February started with more of the same as over 39,000 fans attended the “fan day” game against AFC Wimbledon which we won 3-0. This was followed up by wins against Oxford United and Accrington Stanley.
With half an eye on the Checkatrade semi-final, I made nine changes for the game against Bristol Rovers. This was a decision which almost had disastrous consequences, but a Chris Maguire brace and Jerome Sinclair’s late equaliser meant we came from 3-1 down to draw 3-3.
Despite sacrificing a league game for the Checkatrade semi-final, we were dumped out of the competition nobody wants to play in by Barnsley, after missing a host of chances in a 1-0 defeat. It’s a Mickey Mouse cup anyways, right?
Off the pitch the month was also successful, with Flanagan, Baldwin, Oviedo, O’Nien, Watmore and McGeouch all signing contracts until 2022. These are all players who I think have the quality to be part of a championship promotion squad.
After complaints from the rest of the squad, I agreed to allow Lee Cattermole to leave the club – although a deal remains unlikely since I will refuse to pay any of his £30k-a-week wages.
Going into March, and with only 12 games left to play, we lie in second place, just one point behind leaders Barnsley and two points ahead of Scunthorpe in third. With just the league left to play for it would be a disappointing season if we did not win it, and gaining revenge on Barnsley for dumping us out of our only other realistic chance of silverware is now the ultimate aim for the rest of the season.
Well I had a cracking month… but I bottled the EFL Trophy!
My policy of rotating my team during cup matches came back to bite as Barnsley’s free scoring forward Victor Adeboyejo smashed a hattrick pashed a helpless Robbin Ruiter. Sigh. The fact I was priced out of a move for him in the January transfer window made it an even bitter pill to swallow. If only I had Sunderland’s real-life League One budget!
Although my chances of winning the double have been obliterated, the lads’ form in the league was sublime during January. 3 clean sheets out of 4 was impressive, plus Charlie Wyke netted 5 times - some of that in real life please, Charlie!
A three nil home victory against Wimbledon was the highlight performance, the London club didn’t even manage a shot on target. Having said that, I cannot deny it makes me furious seeing Josh Maja’s name following his controversial departure, he scored a crucial brace.
On a more bizarre note, I am unsure if this was a glitch in the game but out of six penalties won throughout the month, only two were converted. Both Duncan Watmore and Charlie Wyke missed two penalties as I sat confused to why their conversion rate was so poor. It is safe to say they will not be taking anymore!
All three of my new signings: Dervisoglu, Bishop and Weber started each league game obtaining average ratings of 7/10. Now that I have managed to trim the squad down, it is much easier to prevent any players from becoming unhappy. However, now that there are no cup games I imagine some players will request to transfer away from the club.
As I begin March, with twelve games to play I sit in second place, just one point behind Portsmouth. If I can continue from the momentum in February and avoid another injury crisis, there is no reason why I cannot win this league.
February got off to an absolute flyer!
Max Power was the difference in a frantic 4-2 win over AFC Wimbledon as he managed to bag a 5 minute hattrick! This beautiful man pretty much single-handedly saved my job with the Don impressed by my success in achieving his set points total with a game to spare.
The following three games brought about a draw - away to Oxford - and two wins - at home to Accrington and away to Bristol Rovers - to put me within a point of the automatic promotion spots.
Luke O’Nien has been a solid performer alongside Power in the middle of the park, with Dylan McGeouch a more than able deputy if and when either has looked in need of a rest. This rotation has been key to my upturn in form.
Checkatrade Alert! I think it’s fair to say Sainsbury’s and Tesco in Covent Garden need to stock up on cans because my red and white wizards have made it all the way to the Checkatrade Trophy Final - much to the dissatisfaction of the countless fans of other teams who felt a boycott was necessary.
The Lads emerged victorious over Accrington Stanley in the Semi’s to set up a Wembley date against Luton - a team who are currently sat comfortably in mid-table, meaning I should be favourites for this one.
February was perfect. 0 Injuries. 15 goals scored. 0 goals conceded and 6 wins out of 6 (in all competitions, making it 15 wins on the bounce). We’re flying at the top of the league and the new January signings look the real deal, particularly Davies and Whatmough at centre back although Alim Ozturk is making himself very difficult to drop at the moment bizarrely, just as well Davies is useful at left back.
We continued to succeed in the cups as well, a hard fought 4-2 over Oxford United sent us into the 6th round of the FA Cup where we’ll face Liverpool (That run was fun while it lasted) and a lucky draw against Morecambe in the Checkatrade Trophy semi-final meant we ran out 2-0 winners there despite a heavily rotated side. The final will be against Oxford, meaning we will have played them 4 times this season, Stewie D must be loving it.
Its worth noting at this point that we could well wrap the league up in March such is the size of lead at the top. As a result of this I’ll probably rotate the squad and give the likes of Mumba, Kimpioka, Embleton and Hume the chance to get some reps as they all have the potential to be real contributors next season and beyond. Been a canny little save so far this one.