance to oust FC Smorgon from the 2013/14 Belarusian Cup competition, and move ourselves into the Quarter-Final stage, which will take place next spring. A win, or even a draw, will be enough, as we hold a one goal advantage from the First Leg at home. A 1-0 defeat would see us go out on away goals. A 2-1 defeat would see the tie go into Extra Time, a higher scoring one goal loss would see us advance on the away goals rule. We are underdogs for the match, but that won't play on our minds at all.

Thursday 3rd October

Belarusian Cup, Third Round, Second Leg
Yunost, Smorgon
FC Smorgon v Lokomotiv Minsk
(Lokomotiv Minsk lead 2-1 on aggregate)
Attendance :- 2,017. Weather :- Breezy, 7c.

From the side that won the League meeting between these two clubs last weekend, we show one change to our starting lineup. Alexandr Degterev's lack of football means he is unable to play start two matches in such quick succession, and his place on the left wing goes to Alexey Razmyslovich. There is also one change on the substitutes bench today, with Evgeniy Drozd left out of the matchday squad, and a significant return, with young left winger Alexandr Kozlov returning to the squad after being missing since early June with a broken foot.

I wanted to see us be smart, and play patient today. This is a new position for us, we don't need to win, but we do need to deal with a side who will be looking for goals, and being roared on by a large crowd who are taking an increasing dislike for us. Dmitry Chaka was certainly trying to play smart. Early on as he stepped forward from right back, he noticed that Sergey Bychik was isolated with both Sergey Krot and Alexey Razmyslovich around him, and hoisted the ball diagonally across the park, his opposite number doing very well to get the ball to safety. We continued in that manner when Alexey Rios squared the ball across the edge of the box, and Nikolay Shvydakov moved it on further to the better placed Krot, who didn't quite connect with his shot as would have liked, and it trickled just wide of the near post. We were considerably less smart in the 15th minute however, failing to read Roman Gaev's intentions with his outswinging corner, and he picked out Vladimir Khilkevich at the near post, his volley redirecting the ball high into the roof of the net at the near post, and our First Leg advantage was wiped out, and we now trailed on the away goals rule. No panic, just stick to the plan and keep playing our usual game. But we nearly shipped another within five minutes, Khilkevich feeding the ball to Vitaliy Ivanko inside the box, and he rolled Vladimir Malykh and got in a shot, Dmitry Biryukov getting down at his near post to push that one aside. Igor Zangiev and Eduard Chudnovsky started to get some success in their centre of the park battle as we made our way back into the match, giving Smorgon more to think about, Zangiev's through ball only just a little too far ahead of Shvydakov. Our hosts would have the last say of the first half though, Ivanko with a low shot from the edge of the box that was right at Biryukov and he dealt with it easily.

I decided to make a change at the break, Zangiev had taken a slight knock to the head, nothing too serious but I elected to switch him for Yuriy Ryzhko as we needed to keep sharp and search out a chance to get ourselves level on the night. The second half was every bit as tight as you would expect, and I was fine with that, it suited us. We were playing well, and not taking any major risks, but slowly we were starting to push the door open. Midway through the second half Maxim Ivanenko did well down the left, overlapping to take the ball in stride and skip away from Jassim Mohammed Haji, before sending a cross to the far post, Bychik just getting between both Krot and Shvydakov and flicking the ball to safety. Smorgon were starting to sink back into a defensive formation, and we were getting chances. Rios thought he should have got a penalty after Khilkevich challenged the winger right at the byline as the winger tried to find space for a cross, he aired his views loudly, but the ref wasn't interested. There was a sense of panic about the home side now though, and Rios smartly played in Yuriy Ryzhko, the midfielder stinging Andrey Tarakonov's hands with a vicious strike that the keeper got behind. But in the 73rd minute we kicked the door right open, Ivanenko swinging over a corner, Razmyslovich was trying to jump against Bogdan Bidnosheya, but Maxim Gorbach timed his run and leap, getting between and above the two and connecting with power, the ball flying into the back of the net! Advantage Lokomotiv! That was a huge goal, and for more reasons than the obvious, as Smorgon had put all their eggs in the defensive basket, making substitutions to supplement that. Now they needed to find another goal though, and I decided not to fall into the same trap, at least not right away. However, when Bidnosheya only just missed the mark with a curling shot from range, I changed my mind, Razmyslovich and Krot off, Alexey Yesipenok and the returning Alexandr Kozlov on. It was now a back five, with a defensive midfielder sat in front of them in Ryzhko, and a pair of speedy wing backs in Rios and Kozlov who would be able to support Eduard Chudnovsky and Shvydakov should we get any chances to counter attack. Did it work? Absolutely beautifully, as Smorgon were unable to get close enough to do anything but shoot from range now, and apart from a catch from the one shot that was on target, Biryukov wasn't worked, our time wasting tactics visibly annoying our hosts.

FC Smorgon (1) 1 - Vladimir Khilkevich (15)
Lokomotiv Minsk (0) 1 - Maxim Gorbach (73)
(Lokomotiv Minsk win 3-2 on aggregate)
Dmitry Biryukov; Dmitry Chaka, Vladimir Malykh, Maxim Gorbach, Maxim Ivanenko; Igor Zangiev (inj - Yuriy Ryzhko 45), Eduard Chudnovsky; Alexey Rios, Alexey Razmyslovich (Alexandr Kozlov 81); Sergey Krot (Alexey Yesipenok 81), Nikolay Shvydakov ©.

Unused Substitutes :- Egor Romanovskiy, Vladimir Zuhbaia (GK), Alexandr Degterev, Denys Pshenychnyi.
Bookings :- None
Possession :- 44% - 56%. Man of the Match :- Maxim Gorbach (Lokomotiv Minsk).

Cracking stuff from the lads, they followed the plan beautifully, and Smorgon had no way to respond after gearing themselves up to defend their slender lead but then conceding the all important away goal for us. There was no way back for them from there, and it is us who steal a place in the Quarter-Finals of the Belarusian Cup, an improvement on the Boards requirement, an ace card I may need when the season finishes.

In fact, we are one of only two clubs from outside the top tier to make it through to the last eight, Vedrich Rechitsa capturing all the headlines with a 2-0 home win over BATE Borisov after drawing 1-1 at their place in the First Leg. We join Higher League clubs Torpedo Zhodino, FC Vitebsk, Dinamo Minsk, FC Minsk, Shakhter Soligorsk and FC Gomel, last seasons Double Winners who may hold three or four games in hand on everyone else in the Division, but currently sit bottom of the top tier after spending a lot of their mid season focus on firstly the UEFA Champions League, and then UEFA Europa League campaigns.

We earn the fairly paltry financial sum of £5,000 for our achievement of reaching the last eight, an amount of money that will make very little difference to us as a club right now. The real prize was the progression in the competition, and one step closer to potentially bringing European Football to Lokomotiv Stadium. Now we wait to see who we are paired with when the draw is made on the weekend. The news on Igor Zangiev isn't too bad either, the young midfielder suffering nothing worse than a black eye and some bruising, which will probably keep him out of Sunday's short trip across the city to face Zvezda-BGU Minsk.

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Friday 4th October 2013
With improved performances seeing his average rating dragged back up towards something resembling a respectable level, Dmitry Chaka was earlier this week offered an extension to his contract that is due to expire at the end of next month. It's a two year extension for the 22 year old right back, and he has taken a pay drop of £20 a week as well. It might not sound a lot, but neither is the £90 per week he is now playing for after signing the new deal.

Saturday 5th October
We will be heavy favourites tomorrow afternoon when we cross the city to play Zvezda-BGU Minsk in our penultimate away League match of the 2013 season. Zvezda currently sit in 9th place with 30 points on the board, not yet mathematically safe, but very unlikely to be dragged into trouble. Their form hasn't been great recently though, and they have lost their last four in all competitions, three in the League and one in the Cup, where they threw away a two goal lead from the First Leg at another city rival, FC Minsk, losing the Second Leg by a thumping 4-0. That has led the bookies to price them at 7/1 tomorrow, despite having home advantage.

Four of our young players at Lokomotiv have been called up to represent Belarus Under-19's in their UEFA European Under-19 Championship Qualifying Group next week, which will be hosted in Oslo by Norway. With the Group also made up by Germany and Malta, it would be quite easy to see the match with Norway being the crunch one, which is the final match for Belarus. The quartet involved are Maxim Ivanenko, Egor Romanovskiy, Yury Murashov and Andrey Volodzko.

Sunday 6th October
It's an early start, as we await the result of this mornings draw for the Quarter-Final stage of the Belarusian Cup. Third out of the hat gives us a home First Leg, and our opponents are last years domestic Double Winners, as the National Champions and Cup Holders of FC Gomel will be our last eight opposition.

That sets up a very interesting tie against what might be a Division rival by that time. Yes, the club that swept the board last season are bottom of the Highest League right now, and will be relying on their late season games in hand to climb off the bottom of the table and preserve their top tier status. The money they have spent this season was mostly upon young Ukrainian players, supplementing their squad of almost exclusively Belarusian, Russian and Ukrainian players. I say almost, as their goalkeepers are from Kazakhstan and Austria. There was one further exception, tough 25 year old Uruguayan centre back Rodrigo Canosa returns to the club for a second spell midway through this season, though he has been playing his football in Belarus for several years now.

Belarusian First League
Darida Kuncevschina, Minsk
Zvezda-BGU Minsk v Lokomotiv Minsk
Attendance :-
1,081. Weather :- Breezy, -3c.

The first weekend in October brings a drastic change in the weather, as with sub-zero temperatures the pitch has a dusting of snow and the orange football is required. Two changes are made to our starting eleven that managed to get a draw in Smorgon a few nights ago to earn us a last eight place in the Cup. The facial injury to Igor Zangiev rules him out, with Yuriy Ryzhko taking his spot. There is another switch on the left wing as well, with Alexandr Degterev returning to the side and Alexey Razmyslovich moved to the bench. Also on the bench, Maxim Gukailo is included for the first time since his return from injury, while Lukasz Zuk has completed his suspension, and returns to the matchday squad at the expense of Denys Pshenychnyi.

The weather wasn't as issue for us, as we looked hot in the early stages of the match. An early opener looked inevitable, and duly arrived in the 13th minute. Maxim Ivanenko's throw in to the box was awkward, and not cleared well enough. Yuriy Ryzhko knocked it back upfield, Sergey Krot headed it down to Eduard Chudnovsky, and he forwarded it on to Nikolay Shvydakov, who's side footed shot from the edge of the box was placed perfectly past Olexandr Musienko to give us a lead over our Minsk rivals. That was just the start we were after, and Chudnovsky took a pot shot from distance shortly after, not quite getting the dip he needed on that shot. But midway through the first half, skipper Shvydakov held the ball up and sent it wide to Alexandr Degterev on the left. His cross missed its target in the middle, but Alexey Rios brought the ball down and then tricked his way past Sergey Ryzhankov, who reached out and pulled him back by his shoulder to concede one of the most dead cert penalties you'll ever see. Shvydakov wasted no time in placing the ball on the spot, and then sending it low into the bottom corner to the keepers left, and things were looking very rosy for us. Still, Zvezda would keep us honest, and Dmitriy Kuzminich sent in a cracking shot from 30 yards out that beat Dmirty Biryukov all ends up, but crashed back off the bar and right to the relieved keeper. He was well beaten again shortly before the break, Yuriy Khodyko stepped in from right back and picked out Ryzhankov on the edge of the box, and this time the ball was kept low and curling, and by the time Biryukov located it from the group of players in front of him, it was by him and in the bottom corner. Our lead had been halved, briefly. That's because we went right back down the other end courtesy of a driving run down the right by Dmitry Chaka, and his cross was aimed towards Shvydakov in the middle, but he was pushed in the back by Denis Zayats. It wasn't as blatant a spot kick as the one earlier in the half, but it was still a fairly easy call. The skipper picked himself up and sent this one low into the opposite bottom corner, bagging a hatrick and restoring our two goal lead at half time.

It was Zvezda who felt the need to make changes at the break, with two of them made when they emerged for the restart, while we were pretty satisfied with how things had gone up to now. Still, we were guilty of allowing Zvezda to give themselves a little encouragement, and Ryzhankov continued to try and make amends for conceding that first half penalty, this time his drive was from thirty yards out, but only just missed the top corner. We still looked the most likely to get another goal though, and some nice passing between the two strikers saw Rios given the ball in space on the right, and he picked out Ryzhko with his cross on the edge of the six yard box, but his powerful header was wide of the target. With the game descending into a bit of a midfield slog, I felt comfortable enough to make some changes, with Zvezda having made all theirs. Degterev and Krot came off with fifteen minutes remaining, Alexandr Kozlov given some more important playing time for his return to match fitness on the left, while Lukasz Zuk would have a chance to make amends for his error in judgement last time we saw him. A few minutes later and Ryzhko would have to go off, his injury allowing another return to First Team action, this time for Maxim Gukailo. But there was time yet for some late nerves, Chudnovsky and Rios not quite on the same wavelength, and sub Egor Grits came away with the ball, picking out fellow substitute Roman Barchuk, who side stepped a tackle from Vladimir Malykh, and sent a low shot across goal and in via the inside of the far post. We only had a few minutes of injury time to get through, and a well timed substitution gave everyone in red a chance to take a breath and regain their focus. Egor Romanovskiy came on, armed with instructions, going to right back himself and telling Chaka to move into the middle of the back four with Maxim Gorbach, and Gukailo joining them. We need not have worried though, Zvezda didn't have another goal in them. Chalk up three more points.

Zvezda-BGU Minsk (1) 2 - Sergey Ryzhankov (42), Roman Barchuk (90)
Lokomotiv Minsk (3) 3 - Nikolay Shvydakov (13, 23 pen, 45 pen)
Dmitry Biryukov; Dmitry Chaka, Vladimir Malykh (Egor Romanovskiy 90+1), Maxim Gorbach, Maxim Ivanenko; Yuriy Ryzhko (inj - Maxim Gukailo 79), Eduard Chudnovsky; Alexey Rios, Alexandr Degterev (Alexandr Kozlov 75); Sergey Krot (Lukasz Zuk 75), Nikolay Shvydakov ©.

Unused Substitutes :- Vladimir Zuhbaia (GK), Alexey Yesipenok, Alexey Razmyslovich.
Bookings :- None
Possession :- 49% - 51%. Man of the Match :- Nikolay Shvydakov (Lokomotiv Minsk).

Age doesn't seem to hold back Nikolay Shvydakov. Since I arrived here the striker who turned 33 in the summer seems to get better and better, and that hatrick this afternoon means he is now just one short of matching last seasons total in the League, and also just one short of hitting fifteen goals for the season. He now has 63 League goals in almost five full seasons in what is his third spell with the club. There's a reason why he is one of the clubs top three all time players and their Club Record holder for Most League Appearances and Goals.

Once more we have kept up our end of the deal, but again we don't really get a break in the games elsewhere, and things largely stay as they were. Smorgon win again, 5-0 winners at home to doomed FC Baranovichi, making them as close as two wins away from securing an immediate return to the top table of domestic football, and their guests potentially just one more game from their inevitable fate being sealed. Behind them, Slavia Mozyr also win again, 1-0 at home to a Livadia side who are starting to look increasingly panic stricken at their predicament. Slavia remain six points in front of us with just fifteen left to play for. The nearest club over their shoulder is now Savit Mogilev, sat in third after a 1-0 away win against Dinamo-Belcard Grodno. That means they have overtaken Vedrich Rechitsa, who started the day third by virtue of their better goal difference, but have slipped to fourth after being held to a goalless draw at Khimik Svetlogorsk. That leaves them just one point ahead of us now, and Khimik five points behind us.

So with five League matches left to play, the International Window is upon us, which is good timing for Yuriy Ryzhko, the 6'4 midfielder hurt his neck jumping for a header, and should be fit again by the time we play our next match in a fortnight. Meanwhile, I'll be taking myself off to India to meet up with the National Team, before we all head on to Myanmar for our International Friendly match. 

