Matchdays 19 – 30 were always going to be a tough run of fixtures and I would be satisfied if we were still top come the 31st fixture of the season. It started well enough with 2 victories over Tuttocuoio and Pro Patria (which included another Mendy hat-trick) taking us into the winter break. Having assessed the squad I decided not to strengthen it in the winter transfer window. I already have a few players grumbling about a lack of first team opportunities and I am happy with what I have at my disposal anyway. Bologna showed some interest in young centre back Mattias Andersson but we managed to stave it off. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ll be able to keep him beyond the summer especially with a £1.1m release clause. Someone will take a punt on that.
We thumped some shitey amateur team 9-0 in a friendly that was arranged just to keep the fitness up before a massive run of three games against Como, Livorno and Cremonese who were sitting 7th, 2nd and 3rd, respectively. If we could go through that run unbeaten then the dream would start to become a reality. It started well enough with a 4-1 away thumping of Como with young starlet Dario Saric banging in a hat-trick. A bumper crowd of over 7,000 would watch a cagey 0-0 draw with Livorno that put us 4 points clear. So far so good. Then the wheels came off and I blame on loan left back Luca Barlocco.
‘Barmy’ Barlocco managed to get himself sent off in the 9th minute against Cremonese for a ridiculously stupid challenge from behind. On the half way line. With the attacker going away from goal. In the fucking 9th minute. It was basically the same as Rob Kiernan’s red card against St. Johnstone. It was always going to be uphill after that and we held out till the 54th minute before Cremonese snatched the only goal of the game.
A comfortable 4-2 victory over Pro Piacenza followed before we faced 17th placed Campodarsego. Mendicino put us 1-0 up in a game we were dominating before Barlocco managed to get himself sent off AGAIN in the 41st minute. As you can imagine I was furious. Campo equalised straight after the red card before then snatching a 91st minute winner. Barlocco would be dropped. Indefinitely.
We again bounced back well from defeat, beating Carrarese 2-0 at home, but then lost to 5th placed Bassano, 1-0. No red card this time, just a piss poor performance. It also meant we lost top spot in the table for the first time since matchday 9. Back at home we would beat Viterbese Castrense 1-0 in a game where we had 20 attempts to their 1 but still needed a 91st minute winner by Michael Fabbro (I actually shouted out when that hit the back of the net). This game also secured us the minimum off a play-off spot so we’ve reached our pre-season expectations but we have much loftier ambitions now.
Before the final game of this update we lost Dario Saric for the remainder of the season which also happened last season. Pretty irritating. Another Fabby wonder strike gave us a 1-0 win over Bra and although we dominated an Andrea Doninelli red card (for a vicious foul) made it a nervy last 15. Overall it was a tough run but with 8 games left we are only a point behind Cremonese and 7 ahead of Livorno who are surely out of it now. We only have two games against current top 10 teams in the run in compared to 6 for both Cremonese and Livorno, who still have to play each other. It’s gonna be tight as fuck.