There are 3 matches left of our season, and most likely of my Lotto Elstraklasa career. 3 measly matches. It seems like nothing, doesn’t it. But these 3 games are everything. In our relegation group of 7 teams, Korona are 8th and have become the first team to be relegated, with 14 points and 2 games left.
KGHM Zagłębie have been on something of a resurgence of late after winning the Polish FA Cup, beating Bruk-Bet Termalica in extra time in the final. It’s quite an achievement, and they’ve since beaten Cracovia 2-0, Wisła Kraków 3-2 and Wisła Płock 2-1. We really need to look out for them because their late winning streak has meant that the second relegation place is very much up for grabs. They sit in 7th place on 21 points but have played one more game than us, and we’ll play them in our final game.
Wisła Płock on the other hand are without a win in 6 weeks, but we’ve not beaten them in our previous 2 meetings this season, which worries me. They sit in 6th place, also with 21 points but with 3 games left, and we’ll play them today.
You know as much as anyone how we’ve fared lately. We’ve had a torrid time followed by a sudden upturn in form, and here’s hoping that continues. We sit in 5th place with 22 points.
Wisła Kraków have had a bit of a mixed bag of late, but interestingly they’ve only won once in the last 3 months. They sit above us in 4th, also on 22 points but with only 2 games left.
Jagiellonia are in 3rd with 22 points but we’ve already played them, and I’m going to ignore Lechia and Cracovia completely as they’re pretty much nailed on for the top 2 places.
But do you see how much these next 3 matches mean? Wisła Płock, Wisła Kraków and KGHM Zagłębie are our direct relegation rivals and if we lose against them all, we’re down. We need to get a win as quickly as possible to take some of the pressure off of ourselves, so let’s do it today against Płock, shall we?
We’ve been forced to make a few changes today. I was planning on using Project: Burnie MK II anyway, but Hurley is both suspended (1 match) and injured (8-10 days with a strained wrist), Silva would have started but he’s out for 3-6 days with a bruised head, and Olivier has blisters and is only fit enough for a place on the bench.
Savanovic, Gregurina and Hutton will start in their places. Also, Tuovinen has been impressing the coaches lately with his application in training and his matches for the Reserves, so he’s in too, taking the place of Amonike.
The match starts slowly as the teams work each other out and it’s not until 10 minutes before half time that either side creates a decent chance. It’s Płock’s Aurélio that gives the ball to José Kanté on the edge of our box. Hutton sticks in a foot but Kanté hurdles it, before turning and thumping the ball into the top corner of the net. It’s a fine goal to be fair.
It all goes quiet again, and on the hour mark I decide to try to take control. We go to a controlling 4-2-3-1 with Tarnowski replacing Gregurina. We improve instantly, putting a good passing move together. Savanovic ends up with the ball and passes it to Goncerz, who holds it up before playing in Tarnowski. The substitute shoots low but Kielpin saves well.
We seem to grow in confidence over the next few minutes, but it’s a feeling that’s abruptly cut short when Bart trips Kanté and receives his second yellow card. We go down to 10 men and I adjust our tactics again, bringing off our 2 wingers Tuovinen and Kevin and replacing them with Olivier and Fossy. We go to a narrow diamond with a single striker and Hutton as the holding man.
With a quarter of an hour to play we go attacking, and very fluid, trying to recapture the hope that we so briefly showed before Bart’s red card.
A few minutes later we do show it. We counter after a Płock free kick breaks down, with Fossy passing inside to Tarnowski, who’s stationed in our half. He looks up, gets the ball out of his feet and plays a brilliant ball over the defence for Goncerz, who chests the ball down, runs through on goal, and shoots straight into the grateful arms of Kielpin.
The clock keeps ticking on and we approach the end of 90 minutes, still trailing 0-1. It doesn’t stay that way for long though, because Kun’s near post cross from a corner is nodded on across goal by Reca, and turned into the net from close range by the unmarked Kanté.
I won’t lie, that’s a really disappointing result and a really disappointing second goal. The marking by Goncerz on Reca was sloppy and the marking by absolutely anyone on Kanté was non-existent. Otherwise, I was pretty pleased with our performance. We went behind to a great strike, forced their keeper into making a couple of brilliant saves and held our own with 10 men. It’s at this point of the season especially though that pleasing performances just aren’t good enough. Points are the only thing that matter, and Wisła Płock have just separated themselves from the pack with that win.
Next up then is Wisła Kraków, another away match. Garbacik and Bart are both suspended because of their 8 cumulative yellow cards and 1 red respectively, while Olivier, Silva and Hurley are all fit and available to start, so changes are made. Olivier, Abramowicz, Silva, Hurley and Amonike replace Hutton, Garbacik, Bart, Savanovic and Tuovinen. KGHM played these away recently and won. They played 4-1-2-3, so we do too. Admittedly though, they also had the bounce from that FA Cup win. We’ll be disciplined, we’ll stick to our positions and we’ll go direct, with Hurley acting as our main creator in a deep lying playmaker role.
The sight of players like Vidémont and Morrell make me shudder slightly. They were both very good going forwards the last time we played Kraków in that insane 4-4 draw. Indeed only 3 minutes in, Vidémont passes to Morrell just outside our box and he shoots towards the bottom right corner, but Nowak just manages to tip the ball against the post. It rolls back across the line and thankfully Danny Wilson is there first to hoof it away.
Near the end of the half, Maczynski sends a corner in towards our near post. Goncerz heads it away but only as far as Malecki, who takes it down and drills it towards the bottom left corner. Amazingly, Nowak gets down again to tip the ball onto the post. The ball rolls across the line again and this time Olivier clears it before anyone can knock it in.
2 minutes later though, Wisła Kraków get the breakthrough that I think we can all agree they deserve when Morrell lays the ball off for Maczynski and he slides the ball under Nowak.
10 minutes into the second half we’ve still barely had a sniff, but then Hurley breaks forward on the ball and plays it to Gregurina, who’s promptly tripped by Popovic. He’s shown his second yellow and we’ll play against 10 men for the remaining 35 minutes.
With half an hour to go, Fossy comes on replacing Silva and we change to a 4-2-3-1 with wing backs. Kraków have gone to a narrow diamond so we’ll have our wingbacks and wide men double up on their fullbacks, overloading and exploiting the wide areas.
We’re still failing to break through over the next 10 minutes or so. The only shots are speculative efforts from Morrell and Mak, both of which go well wide. We go attacking.
With 5 minutes to go, our misery is compounded when Brlek’s free kick is met by Czerwinski, who directs his header into the bottom corner of the net.
The first shot that I can remember us actually having comes from Hurley in injury time, but it goes wide. This has been a toothless performance and the best team have definitely won.
Nounkey, the Cameroon boss, was in the stands again today. How much do you need to see of Olivier before you make your mind up, Nounkey? You’re like the bloody kiss of death for my defence, you never turn up for a win.
Anyway, here’s the situation following that shambles: Jagiellonia, Wisła Kraków and Wisła Płock have all dragged themselves out of the relegation battle. Our final match will be against the only team apart from ourselves that can take the second relegation spot: The resurgent KGHM Zagłębie. We sit a single point above them, so if we win or draw, we’ll stay up. If we lose however… Bye bye, Lotto Ekstraklasa.
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