Four more of my squad will also be on International duty, Alexandr Kozlov and Lukasz Zuk will get a chance to log some valuable game time with Belarus Under-21's as they face Germany in Offenbach in the UEFA European Under-21 Championship Qualifiers, where Belarus currently lead the Group in the early stages. In the same competition, sixteen year old Armenian midfielder Norayr Ghazaryan will be hoping to have a better time of things than he did in the last Window, though that might be unlikely, as their opponents in Yerevan will be Italy, so there's every chance Armenia will remain bottom of that Group. Our only player called up for Senior duty is once again Georgian keeper Vladimir Zuhbaia. After a decent run in the First Team earlier in the season, he is once again playing deputy to Dmitry Biryukov, and that likely won't help his claims for a first Senior cap, with Georgia first playing Malta in Rabat, before returning to Tbilisi to host Kazakhstan to round off a disappointing FIFA World Cup Qualifying campaign that has so far yielded only two wins. They are hoping to double that tally during this Window.

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Posted (edited)

Monday 7th October 2013
Eduard Chudnovsky set up the first goal for Nikolay Shvydakov yesterday in the Minsk Derby, recording his tenth assist of the season, which is a new Club Record for assists, surpassing the previous mark of nine by the now retired Jonas Pyatrauskas. That goal from Shvydakov would turn out to be the first of a treble, and unsurprisingly made the striker part of the First League Team of the Week.

Tuesday 8th October
With the International Window underway, and the end of the season only weeks away, those not getting regular football are getting ever more frustrated, and two of those have had their say today. Evgeniy Drozd didn't speak to me directly, instead passing on a message through the backroom staff that he is unhappy and will be looking to move on. Mariusz Kaczmarek went the other way, contacting me directly and asking to be Transfer Listed, a request that I have accepted. The 21 year old is unlikely to feature regularly in our plans going forward I feel.

Wednesday 9th October
Belarus Under-19's have today opened their UEFA 2014 Under-19 European Championship Qualifying schedule in Oslo. After Norway and Germany drew 1-1 in the mini-tournament opener, Belarus leaped to the top of the Group with a 5-1 thumping of Malta in the Ullevål Stadion. Both Egor Romanovskiy and Maxim Ivanenko started and played the full game, Romanovskiy playing very well, picking up an assist, while Ivanenko didn't quite have such a good afternoon despite the big win. It's Germany next at the same venue on Friday evening, and if Belarus can get something from that one, they will be in good shape to move onto the next Qualifying Round.

Friday 11th October
Frustrated SKVICh keeper Gennady Burmistrov gets some good news today. The 19 year old who was left out of the original squad has today been summoned to travel to Norway after BATE Borisov's young prospect Michal Olczak damaged his elbow early in today's match. He was replaced in the match by Kirill Stroev, a 17 year old who is currently with non-League side Ozertsy Glubokoye. They will both be hoping to be chosen to start the final match of the Group on Sunday.

And what a finalé that is set up to be as well, Belarus took the lead against Germany with twenty minutes left, but the Germans were level less than ten minutes later. But a 1-1 draw is a good result, and with Norway thrashing Malta 5-0 earlier in the day, a draw may well be enough for both Norway and Belarus in Sunday's final match, depending on how many Germany can get past Malta. The only Lokomotiv player involved in that one today was 17 year old left winger Yury Murashov, who came off the bench.

Two other Lokomotiv players were involved in International action today, though one of them clearly doesn't belong on that stage. It was another horror show for our young Armenian midfielder Norayr Ghazaryan, who surely wouldn't be getting selected if that nation had any kind of depth to their player pool. He played 48 minutes of the Armenia Under-21's defeat to Italy, which was at least kept to a respectable score of 0-3, before leaving the match with a knock. The other of our players involved looked very much at home on the International stage. Alexandr Kozlov got a valuable 45 minutes under his belt as he played the first half for Belarus Under-21's against Germany at the Stadion Bieberer Berg in Offenbach. It was 1-0 to the hosts at the break, and they added two more in the second half for a comfortable win, sending Germany to the top of the Group, and Wales leapt up into second with a thumping home win over Liechtenstein.

Saturday 12th October
Rochdale manager Keith Hill has told the press in England that his Coca-Cola League One side are interested in signing Lurgan Celtic's striker Neil Brown. The 23 year old Bermudan International who has seven goals in 13 Senior International caps has started the season very well in the Northern Irish First Division, and after Celtic's relegation does appear to be more open to leaving the club. Our name is also mentioned as being an option for Brown, and if we were to get promoted, I wouldn't hesitate to put in an offer for him.

Belarus' Senior Squad are in Teplice, where they face the Czech Republic. They know that a win from either of their final two matches will make them Group winners and see them book their place in next summers FIFA World Cup Finals in Brazil. But they will now need to win in Switzerland in midweek, as they are beaten 1-0 by the Czech Republic. It is Galatasaray striker Milan Baros who grabs the only goal in the first half. The pressure is on now, defeat on Wednesday, and Belarus will not even have the solace of a Playoff place.

Sunday 13th October
It was all set for a great afternoon of football in Oslo, but unfortunately, it wouldn't go the way that Belarus would like. The afternoon passed with Germany recording a 3-0 win over Malta in routine and not spectacular fashion, scoring all their goals in a twelve minute spell in the matches opening quarter. They couldn't find anymore though, and that meant that a draw in the final match of Group 9 would be enough for Norway to win the Group, and Belarus to qualify as runner's-up with Germany out.

The Norwegians were not playing ball though, and a first half double from IK Start's recently purchased potential wonderkid striker Kjetil Sivertsen in front of a crowd of nearly 3,000 put Norway through, and dumped Belarus out in heart breaking fashion for Yury Kurnenin's young side. Three of our Lokomotiv players were involved, Gennady Burmistrov selected in goal, with Egor Romanovskiy and Maxim Ivanenko playing in the full back positions. None had good games, but no one in the white shirts of Belarus did.

Monday 14th October
BATE Borisov have offered us the opportunity to sign Yuriy Aleschenko, a 29 year old striker who they signed on a Free Transfer from Naftan Novopolotsk at the start of the season. His First Team chances have been limited, but he does have a great goalscoring record. There is a snag however, as they want £70,000. I offer them £25,000, as it is all I have in the Budget right now. 

Tuesday 15th October
It's a no from BATE, our cause not helped by Russian First Division club Shinnik Yaroslavl matching their asking price. They now look the overwhelming favourites to sign him, and we will need to look elsewhere.

Wednesday 16th October
On his first training session since returning from Belarus Under-21 duty in Norway, our teenage right back Egor Romanovskiy has twisted his knee after an awkward landing jumping for the ball, and he will be out for between two or three weeks. It's not a huge issue, but it doesn't impact on our depth options for the vital last few matches of the run in.

But there is only one thing that the nation is focused on today, and that is the events at the fantastically named Stade de Suisse Wankdorf in Bern, where tonight Belarus are hoping to earn their place in next summers showpiece event in World football. But instead, they only manage to leave a nation broken hearted, as first half goals from Basel striker Sébastian Favre and Juventus winger Tranquillo Barnetta leave Belarus out in the cold, the Czech Republic qualifying by a single goal, and Switzerland go into next months Playoffs, where they will fancy their chances against Bulgaria. It is worth noting that the current World Champions of Spain, and also their neighbours Portugal will both also be involved in those Playoffs.

Saturday 19th October
Once more our match is pushed back to a Sunday, one of the pitfalls of being one of the less prestigious clubs in the city of Minsk. Still, when it does arrive, anything other than a win against Vertical Kalinkovichi will be a surprise. They haven't won any of their last four, recording a draw and three defeats in that run. They do offer a threat though, as they are always good for a goal, not held goalless in the League since a home defeat to leaders FC Smorgon in late July. But they are leaky at the back, with only FC Baranovichi conceding more goals.

Speaking of the bottom club, their relegation into non-League oblivion has finally been confirmed today after they lost 2-0 at home to Zvezda-BGU Minsk. But it was at the other end of the League where our attention was firmly fixed. FC Smorgon are beaten again, their second defeat in three League games after we beat them. But it doesn't do us too many favours, as it is Vedrich Rechitsa who beat them this time, one of the other sides we are trying to catch and pass. A draw would probably have been better for us. We do get a favour elsewhere though, as Slavia Mozyr lose against our rivals from across the city, Darida-TDZh producing a 2-0 win. With a win for Savit Mogilev at home to Neman Mosty by the same scoreline, things are starting to tighten up a little at the top. If we can get a win tomorrow, there will be just three points between 2nd and 5th place, and four games left in a promotion race that could yet produce plenty of twists and turns.

Sunday 20th October

Belarusian First League
Lokomotiv Stadium, Minsk
Lokomotiv Minsk v Vertical Kalinkovichi
Attendance :-
750. Weather :- Dry, 7c.

Minsk on a Sunday afternoon, and we have an improvement in both weather and attendance, though I have no idea if the two are connected. We also have visitors who have accidentally brought with them their home scarlet red strip instead of their away colours, so we are forced to wear our away kit, a kind of 'off white' colour, despite being at home. Those wearing that strip today see just one change to the starting eleven, with Alexandr Kozlov selected to start on the left wing ahead of Alexandr Degterev. The injury to Egor Romanovskiy means there is one place free on the bench, with Igor Zangiev recalled to the matchday squad.

It would be a long afternoon trying to stay out of trouble for Vertical striker Andrey Mikhalyuk, as he was booked in the opening minutes for diving. It took us a little while to get going though, but we got our first shot in after 12 minutes, Dmitry Biryukov's clearance down the park was flicked on by Nikolay Shvydakov, his strike partner Sergey Krot getting down the inside of Stanislav Teterin, but Anatoliy Kundelko parried his shot, though it was perhaps one he should have held onto. With that bit of encouragement, I asked my players to work the keeper at every chance, but it was Vertical who created the next opportunity, Mikhalyuk spinning away from his marker outside the box and sending in a shot across goal that flashed just wide of the far post. In the 20th minute Alexandr Kozlov showed his pace to easily get by Teterin, and he then picked out the arriving Eduard Chudnovsky with his cross, the midfielder not able to get over it enough to keep his headed effort down. After Nikolay Fastov's long range curler that was set well outside the post didn't curl anything like enough, Alexey Rios at the other end headed a bouncing ball into the side netting with the Vertical defence caught hesitating. Rios tried again moments later, a shot from the edge of the box after a short cross by Maxim Ivanenko, but he couldn't quite find the top corner he was aiming for, before Yuriy Ryzhko missed aiming for the same spot. 0-0 at half time, and plenty to ponder at the break.

I resisted the temptation to make a change or two in an effort to prise open the visitors defence, settling instead for a stern lecture on how wasteful we were being in front of goal. That seemed to do the trick, as three minutes after the restart Kozlov whipped over a corner, and Mikhalyuk proved to be hopelessly out of his depth in his task of marking Maxim Gorbach, our centre back managing to easily hold him off while directing his header into the net via both the underside of the bar and inside of the upright. It was his 8th goal of the campaign, and a bit of a relief as well. The relief was short lived with the realisation that Vertical were not quite giving this one up as a bad job yet, Eugene Lystysyn flicking on a long throw and Vladimir Troyan's header was only inches wide of the near post. Kirill Levitskiy tried his luck next, his shot from 20 yards out only just too high. We looked like we would need another goal, and that it would most likely come from the left with Kozlov in good form. But it nearly came from the right when on his 100th career League appearance, Rios chipped a cross to the far post that Krot volleyed against the near post from six yards out. I turned to my bench, Ryzhko and Krot replaced by Igor Zangiev and Lukasz Zuk, hoping the fresh legs of the former Dinamo pair would help us out here. And didn't they just! Two minutes later Zangiev won a header in midfield and Zuk held the ball up before playing Rios into space. The winger crossed early, and short to the near post, where skipper Shvydakov was unmarked, and he slid his shot under Kundelko and in off the far post, the 75th League goal of his Lokomotiv career, and his 15th strike of the season! Surely now we had the job done? Well, as you know readers, we are not ones to make life too easy for ourselves, and Fastov was given plenty of room to attempt another curler, this one just a little too high. I made my final two changes, altering the left side of the park to a more defensive pair, Ivanenko and Kozlov switched for Maxim Gukailo and Alexey Razmyslovich. But it was Dmitry Chaka who was missing in action three minutes from time, Fastov's corner just far enough out to entice the full back off his post, but couldn't get to sub Pavel Dulub, and his downward header found the section of the goal that Chaka should have been defending, meaning we would have a nervous few minutes yet. Rios' latest attempt to net a goal for himself was just off target, and Dulub's excitement led to him wrestling Shvydakov to the ground just outside the box as he became the second Vertical player to be shown a yellow. The free kick came to nothing, but neither did our visitors hopes of finding an equaliser. We're still in the hunt!

Lokomotiv Minsk (0) 2 - Maxim Gorbach (48), Nikolay Shvydakov (68)
Vertical Kalinkovichi (0) 1 - Pavel Dulub (87)
Dmitry Biryukov; Dmitry Chaka, Vladimir Malykh, Maxim Gorbach, Maxim Ivanenko (Maxim Gukailo 79); Yuriy Ryzhko (Igor Zangiev 66), Eduard Chudnovsky; Alexey Rios, Alexandr Kozlov (Alexey Razmyslovich 79); Sergey Krot (Lukasz Zuk 66), Nikolay Shvydakov ©.

Unused Substitutes :- Vladimir Zuhbaia (GK), Alexey Yesipenok, Alexandr Degterev.
Bookings :- None
Possession :- 53% - 47%. Man of the Match :- Maxim Gorbach (Lokomotiv Minsk).

We are now starting to grind out results in games that we would have folded in over previous months and years. That is now ten matches unbeaten in all competitions since our defeat away to Belshina Bobruisk in our final match of August (7 wins and 3 draws), and we have played the League leaders three times during that spell.

This new found spirit and attitude is keeping us in a promotion race that is looking set to go to the wire. While others haven't managed to last the pace and fallen by the wayside, we have stayed in the top five, and slowly managed to close down the gap. Now with just four matches left to play, which includes a crunch home game against Slavia Mozyr, we have a pretty favourable run in.

2013 Belarusian First League Table (Top), Up To & Including Sunday 20th October 2013

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

| 1st   |       | Smorgon            |       | 26    | 18    | 3     | 5     | 48    | 22    | +26   | 57    |
| 2nd   |       | Slavia Mozyr       |       | 26    | 16    | 5     | 5     | 47    | 22    | +25   | 53    |
| 3rd   |       | Savit              |       | 26    | 16    | 5     | 5     | 36    | 17    | +19   | 53    |
| 4th   |       | Vedrich Rechitsa   |       | 26    | 15    | 6     | 5     | 45    | 25    | +20   | 51    |
| 5th   |       | Lokomotiv Minsk    |       | 26    | 14    | 8     | 4     | 44    | 25    | +19   | 50    |
| 6th   |       | Khimik Svetlogorsk |       | 26    | 13    | 6     | 7     | 31    | 25    | +6    | 45    |


Edited by neilhoskins77

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Monday 21st October 2013
Maxim Gorbach's 8th goal of the season broke the deadlock at home against Vertical yesterday, and after earning the Man of the Match award for fifth time in all competitions this season, he has now also been named in the First League Team of the Week.

Tuesday 22nd October
This isn't something I want to consider at all, but for the sake of being objective, it's something that should be mentioned. As of right now, eight members of our First Team squad, which consists of twenty four players excluding the one we have on loan, are wanted by other clubs. Most of the eight are attracting the interest of clubs from Russia, who's second tier clubs pay much better wages than the clubs in the second tier here in Belarus, even those that are on a fairly financially sound footing like us.

