“Here’s the thing,” I begin, pausing to take a drink of my unnecessarily strong Polish lager, “I’ve not taken any confidence whatsoever from the falling counter system. We’ve lost both of the matches that we’ve used it.” Dennis listens quietly, a worried look spread across his face. “The far more vexing thing at the minute though is that I’m genuinely losing faith in the players.” I continue. “I know they can play better. I know they can be better. But they just aren’t rising to the occasion.”
“It’s only been 2 matches though.” Dennis pipes up. “The players will get comfortable in the system given time.”
“We don’t have time though, Dennis. We need to stop losing. We need to pick up some points or we’re going to get dragged into a relegation scrap.” Dennis nods with reluctant acceptance. “Korona away is a must win game. They’re second bottom. We need to turn the tide. Another loss here today would be catastrophic.”
“It’d be a league record too”, he says quietly. “7 losses in a row.”
“Excellent, thanks.” I reply, covering my face with my hands in exasperation.
“With 6 in a row, we’ve already set a club record”, he continues, unhelpfully.
“Right, well I’d rather not go down in Lotto Ekstraklasa history as the guy who can’t stop fucking losing.” I snap. We both take a long drink.
“So what do we do?” Asks Dennis, breaking the silence.
“We catch Korona off guard.” I reply thoughtfully. “They stick religiously to their 4-4-2, so we go 3-5-2. We outnumber their strikers and midfielders and we dominate the game.”
After more scheming and more of that lager that I suspect might have been originally manufactured as a weapon, we settle on our team. A back 3 of Olivier, Hutton and Wilson, with Hutton playing a stopper role, Scheffel and Garbacik as the wing backs, Gregurina and Fossy playing in the midfield 3 either side of our full debutant Vladan Savanovic. Goncerz and Tarnowski are up front.
I signed Savanovic as a possible replacement for Baran when the young playmaker left at the start of the season, and I feel like now is as good a time as any to give him a try. He’s young, hungry and unpredictable. He might just give us that unknown factor that’ll secure the win against Korona.
3 minutes in, Tarnowski releases Scheffel down the right wing. Tom whips a cross straight into the box, and straight onto the boot of Goncerz, who simply helps the ball into the bottom corner. 1-0. We’re winning. We’re actually winning.
The rest of the half is awful, but I’m fine with it. We completely nullify Korona. The only downside is that Savanovic hasn’t really been in the game at all, so we’ll go more direct in an attempt to create chances without him. Fossy moves into the central midfield spot as a deep lying playmaker to facilitate the change.
Almost 15 minutes after the break, Korona do actually threaten. Rovcanin crosses from the left but it’s awkwardly behind Palanca, and his header reflects that. The ball flies well over. Suddenly though, the whistle blows. The referee comes sprinting over and points to the spot. I’m flabberghasted. What possible reason could he have for giving Korona a penalty? A quick, friendly chat with the 4th official reveals the decision was made because Alan Hutton shoved Mitsanski in the 6 yard box. Neither player was anywhere near the ball. It was just a random act of violence from our centre back. I hate everything again.
Palanca steps up to hit the penalty – And Nowak saves brilliantly to his left! You brilliant old bastard, Sebastien. Wilson clears the ball following the save, but Korona smell blood now. It comes straight back at us via a Markovic ball over the top. Rovcanin latches onto it on the left and shoots at the near post. The ball ripples the back of the net. I have no words. We go control.
With 20 minutes to go, Garbacik and Tarnowski are replaced by Kwarko and Stryjek as we try to push Korona back and snatch another goal, but to no avail.
With a couple of minutes still to play, Tomasevic plays the ball over the top of our defence down the left wing. Olivier gets to it first but is tripped by Mitsanski. The referee waves play on and my fists clench. The red mist is descending. Mitsanski is one on one with Nowak and shoots, but our veteran keeper saves brilliantly at the near post. I’m still incensed. The ref’s extraordinary eagle eyes didn’t catch that one, did they?
I have a pop at the officials in my post-match interview. We nearly went into the history books in a really shitty way thanks to that late decision not to award us a free kick for the foul on Olivier and I would’ve gone full on Mourinho if we had done.
Let’s move on swiftly though. We’ve dropped down to 14th. We’re 1 place and 5 points above the relegation zone. Górnik Zabrze visit us next and they’re 13th, on level points with us but with a much, much better goal difference. This is another match that we just can’t afford to lose.
We’re changing system again. The 3-5-2 was specifically for Korona as they play a 4-4-2 and I don’t want to go back to the falling counter, so we’re trying a 4-4-2 of our own. We’ll attack Zabrze, focus down the wings where we’ve got power and pace in Kwarko and Janga, pass into space and float crosses into the box for the aerially proficient duo of Stryjek and Goncerz. We’re the home side. We should have enough about us to win. This may be some of these players’ last chance.
The first half is predictably dull. Towards the end I instruct the wingers to hit early crosses in towards the strikers. But it’s not actually until after the hour mark that we see any action, when Goncerz plays a one-two with Stryjek and gets himself into the box, before forcing a good save from Bolten. Kevin comes on replacing Stryjek and heads out to the left wing, while Janga accompanies Goncerz up front.
With 15 minutes to go, Gregurina and Goncerz are also replaced by Hurley and Tarnowski. It so nearly pays off in the last couple of minutes when Hurley’s through ball finds Tarnowski in the box, but his shot comes back off the post. The match ends goalless.
The good thing about draws is that they’re not losses. The bad thing about drawing the matches we have done is that we were playing against teams that in my eyes we should have beaten. At least we can take solace in the fact that we’ve picked up a couple of points, but I really am losing patience with some members of the squad, and I might have to start mixing it up and bringing in some new faces to keep it fresh. Who knows, my job may depend on it.
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