I am blinded. I’m blinded by the lights, and I’m blinded by the pain. The ground is cold and unforgiving against my back. The sudden silence is broken only by the scurrying of feet across the turf towards me. This can’t be the end. Not now. Not like this.
I awake in a cold sweat. My heart is hammering in my chest and my left leg is aching. I feel sick. I’ve not had that dream in a long time. I hate that dream. I dread it. Dragging myself out of bed, I force myself to think of something else. To think of Katowice. The aching starts to fade.
The half way point of the first stage of our season is fast approaching. 13 out of the 30 matches have been played and the final 2 games before we start playing our 2nd round of matches are against 4th placed Górnick Łęczna and 2nd placed Pogoń Szczecin, both away. I’m obviously expecting 2 tough matches, but we’ll have plenty of preparation time for them as they’re the only 2 matches we’ve got in the remainder of November.
Surprisingly, Górnik aren’t in great form. They’re 4th, but they recently had 3 0-1 losses in a row, followed by a 0-0 against underperforming Wisła Kraków and a 1-0 win against Jagiellonia. We aren’t making many changes today, but we are absolutely dropping Project: Meatloaf in favour of our usual, less fluid 4-2-3-1. We learned the hard way last time out that this team is not currently equipped to play fluid football. We’re also bringing in Gregurina to replace Bart, who’s picked up 4 yellows – A one match suspension in this division.
10 minutes in, Olejarka stretches his legs and dribbles forward powerfully. He reaches the edge of our box and shoots, but the ball flies comfortably wide.
Kevin dribbles forward himself on the half hour and springs Amonike, who’s got himself goal side of his marker on the right. His shot’s tame though and straight into the arms of Berkovec.
It’s another scrappy and even match, and nothing much has happened by the time I make my 67th minute double sub, bringing Aaron Kwarko and Michal Tarnowski on for Amonike and Grzegorz Goncerz.
5 minutes later though, Spiaczka plays a pass over the top for Grzelczak, who places it past Nowak and into the bottom corner of the net. With not much time left, we need to put our game faces on. We go attacking.
It only takes a few minutes to claw our way back into the game. Fossy receives the ball from Tarnowski and plays a great pass over the top for Kwarko. The towering winger takes the ball down and pokes it under the keeper to equalise.
With momentum on our side, we keep attacking in the hopes that we can find a deciding goal, but with 5 minutes to go, Grzelczak plays a clever pass through our defence for Dzalamidze. His low shot is tipped behind by Nowak, and I take the hint. We go on the counter and take our point.
I’ll take that. Despite their poor form, Górnick Łęczna are a good side and we’re hardly in a position to turn our nose up at a point against the likes of them.
As we stare down the barrel of another international interruption in which not one of our players will participate, I arrange our first transfer of the upcoming February transfer window. 17 year old Finnish Under 19 International Ari Tuovinen will join us on a free when the window opens from Finnish amateur side PKKU. He’s an interesting little player; A very aggressive and lightning fast right winger with decent levels of fitness, flair and work rate. He needs to develop the technical side of his game a lot but I reckon I can mould him into a solid winger.
I use the International break as an opportunity to keep fitness levels high and make sure we don’t take our eyes off the ball. Premier League strugglers Fulham make the trip to Stadion GKS Katowice for a friendly match. We’ll be facing the Cottagers without Alan Hutton though, who’ll miss 2-3 weeks with a groin strain.
It’s a good match to be fair. Bart drills us ahead on the stroke of half time, but 2 late goals from Aluko and Woodrow turn it around for the away side.
It’s not the end of the world, that. The thing that frustrates me much more than Fulham’s second half turnaround is the sharp increase in medical attention that my squad requires during the build up to the Pogoń match. First, Kevin comes in with a strained neck, and will be out for 5-6 days. Then Tom Scheffel limps in dragging a dead leg, and he’ll be out for 1-2 days. Mario Gregurina strolls in with a bruised jaw and is out for 3-6 days, and finally Michal Tarnowski wanders in clutching his gashed head. He’s out for 1-2 days. I realise that all of these injuries could have been a lot more severe, but I do worry that a couple of the players won’t be back to full fitness for the weekend.
Pogoń are 4th in the league but could actually move up to the top if they beat us by 5 goals and other results go their way. There’s no doubt in my mind that they’ll be tough opposition but I’d rather they didn’t end the match as league leaders.
Bart comes back in after serving his suspension. He’ll replace Gregurina and will play next to Hurley, with Fossy deployed behind them as a deep lying playmaker. Janga also comes in on the right wing in place of Amonike. At some point I’m hoping that someone will stake a claim to be our nailed-on starting right winger, but until that happens you can call me Lazy Susan, because I’ll keep rotating.
The match is slow to start, and the first real chances comes 10 minutes before the break, when Olivier’s free kick bounces off the wall and back to him. He passes to Janga, who’s tripped by Sebastian Rudol on the edge of the box. We’re given another free kick, which Olivier hits wide, but more importantly Rudol sees his 2nd yellow and we’ll play against 10 men for the remaining 55 minutes.
Just minutes after the second half kicks off, Pogoń’s day goes from bad to worse when yet another Olivier free kick is chipped into the box from the left. Gregorz Goncerz goes for the ball but is shoved by Senic. No card’s shown this time but the referee points to the spot without hesitation.
Goncerz won the penalty and he steps up himself to take it. He runs up, smashes it towards the left, and the ball crashes in off the bar as the keeper dives the wrong way. We’ve taken the lead.
From that point on though, Pogoń seem galvanised and determined. Tuszynski leaves Wilson for dead as he sprints towards goal, only to thwack the ball wide of the near post. We go on the counter.
With 20 minutes to go, Danny Wilson makes a pig’s ear of clearing the ball after Augustyn’s cross, and can only get it away as far as Bargiel, who hits the ball over Nowak and into the back of the net.
We can’t let this match go without picking up 3 points. We’ve had a penalty against a 10 man team, we can’t fail to capitalise on good fortune like that. We change to an attacking 4-2-3-1, bringing off Fossy, replacing him with Kwarko, who moves onto the right wing and switches with Janga, who’ll run from deep positions to link up with Goncerz.
With 10 minutes to go, Kwarko squares the ball across the edge of the box for Goncerz. The striker takes aim for the top left corner, but his shot comes back off the bar. Amonike comes on for a late cameo, but the match ends 1-1.
Through gritted teeth, I’ll accept that result too. It is frustrating, don’t get me wrong, to fail to get the result against 10 men, but we just need to keep pressing on. We’re now at the half way point of the league stage, we’re well clear of relegation, and we’re close to the top 8. I’ll take that.
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