So where am I going with this? Well, if we miss out on promotion, are we going to be able to convince these players to stay and have another crack? They are all under contract for at least another season, but we then run the risk of losing them for nothing if we can't persuade them to sign new deals. It is certainly a situation we need to think about and be prepared for. Don't forget, I told the Board we could get promoted this season. If we can't achieve that, it might not be my problem to deal with at all of course.

Thursday 24th October
Working very much on the basis that I will be here, I have sent a contract offer to an 18 year old Russian winger who is playing in the top tier here in Belarus. Already aware that we are unlikely to be seen as a particularly attractive proposition for the teenager right now, our prospects of landing his signature take an immediate hit when I'm told that a pair of Russian clubs have also made offers. Reality again, is that we can't compete with those clubs financially.

Friday 25th October
Today's press conference was mostly centered around my attempts to sign the teenage Russian winger, the possibility of Georgy Schennikov being available before the end of the season, and if not, if he would ever wear a Lokomotiv jersey again, and how I saw this weekends games going. As is customary now, I give away as little info as possible, and leave at the earliest opportunity. You can blame Andy Hamilton of the Lurgan Gazette, who scarred me for life with his boring repetitive questions several years ago now.

Saturday 26th October
While I didn't answer the question yesterday, the news is out today that Georgy Schennikov should be able to return to training on Monday. It will be a timely boost for the squad as they make their way to the GSK in Lida, home of today's opponents, 10th placed FC Lida. We have a great record against them, with five wins and a draw from seven matches with them over the last five seasons. The one defeat was at their stadium three and a half years ago now. We won't be able to afford a repeat of that this afternoon, and we are strong odds-on favourites.

Belarusian First League
GSK Lida, Lida
FC Lida v Lokomotiv Minsk
Attendance :-
1,028. Weather :- Dry, 11c.

There are no changes to either starting eleven or the matchday squad from the side that got the job done at home to Vertical Kalinkovichi last Sunday. With only four matches left to play, we cannot afford a slip up now, and it's nice to be playing our game on a Saturday, allowing us to simply concentrate on our match without the added pressure of knowing what everyone else has done the day before.

It was the start that we really didn't want. In the tenth minute Sergey Usenya made a perfectly timed sliding tackle on Alexey Rios on the halfway line to stop the winger in his tracks. The ball spun loose for Dmitriy Prudiklo, and he moved it on to Said Balmokhtar on the corner of the box. He sent it square across the park and found Igor German, who hit a left footed shot that curled out of Dmitry Biryukov's reach and into the top corner with the help of a deflection! At least it didn't get worse when it could have three minutes later, German first getting to the byline, and then benefiting from some sloppy defending to step back infield and find space for a shot, Biryukov managing to push that one away and limit the damage. It would take us considerably longer than normal to get ourselves into the match, but ten minutes before the break Maxim Ivanenko sent the ball down the left channel, and while Alexandr Kozlov didn't win the foot race, he hassled Sergey Pigulevskiy into a mistake and quickly got the ball to Sergey Krot, the strikers shot was over the bar though. A deflected Maxim Gorbach header from a free kick won us a corner, and after it was cleared out towards the touchline on the left, we won a free kick when Kozlov was taken off his feet. Eduard Chudnovsky whipped it in, Prudilko headed it away, and Yuriy Ryzhko brought it down and feigned to shoot, but instead sent it back to Chudnovsky who was now on the corner of the box. The playmaking midfielder let it run across his body, then hit a first time left footed shot that beat Vadim Osipov at his near post after he failed to get back across his goalmouth in time. With the clock in first half injury time, that goal would change the course of both sides half time team talks.

That was a huge goal, and at half time I appealed to my players to push on from there and find us a winner. But we nearly started the second half as bad as the first, Vasiliy Khomenko's corner to the far post found Maxim Vitus, and he headed it back across goal and only just wide of the far post. Lida were finding route one was a good way to get through our defence, Osipov sending a long clearance up the park and Balmokhtar got goal side of Gorbach, chesting the ball down for himself, but a little too far ahead of himself, Biryukov off his line quickly and smothering the ball at the strikers feet. Then midway through the half, Pigulevskiy got the ball up the park to Andrey Maslo on the right, and he found German in the box, but his shot on the turn was well over the cross bar. Maslo was starting to get into the game a lot more now, skinning Ivanenko and sending in a low cross, Gorbach getting his foot in to take the ball away from German, who claimed a penalty. The ref wasn't interested. Concerned, I made a triple substitution in an attempt to try and turn the match in our favour. Ryzhko, Kozlov and Krot all came off, Igor Zangiev, Alexandr Degterev and Lukasz Zuk came on in their places. It helped us out initially, Rios sending a low diagonal pass into the box which Zuk controlled and tried a shot on the turn of his own, Osipov pushing that one to safety. Into the last five minutes, and Zangiev spun on the ball inside his own half of the centre circle, and then lifted it deftly into space over the Lida defence, sending Nikolay Shvydakov in on goal down the right of the box. The skipper blasted a shot towards the far top corner, Osipov making a superb stop to turn it over. Chudnovsky curled the corner delivery towards the far post, Ivanenko winning his header, but a challenge impacting his ability to direct it, badly. The ball flew back across goal, hitting Gorbach and bouncing back inside the near post and into the bottom corner! The centre back had popped up in the right place at the right time again, and while that won't go down as the prettiest goal it might turn out to be one of the most important ones. Now we wanted to kill the clock, and a late substitution saw Shvydakov come off.....slowly, Alexey Yesipenok brought on as we went to five at the back, with Zangiev sat in front of them and Degterev and Rios playing as wing backs with Chudnovsky the only player now supporting Zuk. Two of Lida's own subs, Vitaliy Zhdanovich and Sergey Shperling both tried to get crosses in, but both were cleared well, and we had extended our run still further, and kept ourselves very much in the race for promotion!

FC Lida (1) 1 - Igor German (10)
Lokomotiv Minsk (1) 2 - Eduard Chudnovsky (45+1), Maxim Gorbach (88)
Dmitry Biryukov; Dmitry Chaka, Vladimir Malykh, Maxim Gorbach, Maxim Ivanenko; Yuriy Ryzhko (Igor Zangiev 74), Eduard Chudnovsky; Alexey Rios, Alexandr Kozlov (Alexandr Degterev 74); Sergey Krot (Lukasz Zuk 74), Nikolay Shvydakov © (Alexey Yesipenok 90+1).

Unused Substitutes :- Maxim Gukailo, Vladimir Zuhbaia (GK), Alexey Razmyslovich.
Bookings :- None
Possession :- 47% - 53%. Man of the Match :- Maxim Gorbach (Lokomotiv Minsk).

The Vice-Captain scores his ninth goal of the season, and there was more than just a little bit of fortune about it, but we will gladly take it! Whatever happens now, we will have won at least 50% of our League matches this season, a total that only reached 40% in the entire of last season. We are even now up to five wins away from home this season too.

Better yet, some other results go our way as well. FC Smorgon wouldn't slip up, and they continued on their course to an almost inevitable looking promotion now with a 3-1 home success over Dinamo-Belcard Grodno. There was also a win for Slavia Mozyr, who beat Belshina Bobruisk at home 2-0. But the other two sides above us both slipped up, Vedrich Rechitsa held to a 0-0 draw in Minsk by Zvezda-BGU Minsk, and better yet, Savit Mogilev are beaten 2-0 away to Khimik Svetlogorsk. With those matches being the last scheduled for October, we would move into November and the final three matches of the campaign sat in third place, just three points behind second placed Slavia Mozyr with a home match against them next weekend. They do have a superior goal difference to them, but if we can come out of that match with a win and match their points total, we'll still have every chance of moving into the top tier for next season.

Monday 28th October
We have two players named in the latest edition of the First League Team of the Week, with both Maxim Gorbach and Alexey Rios named.

Our attempts to sign the teenage Russian winger we were interested in have failed, as he has signed a deal to move elsewhere. Not as was widely expected with Anzhi Makhachkala, but instead to move to Lithuania and play for one of their heavyweight club sides, FBK Kaunas.

So, I switch my attention elsewhere, sending a contract offer to a tall Ukrainian striker in his prime who is coming to the end of his first season in Belarus in our Division with Belshina Bobruisk. He hasn't quite been the success story he was in his homeland with non-League side Tytan Armyansk, where his goals earned them a place in the second tier, but I suspect he might fit into our system a lot better than he has at Belshina. We are not counting our chickens just yet though, as he also has multiple offers to go back to the Ukraine.

Wednesday 30th October
He isn't the only player we are trying to prise away from Belshina, as they have a 20 year old midfielder who is looking to make a step up. He's a player we have been given quite a bit of scouting information on, as not only does he play in our League, but he has also been a team mate to several of our current players with Belarus Under-21's. I make an offer for the player, but his club immediately ask us to more than double it. With significant interest in his signature, our attempt to get a jump on the competition has appeared to see us being used as the pawn in the start of a potential bidding war.

Thursday 31st October
One month from now, a few current Lokomotiv players will be out of contract, and looking for new clubs if they haven't been offered a new deal. The most significant are left winger Alexey Razmyslovich, and outcast midfielders Andrey Misyuk and Alexandr Alkhovik. With none of the trio likely to now be offered a new deal, that is almost £1,400 in weekly wages that the club won't be shelling out for in the near future.

Our latest, and what we told Belshina would be our final offer to sign their age group International midfielder, has been rejected. The offer was for £20,000, so would have almost wiped out our remaining transfer budget for the season. I'm tempted to push the money into the wage budget to give me an even better financially responsible standing with the club, and potentially another ace for me to use if we miss out on a top two spot and my chances of staying become more unstable.

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Posted (edited)

2013 Belarusian First League Table, Up To & Including Thursday 31st October 2013

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

| 1st   |       | Smorgon            |       | 27    | 19    | 3     | 5     | 51    | 23    | +28   | 60    |
| 2nd   |       | Slavia Mozyr       |       | 27    | 17    | 5     | 5     | 49    | 22    | +27   | 56    |
| 3rd   |       | Lokomotiv Minsk    |       | 27    | 15    | 8     | 4     | 46    | 26    | +20   | 53    |
| 4th   |       | Savit              |       | 27    | 16    | 5     | 6     | 36    | 19    | +17   | 53    |
| 5th   |       | Vedrich Rechitsa   |       | 27    | 15    | 7     | 5     | 45    | 25    | +20   | 52    |
| 6th   |       | Khimik Svetlogorsk |       | 27    | 14    | 6     | 7     | 33    | 25    | +8    | 48    |
| 7th   |       | Mikashevichi       |       | 27    | 10    | 9     | 8     | 33    | 21    | +12   | 39    |
| 8th   |       | Belshina           |       | 27    | 9     | 11    | 7     | 20    | 19    | +1    | 38    |
| 9th   |       | Zvezda-BGU         |       | 27    | 9     | 7     | 11    | 35    | 31    | +4    | 34    |
| 10th  |       | Lida               |       | 27    | 8     | 5     | 14    | 28    | 41    | -13   | 29    |
| 11th  |       | Darida             |       | 27    | 7     | 8     | 12    | 19    | 35    | -16   | 29    |
| 12th  |       | Vertical           |       | 27    | 6     | 7     | 14    | 35    | 49    | -14   | 25    |
| 13th  |       | Livadia            |       | 27    | 7     | 4     | 16    | 19    | 45    | -26   | 25    |
| 14th  |       | Belcard            |       | 27    | 6     | 5     | 16    | 26    | 36    | -10   | 23    |
| 15th  |       | Neman Mosty        |       | 27    | 6     | 5     | 16    | 27    | 49    | -22   | 23    |
| 16th  | R     | Baranovichi        |       | 27    | 2     | 5     | 20    | 17    | 53    | -36   | 11    |


Edited by neilhoskins77

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So very close to the top two Neil, just could do with Slavia Mozyr dropping a couple or so points in the final games

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Interesting read and love reading about saves in Eastern Europe - Particularly in Belarus where I've had many a fun save.

Also have to say I find it fascinating to see how many of those teams are no longer around.

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6 hours ago, mark wilson27 said:

So very close to the top two Neil, just could do with Slavia Mozyr dropping a couple or so points in the final games

They are our next opponents Mark, and it could be a match that determines our fate this season. We dare not lose that one.

1 hour ago, Kanwulf said:

Interesting read and love reading about saves in Eastern Europe - Particularly in Belarus where I've had many a fun save.

Also have to say I find it fascinating to see how many of those teams are no longer around.

Thank you very much Kanwulf. It's always nice to hear that people are enjoying the save. Sometimes you wonder if anyone is reading it at all ha!

I can't say I have looked into this in Belarus, but as a very keen match programme collector, what I have found is that the clubs in Russia often change names for either sponsorship or relocation reasons. It may well be possible to trace the origins of current clubs back to the remnants of some older clubs.

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Posted (edited)

Friday 1st November 2013
There are just 10 days left in the domestic season in Belarus, and that week and a half spell will contain our last three games. Those final three games in turn contain our last hopes of earning promotion and becoming a top tier side. Almost certainly the key game of those three will take place on Sunday afternoon at Lokomotiv Stadium, our penultimate home League match against the side in the spot we want, Slavia Mozyr.

Midway through the month, India play their first competitive matches at any level since I took charge. The Under-20 side will play five matches over a ten day spell as they bid for a place in the 2014 Asian Under-20 Championships, which will be held in Japan. I won't be taking charge of the side, but I am going to go along and watch the matches to observe some of our youngsters and see what we have at the lower levels. I'm hoping some of our younger players who have played for the Senior side are selected to give them some more exposure to International Football. More details of this will be located in the separate story thread for the journey of managing India.

For the second consecutive month, I have been awarded the First League Manager of the Month Award, which follows a perfect record of three wins from three in the month of October. Also for the second consecutive month, the runner-up is Oleg Taranukhin of Khimik Svetlogorsk. In third for last month is Leonid Zmushko of Darida-TDZh.

I still can't get the Board to say they are anything other than satisfied with the way things are going, so still have no clue as to how they will react at the end of the season should we fail to overhaul Slavia Mozyr and miss out on promotion. The financial loss for the month is around £35,000, which will be of no concern to the club.

There is a final added bonus today, with the news that Egor Romanovskiy is ready to return to training once again after his knee injury.

Saturday 2nd November
With our fine recent form, the bookies make us odds on favourites at 4/5 to overhaul Slavia Mozyr tomorrow afternoon and move level on points with them. They have a seven goal advantage on us in terms of goal difference, and as well as a win, if we can eat into that advantage, it may be a huge help to us in the two remaining games we have after that.

The pressure is very much on us tomorrow. FC Smorgon have won today, a 1-0 win away to Khimik Svetlogorsk means they have now ensured they will be one of the two promoted clubs, and they have secured their immediate return to the Higher League. There are also wins for Savit Mogilev and Vedrich Rechitsa, who win at home by scores of 3-0 and 2-1 against Livadia Dzerzhinsk and Vertical Kalinkovichi respectively. We now go into tomorrow's crunch match back in fifth place.

Before we get to that match though, there is some news on next seasons squad, and the first recruit is signed up, well second if you include the signing we agreed months ago to bring in a defender. It's 27 year old Ukrainian striker Ivan Shelest, who will join us when his contract with Belshina Bobruisk expires at the end of the month. He is 6'4, so has obvious aerial ability to bring to our squad, but he is deceptively good with his feet, and he is also quick. With good stats for strength and team work as well, I'd expect him to be a good hold up man, and with our dangerous wingers he could bring us some great build up work that the stats might not necessarily show. 

Sunday 3rd November

Belarusian First League
Lokomotiv Stadium, Minsk
Lokomotiv Minsk v Slavia Mozyr
Attendance :-
769. Weather :- Breezy, 14c.

