Pinhalnovense are a good, but underachieving side. That’s a dangerous combination. You must have had this before. If you’re reading this, I’m willing to bet you’re a fan of a football team. You know that feeling when you see a good side that’s been struggling and struggling and then when your team plays them you’re sure that they’ll turn their poor form around against you? Yeah me too. I’ve been burned before as a fan and I don’t particularly want to be burned as a Manager.
I mentioned when we played Barreirense that I had singled out them and Pinhalnovense as the teams to watch out for at the start of the season, and it hasn’t really panned out as I expected. We’re top on 21 points and while Pinhalnovense are 3rd, and while they’ve only lost once, they’ve drawn 4 out of 7 games. This puts them comfortably behind us on 10 points but they’ll still be tough opposition.
We’ll go with Project: Meatloaf as it’s served us so well so far and it should prevent Pinhalnovense from pulling the shutters down in front of us. Batista gets another start on the right wing.
At half time I walk slowly into the silent dressing room, looking around at all the bowed heads. They know what they did. That was an awful 45 minutes. There was no action at all. No swagger. No chances. Pinhalnovense and the team bus they keep just in front of their net have done this against over half the teams they’ve played against this season, but they won’t do it to us. We’re a positive side that play nice football and score goals. The team and I enter into a frank discussion about where they’ve been keeping their fingers throughout the first half and I send them back out to win us the match. Except for Batista. He’s replaced by Amonike, who has been known to take matches like this by the scruff of the neck.
It takes 63 minutes for either side to carve out a noteworthy chance. Our half time substitute Amonike gets a cross into the 6 yard box and Magina bundles the ball into the net. The breakthrough is ours.
With 10 minutes to go I decide to make changes. This has been a remarkably poor match and I could sub most of the team, but I only have 2 subs left. Antunes and Kevin are replaced by the more defensively minded Seidi and Coelho, and we drop to a counter attacking 4-1-4-1.
With 8 minutes to go, Diogo Pirolo gets the ball on the right wing and crosses to the far post, and Anjos gets his head to the ball, guiding it past Serginho.
8 minutes pass without incident.
Right, I’ve had time to collect my thoughts and process my feelings. Here is my carefully worded statement on what just happened:
Fuck Pinhalnovense. Fuck them and fuck the budget Portuguese Tony Pulis they’ve got dragging them through exclusively defensive drills every miserable training session. Fuck them for Sernacheing us*, fuck them for ending our winning streak, fuck our team for letting them and fuck me for ever talking them up as true competition for the league. I predict they’ll pick up 18 points from 18 matches and I hope they get relegated, go bust, reform as Pinhalnovense Phoenix and go bust again.
OK, that’s better. Sometimes I need to get the emotional reaction out of the way so that I can focus on actually analysing the match. Well, the match itself is pretty straightforward, it was just football. When the rage faded and I took a step back, I realised it was a really bad match that neither team deserved to win. They didn’t deserve or really intend to get 3 points and we barely showed up. We couldn’t break them down and we fell asleep at the end. Maybe it was because I dropped us back and invited pressure, or maybe it was just one of those things, but we didn’t deserve the win either.
And let’s not forget that they ended our winning streak, not our unbeaten run. We’re still way ahead in the league and we’re still very much alive in the Taça de Portugal, so never mind. Let the scoundrels have their point, they need it.
I have a conversation a few days later that makes me very sad. It’s with Gonçalo Valadão, Meu Capitão e meu amigo. After 19 years in football and 19 years with Angrense, he’s hanging up his boots. I try to convince him to give us 1 more year. I’m not sure why, as I haven’t got any intention of playing him, but it’s a heart-ruling-head moment. His decision is final.
So, this last week’s been a bit of a downer really, hasn’t it. Fabril do Barreiro are next and they present an opportunity for us to get back on track. They were predicted 7th at the start of the season but are currently overachieving: they sit 5th on 11 points, the same as Pinhalnovense. But with more wins.
Fabril have been lining up lately with a narrow diamond formation so we’ll be using our lesser spotted Project: Meatloaf but attacking quickly down the wings system. I’ll think of a better name at some point. I’m taking Mauro Aires out of the lineup and giving Diogo Coelho his full debut as he’s pretty good going forward and should overlap well on the left. Amonike comes back in for Batista after his assist from the bench last week.
Less than 20 seconds into the match, João Coelho plays the ball forward into our half from the half way line. It bounces between Lassina Touré and Vitor Miranda and Terry Akpua latches onto it on the left. He gets a cross in to the far post, Diogo Coelho scuffs his clearance and Coutinho places it into the corner from 8 yards. It’s all going wrong.
For the next 20 minutes Fabril continue to come forward and control the match, so I tell the team to play on the counter. 2 minutes later we go close when from a cleared corner, the ball is chested down by Magina, but Hurley drills it just wide.
With a minute to go until half time I’m consulting my Portuguese phrase book to find unsavoury words to use in my team talk, but then another Amonike corner is nodded on at the near post by Olivier and headed in at the far post by Lassina Touré. That’s his first goal for us, and what a bloody good time to score it.
At half time I don’t use any of my new words, but I do commit them to memory for next time. I encourage the lads and tell us to go and control the game again in true Meatloaf style. Fabril will be shaken by our equaliser just before the break and we should be able to take advantage.
5 minutes after the restart, it becomes clear that Touré is really stepping it up. He plays the ball right over the top of the defence for Magina, who takes it down well and lays it off for Kevin to toe poke into the back of the net from the edge of the area.
A further 5 minutes passes before Amonike is set away down the right by Antunes. He gets to the byline and cuts the ball back for Magina, who takes a touch and thumps in our 3rd. We’re back.
Seidi and Aires come on for Hurley, who has been playing with a thigh strain since the 1st half, and Coelho, who is lacking match fitness but wasn’t too bad after his 20 second howler. We fall back into the safe, comfortable Heróis Original to see out the match.
Renato Silva gets a 15 minute run out and Akpua has a decent chance saved by Serginho, and the match is over. We’re back to winning ways.
Definition: To Sernache a fellow football club is to bore them to death and rob them of 2 points by playing awful, cagey, unentertaining football.
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