Our next 2 months of football saw us go on a great run, picking up 6 wins, a draw and a loss, with the loss knocking us out of the Taca de Portugal Placard, the Portuguese FA cup.
We kick November off at the top of the league and continue our good form with wins coming over SC Torreence & Benfica e Castelo.
Before the SC Pombal game I take Philip Chidi to one side to praise him for his recent form
‘Great work so far Phil, you’re our leading scorer with 9, this is exactly why we signed you, keep it up’
‘Thanks for the praise boss I appreciate it’ he replies
We go into our next game against SC Pombal looking to continue this form and really cement our place at the top of the league
12 minutes into the game
‘Fantastic finish Phil. Ruben, get the back 4 staying back, no pressing let them come to us’ I relay a message to goalscorer Philip Chidi and Ruben Parraga
The game continued on, and we found ourselves 2 goals to the good after Marco Farinha buried a chance from a corner
‘Marco, keep wide, don’t cut in, keep there on the right, they’re weak out there’
‘Noted boss’ Marco Farinha replies.
SC Pombal press forward straight from the kick off.
A long ball over the top
Gomes clears, but it goes straight to Landim not far out from the area
Get in, great tackle from Chidi there, he’s lost the ball though and it’s loose. Hold up, he’s pulled up from his sprint forward and he’s down holding his leg
‘Ruben, find out what’s up with him’
‘He’s probably pulled a muscle boss. I’ll get the medic out there’ Ruben Parraga replies
‘Waste some time, there’s only 3 minutes to go until half time’
Ruben nods back.
As the medics rush on the filed a few of the players gather round the dugout for a drink
‘Keep it up boys, plenty of pressing, no letting up, we cannot let them get back into this game’ I say to Farinha and Dentinho who are stood with me
A couple of minutes pass when Ruben says ‘They’ve been a while on the pitch boss, I’ll go check it out’
‘No don’t, the physio is speaking to the ref’ just as I say that, the linesman walks over to me
‘Vince, sub needed, Chidi can’t carry on’
‘Are you sure? It didn’t look like much’ I reply
‘Your guy out there says he’s done more than pull a muscle, you’re going to need the strestcher’
As 2 more medical professionals rush on to the pitch, there’s an ominous silence all around the stadium. The fans from both teams are all in silence, they can tell this isn’t good.
A few more minutes pass before anything happens. The medics manage to get Philip onto the stretcher, as they do it seems as though every fan in the stadium is stood up and clapping
‘Ruben, stay with him’
‘Yes of course’ he replies as he walks down the tunnel with the medics and the stretcher carrying Philip Chidi. I hope it’s not as bad as it looks.
As the game restarts, there’s a nervous atmosphere around, it’s a bit surreal in a way. We manage to get to half time still 2 goals up
‘Okay guys, we all know Philip’s got injured but don’t let that dwell on your minds, we’re winning this game and we need to keep it that way, understood?’ I say to the team. A hushed silence is in the air, only Carlos Espinoza responds by saying yes boss. ‘Don’t throw this away, we’re in a good position here, keep playing as you have been and we’ll see this through’
Straight from the kick off SC Pombal were at us, closing down at every opportunity and pulled a goal back 8 minutes in. The ball was crossed from the right wing, and somehow Landim got on the end of it with a decent header, we should’ve cleared it but there’s nothing changing it, we’re now only 1 goal up. Maybe they can tell the teams head isn’t in this after that injury in the first half.
66 minute of the game
‘Carlos, get the center halves splitting up, stretch the width, make them work for the space’ I yell at Carlos Espinoza in goal. He nods back and gestures to Gomes at center half to move wider.
Gomes receives the ball outside the area from Carlos in goal and looks up, there’s nothing on, no one is moving in front of him. Nelson Torres at left full back drops deeper and calls for the ball, he receives it, takes a touch to steady himself, and he’s now waiting for movement in front.
Again there’s nothing on, no one is creating any space at all, frustrated Nelson throws both arms up and I can hear him shout ‘give me a clue then!’ but nothing happens. He turns back towards goal and plays the ball back to Espinoza.
As he hits it, their goal scorer Landim breaks through and intercepts the ball, how the hell did Nelson not see him, he’s at least 6 foot 2?!? He’s got the ball and Carlos in goal rushes out, as he does Landim traps the ball with his left, does a fake shot with his right which makes Carlos attempt to save the shot that isn’t coming leaving the right hand side of his net wide open, and Landim places the ball into the far corner. 2 all now, and it was all our own doing.
‘Ruben, get Dentinho off, I want Edivandio up top, get Cordoba playing in the hole, I want long balls up over the top, break the offside trap’ I yell at my assistant. He makes the changes and the shape of the team has changed.
We start to look a bit more threatening now we’ve got Edivandio’s pace up front, he’s running the defenders ragged and in the 81st minute Amorim clips his heels as he breaks free of the defence. As he goes down Amorim knows what’s coming and doesn’t hang around for the ref to actually tell him he’s got his second yellow. As the card comes out he’s already on his way down the tunnel.
‘Tiago, TIAGO, fuck sake TIAGOOOOOOOO’ I yell towards Tiago Gomes, our tallest center half, he finally looks my way before the ball is played from the free kick we’ve just won
‘Yes you there’s only 1 Tiago, get up top now, you’re playing as a striker’
We need some height here, they’re down to 10 men and we need to crowd the box with bodies.
Nothing comes of that free kick, however Tiago manages to win a corner as Farinha whipped a long ball into the box, Tiago got his head on it but it took a deflection on it’s way to goal.
‘Whoa whoa whoa no Carlos get back ya daft twat, you’re not going up for this corner, stay in your net’ I’m yelling at Espinoza in goal, it’s not a game where we want to put all 11 men in the box. We’ve got all 10 out field players in the area for the corner.
The ball comes in, it misses everyone and is cleared out of the box.
Edivandio gets the ball and drives back in the box, whip it, get it towards the center halves I’m saying to myself. He does neither and drives to the byline. When he gets there he doesn’t have time to get the ball into the box as their other full back Rodrigo Chana trips him and the refs given the penalty!
‘Marco, you’re up. Pick your spot, don’t change your mind’ I tell Marco Farinha who steps up, takes 3 steps back and buries the ball into the net. Game, set and match, just.
After the match we’re on the coach back to Oleiros when I get a call from our head physio Helder Jacinto
‘Vince, bad news, his cruciate ligaments have gone, he’s looking at the very least 9 months out, that’s best case’
‘Shit, okay thanks. Tell him I’ll call him later’ I reply. Well that’s our top scorers season over with, I’m absolutely gutted for him, he’s been playing well and is a big part of our form this season.
The day after the game, Philip Chidi has spoken to a reporter about his injury and confirmed he’s considering calling time on his career. I do speak to him in person at the hospital, but he’s not sure what to do just yet. I tell him he’s got my support as well as the support from the club during this period. I don’t want to smother him at the minute, I want him to think about his recovery first and foremost. My concern, other than obviously our main striker and leading scorer being ruled out for the rest of the season is when he went down the team sort of caved in. We gave a 2 goal lead away, but the response and to push on to win the game was incredible.
We end November with 3 wins from 3, and sitting first in the league with 28 points. The next 2 months are going to be interesting
Next episode- It’s within reach
Previous episode – Can we hit the ground running?