A larger than normal crowd compared to recent weeks, though the Lokomotiv Stadium is still less than half full. At least the weather has improved again. Our side shows just one change from the lineup that started in the match that produced a last gasp winner against FC Lida last weekend, and that is in the midfield, Igor Zangiev taking the place of Yuriy Ryzhko who is instead named on the substitutes bench. The only other change is amongst the substitutes, where soon to be out of contract winger Alexey Razmyslovich is left out of the matchday squad, and in his place is the returning Georgy Schennikov. The Russian winger returned to training at the start of the week, and is chomping at the bit to get back into the action, but I just couldn't risk him starting and getting injured early on, or at all.

Make no mistake, we knew how important today was. But so did Slavia, and they had no intention of coming here and letting us take the upper hand in the promotion race without one hell of a fight. And they fired the first shot across the bows as well, Evgeniy Kurlovich collected the ball on the edge of the box, but with three defenders blocking his path, he laid it off to Mikhail Martinovich who sent in a curling drive that beat Dmitry Biryukov all ends up, but was just wide of the far post. We had been warned, and we smartened ourselves up and looked to retaliate. Ten minutes later Dmitry Chaka found Vladimr Malykh with a throw on halfway, and he sent the ball forward towards Sergey Krot, who showed fabulous instinct by letting the ball run by him, and subsequently the closing in centre back Denis Filyuta, racing on to the ball but ruining his work by getting too much on his attempt to chip the advanced keeper Yuriy Tsigalko, missing the target entirely. It hadn't been a particularly inspiring first quarter of the match for Filyuta, and he had his name taken by the ref midway through the half, misjudging his tackle on Nikolay Shvydakov entirely and taking away the legs of our veteran skipper and striker. Slavia had become a little shot shy as well, their build up work good, but no one prepared to take the responsibility of shooting, unless it was from a set piece, full back Sergiy Tkachenko sending a free kick over the bar, while Martinovich's effort was blasted into the wall. They would overcome that fear in the 32nd minute, though there would be an element of fortune involved. After some good play released Gennadiy Sokolovskiy on the right, his cross was headed out by Maxim Ivanenko, but only as far as Martinovich. He shaped to shoot again, then took another touch before pulling the trigger. His shot hit Ivanenko, and ricocheted off the unfortunate Maxim Gorbach, and dropped into the path of Kurlovich, who sidefooted it in from 15 yards out, and we were in trouble! We needed a goal, and we needed one quickly, almost firing right back, Chaka's long throw into the box allowed to bounce, and Eduard Chudnovsky hooked it goalwards from an awkward height and angle, his effort only just over the bar at the near post. We would come much closer seconds before the break, Chaka allowed to run forward and get right into the box. He declined the opportunity to shoot, squaring it instead to Igor Zangiev, who threaded a pass through to Krot. While the entire Slavia back four stood with their hands in the air appealing for offside, Krot played on. He sent his shot low past Tsigalko, only to see it rebound off the far post and then just sit there, a yard or so from the goal line, until Martinovich blasted it into the stands before Alexandr Kozlov could get there. The second half would need to be a sensational one for us.

I made a change at the break, Kozlov going off, and Georgy Schennikov brought on, met with a rapturous ovation from the home fans as he made his way onto the park for the second half. But as we went looking for a response, it was the right side where we were attacking, Alexey Rios skipping away from two Slavia players before chipping in a cross, Krot just beaten to the ball on the edge of the six yard box, and then a brave defender put his head in as Zangiev prepared himself for a spectacular volley attempt. We were looking to push on, but we would have to be wary of the counter attack, and Dmitriy Verzhbitskiy would show us why with a mazy run that got him to the edge of the box, Chaka blocked his shot, but the ball looped into the vicinity of of Maxym Nagirnyi, his header wide of the upright when he had well over half of the goal open to head it in to. Just after the hour mark, Yuriy Ryzhko, just on in place of the injured Zangiev, received the ball from Ivanenko's throw in, and held it up while the young full back continued his run into the box, receiving the ball back from Ryzhko and finding himself in a great position, using his stronger left foot when his right would have been a better option, and his attempt to hit the top corner faded away from goal right at the last second, the wrong man in the right place. We kept going forward, the other full back Chaka the next to find himself picked out in the box, but he couldn't keep his shot down. Midway through the second half, and a superb counter attacking team move started by Rios on the right, ended with Schennikov on the left sending a pass into the path of Krot in the box, this time he kept his shot low, but sent it across goal and agonisingly wide of the far post. We were attacking at will, and Slavia were in survival mode, so I decided that with nothing left to lose, we would be better off trying to get the right men in the right places to turn this around. Chaka came off, and Lukasz Zuk came on as we went with three up front, our wingers advanced, and Chudnovsky behind the strikers with just Ryzhko in the middle and three defenders to protect us. But if you want the right man in the right place, then you need look no further than our goalscoring centre back up the park for a corner. With just under ten minutes to play Chudnovsky's corner dipped a little, but it didn't matter to Maxim Gorbach, as he connected and guided his volley through the bodies and into the net to level the match with his tenth of the season, and give us back our hope. With a draw not improving our situation at all, there was no point in dropping back now, and we continued to go for it and try and pinch a winner. With just under two minutes left, Malykh stepped right up from centre back to intercept a deep Slavia throw in with a header, and he found Chudnovsky with no one around him. He moved into the box and pulled the trigger, beating Tsigalko, but finding only the side netting. Time was ebbing away, and our guests were frustrating us with keep ball and time wasting tactics. But with mere seconds left, Biryukov lifted the ball up the park, Shvydakov flicked it on and found Zuk, and he sent a diagonal pass into the box and between the centre backs, Krot beating both of them to the ball, and clipped it over the advancing Tsigalko, and inches over the goal frame. It just wasn't our day.

Lokomotiv Minsk (0) 1 - Maxim Gorbach (82)
Slavia Mozyr (1) 1 - Evgeniy Kurlovich (32)
Dmitry Biryukov; Dmitry Chaka (Lukasz Zuk 71), Vladimir Malykh, Maxim Gorbach, Maxim Ivanenko; Igor Zangiev (inj - Yuriy Ryzhko 59), Eduard Chudnovsky; Alexey Rios, Alexandr Kozlov (Georgy Schennikov 45); Sergey Krot, Nikolay Shvydakov ©.

Unused Substitutes :- Maxim Gukailo, Vladimir Zuhbaia (GK), Alexey Yesipenok, Alexandr Degterev.
Bookings :- None
Possession :- 51% - 49%. Man of the Match :- Maxim Gorbach (Lokomotiv Minsk).

I couldn't fault the players effort, they had given it their all, and extended our unbeaten run still further to a new club record of twelve matches. But it wasn't quite enough, and with only matches to go, we were now the obvious rank outsiders of the four sides who could still secure the second promotion spot. We are three points from second, and still with a seven goal swing to make up. There is a deflated feel around the club for sure, even though technically it isn't quite over yet. It is out of our hands however. 

Igor Zangiev gashed his leg during a second half challenge, and with an estimated time on the sidelines of ten days to a fortnight, the 20 year old former Dinamo midfielders debut season at Lokomotiv is brought to a slightly premature end. It's been a little stop start for the one time capped Belarus Under-21 International midfielder, as he has been in and out of the side, but I think there is more to come from him in his career with us.

What can you say about Maxim Gorbach? Before this campaign he had one goal in three seasons, and now he has ten in all competitions this season, is playing at an average of well over 7.00 and has today been named man of the match for the seventh time in all this season, and now for the third game in a row. He turned thirty years of age back in September, and with two seasons left on his deal, I wouldn't swap him for another centre back in the domestic game.

2013 Belarusian First League Table (Top), Up To & Including Sunday 3rd November 2013

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

| 1st   | P     | Smorgon            |       | 28    | 20    | 3     | 5     | 52    | 23    | +29   | 63    |
| 2nd   |       | Slavia Mozyr       |       | 28    | 17    | 6     | 5     | 50    | 23    | +27   | 57    |
| 3rd   |       | Savit              |       | 28    | 17    | 5     | 6     | 39    | 19    | +20   | 56    |
| 4th   |       | Vedrich Rechitsa   |       | 28    | 16    | 7     | 5     | 47    | 26    | +21   | 55    |
| 5th   |       | Lokomotiv Minsk    |       | 28    | 15    | 9     | 4     | 47    | 27    | +20   | 54    |


Edited by neilhoskins77

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Monday 4th November 2013
Monday morning starts with no surprise, as our centre back Maxim Gorbach is named in the Team of the Week for the First League again. I was a little more surprised to see Slavia Mozyr goalkeeper Yuriy Tsigalko in the selection, we didn't give him too much to do after all.

The morning continued with a surprising email. It was from Norwegian Premier Division club IK Start, except they wouldn't be a Premier Division club for much longer. They have this weekend suffered relegation, and now they are starting the process of cost cutting. When the Belarus Under-21 side played in Oslo, their hopes of progressing on the last day were dashed by Start's striker Kjetil Sivertsen. They signed him from Moss FK at the end of March for £30,000, but now they want to sell him to get his wages off their books. He already has 17 goals in 47 Senior appearances at the age of nineteen, and he is going to be seriously good. But they want £75,000, and we don't have the money, and even if we did, we couldn't play him if we don't get promoted. We'll have to let the other vultures have this one.

It looks like I am going to need a new assistant manager from next season as well. The current man in the job is 39 year old Vladimir Panteleev, but his contract is up at the end of the month, and he wants more money than we can currently afford to give him. I really don't want to lose him to another club, but it looks like it is heading that way.

Tuesday 5th November
Tomorrow night we travel to face seventh placed Mikashevichi in our final away League match of the season and our penultimate match of the campaign. Anything other than a win will almost certainly rule us out of the promotion race once and for all. Even a win will only help if Slavia Mozyr drop points, as their superior goal difference will almost certainly be too much for us to make up in a pair of matches. Once again, we will start the match as favourites.

Wednesday 6th November

Belarusian First League
Polesie, Luninets
Mikashevichi v Lokomotiv Minsk
Attendance :-
733. Weather :- Breezy, Sleet, -4c.

On easily one of the coldest days of the season so far, we make two changes here in Luninets for our final away match of the season. The injury to Igor Zangiev means that Yuriy Ryzhko returns in midfield once again, while there is also a change on the left wing, with Georgy Schennikov in to replace Alexandr Kozlov. On the substitutes bench, there is one spare place, and that goes to transfer listed midfielder Mariusz Kaczmarek.

We went right on the attack down the right wing, Alexey Rios and Dmitry Chaka playing the ball back and forth between themselves to work the space, and the latter swung over a low and curling cross that Nikolay Shvydakov controlled with his back to goal, shooting on the turn with a rising shot that Pavel Shisheya had to turn over with a superb acrobatic stop. That led to a series of corners that we failed to capitalise on, and slowly but absolutely surely, Mikashevichi started to take control of the game. They nearly opened the scoring in the 12th minute, Pavlo Stepanets took control just outside the box and sent in a low shot across goal that beat Dmitry Biryukov, and was just a whisker wide of the upright. A series of chances came and went for our hosts, Roman Volkov sending one off target from 15 yards out, and the same player was in on goal when Ivan Gaev knocked it into his path, Biryukov tipping that one over the bar. In the 34th minute Stepanets and Karen Muradyan combined in midfield and got the ball wide on the right to Igor Nosarev. His cross towards the far post was aimed at Mikhail Tatarnikov, but he never got there, he didn't get a chance, as Maxim Gorbach tried to clear the ball, but could only send it past his own keeper and into the top corner of his own net. We were not ourselves, and certainly not the side that had gone twelve matches unbeaten. We lost the ball right from kick off, and Gaev shot from 20 yards out, Biryukov beaten again, this time the ball crashing back off the bar and bouncing past the prone keeper, Dmitry Chaka taking a huge risk by heading it back to him when he was still on the deck, but fortunately Biryukov gathered it in. We were a goal down at the break, and a little lucky it wasn't more.

There were some strong words at half time, but we remained considerably below our best when the second half started, and Mikashevichi were still cutting through us with an ease that worried me greatly. They were taking any chance that presented itself to take a shot, Muradyan letting fly from 30 yards, and only just failing to get the dip he wanted on the ball. He had another go moments later when Dmitriy Verstak got the ball to him, again he only missed the target by a fraction. But twenty minutes after the restart, the home side found their range. Muradyan's free kick into the box was headed away, but Dmitriy Kovalev headed it back up the park, and Gaev brought it down and struck his shot, which flew like an arrow into the corner to extend their lead to a two goal advantage. I made changes, Chaka, Yuriy Ryzhko and Georgy Schennikov off, Alexandr Degterev, Lukasz Zuk and Alexandr Kozlov coming on as we went to all out attack mode. Even that didn't work, as we lost possession and saw Mikashevichi counter attacking, Volkov and Muradyan involved before Gaev was played into the box, but he sent his shot over the goal frame. We kept trying, Degterev whipping in a free kick, Maxim Ivanenko appealing for a spot kick, claiming he was being held back by Kovalev, the ref ruling no foul was committed. Nothing was going our way, and when we gave the ball away again Volkov sent in a deep cross, Nosarev arriving unmarked and connecting with a volley that Biryukov couldn't get near, Vladimir Malykh was back on the line though and headed it clear. Both Tatarnikov and Volkov missed more late chances to extend the lead even further for Mikashevichi. We had been lucky to be just a goal down at the break, at full time we were fortunate it was not four or five.

Mikashevichi (1) 2 - Maxim Gorbach (34 og), Ivan Gaev (65)
Lokomotiv Minsk (0) 0
Dmitry Biryukov; Dmitry Chaka (Lukasz Zuk 70), Vladimir Malykh, Maxim Gorbach, Maxim Ivanenko; Yuriy Ryzhko (Alexandr Degterev 70), Eduard Chudnovsky; Alexey Rios, Georgy Schennikov (Alexandr Kozlov 70); Sergey Krot, Nikolay Shvydakov ©.
Unused Substitutes :- Maxim Gukailo, Vladimir Zuhbaia (GK), Alexey Yesipenok, Mariusz Kaczmarek.
Bookings :- None
Possession :- 51% - 49%. Man of the Match :- Ivan Gaev (Mikashevichi).

It was probably one of our worst performances since I arrived in Minsk. But we didn't miss promotion this afternoon in reality, we missed it over the course of the season when we amassed too many draws, recording nine of them in our 29 League matches so far this campaign. It's not right to be tough on a team that have just come off a twelve match unbeaten run, and we were due an 'off day', I guess it was just unfortunate that it was today.

However, had we performed at our peak level and won the match today, it would have made no difference whatsoever to the overall outcome of our season. That's because while Savit Mogilev were held to a 2-2 draw away to already promoted FC Smorgon, who have now been confirmed as First League Champions, there were wins for both Vedrich Rechitsa away to FC Lida, and for Slavia Mozyr at home to FC Baranovichi. Those two clubs meet each other on the final day of the season, and with one, or both guaranteed to put some points on the board, we cannot overtake them both, and our run for promotion is over for this season. Disappointing, but probably inevitable after the weekends draw with Slavia.

2013 Belarusian First League Table (Top), Up To & Including Wednesday 6th November 2013

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

| 1st   | C     | Smorgon            |       | 29    | 20    | 4     | 5     | 54    | 25    | +29   | 64    |
| 2nd   |       | Slavia Mozyr       |       | 29    | 18    | 6     | 5     | 53    | 24    | +29   | 60    |
| 3rd   |       | Vedrich Rechitsa   |       | 29    | 17    | 7     | 5     | 49    | 27    | +22   | 58    |
| 4th   |       | Savit              |       | 29    | 17    | 6     | 6     | 41    | 21    | +20   | 57    |
| 5th   |       | Lokomotiv Minsk    |       | 29    | 15    | 9     | 5     | 47    | 29    | +18   | 54    |

So fourth is the best we can do, and on the bus trip back to Minsk I gather my staff at a table seat, telling everyone that I want all staff at the Stadium when we arrive back, and everyone should be aware that we are in for a late night. The reason being was that I wanted to discuss some changes in direction for us, and I had already prepared a list of players who I anticipated us saying goodbye to. I had also been in touch with my Scouting team, and told them what I wanted, and they were hastily pulling files and preparing up to date reports for me. There was no need or point in us hanging around.

Edited by neilhoskins77

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Thursday 7th November 2013
It probably wasn't the best day for either Alexandr Alkhvovik or Alexey Yesipenok to speak out about their lack of First Team football. When I was told that they had an issue they wanted to discuss, I asked for both to be sent to my office at the same time. I barely even looked up. 'You can leave!' Confused, they asked for clarification as to which I was speaking to. 'Both of you! Alexandr, your contract is nearly up, and it won't be renewed. Alexey, you're free to find a new club, and I'll Transfer List you with immediate effect'. Alkhovik left without a word, while Yesipenok attempted to explain himself, only to be cut short and told he was wasting his breath and my time.

The pair were just the start of what would be a clearing of the decks at Lokomotiv. Joining Alkhovik in being told they could leave were another who was out of contract within weeks, Alexey Razmyslovich. Several more were also informed that they were being Transfer Listed, and they were urged to find new clubs, as their services were no longer required here. Amongst that group were Vladimir Zuhbaia, Maxim Gukailo, the already Listed midfielder Mariusz Kaczmarek, Alexandr Degterev, Evgeniy Drozd, Denys Pshenychnyi, Djeykhun Mursalov and Sergey Krot.

Meanwhile, our Scouts had been very busy. Under my instruction, they had been sending me reports, stats and video on dozens of young players from across the nation. My aim was to keep the core of players who had been good or better this year, your Nikolay Shvydakov's, Maxim Gorbach's, Georgy Schennikov's and Alexey Rios', and then surround them with the cream of the nations younger players. I wanted us to be fitter, faster, and more importantly, better. We already had some great young players like Dmitry Biryukov and Maxim Ivanenko, and a couple more behind them in the system. With around ten or a dozen players on our immediate radar now, they would almost certainly soon be getting some company.

Friday 8th November
Obviously this plan had flaws, the main one being that other clubs would also want these players. We were quickly, and hugely, priced out of the market for one such early target. A season in the Highest League had done wonders for the confidence and development of Dinamo Brest's centre midfielder and left winger, Andrey Shidlovskiy, including earning him a regular spot in the Belarus Under-21 side. Without getting too soppy, he was everything we were looking for. But he jilted us for another. Well, actually, it never got that far. We weren't even going steady, not with an offer of £30,000. That offer was more than doubled by soon to be former Russian Premier Divison side Kuban Krasnodar as they look to rebuild for a crack at an immediate return to the top tier. Dinamo asked us for £90,000. That was the end of our interest.

While all this is going on, we still have one more match left to play, and with pride, position, and prize money still left to play for, we certainly couldn't afford to neglect the weekends match. Plus, it would be a good thing to go into the winter off season on the back of a win I reckon. But we would have to do without one of our backroom staff, as one of our Coaches from the team Andrey Zhukov sees his contract run out today, and he has declined to stay an extra few days, clearing his belongings and leaving right away. Oh well.

Saturday 9th November
While our own fate has been settled this season, there is still plenty to play for when it comes to our final day visitors. Neman Mosty currently occupy 15th, the second relegation spot. They are level on points with Dinamo-Belcard Grodno, but have a significantly inferior goal difference. The upshot is that to save themselves, they need to better Belcard's result this weekend. The bookies give them no chance of achieving that via a win tomorrow afternoon, making them a 12/1 shot to beat us at Lokomotiv Stadium on the final day of the season.

As we were preparing for that match, elsewhere we were making progress on next seasons squad. One young striker who is a Belarus Under-21 International and playing at our level wanted to continue discussing terms after rejecting our initial offer, while a second who could play up front or behind the strikers, had played regularly at this level for another Minsk side and is a Belarus Under-19 International signed his deal and will join Lokomotiv at the end of the month.

Joining him will be another Under-19 International who plays centre back and has appeared far more often than not for one of the sides we have been competing against in the promotion race this season. They are not happy to lose him, less happy still that they won't get so much as a Belarusian Kapek in compensation from us either. Our Scouts have picked out this lad as having a very bright future.

Sunday 10th November

Belarusian First League
Lokomotiv Stadium, Minsk
Lokomotiv Minsk v Neman Mosty
Attendance :-
421. Weather :- Breezy, 18c.

Look at that temperature for November in Minsk! Today is absolutely an advertisement for global warming, there's a polar bear wandering around the Stadium wearing sun screen! Ok, that bit isn't true, but if it were, the polar bear would have plenty of room to move around, as we are only a dozen paying punters above what would have been the clubs lowest ever competitive match attendance. I did consider making wholesale changes to the lineup, but keen to end the season on a win, I actually made just one change to the substitutes, Maxim Gukailo dropped from the matchday squad, with Egor Romanovskiy recalled to bench duty.

With the knowledge that they had to get something from this game, we were fully prepared for Neman Mosty to come out quick and try to find a way through early. In the fifth minute Mikhail Gornak held the ball up just inside the box on the right edge, and then managed to force the ball through to Sergey Pyrkh, who's shot was partially blocked and easily caught by Dmitry Biryukov. Not to be outdone, we went right down the other end, Maxim Ivanenko springing the Neman offside trap when he dropped the ball over the top and Sergey Krot raced onto the ball and into the left channel, before sending over a cross that picked out the head of Eduard Chudnovsky, his header from ten yards out forcing a top drawer save from Mikhail Atrashkevich. With our visitors having their very second tier lives to play for, and us being frustrated at having nothing to play for, it wasn't too much of a surprise to see this one start to bubble over, and Maxim Gorbach picked up a booking for a push in the chest of Sergey Chistov as they fought over the ball when it went out of play in front of the dugouts. We were starting to get the upper hand a little by the midway point of the first half, and Yuriy Ryzhko's attempt to shoot from range was blocked right back to him, and at the second attempt he threaded a through ball in for Georgy Schennikov instead, the winger blasting the ball over the bar while the Neman defenders all appealed for an offside flag that wasn't coming. With news coming through that Dinamo-Belcard Grodno were winning, Neman started to get a little more nervous, and mistakes started to creep in, leading to Nikolay Shvydakov getting a shot that Atrashkevich got a hand to, the rebound only just evading Krot. In first half injury time, a superb counter attacking move started and finished with Schennikov, but the winger once again missed the target, and the match would remain scoreless at half time.

Schennikov took a knock at the end of the half, one of a few to do so, but he indicated he was okay to continue, so he stayed on, while Alexey Rios would need to come off. Alexandr Kozlov came on in his place, playing on the wrong wing and making us a little unbalanced, but I liked the idea of giving the young winger a challenge to solve. He showed he was relishing the challenge right away, picking up the ball on the right corner of the box, and going square across field almost to the left corner, before sending a slide rule pass into the path of Ryzhko, who forced yet another save from Atrashkevich, this one from point blank range. Chudnovsky sent over the corner, which landed on the top of the cross bar before bouncing onto the roof of the net. Then, while Schennikov was off getting treatment, Ryzhko swung a free kick just wide of the target. With the game nearing the hour mark, and things evening themselves out in the Dinamo-Belcard match, the deadlock was finally broken here. Gorbach arrived short to pick up the ball from a throw, and got it in to Shvydakov with his back to goal on the edge of the box. He sent it square and right to Kozlov, and the sub winger was in a great position. He had zero intention of shooting with his right foot though, and cut back across between a pair of defenders, and then took another touch to move it away from another Neman defender, before hitting a left footed rising shot back across goal that found the top corner! It was a great goal, and a hammer blow for Neman. With injured players mounting up, I made my final three changes, Ivanenko, Ryzhko and Schennikov replaced by Egor Romanovskiy, Mariusz Kaczmarek and Alexandr Degterev, the last of those allowing Kozlov to move back across to his natural habitat of the left wing, albeit now with a right back playing behind him at left back. I have to say, by this point I was feeling a little sorry for Neman. They had a small and fairly poor squad to draw from, yet they were giving it their all, a shot from a bad angle that was high and wide by Victor Yanevych was the best they could manage, while down the park, Chudnovsky picked out Degeterv in acres of space, but he opted to volley it first time and missed the target. Kozlov then produced an outrageous moment of skill to get the ball to Shvydakov, the skipper finding only the side netting. As we continued to play keep ball, and prevent Neman from having the ball in any area of danger, their desperation kept rising. Sub Evgeniy Pankratov finally got a look at goal, and squeezed his shot past Biryukov, only to see Vladimir Malykh kick it off the line. That was as much as they could take, and as their relegation from the second tier was being confirmed, sub Artur Shirokiy was being shown a yellow card for a foul that could easily have produced a straight red on another day.

Lokomotiv Minsk (0) 1 - Alexandr Kozlov (59)
Neman Mosty (0) 0
Dmitry Biryukov; Dmitry Chaka, Vladimir Malykh, Maxim Gorbach, Maxim Ivanenko (inj - Egor Romanovskiy 59); Yuriy Ryzhko (inj - Mariusz Kaczmarek 59), Eduard Chudnovsky; Alexey Rios (inj - Alexandr Kozlov 45), Georgy Schennikov (inj - Alexandr Degterev 59); Sergey Krot, Nikolay Shvydakov ©.
Unused Substitutes :- Vladimir Zuhbaia (GK), Alexey Yesipenok, Lukasz Zuk.
Bookings :- Maxim Gorbach 11
Possession :- 53% - 47%. Man of the Match :- Alexandr Kozlov (Lokomotiv Minsk).

I doubt it would help Neman Mosty's frustration one little bit to hear that Dinamo-Belcard Grodno twice threw away leads at home to FC Lida, and eventually lost 3-2, which meant a draw would have saved Neman from the drop. So that goal line clearance from Vladimir Malykh effectively relegated them. At the rate they were injuring my players, my earlier feelings of sorrow for them were long gone. It was just as well the season was done as both Alexey Rios and Georgy Schennikov would have been out for around a month apiece.

The other club who would not be in our Division next season as a result of the last day are Vedrich Rechitsa, who thumped Slavia Mozyr 4-1, leaving Slavia and Savit Mogilev feeling the same as we felt in midweek. With those two still around, next season was not going to be any easier for us. And the two sides making the drop down from the top tier were unlikely to make our lives any easier. FC Vitebsk are not a bad side, but they could lose a lot of their players before the new season starts. The other side to come down could make life very interesting in this city, as FC Minsk are also relegated into the second tier. Those will be a couple of dates our fans will be keenly looking out for when the new fixture list is released.

Our fifth place finish means we pick up prize money of £30,000 from the FA, of which £28,500 is immediately dispersed between the First Team squad. Easy come, easy go I guess. We have another concern to deal with though, Nikolay Shvydakov has a non-promotion release clause in his contract that will allow him to leave another club for £500,000. Don't get me wrong, I don't think for a second that anyone would pay that for the soon to be 34 year old striker, but I'd rather not take the chance, and new contract talks are proposed right away.

At the other end of the career progression scale, Norayr Ghazaryan is called up once again by Armenia Under-21's for International Duty. He will be hoping to add to his three caps when they host Latvia in Yerevan, followed by a trip to Ritzing to play Austria in a pair of Friendlies.

On the recruitment front, I have another centre back and attacking midfielder who have rejected our initial contract offers, but are very willing to keep talking to us. As expected, Dinamo Brest youngster Andrey Shidlovskiy has agreed to move to Russia, and signed a deal with Kuban Krasnodar. Our clearout starts, with two Coaches and the Assistant Manager all leaving the club today. Replacements have already been sourced and contract offers sent out.

Edited by neilhoskins77

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2013 Belarusian First League, Final Table

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

| 1st   | C     | Smorgon            |       | 30    | 21    | 4     | 5     | 56    | 26    | +30   | 67    |
| 2nd   | P     | Vedrich Rechitsa   |       | 30    | 18    | 7     | 5     | 53    | 28    | +25   | 61    |
| 3rd   |       | Slavia Mozyr       |       | 30    | 18    | 6     | 6     | 54    | 28    | +26   | 60    |
| 4th   |       | Savit              |       | 30    | 18    | 6     | 6     | 43    | 21    | +22   | 60    |
| 5th   |       | Lokomotiv Minsk    |       | 30    | 16    | 9     | 5     | 48    | 29    | +19   | 57    |
| 6th   |       | Khimik Svetlogorsk |       | 30    | 16    | 6     | 8     | 37    | 26    | +11   | 54    |
| 7th   |       | Mikashevichi       |       | 30    | 12    | 10    | 8     | 39    | 23    | +16   | 46    |
| 8th   |       | Belshina           |       | 30    | 9     | 14    | 7     | 23    | 22    | +1    | 41    |
| 9th   |       | Zvezda-BGU         |       | 30    | 9     | 8     | 13    | 37    | 35    | +2    | 35    |
| 10th  |       | Lida               |       | 30    | 10    | 5     | 15    | 35    | 45    | -10   | 35    |
| 11th  |       | Darida             |       | 30    | 9     | 8     | 13    | 22    | 38    | -16   | 35    |
| 12th  |       | Vertical           |       | 30    | 7     | 7     | 16    | 38    | 55    | -17   | 28    |
| 13th  |       | Livadia            |       | 30    | 7     | 5     | 18    | 20    | 50    | -30   | 26    |
| 14th  |       | Belcard            |       | 30    | 6     | 6     | 18    | 30    | 42    | -12   | 24    |
| 15th  | R     | Neman Mosty        |       | 30    | 6     | 6     | 18    | 28    | 52    | -24   | 24    |
| 16th  | R     | Baranovichi        |       | 30    | 2     | 5     | 23    | 18    | 61    | -43   | 11    |


Edited by neilhoskins77

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2013 Season Lokomotiv Minsk Player Stats (All Competitions)

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

| Dmitry Biryukov     | 23 (1)  | -    | -    | -    | 57%  | 0.04 | -    | -    | -    | -    | 6.75   |
| Vladimir Zuhbaia    | 11      | -    | -    | -    | 61%  | -    | -    | -    | -    | -    | 6.78   |
| Dmitry Chaka        | 28      | -    | -    | -    | 69%  | 2.67 | 0.68 | -    | 1    | -    | 6.65   |
| Maxim Ivanenko      | 26 (4)  | 1    | 4    | 1    | 61%  | 3.79 | 1.01 | -    | 2    | -    | 6.83   |
| Nikolay Mironov     | 0 (2)   | -    | -    | -    | -    | -    | -    | -    | -    | -    | 6.80   |
| Maxim Gukailo       | 8 (6)   | 1    | 3    | 1    | 63%  | 2.57 | 1.17 | -    | -    | -    | 6.96   |
| Vladimir Malykh     | 29 (2)  | -    | -    | -    | 67%  | 3.40 | 0.04 | -    | 3    | -    | 6.71   |
| Alexey Yesipenok    | 3 (7)   | -    | -    | -    | 56%  | 4.93 | -    | -    | -    | -    | 6.27   |
| Maxim Gorbach       | 34      | 10   | 1    | 7    | 65%  | 3.96 | 0.06 | 48%  | 2    | -    | 7.14   |
| Egor Romanovskiy    | 8 (3)   | -    | -    | -    | 69%  | 3.16 | 0.12 | -    | -    | -    | 6.72   |
| Mariusz Kaczmarek   | 1 (5)   | 1    | -    | -    | 70%  | 1.00 | 0.50 | 20%  | -    | -    | 6.75   |
| Yuriy Ryzhko        | 16 (7)  | -    | 2    | -    | 67%  | 3.59 | 0.43 | 28%  | -    | -    | 6.73   |
| Georgy Schennikov   | 24 (2)  | 4    | 9    | 2    | 67%  | 3.11 | 6.27 | 43%  | -    | -    | 7.15   |
| Alexey Rios         | 33 (1)  | 8    | 8    | 7    | 63%  | 2.66 | 8.03 | 24%  | 2    | -    | 7.29   |
| Alexey Razmyslovich | 2 (7)   | -    | -    | -    | 69%  | 2.87 | 3.51 | -    | -    | -    | 6.30   |
| Alexandr Kozlov     | 5 (6)   | 2    | 1    | 1    | 61%  | 1.81 | 4.43 | -    | -    | -    | 7.00   |
| Eduard Chudnovsky   | 32      | 5    | 11   | 2    | 77%  | 3.53 | 0.39 | 28%  | -    | -    | 6.93   |
| Igor Zangiev        | 12 (12) | -    | 1    | -    | 72%  | 5.00 | 0.40 | -    | -    | -    | 6.70   |
| Alexandr Degterev   | 6 (15)  | -    | -    | -    | 67%  | 1.91 | 4.53 | 6%   | -    | -    | 6.69   |
| Evgeniy Drozd       | 5 (7)   | 1    | 1    | -    | 71%  | 1.97 | 0.33 | -    | -    | -    | 6.69   |
| Nikolay Shvydakov   | 26 (2)  | 15   | 2    | 2    | 73%  | 0.64 | 2.33 | 53%  | 1    | -    | 6.91   |
| Lukasz Zuk          | 12 (14) | 2    | 2    | -    | 67%  | 0.46 | 2.59 | 23%  | -    | 1    | 6.62   |
| Denys Pshenychnyi   | 7 (6)   | -    | 4    | -    | 70%  | 0.89 | 4.30 | 19%  | 1    | -    | 6.73   |
| Djeykhun Mursalov   | 1 (4)   | -    | -    | -    | 80%  | -    | 1.32 | -    | -    | -    | 6.40   |
| Sergey Krot         | 22 (6)  | 2    | 2    | -    | 70%  | 0.48 | 1.87 | 30%  | -    | -    | 6.53   |


Edited by neilhoskins77

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Monday 11th November 2013
Last time I told you about a pair of young players that have agreed to sign for Lokomotiv for next season. The first of those is 19 year old centre back Valeriy Tarasov from Savit Mogilev. A 6 footer who has played just a single season with Savit after being a youngster with Dnepr Mogilev, he is a Belarus Under-19 International. Brave and determined, while being very rarely caught out of position, he brings some leadership qualities to the club despite his young age, having served as Vice-Captain on the International age group stage.

