Humiliated. Found out. Out of their depth.
These are just some of the words and phrases used by the local media to describe GieKSa after Jagiellonia ripped us apart in our first Lotto Ekstraklasa match. But it was one thing defeating us in their own back yard, sweeping aside a shambolic thrown-together mix of half-fit players managed by a fresh faced and naive manager. Beating us again today will be a completely different proposition.
I went into our last match completely petrified. Scared stiff by the nagging worry that I had made the wrong decision. That my career was over. That I had put all my eggs in an extremely precarious basket. But GKS Katowice are no league’s whipping boys. We aren’t the cannon fodder we were expected to be. We are spirited and determined. We are strong and skilful. We have learned to be somewhat efficient, and our Portu-Polish side has become much more of a unit, as oppose to the 2 halves of a team that it was. We all speak decent Polish now. We have better quality depth in our squad. And most importantly, we’re all hungry for revenge.
Jagiellonia are having a decent season. They’re sat 1 place and 1 point above us, sitting in 9th with 21 points. Interestingly, with 15 games played, we’ve won 5, drawn 5 and lost 5. We go unchanged today.
To give Jagiellonia credit, one of their players has the best name I’ve ever seen. Their Scottish fullback, who I remember from his contribution in our first encounter, is brilliantly named Ziggy Gordon. What other name could remind you so succinctly and vividly of both David Bowie and Brian Blessed? Maybe Brian Bowie would, but it’s definitely not as good a name.
Ziggy plays the ball. Running good past Kevin and Hurley, for Jagiellonia. Crosses from the right, but crosses too far. Then Khomchenovskyi heads, but can’t get it in the net.
GORDON’S A LIVE… wire all through the first half (Sorry) and we’re kept pinned back a lot while he leads Jagiellonia forward from the right fullback spot. Indeed, with a couple of minutes to play before the break, he gets up and clips in a low cross towards Romanchuk and Guti. The ball reaches neither of them and instead deflects off Fossy and into our net. Luckily, both Romanchuk and Guti were stood in offside positions when Ziggy crossed the ball, and were deemed to be interfering with play enough for the goal to be chalked off. That was a huge stroke of luck.
At the break I tell my team to go back out and control the game. We’ve not looked like the home team so far and I’m well aware that our last encounter with Jagiellonia was 0-0 at the break, before we promptly lost 0-3.
In the first 15 minutes back on the pitch, Hurley chips a pass over the top of the defence and into the central channel for Goncerz. He takes it down and fires a venomous shot straight at Stachowiak, and the keeper tips it over.
I bring on Kwarko and Tarnowski in place of Janga and Fossy. Kwarko has become my go-to second half substitute to bully the tiring defenders with his immense physical presence, and Tarnowski tends to do quite well off the bench with his pace and intelligent runs.
A few minutes later, an exquisite passing move that includes most of Jagiellonia’s players culminates with Frankowski at the right byline. He crosses to the far post and Khomchenovskyi puts it away. I’m having flashbacks. It’s happening again.
As I said before though, we’re a better side now. We show our composure and refuse to instantly capitulate like we did last time. With 20 minutes to play, we go on the attack.
7 minutes later, Hurley plays a carbon copy of his earlier pass, over the top and into the central channel. Goncerz takes the ball down again and expertly holds it up, luring 2 defenders out of position before slipping in Tarnowski, who drives it home to equalise.
A couple of minutes later, we’re pushing for a winner. After a good move, Tarnowski plays a slick one-two with Goncerz and then slams home his second from the edge of the area, the brilliant bastard.
I bring on Gregurina for Kevin and shut up shop. We change to a 4-1-2-3, with Tarnowski playing as a just-left-of-centre attacking midfielder instead of a left winger, in case he fancies completing his hat trick. He doesn’t, but I couldn’t give less of a shit. We’ve held on. We’ve won. We’ve got our revenge.
Tarnowski’s fantastic cameo not only won him the player of the match award, but also a place in the Lotto Ekstraklasa team of the week, alongside Goncerz, who did my confidence in him the world of good with those 2 clever assists.
