I jolt awake once again. I keep having the same dream over and over. I’m walking up the gravel path towards Monte Brasil, watching the clouds change colour and shape above me. I keep walking, climbing higher and higher up the winding path. For a while a golden retriever appears and trots happily alongside me, before disappearing into thin air. The dream always ends the same way. I reach the pinnacle of Pico das Cruzinhas. I get to the view point overlooking Hero Creek but something’s wrong. Somebody’s there… or something’s there. And then I’m falling, and the ground is rushing forward to meet me… I try to hold onto the memory of my dream but it just keeps slipping out of my grasp.
As my eyes adjust to the light I remember that I’m on the plane, travelling to our next match. Aljustrelense aren’t a particularly threatening opponent. They’re sitting 7th in our group, level with Évora, Viana and Amora below them on 7 points. So really, they’re joint last. They’ve won 1 match out of 10 so we should be brushing them aside.
Mind you, our first loss of the season has thrown me off slightly. I feel like we need an injection to get us going again, to ensure that we don’t start to spiral. In a departure from my usual starting lineup, I bring in Coelho, a potentially very good fullback that I’ve largely ignored so far since signing him, Rúby, a potentially very good ball winner that hasn’t been able to break into our solid midfield, and Batista, a winger that’s chock-full of potential and who I just think could do with the playing time.
Ok I’m worried. This is the 4th league match in a row where we’ve offered absolutely S.F.A in the first half. At least against Belenenses we started well before falling off a cliff. The first thing of note that happens is in the 54th minute, when André Luís takes a dislike to Hurley and so tries to break his leg with a 2 footed lunge, earning himself a straight red. A few minutes later I bring off Batista and replace him with Amonike, in the hopes that fresh legs against 10 men will make something happen.
And something does happen, although I can’t really credit the substitution. With 25 minutes to go Rúby receives the ball on the edge of the area after Coelho’s chip from the left, and drills a shot into the bottom corner to put us ahead.
10 minutes later I bring on Renato Silva for Magina. That does the trick. Just a couple of minutes later, the young striker’s shot is blocked and Amonike gets to the rebound and doubles our lead.
Shortly afterwards, Silva gets a goal for himself, drilling the ball home after a Hurley pass set him up.
And pretty much straight from kick off, Antunes plays a long ball over the top, Silva beats Dias to the ball and slots it home. 4-0.
I bring on Wilson Dias for a rare appearance in place of Antunes, and Liu Yuhao goes close to pulling a goal back with a shot that just flies wide, but it’s not until injury time that Aljustrelense start to threaten. Matthew Silva cracks a shot against the post from 25 yards, and then Mota’s volley from a corner is blocked on the line by Miranda.
I’m not happy. Yes that’s silly. We won 4-0, but should I be happy with that? Can I be? Should I get the team a big card that says “Congrats on eventually beating one of the worst teams in the group after they had a man sent off”? I am impressed however with Renato Silva. After he showed such pre-season promise, culminating with a debut goal, he’s dropped off disappointingly, but he came on, scored 2 and inadvertently set up another to add some gloss and spare the rest of the team’s blushes.
I receive a pleasantly surprising call later in the week. As it turns out, I’ve been given the Manager of the Month award for November! And not even out of our group, out of the entire Championship! I’ll take that.
I’ve also been keeping a closer eye than usual on our Under 19 side lately. I’m aware that I picked the 3 most promising youth players when they came through our academy and have given them, and them alone, chances in the first team. I wasn’t entirely comfortable with the fact that I hadn’t given more youngsters a go so I’ve been following my youth team’s progress to look out for anyone else that’s deserving of a chance. Meet Thiago.
Thiago has been on my radar for a little while. He’s not quick, he’s got some maturing and some technical development to do, but my God he’s been putting in the performances for the Under 19’s. He’ll come in on the bench for the Évora match.
In other news, guess who wants to leave again? Good old CM9.
“I’m growing tired of this, Cristiano.” I told him bluntly when he came to see me. I understand why he wants to join Levadeiakos, they’re 3rd in the Greek Superleague. But I can’t let him go. Maybe at the end of the Season things will be different. Maybe if we win promotion we’ll be able to bring in a good enough replacement, but we’ve got no chance of getting one while we’re in the Championship. Selling him might solve the problem of Hélder Arruda though. I’ve not been able to give him nearly as much game time as I’d like, but I don’t think he could step into Magina’s shoes. And besides, until a team makes me a decent offer, keeping him is a no-brainer. We’ve still not had any advance on £30k.
Anyway, to cut a long story short we had a row. He told me he could make my life very difficult if I forced him to stay and I told him that he’s dropped for the Juventude Évora match.
Speaking of, 3 cheers for them winning their first match of the season! They just bagged a 2-0 victory at home against Despertar, moving themselves up to 8th in the league.
I’m just about fed up with my “First Team” offering nothing in the first half of games, so I’m making mass changes. Will I use this match as a chance to give first team opportunities to players who haven’t featured much this season? Yes. Is it a risk against a team with new found confidence and perhaps even momentum? Try not to think about it.
We’ll hit them down the flanks and we’ll hit them fast. Serginho starts, but I’m even considering his place. His performance against Belenenses wasn’t the best. Serpa, Seidi (Our captain for the day), Olivier and Xéxé start across the back. Benjamim and Hurley keep their places in the centre, with Amonike, Antunes and Ávila behind Renato Silva. Magina watches from the stands.
There is early action, but not the kind that we want. Pereira slams a free kick off the bar after 17 minutes to put us on edge, and with 25 minutes gone, Ruizinho latches onto a Pestana through ball but shoots wide of the near post. The visitors are doing all of the threatening so far.
5 minutes later though, Hurley passes inside for Renato Silva, who rifles the ball in from 20 yards. That’s more like it. That’s 3 goals in 40 minutes from Renato now, if he keeps up that kind of goalscoring record I’ll pay for Magina’s flight to Greece myself.
Unfortunately our lead doesn’t last long. 10 minutes in fact. Benjamim slides in well to win the ball from Ruizinho, but Pestana picks up the loose ball and puts it in the bottom corner to equalise.
On the stroke of half time, Silva releases Benjamim inside the area, but the keeper closes down the angle well and saves his shot.
As we make our way tentatively into the second half, I bring on Coelho as a more attacking alternative to Xéxé, and Kevin for Ávila, who has had a quiet game.
Only a few minutes later, we break forward. Amonike gets away down the right wing, reaches the byline and drills the ball across goal. It goes through to Kevin at the far post, who shoots – straight at the post. The rebound comes back to him and this time he chips it back across goal. Amonike gets to it – and hits the other post. This isn’t going to be our day, is it?
With quarter of an hour to play, it’s Évora who have the final chance: Ruizinho plays through Pestana, who gets free in the box, but Coelho charges down his close range shot. I bring on Arruda for Amonike, but the rest of the match just flies by.
On one hand, I’m not happy. Of course I’m not. We’ve drawn our 2nd match of the season and it’s against lowly Évora. On the other, I can’t really blame anyone but myself. My mass changes didn’t pay off apart from Silva’s goal. We were unlucky with the Kevin/ Amonike incident, but we still should have won that.
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