Moving across the city is one of his Under-19 International team mates. 19 year old Smorgon born Dmitriy Kuzminich will join us from city rivals Zvezda-BGU Minsk. Despite being 6'2 tall, he is much better with the ball at his feet than he is in the air, and scored seven times in all competitions for Zvezda during the 2013 season. He is another former Savit Mogilev player, they signed him in 2011 for £6,000 after he had played just once for his hometown club. Zvezda got him on a Free at the end of last season, and he has played almost 50 League matches in the last two seasons, returning nine goals, making him very experienced at this level for his age. 

Dmitriy Lebedev of Vedrich Rechitsa, the League Runner's-Up, has won the First League Golden Boot award with his haul of 15 goals in the League. The 27 year old beat our own skipper Nikolay Shvydakov who notched a tally of 13 in the League, matched by Roman Vasilyuk of Slavia Mozyr.

Those goals were not enough to earn Shvydakov a place in the First League Team of the Year. We do have two of our players included though, centre back Maxim Gorbach and right winger Alexey Rios. The biggest contribution to the selected team is from Slavia Mozyr, who have four players included.

Offers have flooded in for the players we put on the Transfer List, with bids received for every player we listed with the exception of one, Maxim Gukailo, who has now been made available for a Free Transfer. The others all have their asking prices, all between the £1,000 and £5,000 mark met, and where possible, I have rejected any bids from clubs in Belarus, particularly Division rivals. There were exceptions in three cases, and there was a common denominator in each case, Mikashevichi. They placed bids for three of our players, having bids of £1,000 for Sergey Krot accepted, where they have one competitor, and a £5,000 bid for Mariusz Kaczmarek, where they are the only bidders. The third player they want to buy is Djeykhun Mursalov, where they will be competing against Dinamo-Belcard Grodno for the signature. The accepted bids are for £3,000, which would mean us recuperating just 5% of the club record fee of £60,000 fee I forked out for the misfit striker in August of last year, without a single goal as a return. Some people think I should keep him, but he doesn't really want to stay, and I don't think things will get any better for him anytime soon with us.

Should all of the players who have had bids accepted for them go on to leave the club, we would recuperate just shy of £30,000 in Transfer Fees, as well as removing almost £3,000 per week from our wage budget. With the remaining £25,000 from the Transfer Budget exchanged for an extra £450 per week of Wage Budget credit, we would reach the end of the season well over £5,000 per week below our £12,500 weekly allowance, and with a bank balance of around £400,000. That should give me some real bargaining room with the Board if and when it comes to me having to defend my management of the club.

Tuesday 12th November
We have missed out on one of our primary targets for this close season. 19 year old FC Vitebsk attacking midfielder Petr Prikhodko had a fairly decent first season in Belarus' top tier after they paid £120,000 to sign the Ukrainian Under-21 International from Moldovan club, FC Zimbru Chisinãu. He has rejected offers to move back to Ukraine, or step into the Russian Leagues, and has decided to stay in Belarus, rejecting our offer in favour of a deal to sign for Neman Grodno in the top tier.

But pretty much everything else went well for us on a busy Tuesday, with both backroom and playing staff additions. 44 year old Vladimir Mikhaltsov is easily one of the best Coaches in the domestic game, and we have convinced him to leave FC Baranovichi and join our team, which costs us £4,000 in compensation, and I'm fairly sure will prove well worth it, the money taken back from the Wage Budget. He is keen to progress in the game, and as such didn't need too much convincing to sign a three year deal and end his thirteen year association with that club.

Joining him in the backroom team will be Denys Panasenko my new Assistant Manager, a 37 year old Ukrainian who has had no football career to speak of, and is taking his first job in football. He is tactically very astute however, and favours the attacking side of the game. He is also much cheaper than his predecessor.

Completing a trio of backroom staff arrivals is a former Belarusian International. Now 38 years old, Alexandr Khrapkovskiy was capped eleven times for his nation, and spent the early years here in his hometown with our rivals from Dinamo Minsk. His career would see him move back and forth between Belarus and Russia, and end in 2010 with Vedrich Rechitsa. This is his first backroom role as he joins our Coaching staff.

One of the players he will be training from next season will be 19 year old striker, Artem Koryagin. A former trainee with Dnepr Mogilev, he signed for Savit Mogilev on a Free Transfer at the start of last season, making his debut this season and eventually being involved in twenty four of their League matches, notching three goals and three assists. Capped once by Belarus Under-21's, he's quick, skillful, and very good both on the deck, and in the air despite standing at only 5'11. He is our second signing from that club for next season.

He may well be getting a chance to play alongside Nikolay Shvydakov, who has signed a new two year deal with the club. The Captain and perennial top goalscorer at the club has put his signature on a new two year contract, with the terms almost identical, except for one, no clause for him to leave for non-promotion.

Wednesday 13th November
The first departure is announced today from our playing staff, and goalkeeper Vladimir Zuhbaia has decided that a move back to Georgia may get him a route to finally winning his first Senior International Cap for his nation. He has signed for Olimpi Rustavi for a fee of £3,000.

Thursday 14th November
The second departure isn't far behind either, though it won't be the last we see of Sergey Krot. The veteran striker has signed for Division rivals Mikashevichi for a fee of £1,000. It brings an end to his second spell with the club, where he has now clocked up 88 League appearances, which have seen him score 14 goals.

He wouldn't be the only one of our players to leave for Mikashevichi today either, as within a few hours one of his team mates agrees to join him at his new club. 21 year old Mariusz Kaczmarek played just a single season with us at Lokomotiv after being signed from Belshina Bobruisk for £2,000. With just six appearances, but one very important goal at the time under his belt, he leaves us for a profit, as his new club pay £5,000 for him.

It wasn't just departures today though, as there were a pair of arrivals too. I like to take younger players from the richer and higher reputation clubs, with some time using high quality facilities and surrounded by the best coaches and young players around, I think that's a good way to ensure you are getting a hot prospect. And if he does turn out to be a poor signing, 6'5 and nearly fifteen stone centre back Alexandr Zagovalko should be useful to move some equipment around at training. The 21 year old with a cap at Under-21 level has agreed to sign for us from top tier heavyweights BATE Borisov, who he played for twice this season, scoring a goal and performing very well in his first appearances in Senior football. This signing could prove a very shrewd bit of business if he continues to improve at his current rate.

Unable to gain regular First Team football this season with FC Smorgon, despite four goals and three assists in twelve starts with the same number of appearances from the bench, Ukrainian attacking midfielder Andriy Bogdanov didn't rate his chances of getting much time on the park in the top tier next season. So after one season in Belarus, he has decided to take the chance to swap clubs and try and make it back to back First League Winners Medals. He had a single year in the Youth Development programme with Dinamo Kiev, before moving across the city to join Arsenal Kiev. After six seasons and not a single First Team outing, he has trodden the well worn path of Ukrainian players moving to Belarus to play their football. Equally comfortable in centre midfield or behind the strikers, I think he improves our options in that area of the park.

Friday 15th November
One of the biggest misfits and waste's of money in Belarusian football right now, and in two weeks time he will be out of our hair and off our wage bill, though at a huge loss. After being purchased for £60,000 from lowly Kommunalnik Zhlobin shortly after I arrived where he had an impressive goal rate, Djeykhun Mursalov played sixteen times for Lokomotiv Minsk, failing to find the net, and missing some gilt edged chances while at it too. And now he is moving on, rejecting the chance to join Krot and Kaczmarek at Mikashevichi, and electing instead to move to Dinamo-Belcard Grodno, who have paid £3,000 for him, just 5% of what we paid for the striker almost eighteen months ago. He takes a parting swipe, stating that he can't wait to move to a club who will appreciate his contribution to the team. What contribution? Bet he scores against us next season though.

On what would become very much a day of departures, the next out of the door is another striker who failed to find the net for us. At least we know we won't be running into this one next season though, as Denys Pshenychnyi leaves the country and will make a return to Russia, agreeing to sign for second tier club Dinamo Bryansk for £5,000, having previously playing for Terek Grozny. It's another loss for us after we paid £10,000 to sign him from Dinamo Brest, and he played eleven times in the League, including six starts. He did at least contribute four assists.

Later in the day, three more of our players agree to move, and they are moving en masse, with all three making the move to the same club. It's another Russian second tier club that are the buyers, and this time it's Shinnik Yaroslavl. We have done business with them before, they signed Denis Lekhavitskiy from us in the not too distant past. Now they have added Evgeniy Drozd, Alexandr Degterev and Alexey Yesipenok from us, paying a total of £10,000 for the trio. My record of splashing the cash isn't looking good, as I paid £35,000 for Drozd alone, who contributed a goal and an assist in a dozen appearances, and another £10,000 for Degterev who played twenty times without finding the net or setting up a goal. Yesipenok was signed from BATE Borisov long before I got here, and is probably the one we'll miss the most from the three, though I didn't have any real desire to keep him here.

Saturday 16th November
With some more room created, we get right back to bringing players in, and the next one gained some valuable First Team experience in the top tier in the last campaign. 21 year old Bogdan Dykyy is a Ukrainian centre midfielder who has played much of his career in Belarus, originally signing for MTZ-Ripo Minsk, and moving to Slavia Mozyr and then Torpedo Zhodino, making over twenty Senior appearances in First Team football. A good passer of the ball, and a player who also presents a legitimate threat to the opposition from free kicks, something we have been missing in our squad.

Today I contacted our city rivals from Dinamo, and made them an offer for a very talented 17 year old full back who is part of the Belarus Under-19 squad. He has been with them two years without making a First Team outing, but is very well thought of, and is suffering only due to a queue of equally talented players in front of him. I would dearly like to add him to our increasingly younger looking squad make up. My offer to them is £20,000.

Tuesday 19th November
They said yes! And then he said yes! Dinamo gave us the thumbs up within a day, and we then spent the remainder of the weekend speaking to teen Dmirty Kirillov. He is Minsk born, has never played a Senior match yet, but is already a Belarus Under-19 International. Capable of playing either full back role, though more comfortable on the left as he is very left footed. He is only 5'7 tall but is very good with his head, but he excels in an attacking full back role, with his crossing a potent weapon. A very exciting young talent, and he is in turn very excited to be moving across to Lokomotiv.

Wednesday 20th November
The rumours that started months back regarding Georgy Schennikov moving back to Russia absolutely refuse to go away. Anzhi Makhachkala missed out on promotion to the top table of Russian football on goal difference, and they are said to be eyeing up an offer for our now 22 year old former Russian Under-21 International. The player himself refused to say he wanted to move, or that he wouldn't move. But 2013 was his best ever season despite seeing him suffer some injuries, and when Vladislav Dedyush, the Club Chairman, called me from his holiday to ask if I would be prepared to let him go if an offer should arrive, my answer was emphatic. 'Over my dead body Mr Chairman'.

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Sunday 1st December 2013
The season is officially over, and despite the players already being away on holiday, today is the day that those have who have agreed moves will see those deals completed. This doesn't include those players moving to Russia, who have to wait another two weeks as the Russian Transfer Window doesn't open until the 15th December.

One more player has left our club though. That would be the only player we Transfer Listed who we didn't subsequently receive an offer for, Maxim Gukailo. Now 34 years old, he played second fiddle to Maxim Ivanenko for the majority of the season, and with more younger players arriving at the club, he is offered the chance to terminate his deal and take his chances on another club picking up his services. It costs us £5,000 to move him on.

He joins several others in leaving the club today, though he is the only one to leave with any money from us. All of the others are out of contract, and have not been offered new deals. Those who didn't already leave on a voluntary basis with their deal finished, we told they were no longer required and we wouldn't exercise the option to keep them on month to month deals. The most recognisable names on the list of those leaving are winger Alexey Razmyslovich and midfielder Alexandr Alkhovik. Joining them are five youngsters, including three keepers, Andrey Kaleshin, Anton Kirimov and Sergey Ustinov. Also departing are Alexandr Dolgov, who made half a dozen appearances for Lokomotiv, two of them after my arrival, and midfielder Alexey Ionov.

Part of that money to move on Gukailo is taken from our annual fee that we receive from Russian Premier Division club Amkar Perm, which amounts to £15,000 or so a year, and gives them first option on an Lokomotiv Minsk players that we accept a transfer bid from. In return, we will get the chance to loan young players from them, a deal which, if I'm honest, hasn't really worked for us recently. Last year they sent us left back Nikolay Mironov, and he played just twice.

The Board believe I should be performing slightly better as manager, but if that's as bad as it gets for now, I'll take it. I suspect it might have been our Cup run that saved the end of month appraisal getting any worse. It certainly wasn't our performance against Mikashevichi, which was another bone of contention that the Board were quick to mention. My tight control of the wage situation was the card I used to play against that particular hand. We made a loss of over £50,000 for last month, still not considered an issue. The finances might take a few more hits yet, as some players have been released by their clubs who would certainly improve our squad. I can't pass up the chance to see if we can convince them we're a good option.

As an International Manager as well, I today get the opportunity to vote for my picks for both FIFA's World Footballer of the Year, and the Asian Football Confederations Player of the Year. My selection in the continent where I manage on an International level is Everton and Australia veteran Tim Cahill, who has had a superb season in the twilight of his career, narrowly edging out Pohang Steelers and South Korea winger, Hwang Jin-Sung. In the FIFA title for the World's best player, I give my nod to AS Roma and Montenegro forward, Mirko Vucinic ahead of FC Barcelona and Spain striker Bojan, and the Real Madrid and Holland midfielder, Wesley Sneijder.