KGHM Zagłębie are next at their place. I don’t want to paint them as the worst team in the league, but in my defence they’ve done that themselves. After finishing 10th last season and being predicted to finish in the top 8 this season, they’ve lost 12 of their first 16 matches, drawing the other 4. Needless to say, I would be mortified to lose today.
We make 2 changes – Abramowicz comes in for Garbacik, who is suspended having picked up his 4th yellow card of the season against Jagiellonia, and Tarnowski comes in for Fossy as our number 10. He’s earned it.
We get off to a surprisingly quick start when 6 minutes in, a near post Tom Scheffel corner is nodded into the net by Danny Wilson. The Scotsman celebrates his first GieKSa goal passionately with the travelling fans. Well in, Danny.
2 minutes later, Abramowicz whips in another near post corner from the other side. Wilson gets there again and nods it across goal, but Janga’s subsequent header is cleared off the line by Uzelac.
That’s pretty much the only action we see in what is a dominant first half display. That is until Olivier is caught in possession on the right and robbed of the ball by Badía. Badía dribbles down the left wing and crosses to the near post, where Nespor is waiting to turn the ball in from close range.
There’s a sombre atmosphere in the changing room at half time, as is always the way when you concede just before the break, but a passionate plea to keep doing what they’ve been doing sends the players back out with smiles on their faces.
10 minutes later, we score a fucking beauty of a goal. Tom Scheffel stands over a free kick 35 yards out, and passes short to Olivier. The centre back turns and finds Bart, who plays it on first time for Janga, who plays it on first time for Goncerz on the edge of the box, who shapes his body and crashes the ball first time – In off the bar.
That goal really was a thing of beauty, and KGHM’s manager certainly seems shaken. So shaken in fact that he throws me a curveball with extra mustard. KGHM change to a flat 3-5-2 formation. As I watch their players take their new positions, my face scrunches up as I try to process what to do now. Weirdly, I suddenly realise that I’ve barely played against such a formation during my Managerial career and it poses us several problems.
The first and most imminently dangerous problem is that their strikers are now 2 on 2 with our centre backs. I like our 2 central defenders, but they’ve proven themselves susceptible to clever movement that pulls them out of position, coupled with runs in behind.
The next problem is that our central midfield duo is now outnumbered by 3 KGHM players, so we’ll be dominated in midfield.
And finally, our strike force of Goncerz and Tarnowski, because he is playing as more of a striker than a midfielder, are now outnumbered by 3 centre backs. The entire central column of the pitch belongs to KGHM and if I don’t act fast, they have the potential to turn this back around on us.
So I roll the dice and do something that I don’t think I’ve ever done before. I go with a back 3. Our 2 wingers Janga and Kevin come off and are replaced by Alan Hutton and Mario Gregurina. We change to a 3-5-2 as well, but with Scheffel and Abramowicz as wing backs. Hutton slots into the defensive line with Olivier and Wilson, Gregurina takes his place alongside Bart and Hurley in a formidable looking midfield trio, and Tarnowski joins Goncerz as a second orthodox striker. I’ve never played a back 3 before. I’m quite excited.
With 25 minutes to go, Gregurina plays a long ball into the left channel, and Goncerz does what he does, calmly placing the ball in front of Tarnowski to set him up with a great opportunity. Tarnowski takes a touch too many though, and by the time he shoots the keeper is off his line to close down the angle and block it. Promising signs nonetheless.
5 minutes later we’re still winning the battle of the 3-5-2’s. We break quickly following a half-hearted KGHM attack and Tarnowski chips a cross from the right wing towards the back post. Gregurina arrives and volleys it, but the keeper saves well. The rebound falls to Goncerz though, and with the keeper still stretched out on the floor, he has the whole goal to aim at. 3-1.
We go on the counter after that and KGHM have no response. I even have the luxury of bringing on young Stryjek for a bit of game time in place of Tarnowski. We see out the game with ease.
Our second half of the league stage begins with 2 wins. A few more and we’ll be flying towards the top 8 and away from the prospect of relegation. Oh, and who was watching from the stands today? Cameroon Boss Joseph Onana. We might be a player light come the next international break. Today was a good day.
Find me on: