We’re top of League 1 by 3 points with a game in hand over 2nd place Rochdale, with Sheffield United and Shrewsbury not far behind. I weren’t expecting Rochdale to be giving us a run for our money but fair play to them, Rochdale manager Keith Hill could be in with a shout for manager of the season if he can keep it going. We’re looking good defensively having only conceded 19 goals, the lowest in the league.
Our signing of the season at this point has got to be Jermaine Pennant, 19 assists from 24 starts says it all. He’s been the catalyst of our style of play, whipping good quality crosses in to the box at every opportunity. The top scorer mantle is shared between Grant Holt and on loan striker Mason Bennett, with 10 each. I’d not initially planned on giving Holt much playing time, he’s 34 now and injured at the start of the game but his return coincided with a long term injury to our other target man, Craig Davies, and Holt’s taken the opportunity with both hands. He’s given me a tough decision to make at the end of the season when his contract expires, but on £20,000 per week he’s easily our highest paid player.
When possible I do like to give the squad a mid-season boost with the introduction of a couple of players. I finally dusted off the chequebook for two new players that I’ve been scouting this season: Jason Cummings (a 475K Scottish poacher from Hibernian) and Sam Morsy (a 400K Egyptian ball winning midfielder from Chesterfield). We were really short of defensive midfielders so Morsy was an important signing, and 11 goals in 18 games for Hibernian made Cummings an irresistible addition to the strike force (impressive attributes for a 20 year old as well). I’ve also brought back a fan favourite on loan in the shape of Jordi Gomez, his versatility should help plug any injury gaps in midfield during the business end of the season.
Though we’re not struggling financially I would like to shift a few players out to reduce the squad size and wage bill. Craig Morgan, Michael Jacobs, and Will Grigg are all transfer listed, but there’s been little interest in them other than a few laughable bids for Michael Jacobs from Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s Birmingham. Sorry Jimmy, he’ll cost you more than 100K in instalments.
The final hours of transfer deadline day saw Michael Jacobs seal a move to Birmingham for 850K, his value at the time.
I’m keeping an eye out for a couple of decent young full backs too, Andy Kellett isn’t the best left back, Reece James has been poor at every opportunity, and on-loan Tyias Browning is temporarily filling the right-back slot at the moment. If we get promotion those positions will have to be addressed.
A very disappointing 2-0 loss at Walsall saw us knocked out of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy in the 2nd round. We faired a little bit better in the Capital One Cup, knocking out Shrewsbury 3-0 and Stoke 1-0 before being eliminated in the 3rd round 1-0 to Southampton. Our favoured FA Cup campaign has been a massive highlight of the season so far, having got as far as the 4th round. Victories over Morecombe, Crawley and Stoke (again!) have setup a tricky away tie against Fulham. The 3rd round was the expectation so I’m happy to have gotten this far, but if we could manage a shock win at Craven Cottage it would no doubt give the finances a boost in prize money, with a potential big tie in the 5th round. Re-lifting the FA Cup at this stage of the game seems very unlikely!
Watch the YouTube highlights of our thrilling 4-2 victory over Stoke at the Britannia Stadium in the FA Cup 3rd round.