Monday 2nd December
If I didn't realise how much competition we would be up against for these players, I was soon put in the picture. BATE Borisov, Naftan Novopolotsk and new Highest League Champions for the first time, MTZ-Ripo Minsk. We appear to be holding our own though, as Dnepr Mogilev and Neman Grodno also make offers to players we are interested in.

Thursday 5th December
Right back Igor Shitov is a genuine International calibre player, but he has rejected our offer. However, he has now parted ways with his club, Lillestrøm SK of the Norwegian Premier Division, where he wasn't really getting regular First Team football. As he is now without a club, we send him a new offer, just in case unemployment has changed his stance.

We have definitely missed out on the signature of 24 year old Ukrainian defensive midfielder Yuriy Konshyn. A big part of the Shakhter Soligorsk side that finished comfortably in mid table this year, they were unable to agree a new deal with the 6'4 player, and he has rejected a host of clubs from Russia and Ukraine as well as ourselves, and has agreed to return to his homeland to play for FC Obolon Kiev. Our day is completed by a rejection from an attacking midfielder who has left rivals Dinamo Minsk.

Friday 6th December
While it didn't look like it at the start of the day, Friday would turn out to be a much more successful day. At 6'2 and just 20 years old, Ukrainian striker Andriy Yaroshenko is already very familiar with this city, as he has spent three years living here while failing to break into the side of FC Minsk after they paid £9,000 for him from Stal Dniprodzergyns'k. Now we are trying to convince him to move across the city from a club that will be a real rival in 2014 after their relegation. He is keen, but wants an improved offer. Talks will continue.

If he does decide to join us, he will find a new team mate who has been in a very similar situation. 25 year old Alexandr Raevskiy spent his early years with Dnepr Mogilev, before making his dream move to Dinamo Minsk. It all turned a little sour for the winger who can operate on either side however, as he made just four League appearances in two seasons. He will be hoping for a more important role at Lokomotiv Stadium, as he signs a two year deal to join us. The full backs of the second tier are going to hate dealing with this lads pace. The fans are delighted with this news, turning up at the Stadium to greet their new player. This one is seen as quite as a coup for us.

Saturday 7th December
Another player who is a little further down the line in his career was believed to be close to signing for us. Now at the last moment, several other clubs have made offers to the player who has almost 400 Senior League matches under his belt. I have made sure the offer is the best I can do, so if he does decide to go elsewhere, I will sleep easily knowing I had done all I could to get him here. The fact that we're even mentioned in the conversation to sign players like this is raising the profile of the club.

Our attempts to sign a one time capped Belarus International striker who has just decided to leave his club looks a little far fetched according to those in the media. While I agree it's a long shot, there isn't a huge amount of competition for his signature, so you never know.

Sunday 8th December
This doesn't have the look of a successful day. We start with a disappointment, as Torpedo Zhodino's combative midfielder Andrey Zaleskiy has rejected our offer. Reports suggest that he is holding out for an offer to join Naftan Novopolotsk, who have finished third and would be able to offer him UEFA Europa League football potentially. That certainly looks like a deal breaker for attacking midfielder Andrey Chukhley, the 26 year old twice capped Belarus International is their newest player, having rejected our offer.

Also rejecting our offer today is the now unemployed, but one of the most highly regarded young strikers in the country, Sergey Vaganov. The Russian Under-21 International saw his first season in Belarus end in relegation at FC Vitebsk, where it's said the fans would have liked to have seen him given more chances, as he scored three times in six League matches. The former Alania Vladikavkaz and FC Rostov player is certainly not lacking for suitors.

Monday 9th December
The 2012 National Champions and 2013 Cup Winners of FC Gomel have joined the race today to sign the experienced player we thought we were favourites to sign over the early part of the weekend. The presence of a contract offer for them does little for our chances.

Tuesday 10th December
The race to sign International right back Igor Shitov is over, and we have not been successful, as he has rejected our offer to link up with renowned manager Yuriy Puntus and his newly crowned National Champions from MTZ-Ripo Minsk. It hurts to even say those words about one of the other clubs in a city that barely knows we exist yet. When I see the terms he signed for, I can't help but be a little disappointed. Financially speaking, we were not very far away at all.

We console ourselves later in the day, with the news that we have got a deal over the line, and have stolen the signature of promising 20 year old Ukrainian striker Andriy Yaroshenko from FC Minsk. If ever there was a case of turning up at a club and saying all the right things, this was it too. He told the local media and fans that he was delighted to have another chance to play his football in the capital city, and he was hoping to fire in the goals that would bring a Title to Lokomotiv. Talk about an instant hit with the fans.

Friday 13th December
Sergey Vaganov has already rejected one contract offer from us, and he doubled that total on the day of the unlucky, as he again rejects an offer to play for Lokomotiv. The backroom staff suggest there is little point trying to convince the highly rated youngster his future lies with us, but I ignore them and attempt to put together an improved package. 

Saturday 14th December
I thought yesterday was supposed to be the unlucky day, but it felt like it had gone into Extra Time this morning. The sports pages were all full of stories suggesting that Anzhi Makhachkala were about to test our resolve to keep Georgy Schennikov. That wasn't too much of an issue, these rumours had been around for months on end now. But the player himself has pretty much kept his mouth closed on the subject, until now. He tells the media that while he is happy at Lokomotiv, he owes it to himself to keep his options open, and should an acceptable offer come in, he would certainly be open to discussing a move to a higher level. That statement alone adds another half a dozen clubs to the list of admirers.

Still, it isn't all bad news for us. Far from it actually. As after last Friday's success of signing Alexandr Raevskiy, we have followed that up today with a second blockbuster signing! Yes, that's right, the hugely experienced player we've been chasing rejected not just one, but four top tier clubs, including the last three National Champions, to sign for us! It's a two year deal for 32 year old former Dnepr Mogilev, FC Gomel and Dinamo Brest player Sergey Kozak. A very attacking right sided player who can play anywhere down that flank but prefers the wing back role, he has notched 46 goals and 42 assists in 360 League appearances in his career so far, almost all of which has been played in the top tier. It's another cause for celebration for our long suffering fans, who are now started to get genuinely excited at the quality we have brought into the club.

Saturday 21st December
With less then six months to go to the FIFA World Cup, the governing body of football are now already making preparations for the 2022 version of the planet's showpiece football tournament. Mexico are considered to be one of the favourites, but there are also strong bids from Australia and Uruguay

Sunday 22nd December
There are still a few players that I would love to bring to the club, but they are now players who have already rejected contracts, in some cases multiple contract offers. That doesn't stop me sending another offer out to a classy defensive midfielder when he makes the decision to leave BATE Borisov. The competition will be strong.

Thursday 26th December
The highly rated 20 year old Russian striker will not be strutting his stuff at Lokomotiv Stadium. No, instead Sergey Vaganov has agreed a deal to sign for Naftan Novopolotsk, rejecting offers to move back to Russia with Anzhi Makhachkala and Sibir Novosibirsk in the process.

Sunday 29th December
It's quite the squad that Naftan Novopolotsk are putting together, as they today capture the signing of the former BATE defensive midfielder that we were hoping to sign. Alexey Zaytsev turned down FC Gomel as well as ourselves, and clearly it wasn't a money issue. We offered him double what Naftan will pay him.

Tuesday 31st December
The final day of the year, and the final signing of the year. It's a loan deal that was offered by Amkar Perm due to our association with the Russian Premier Division club. They are proposing to send us 21 year old centre back Artur Grigorenko for the 2014 season. I'm on the fence as to how useful he is going to be for us, they have had him on their books for seven years and he has never played for the First Team. I agree to the deal, but we will have to see how he does. If he isn't going to improve us, he will be sent right back to Russia. There are two other players I'd much rather have taken from Amkar, and the question is asked.

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Wednesday 1st January 2014
New Year, new job? Well apparently not. Don't get me wrong, the Board are not yet ready to commission a statue of me outside Lokomotiv Stadium, but they are not ridiculously upset either. They think I should be performing better, and their biggest issue is our fifth placed finish in the First League when I had told them we would get promoted. However, with all the unhappy players now gone, and my continued tight control over the wage budget, my job remains in a secure state as I enter the final eleven months of my contract here in Minsk. We recorded a loss of £61,000 in December, currently showing a bank balance of £313,924.

Thursday 2nd January
I did mention previously that I wasn't particularly impressed by the quality of the players that Amkar Perm have been sending us on loan, so I decided to approach them myself and make offers to loan two players who I thought would be of use to us. I'm told that we absolutely could not have them, which is what I suspected. I'm not sure that this agreement is of any real benefit to us, aside from the £15,000 a season they are giving us.

Sunday 5th January
So we were not getting any joy from dealing with Amkar Perm, but it was considerably easier dealing with another Russian club. Salyut-Energia Belgorod is a club we have dealt with before, and while we don't have an official relationship with them, relations are friendly. They have a sizeable group of Belarusian players, the city laying comparatively close to the Belarus border, at least by Russian standards, around 350 miles east of our border. Two of our former players are currently in their squad, Pavel Lyutsko and Denis Sysoev.

Now one of their former players joins our squad, as we have agreed a deal to sign 22 year old centre midfielder Artem Usov on a Free Transfer. It's a return to Belarus for the Rechitsa born player who broke into the Vedrich squad as a teenager in 2010, before making the move to Minsk in 2012 with Darida-TDZh. He had a good season with them, earning a move to Russia with Salyut, but not getting as much game time as he would have liked last season, playing only five times as they were relegated from the second tier and into regional non-League football. His pace may well be wasted in the centre of the park, but his creativity and precise passing will however, be quite an asset. It's likely he will be a squad player for us to start with at least.

Monday 6th January
Artem Usov arrives just in time to start pre-season training with the rest of his new team mates, as the squad assemble together after their close season break. Everyone reports back in good condition, and there are no injuries to report. A good pre-season is a must for us, as we need a fast start in the League.

Friday 17th January
BATE Borisov are playing games with us. I got word that their 18 year old hot prospect striker Anatoliy Kolotsey was available for loan. I made them an offer, which included covering all his wages. They rejected our offer, telling us they didn't wish to loan him out as he was required as backup for their First Team. Less than 24 hours later, they allowed him to move out on loan to Dinamo Brest instead. They are clearly holding a grudge that we have pinched a few players from them over the last year or so. 

Sunday 19th January
21 year old Nikolay Feoktistov was a player that I had a real interest in bringing to Lokomotiv. It was just not meant to be though, as when Belshina Bobruisk did finally decide to sell, it was at a point when the Transfer Budget was empty, and I couldn't really justify bringing in a player who was too similar to the pieces I already had in my midfield. So instead, he has signed for Dnepr Mogilev.

Monday 20th January
A player I really would still like to bring in is former Dinamo Minsk attacking midfielder Andrey Tsevan. They cut the 27 year old loose at the end of the season, and despite multiple offers, including from us, he still hasn't signed anywhere yet. I'm going to have another go at trying to get him to move across the city, but it doesn't look too hopeful. He has an offer to go and play in Algeria, and judging by the look of the bidding team, they seem to have a fair bit of cash to splash out too. There is also interest from clubs in Holland, Portugal, Spain and Turkey.

Friday 24th January
Either those clubs flung across continental Europe were not that interested, or they left it too late to make their move. Because when it came down to the brass tacks of it, Andrey Tsevan had only two options. One was from us, and the other was from the moneybags Algerian side of Jeunesse Sportive de Kabylie. Send us a postcard won't you fella?

Saturday 25th January
So I had to focus my attention elsewhere, 32 year old free agent Ukrainian centre back Anton Monakhov. He wanted £900 a week, I offered him £550 and a the best signing on fee and bonus package I could put together. I suspect that is unlikely to be enough, as top tier side Torpedo Zhodino have also made an offer.

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Saturday 1st February 2014
After we received our money from Amkar Perm last month, it's now time for us to shell out some cash. We pay just over £2,000 apiece to Russian non-League club Lokomotiv ATP Ruzaevka and another non-League side in the Ukraine, this time Inter Boyarka. As it stands, they don't have a talented player between them worth us considering.

We'd have been better off keeping the cash and trying to make a better offer for Ukrainian centre back Anton Monakhov, who has rejected the deal we put on the table for him and instead signed a two year contract with Torpedo Zhodino, a one season contract, put paying about 40% more than we could offer.

My monthly review didn't have anything new to report, other than the fact that we have lost another £26,000 over the last month.

Monday 3rd February
Artem Usov has got too used to all that nice weather they have in Russia. A few days back in Belarus and he has picked up a cold. He's sent home from training, and will miss the rest of the week.

Wednesday 5th February
He'll be back in plenty of time for our pre-season fixture list to start. Half a dozen matches, a good mix of opponents, and an even split of home and away matches. We start on the 3rd of March, away to non-League side FC Gorki. That will be followed by a visit from the new National Champions of Belarus, as MTZ-Ripo Minsk cross the city to face us on Friday 7th March. They will be quickly followed by top tier rivals Dnepr Mogilev the following Tuesday, which is the 11th March. Our final home match of the schedule will be the following weekend, as on Sunday 16th March we host FC Vitebsk, a Higher League side last season, but they will be playing in the First League with us this coming campaign. We will finish with a pair of away matches against non-League clubs, firstly against Volna Pinsk on Thursday 20th March, and finally against FC Orsha on Monday 24th March.

17 year old left winger Yury Murashov, marked down as potentially able to play a part in the First Team squad when needed this year, is going to miss the next three to four weeks with a twisted ankle after a heavy fall in training. He is likely to miss the first couple of pre-season games now as well, and will be playing catch up for a while.

Saturday 8th February
Dmitry Chaka has been sent home from training after picking up the flu. The 23 year old right back won't be permitted to return to the training ground for at least a week to minimise the risk of him passing it on to anybody else.

Monday 10th February
There are more injuries to contend with, as new signing Pavel Rybak will be out for anything up to a week. The centre back has suffered a concussion after a clash of heads in training. Of less concern will be the injury to sixteen year centre midfielder and Armenia Under-21 International player, Norayr Ghazaryan. He has suffered a wrist injury will lifting weights, and will be out for anything up to a fortnight.

Thursday 13th February
It's the annual awards night hosted by the Belarusian FA. and Alexey Rios is recognised as the First League player with the highest average rating over the course of the season. It is not all good news though, as for the second successive season we also have in our squad the player named as the worst signing in the First League. Last year it was Djeykhun Mursalov, and I didn't dare contest it. This year it is Egor Romanovskiy, and I think that's a little harsh on the teenage right back, as he didn't play a huge amount of football. Over time, I suspect he will prove well worthy of his £12,000 transfer fee.

Friday 14th February
As is traditional, the night after the FA's Awards Night, the club holds it's own ceremony. This year it is Alexey Rios who is named Player of the Year by the fans, succeeding Nikolay Shvydakov. There are no real surprises in the Team of the Year, as Yuriy Ryzhko is selected ahead of Igor Zangiev in the midfield, and Lukasz Zuk is the second striker in the two positions that would have created the biggest debates. Five of the seven players selected on the bench have now left us and moved on to new clubs. Even Maxim Gukailo now has a team after leaving by mutual consent. He has crossed the city to join our new Division rivals, FC Minsk.

On of our players has also been inducted into the Lokomotiv Minsk Best Ever XI tonight. The player honoured is Georgy Schennikov, the Russian left winger selected as a substitute, so not actually included in the Best Ever XI at all. Only one player from our current squad is selected in the actual Best Ever XI, and that is young goalkeeper Dmitry Biryukov. He was inducted last year, but only included as a substitute. This year he has been promoted into the team.

The fixtures have been released for the new campaign, and we will begin the 2014 season with a home match against Mikashevichi, followed by an away match with Slavia Mozyr. We will then return back to the Lokomotiv Stadium to play host to Vertical Kalinkovichi. Two dates are scheduled in to play FC Minsk, as we are away to them on 10th May, taking them on at home on 14th September.

