September started in a difficult fashion, with Max Power receiving red card number TWO as we were turning the screw against ten-man Oxford. The game fizzled out, ending 0-0 and was a huge opportunity missed to make up some ground on high-flying Barnsley.
Checkatrade Alert! September saw the first installment of the Checkatrade Trophy, a competition I am extremely keen to perform well in. I fielded a strong side and was rewarded with a convincing 3-0 home win against a depleted Shrewsbury side.
After a narrow 1-0 victory over Fleetwood, we slumped to two disappointing defeats to Burton and Rochdale, with the latter certainly being the low point of the season so far. While these defeats were both by a solitary goal, the ground lost in the race for promotion was difficult to take, which is why I was absolutely delighted to bag a 3-2 win over Coventry live on Sky in front of a massive away following.
Most of the things we did well this month were down to the King himself as the ultimate sh*thouse Chris Maguire threw his name into the hat for League One Player of the Month, finishing second in the overall standings.
One for the future - Elliott Embleton, or ‘Embo’ as I call him now I’m his gaffer, bagged himself the League Two Young Player of the Month award for his solid performances protecting the Grimsby back four.
If anyone wants a rerun of the 2016-17 season then keep reading because I’m starting to think I’m actually Simon Grayson with more hair.
To be honest I thought August would be the worse month, but as the season progressed the team’s cohesion would improve and results would soon follow. Unfortunately, this does not look like being the case as September saw us fail to win a game, win only three points in the league and be outclassed 4-1 against Man United in the Carabao Cup (where Max Power was sent off - SHOCK).
To top it all off yer dar was fumin’ as we lost 5-1 to Coventry City.
In response to this shambolic start, I have two options - try a new team every week, or go full Moyes and pick the same team again and again in the hope of a miracle. I think I’ll opt for the latter. Hopefully the players will start to gel and we can start getting some better results throughout October.
My first aim is to avoid getting the sack before the end of the month, because no one wants to be the guy who is worse than Simon Grayson. The long term aim now seems to be the playoffs and, despite being only two points off the relegation zone, we’re still just ten away from sixth place so this is definitely achievable.
This is where I would love to give a player of the month, but to be honest none of them deserve it - I suppose Duncan Watmore has been the least sh*te, so there we go congratulations Dunc. On the other end of the scale Alim Ozturk provided some banter in a performance rated 5.8 against Coventry - at least it’s realistic.
Well what a turnaround! It is safe to say I have smashed September winning five out of six games to propel the lads up to third in the League One table. Two goals were scored in each league game as I managed to rectify last month’s key issue of scoring goals.
My decision to replace a defensive midfielder in exchange for a number ten role has worked a treat, with George Honeyman firmly grasping his opportunity to start games regularly. My decision to show faith in Josh Maja has paid off as the forward scored five goals in five league games. One player who has suffered from this tactical change is Bali Mumba who has lost his place in the starting eleven. However, I have decided to use him as an impact substitute so that I do not hinder his development.
Once again, I produced a shock in the Carabao Cup beating Bournemouth on penalties to earn a home tie against Premier League giants Liverpool. What pleased me most is that I made numerous changes, something in which gives me great confidence in my squad depth should I face an injury crisis.
Another highlight of the month was away at Coventry where a 90th minute Max Power goal sealed victory after being 2-0 down at half-time. We also came from behind to beat Oxford, but the 2-2 draw at home to Rochdale was highly frustrating as two points were dropped against a side within the relegation zone.
Going forward it is imperative the team maintain this level of consistency if we are going to achieve my promotion goal. If I can keep the team scoring goals and maintain the high squad morale, I am confident by the end of next month we can overtake Scunthorpe and Portsmouth at the top of the table.
I so very nearly went perfect throughout September.
The month started with a big game against second placed Oxford United but we passed that test with a strong 2-1 victory to put us clear at the top of the table. Top of the table is where we stayed as we won every single league game that followed until the very end of the month where we managed to salvage a draw away to Coventry. Interestingly I chose to rest McGeouch for that game and his absence hurt us but by bringing him off the bench he was able to score a lovely goal from outside the box to save us.
Apart from that draw the league has been a bit of walk in the park so far. Two more clean sheets at home and both Charlie Wyke and Lynden Gooch have helped themselves to 5 goals so far this season. More importantly however Lee Cattermole is averaging the highest rating in the squad from his new regista position. We did lose him to a groin strain for a week but he’ll be back for October.
We started our Checkatrade Trophy group with an easy 3-0 against Leicester Under 21s but way more impressively we shithoused our way past the mighty Arsenal to secure a 2-1 victory and passage into the the round of the EFL Cup. The fixtures in that competition don’t get any easier though as Manchester United (who are always magnificent in Football Manager) will visit the Stadium of Light so we can inflict the same pain on them that we did in this competition back in 2014.