Games 20 to 22 of my first season in charge of the Herbs are fraught with danger, as we struggle to put matches away and continue to leak goals at the back. These are must-win games, and one of them is against top-of-the-table USL Dunkerque.
First up is our tie against fellow strugglers, Pau FC. Pau are equal on points with us; at this stage, we’re 15th and they’re 16th. It’s a really even game, and we might just have edged it had Kalifa Traoré not been sent off towards the end of the first half. We’re 1-0 down by the break, but a decent second half sees us equalise with 10 minutes to go.
Another must win game, against another league struggler. This time, it’s Quevilly Rouen Métropole, who are a single point above us. Winning against the other teams down this end of the league is how you escape but, yet again, we dominate a game and can’t finish it off. Again, this finishes 1-1, and the next game becomes a bit scary.
Where to go from here? The 4-3-3 that I was so confident with at the start had us scoring goals for fun, but conceding them just as often. The problem was – I think – that our full-backs were supplying the width going forward, and they’re just not good enough to do that and defend consistently. So, I switched it up to a 4-4-2 / 4-2-4 thingy that didn’t seem to work at all, and now I’m thinking of introducing something new.
To be honest, I’ve been tinkering with it for a while, and I think it’s now time to go 5 at the back. I don’t want to spend 90 minutes defending and hoping to get a set-piece goal (Hi, Walter Smith, circa 2008), so we go for a kinda 3-4-3 or 5-4-1 that I hope will give us width and enough cover at the back.
/end of tactics talk
Well, that went well. A 3-1 win at home to the league leaders is more than I could’ve expected. It was a weird game, with Greg Houla opening the scoring for us, then scoring an own goal for them, and finally conceding a penalty (which they missed) before I hauled him off. His replacement set up two goals and we looked comfortable at the end.
We’ve now got 5 games left to save the season and finish in 14th or above. The first of these is against the team in 3rd, but the rest are against teams around us at the bottom of the league. We’re currently sitting 13th, 1 point above the relegation places, but I need to be thinking about winning all 4 of those games against fellow relegation fodder.