Hi again, it’s a very pluggy couple of days for old Franjo. Yesterday I told you about a new podcast I’ve started with Freddy, but for anyone into FM18 videos we’ve also started a football manager gameshow on youtube called Tactics Roulette!
We were battered and we were thrashed, and yet, I smile. We were humiliated and mocked, and yet, I smile. We were outplayed in every area of the pitch, and yet, I smile. Today we face Cape Town City as underdogs for the second time this season, and yet, I smile.
Why? Because if the clueless rabble I threw at them on opening day picked up 3 points, complete with a journeyman striker at the heart of defence, we can absolutely turn them over this time.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to be careless about this. I know that we’ve been using Project: Meatloaf in our friendlies for the last month, but we are the away team today and it’s a very open system. Besides, with Japhta, Norde, Richards and Sambou all missing I’m not convinced we have the players to make it work. No, today I’ll be reverting to Project: Foxy MK II. It’s safer, more solid and suits us better while we don’t have a decent no.10. Our only available goalkeeper Komo starts between the sticks, with a back 4 of captain Cele, Gertse, Thoahlane and Zulu in front of him. Diale holds midfield with Sinbad and Ekwalla the creative players in the middle, while Jenniker and Moon flank Carl Lark.
We start well. 10 minutes in, Sinbad takes the ball down on the half way line and bends it over the defence for Lark in the right channel. Our striker brings it under control as he gets into the box but then shoots over the bar.
Just 7 minutes later, Lark gets another chance though. This time, new loanee Thoahlane hoofs the ball over the Cape Town City defence and Lark wraps his left boot around it, fizzing it into the bottom corner to open the scoring.
We have first blood and we have the upper hand. I don’t know whether Cape Town City have spent the winter break just wolfing down mince pies and malva pudding instead of training, but they look shellshocked. Before 25 minutes has passed, Ekwalla curls a beautiful pass through their defence and Lark’s there once again with a well timed run to poke the ball under Mukuruva for 2-0.
We very nearly make it 3-0 just 2 minutes later when Moon makes another incision through the defence, passing it into space for Lark, who I’m starting to suspect was relieved to hear about Sambou’s injury as it’s meant that he’s kept his place and is now playing out of his skin to show that he deserves it. He runs through on the right and shoots towards the near post but this time the keeper catches it, much to the relief of the home fans.
We take our 2-0 lead into a buoyant away changing room at the break and I just tell the lads to keep up the performance levels. When we step back out onto the turf it becomes clear that CTC haven’t learned their lessons though. After just 3 minutes we catch them playing an extremely silly high defensive line and Moon plays another pass over the top for Carl Lark. He runs through on goal once more and shoots, but Mukuruva makes the save.
And then 5 minutes later, Moon receives the ball from Thoahlane on the edge of the CTC penalty box following a corner, and he drills our 3rd goal into the bottom corner. Game over and I’m all smiles. I’m ready to kill the game off and collect an extremely well deserved 3 points, even throwing on young trio Junaid Mobara, Ernil Mobara and Manqoba Cele for 10 minutes of first team football. However in the closing stages an undoubtedly frustrated, humiliated and emasculated CTC defender catches Ryan Moon with his studs and leaves a deep cut on his right leg to ruin my good time.
Bloody hell, what a dampener. Moon will miss 3-8 days thanks to his gashed leg, which means he may not be ready for our trip to Highlands Park. Under normal circumstances that wouldn’t be such a problem but in the absence of Sello Japhta and Sony Norde he and Joseph Ekwalla are really our only attacking outlets, and I’m wary of putting too much pressure on a still pretty recent teenage signing who doesn’t yet speak the same language as his teammates.
Speaking of Ekwalla actually, that appearance triggered a little wage bump for him and he’s now on £1.1k per week. I don’t think that’s particularly a lot for someone of his quality and would happily double it, but he still doesn’t want to discuss a new contract, preferring to keep his options open with a view to a move away in the Summer.
Oh well. Highlands Park are up next and we’re as confident as we’ve ever been. We travel to their place with Moon, Japhta and Norde all more or less back to full fitness, but none of them are quite back to fitness. I’m going to need to make a decision though because a team without any of them looks quite toothless on paper.
After much deliberation, I name the same lineup that thrashed Cape Town City, with half-Moon on the wing and Japhta and Norde both on the bench. A repeat performance with no complications would go down very smooth.
8 minutes in, Ryan Moon goes down clutching his ankle. He rolls his hands over one another in the universal signal for “Substitute me”. There are no nearby pillows to scream into so I make do with just watching on silently. My gamble has backfired almost instantly. Sullie comes on. For fucking fucks fucking sake.
After a quarter of an hour, Singh cuts in from the left wing for Highlands Park and shoots from 25 yards out, but the ball goes flying over wildly.
7 minutes later, Highlands Park have us under the cosh somewhat. We give away a free kick about 30 yards out and it goes short to Abubakar, who runs into the box and shoots for the near post, squeezing the ball past young Komo. 0-1.
The pressure from the home team stays applied until the half time break, and we’ve offered very little. Carl Lark’s not shown any of the dangerous attacking runs that I saw against Cape Town City, so I replace him with Ernil Mobara. Leading the line when we’re a goal down is a lot of pressure to put on such inexperienced shoulders, but maybe he’ll pull something out of the bag.
10 minutes into the second half Ernil gets his chance. It’s Joseph Ekwalla with his back to goal that plays a magnificent through ball into the young striker’s path and he goes near post with his shot, but Mpandle gets a hand to the ball and shoves it against the post and away.
With half an hour to go, we bring out the Meatloaf, with Japhta replacing Jenniker on the left. We still struggle to make an impact though. As we enter the last 10 minutes, Highlands Park go close when Thobela robs Gertse. He runs to the edge of our box and shoots, but Komo catches the ball easily.
With a minute to go in normal time, Zulu underhits a backpass to Komo and Thobela nips in, this time blasting the ball into the net to kill off any silly hopes I had of a fightback. In the second minute of injury time, Ngwenya rises above Gertse to meet Oluwafemi’s free kick and head home a third. It’s a toothless display that makes our 3-0 win seem like a very, very long time ago. The final whistle is a relief.
Ryan Moon will miss 4-5 weeks with a sprained ankle. In a way I’m thankful that his gashed leg had no bearing on that. It was just a bad tackle from a Highlands Park player and the timing was coincidental. We’ll miss Ryan, of course we will. It’ll be tougher for us trying to put together attacks without him charging down the right… And yet, I smile.