“So run me through it one more time, Bechkoura… In what possible way are we almost safe?” I ask, eyebrow raised. He lets out a frustrated sigh.
“How are you not getting it?” He asks indignantly. “45 points will be enough to secure safety regardless of what the other teams do! If we pick up 15 more points we’re there!”
“No I understand where you’re coming from and technically you’re right, it’s just that we’ve only got 5 games left to get those 15 points and if we were able to win every single match we played just by deciding that we would, we wouldn’t be in this situation, would we?”
I can pinpoint the moment the penny drops by watching Bechkoura’s expression change. He takes a moment to mull over what I’ve said, before replying “But I am technically right.”
One man that seems to have decided to claw us up the table almost by himself is Captiste, who’s scored in each of his last 2 matches. He gets a spot in Team of the Week for the 2nd week running. Good lad, Captiste.
The big news around Auxerre though, apart from the fact that we’ve actually managed to scrape a win, is that Xavier Lenogue’s going to miss a 2-3 week chunk of our run-in with a broken shoulder. Some incredibly funny Auxerre fans start an online petition for Isaac Sohna to get a run in net, but I think I’ll finally give Bingourou Kamara a proper try instead.
Our next match is an away tie against Toulouse, who’ve really nailed themselves on as the “Best of the rest” in Ligue 1 this season. We’re going to miss Phil Foden (Blisters) and Celsiney (Sprained wrist) so Samba and Ayé come into a counter attacking Project: Meatloaf with defensive wingbacks to keep us safe against our opponents’ own inevitable barrage of counter attacks. I thought that a return to a more familiar system might’ve brought out the best in Joël last match, but it wasn’t to be so McCarthy comes into the lineup in his place. The poor lad just doesn’t look cut out for Ligue 1.
We nearly get off to an absolute flier when Ferhat cuts in and hits a looping shot against the inside of the far post. The rebound almost falls to Ayé too but he’s beaten to the ball by recent French National Team debutant Francis Obin, who scrambles it clear.
10 minutes before half time the ball does end up in the net, but at the wrong end. Candreva swings a great free kick in from deep on the left wing and it’s flicked on by Jullien, but thankfully the linesman’s flag goes up against Braithwaite before he smashes the ball past Kamara.
On the hour with the scores still even, I bring on Phil Foden for Ayé and get Brahim Ferhat back up front where he excelled in his last game. I also give the fullbacks license to push on as we search for a winning goal. I should know better though as within 2 minutes Chong leaves Issa Samba for dead and speeds down to the left byline. He whips a cross in for Assimaïdou, who heads in the opening goal from close range.
10 minutes later we put together an outstanding move comprised of scintillating 2 touch football moving us in-field from the left. McCarthy to Zoun… To Ferhat… Sissako… To Foden 10 yards out. He shoots – But is denied by a fantastic save from Gomis. That deserved a goal.
With just 10 minutes left to play though, Zoun presses Obin into a mistake and nicks the ball from the Chelsea loanee, before skipping past his partner Jullien. The Burkinabe inside forward runs through on goal, draws the keeper out and slots the ball into the corner. Get in. 1-1.
Joël comes on in a last roll of the dice replacing McCarthy and for the last 10 minutes of the match Toulouse hold on for dear life. Ferhat splits the defence with a pass through to Zoun, who runs in on goal again but this time slides the ball just wide of the far post. Then Joël releases Ferhat himself in behind the defence. He gets forced slightly out to the right but still manages to lash a powerful shot against the crossbar.
In the 91st minute though, Faouzi Hikem plays a clever one-two with Zoun to leave N’Doram in his dust on the left. The Algerian gets to the byline, fires a desperate cross in and Ferhat executes a controlled flick of the head at the near post to send the ball past Gomis’ outstretched hand and into the net.
With a massive grin, I bring on Arturo Vidal and let Ferhat slowly walk from the pitch, allowing the clock to run down as he exchanges applause with the travelling Auxerrois fans. What a bloody response to going 0-1 down this has been and what a win.
Kamara’s done alright there too today and realistically could’ve done nothing to prevent the goal, which was more a result of my tactical tinkering than anything else. Thankfully that same tinkering paid off in the end but anyway. With our back up goalie’s contract running out in June, this is his big moment in the shop window to get himself a move to a club where he can play regularly. Red Star boss Dominique Arribagé was in the stands today and he’ll have been impressed.
Our next 2 matches are absolutely crucial – We play Dijon and Lille in back to back relegation battles. If we can take 6 points away from these games then we’re surely safe. One player who won’t join us for the Dijon game is Fabien McCarthy though, who’s gone to take part in a poorly timed Under 23’s match for South Africa against Zimbabwe. He scores a goal and sets up another which is good, but I’d rather have everyone available to be honest.
An interview that our ex-inside forward Adama Ba gives with the local media raises a few eyebrows before the Bourguignon derby. It’s odd that a player that would actively sabotage his own career and those of his colleagues before coming back to get all glassy-eyed over our derby match. Keep it to yourself thanks, Adama.
As the home side against Dijon we’re going back to our classic attacking Project: Meatloaf in the hopes of finding our 3rd successive win. Florian Ayé drops back out and Ferhat deservedly moves back up front, while the fit again Phil Foden comes back in on the right. Joël also comes back into the starting XI with McCarthy unavailable.
The first hour of the match is a low quality, ill tempered affair. Neither side have more than a couple of half-chances each and with 25 minutes of the match to play I make a double substitution, bringing off Brahim Ferhat and Joël to be replaced by Florian Ayé and Mathis Roux. With 20 minutes left the ball comes to the substitute Roux and he chips a delightful ball to Zoun on the edge of the 6 yard box. Zoun brings the ball down, takes a breath and places the ball into the corner of the net. Get in. Not all of the matches have to be pretty or dramatic, as long as we keep hitting the back of the net I’ll be happy.
5 minutes later, Lamine Fomba replaces the tired Loïc Goujon, but it’s tired legs elsewhere on the pitch that cost us. With 5 minutes to play Lemos skips past Faouzi Hikem on the right wing and Hikem leaves one on him with a stupid late challenge, earning a 2nd yellow and a red. We almost, almost see the game out but are undone in the 4th minute of injury time. Poetically it’s Lemos that bags the equaliser, latching onto Lees-Melou’s corner after Fomba initially heads it away and powering it into the far top corner of Kamara’s goal. Overall it’s been a terrible game, but the 3 points against a direct rival should’ve been ours. That should have been us separated from the bottom 3. I also have a sneaking suspicion that that’s the last we’ll see of Faouzi this season.