We have been given £50,000 for the new seasons TV rights, for which the Board have set a target of winning promotion. To help achieve that target, they have given us a Transfer Budget of £50,000, alongside a Wage Budget of £11,000. Right now we are spending just over £7,500 of that.

Both Dnepr Mogilev and FC Vitebsk are involved in the Federation Cup tournament, which means they have both cancelled their pre-season matches with us, leaving us down to four fixtures before we play our Belarusian Cup Quarter-Final tie with FC Gomel, and then moving into the League fixture list.

It's that time of the year where we welcome some new young players to the club through the Youth Intake. Just like every other club, we hope to find a 'wonderkid' amongst the youngsters who arrive. Nine players have joined us, eight from Minsk, and one from Zhdanovichi, about an hour or so outside the city. So we have a goalkeeper who doesn't look like he has what it takes, and a right wing back who isn't any better. The pick of the bunch is probably 16 year old 6'2 centre back Alexandr Kirsanov. It's not very often I agree with the backroom staff's assessment of the best potential talent in an Intake, but there's not much doubt here. In fact, if he can improve his marking, he won't be far of competing for a First Team spot.

The defensive midfielder in the group isn't up to much, while the right winger has some serious pace, but not too much else about him. The left winger is the lad from out of town, and has a bit more balance about his game. Don't expect too much from the attacking midfielder, while finally is the striker, who is an interesting one. He's 6'4, and can jump like a salmon. But he isn't much good in the air, however he is quick and can finish. Some of these players need a chance to play some football, and a loan move might be a good idea.

Monday 17th February
With a Transfer Budget now in place, I target one of Belarus' best young centre back prospects. We are not the only ones to spot the talent of 19 year old Mikashevichi's former Naftan Novopolotsk talent, Dmitriy Kovalev. The twice capped Under-21 International was one of the most often scouted players in the whole country last year. FC Vitebsk and Dinamo Brest have already had offers accepted, so we match their offer, £22,000. The offer was accepted, and by the end of the day we had also sent the youngster a contract offer.

Thursday 20th February
The finances for the club have been released, and we made a loss of £350,000 last year. That looks bad, and does amount to 65% of our turnover. However, details show the main expenditure was the wage bill, which was £600,000 for the season. That's good news for me, as I can't be held responsible, we were well under budget for the wages all year, and still are.

Friday 21st February
Unfortunately, Dmitriy Kovalev won't be coming to Lokomotiv Stadium. He has decided to accept the offer from Dinamo Brest and will move to the top tier club. We couldn't match the financial package they put together for the 19 year old centre back.

Saturday 22nd February
Once we again we shift our focus to another target. A 6'4 Ukrainian striker who has been averaging a goal every three games in Ukraine's second tier. He is back with the club that he started his career with after trying his luck with Dinamo Brest in 2011, pretty unsuccessfully I might add. I've offered £20,000 for the 23 year old. Right now his club are sitting on the offer, hoping one of the other interested clubs makes a better offer.

Thursday 27th February
They have bumped the price up by £2,000. It's not exactly the big squeeze, and we agree to their terms and raise the offer.

Friday 28th February
The offer is accepted, and we are granted permission to discuss terms with the players. He doesn't appear overly keen, but we offer him a deal, and now we wait to see what he thinks.

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Saturday 1st March 2014
Pre-Season matches kick off in just two days time, followed by three more over the three weeks after it. All appears forgiven by the Board in the monthly review, as they are now satisfied with my performance. My control of the wage budget is deemed to be the main reason why. A profit of £250,000 in February won't have hurt either.

Sunday 2nd March 
I'm chasing the signing of a 6'6 winger who can also play up front. 23 year old Ukrainian forward Miroslav Slavov is actually playing in the top tier in France right now for Girondins de Bordeaux, but has been Transfer Listed is available from them on a Free Transfer. He's keen to speak to us as well, which is a good sign. His also an Austrian passport holder, and started his career there with First Vienna.

Monday 3rd March

Pre-Season Friendly
Sputnik Stadium, Gorki
FC Gorki v Lokomotiv Minsk
Attendance :-
215. Weather :- Dry, 4c.

This should be a pretty straightforward starter to get into our stride and welcome the new lads into the club, while also allowing the players to get some game time under their belt. The starting lineup shows less than a handful of changes from last seasons first choice lineup, but the plan is to change all eleven players at the half time break. We have two new full backs, the experienced Sergey Kozak on the right, and the very inexperienced 17 year old Dmitry Kirillov on the left. There is a start in midfield for Artem Usov, selected to partner Eduard Chudnovsky in the engine room, while it's a very experienced strike force, Ivan Shelest playing alongside skipper Nikolay Shvydakov. Seven more new players are named amongst the substitutes.

We were at our hosts early and often, pulling their defence left and right across the park as we switched the ball from wing to wing. A couple of early corners didn't help us find a way through, a free kick should have done in the 10th minute. Artem Usov swung it over from the right touchline to the far post, Georgy Schennikov headed it back across goal, and Alexey Rios was unmarked five yards out, but shanked his shot wide. The chances continued to pile up, Rios beating several men and finding Eduard Chudnovsky, who's diagonal through ball picked out Ivan Shelest. The striker found the bottom corner of the net, the offside flag halting his celebration. Two minutes later Shelest was first to the ball after Schennikov's free kick picked out Maxim Gorbach, and his header was blocked by keeper Andrey Yurkevich. The follow up by Shelest was also blocked, but it fell to debutant left back Dmitry Kirillov, and he forced the ball home. And with that, the floodgates were open. Dmitry Biryukov distributed the ball short to Kirillov, and he lifted the ball down the left and over the Gorki defence, picking out the run of Shelest who carried on into the box and slid his low shot under the keeper to make it 2-0. Just after the half hour, we got our third, Schennikov sent in another free kick, and this time Gorbach hit the target himself, looping his header into the far corner. Less than ten minutes later, he was even more emphatic, powering his header into the same spot from an Chudnovsky corner. Four goals up at the break, and doing exactly what was expected from us.

I made a full eleven substitute change around at the break, which made no difference whatsoever to our dominance. Egor Romanovskiy sent a pass into the box for Dmitriy Kuzminich, and keeper Yurkevich had to pull out a great stop to keep our new striker off the scoresheet. From the corner, Alexandr Kozlov picked out new centre back Alexandr Zagovalko, but his glanced header was kicked off the line. They only managed to keep him out for a few moments though, Alexandr Raevskiy delivered a corner from the other side, and the Zagovalko found the net this time, his header going in off the inside of the post. Midway through the half, Raevisky's driven cross from a free kick was pushed away by sub keeper Sergey Petrov, but it only went as far as Igor Zangiev at the edge of the box, the midfielders effort to pick out the top corner was only just off target. Number six wasn't far away though, Romanovskiy's free kick from the right went all the way through to Kozlov on the left, and he sent a low cross into the middle for Artem Koryagin, who's low shot beat Petrov and ticked the scoreboard over once more. Kozlov almost provided another shortly after, his free kick delivery picked out Raevskiy, his header caught by Petrov. With a little under five minutes to play, Raevskiy sent the ball down the right for Kuzminich to chase. The striker got to the byline and lifted the ball towards the far post and Koryagin, but Vadim Sergeev got there first, heading the ball into his own net. Koryagin nearly added to his own total in the last minute, but his show shot came back off the post. Gorki were happy to give us one more chance yet though, as in injury time Kozlov was felled in the box by Dmitriy Kravchenko, and Andriy Bogdanov placed his kick right into the corner to complete a comprehensive and easy victory to kick off pre-season.

FC Gorki (0) 0
Lokomotiv Minsk (4) 8
Dmitry Kirillov (17), Ivan Shelest (22), Maxim Gorbach (31,39), Alexandr Zagovalko (58), Artem Koryagin (68), Vadim Sergeev (86 og), Andriy Bogdanov (90+2 pen)
Dmitry Biryukov (Gennady Burmistrov 45); Sergey Kozak (Egor Romanovskiy 45), Vladimir Malykh (Pavel Rybak 45), Maxim Gorbach (Alexandr Zagovalko 45); Artem Usov (Igor Zangiev 45), Eduard Chudnovsky (Andiy Bogdanov 45); Alexey Rios (Alexandr Raevskiy 45), Georgy Schennikov (Alexandr Kozlov 45); Ivan Shelest (Artem Koryagin 45), Nikolay Shvydakov © (Dmitriy Kuzminich 45).

Unused Substitute :- Bogdan Dykyy
Bookings :- None
Possession :- 35% - 65%. Man of the Match :- Maxim Gorbach (Lokomotiv Minsk).

That's the way to kick off a pre-season, as we strolled to a comprehensive victory over a side who were ill prepared to cope with our speed and skill in their end of the park. That is very unlikely to be the case next time out, when we host the new National Champions from across the city, as MTZ-Ripo Minsk pay a visit to the Lokomotiv Stadium on Friday evening.

Wednesday 5th March
We will have another new player available for selection when that match comes around, as we complete the signing of a new striker. 23 year old 6'4 Ukrainian forward Rollan Pogoreltsev has agreed to sign on a two season deal for £500 a week from Ukrainian First League side, FC IgroService Simferopol, a deal we have paid £22,000 to complete. It was his second spell with that club, and not quite as successful as his first. When he was there originally, he found the net thirty times, which earned him a move to Belarus with Dinamo Brest. When that didn't work out, he returned home with Dnister Ovidiopol, and then back to IgroService. He is an absolute handful for opposition defenders in the air, and has a good enough first touch and strength that he should be able to hold the ball up well for the skilled players around him too. The fans are certainly excited to have him at the club.

Thursday 6th March
The fans are also looking forward to that big Friendly match tomorrow night, as we prepare to host MTZ-Ripo Minsk, who are fresh from celebrating their first ever National Title, ten years after winning their first ever First League Title. They have won the Belarusian Cup twice during that time as well, also adding a pair of Federation Cup successes as well. Yes, there is much to look forward to tomorrow, but not for me. As things are about to take a turn here........

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Friday 7th March 2014
So here is how it went down. I arrived at the stadium a few hours before kick off, nothing strange there. I was asked to report right to the Boardroom, a little strange. There, I was told that I had been suspended by the club on full pay until further notice. I was given very little further information. My request to see my backroom staff and give them some orders for the evenings match was rejected, and around half an hour after I arrived, I was escorted from the Stadium, two security guards flanking me as I made my way, fortunately before any fans or media arrived.

My absence from the touchline was given no explanation, Denys Panashenko, my Assistant Manager was put in charge of the match for today, and he kept my system, tactics and team largely in place. It was cold and windy, with the temperature down to around freezing by the time the game started. MTZ-Ripo scored twice in the opening half hour, before we quickly pulled one back, Nikolay Shvydakov capitalising on an horrendous mistake by the MTZ keeper Alexandr Sulima, as he came for a free kick he had no chance of getting to, and left the skipper with an open net to volley the ball into. That would be as good as it got though, MTZ netting twice more before the break for a 4-1 half time lead, one of the goals coming from the spot. Panashenko made three changes at the break, including the introduction of new signing Rollan Pogoreltsev, followed by changing the rest of the side midway through the second half. With MTZ also making changes, we started to gain a good foothold in the match, and Alexandr Raevskiy netted a late consolation goal, the match finishing 4-2 to the National Champions.

After the match, every player and staff member was instructed to answer any questions about my absence with a 'no comment' reply, anybody found to have gone against the instruction would face disciplinary action from the club. Meanwhile, I was still none the wiser as to why I had been suspended at all, but I did now know that we had missed out on the signing of Girondins de Bourdeaux winger Miroslav Slavov, as he had instead decided to sign for Austrian non-League side SC Bregenz. That deal would be completed in the summer.

Saturday 8th March
Still no word from the club officially, but a lot of rumours are now starting to swirl as to why Lokomotiv have suspended me from my role at the club.

Sunday 9th March
The muddy waters are starting to become a little clearer. The club have received an approach from another club for my services, and they have provisionally agreed to allow me to discuss terms with the club, pending agreement on a compensation package with the club. The club involved were confident enough that wouldn't be an issue, and that I would want the job, to go ahead and sack their existing manager this afternoon.

'But what if I don't want to take the job? What if I don't wish to leave Lokomotiv at all?' The answer to that stunned me somewhat. 'We recommend you give very careful consideration before you reject the offer. We are expecting to receive compensation from the interested club, and given the fact that you were unable to deliver on your promise of promotion last season, we have decided to look into other options, and we have identified our next manager. Your contract is up at the end of the new season, and we are looking into a possible termination if we can agree a deal with the new guy.'

I thought I had made it through the worst of the backlash, but obviously that wasn't the case. I was told that with a gap of well over a week until the next match for Lokomotiv, they were happy for me to leave tomorrow and go to speak to the interested club, take in a game, and make my decision. It didn't sound like I had much to lose, or a huge amount of choice.

Monday 10th March
I head to the airport, taking enough clothes for a few days. There, I was met and taken to the clubs ground, where I was met by the Chairman and the clubs Board. We discussed a provisional deal, and I offered my opinions on what would be the best way to take the club forward. They are in the midst of a mighty relegation battle, sitting 21st in a 22 club Division, with the bottom three relegated. They are three points from safety. They play tomorrow night, away from home against a club chasing promotion. I'm invited along to watch the match, which could obviously set tongues wagging.

Tuesday 11th March
I accepted their offer, and took a seat in the main stand of their opponents, recognised by very few people at all. I sat and watched on as the club I was in discussions with were absolutely taken apart, scoring an own goal to fall behind, and then losing their left back, one of their best players, on the half hour mark. He's not good enough to explain how they then conceded four goals in eight minutes, going in 5-0 down at the break. A consolation goal ten minutes from time was simply that.

I can see why they're in trouble, and where improvements are needed. Everywhere. The keeper isn't good enough, you could drive a bus through their defence without them being alert enough to notice, the midfielders have no guts or match savvy, while the wingers couldn't deliver a cross in a church. Who knows how good the strikers are, they don't get enough of the ball. It would be a mammoth task keeping them up.

Wednesday 12th March
It's a mammoth task that I can't say no to. I sign the deal, and the club contacts Lokomotiv to let them know that I am on my way back to do the necessary with them, and pack up my belongings. There is sadness and regret, I badly wanted to succeed in Belarus, and bring a Minsk side into the top tier and make them one of the nations top sides. But it wasn't to be, and it's time to move on again, this time to the fourth club of my career.

Lokomotiv Minsk (26/7/2012 - 12/3/2014) 595 days in charge

Honours :- 

Lokomotiv Minsk Record :- 
GP 54. W 30. D 11. L 13. GF 85. GA 55. GD +30. Win Percentage 55.5% 

Overall Career Record :- 
GP 217. W 117. D 48. L 52. GF 365. GA 235. GD +130. Win Percentage 53.9%

Highest Transfer Fee Paid :- £60,000 for Djeykhun Mursalov 4/8/2012
Highest Transfer Fee Received :- £5,000 for Mariusz Kaczmarek 1/12/2013

Manager of the Month Awards :- 7 (1 with Lurgan Celtic, 3 with Ayr United, 3 with Lokomotiv Minsk)
Total Career Earnings :- £55,000


So Chapter Three has come to a rather bitter conclusion. I failed to bring any success to Lokomotiv, other than a big improvement in their competitiveness in the 2013 campaign compared to the year before. Ultimately however, the Board at the club didn't believe in my ability to bring success in the form of promotion to the club in the final year of my contract, and they had my successor lined up before I was even out of the job.

My career is not going how I planned, and we are nearly six years into the save now. I have won nothing of note, my reputation isn't improving, despite being an International Manager, and there is every possibility that things may get worse way before they get any better. Keep an eye out for Chapter Four of this save, my attempt to get my career back on the rails after failure at Lokomotiv.


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21 hours ago, oche balboa said:

Good stuff, Enjoyed this story. Good luck wherever you go next

Cheers Oche. Glad you enjoyed it mate, wish it had been a bit more successful. New job already underway.

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