Wow, just wow.
My boys came good again after that January review in Heathens resurrected #10: megs by winning the playoff final in stunning style after a great and (has to be said) fortunate run-in, meaning we are now a Sky Bet Championship side:
As always in my saves, we finished strong in the second half of the season after addressing my very simple objectives from January, which were to a) score more goals and b) don’t draw as many games and at the start of February it started to kick in good style. We had only picked up 16 points in the previous 10 games, but from the next 10 we picked up 24, which put us easily into the playoffs in a very frustrating 3rd place behind the auto-promoted Portsmouth and Rotherham.
Here’s a more detailed analysis with a proper 50/50 season split (actually from Aug to 16th Dec and 22nd Dec to May) to show how we improved, bearing in mind some of the second half losses and draws were from before I had made those January changes:Not a lot of points difference you might say, but with less draws and a lot more goals I was very happy. To put it into context, if I hadn’t gained those 13 pts in the second half I would have finished in 11th instead of 3rd.
In terms of how I did this, a lot of it was down to the ‘NEW SEXY SCORE 10 MORE THAN YOU 442′ from Heathens resurrected #10: megs and a sexy tickbox, which just to remind you is this:As you can see, it’s pretty positive and it exploits my natural possession advantage ( I had more possession in all but 4 games apart from against the league leaders) by adding more creativity (‘be more expressive’); width (‘exploit left/right flanks’) and more attacking options by changing Shayne Lavery, a natural striker to an IF as well as putting Harper on BBM and fullbacks on support. A nice added bonus was that after coming back from injury Lavery couldn’t find the net as a ST but scored a basketload from the IF position as well as assists, completely saving his season.
So what about the playoffs?
So that’s the background, but what about the playoffs? Well first of all we started with a very tetchy 2-1 away defeat to Walsall in the first leg, when I had been much more over confident than I should have been with the above home tactic as I had well beaten Walsall twice in the league already. But as we know, playoffs can be a totally random kick up the arse and in reality I got seriously mauled for my complacency with a stinging defeat where we just didn’t turn up on the day.
That said, I knew my stunning home form would kick in and in front of my first capacity crowd of 12,000 (new stadium anyone?) we absolutely battered them in one of my favourite games of the season. Here is a tweet for my favourite goal of the whole 4 season campaign so far, which shows my tactic off perfectly, namely building from the back with short or medium passing on the counter with players involved in more than one phase (if you click it you will be able to view the video):
The player stats for this game were incredible, but most notably one player stood out, my little pal the ex Real Madrid DLP Martin Calderon as featured in Heathens resurrected #8: Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Michael Dal Basco, who completed a record 103 passes to completely dominate the game. If you haven’t read that post, the point was that I sold Dal Basco after a random 500k bid and bought Calderon. Who’d have thought he would have such an influence, scoring his highest rating of the whole season in arguably our most pivotal game? What a star and what a buy.
So onwards to Wembley and the final against Coventry! Having battered them senseless twice in the League, neither me nor the lads feared them and we went with our home tactic again, with a few minor tweaks. The suit (t-shirt) came out and I had the great pleasure of live tweeting the action (I created this twitter ‘moment’ from it if you fancy checking it out, all good fun).
As for tactics, it was all as you were with just a minor tweak in dropping in Calderon back into that DLP role to work his magic again.
Early doors Coventry were not even in the game as we totally dominated possession. Calderon did his job again and swept up any loose balls in the DM strata, with massive pass combinations between him and his fellow midfielders. After 7 minutes we were 2 nil up before Coventry scored on a breakaway fluke goal with their only shot of the game thus far. By half time we were 2-1 still and I dropped a little bit deeper on counter as Coventry were proper having a go at us. A proper ding dong battle ensued with both of us sharing another 2 pretty average goals until this point:
Thankfully though we held on and the crowd of 52,000 at Wembley and 12,000 of our own fans at Bank Street watching on the big screens, witnessed the Heathens being promoted to the second tier of English football for the first time since 1997.
And with that, my friends, there’s not much more to say for now except job done and see you next season in the goddamn Sky Bet Championship 🙂