Championship Manager 89/90 Challenge: September ’89

Oldham visit St. James next, and while they’re not the best team in the division, a defence led by Dennis Irwin is never easy to break down. Joe Royle will have them solid and disciplined, and it’ll be up to us to take it to their Christmas Tree formation. Captain Dillon is back, and takes his place alongside O’Brien. I see no reason to mess with the Double Delight. We’ve won two in a row. We’ve never won three in a row. Now would be a good time to change that. Let’s make September worthwhile.

It’s there, three in a row! We’re getting ourselves away from the relegation zone, which is important. And the players are growing in confidence. I was right, Oldham were difficult to break down, but it is more even than I had predicted. We struggle to find a way to stop their Christmas Tree skewering our flat back four, and Tommy Wright is the hero in goal – I take it back, he belongs on the international stage. Roger Palmer gave us our chance when he clattered into O’Brien in the box. The midfielder dusted himself off and put away the penalty. He’s our top scorer with 4. We make off with our own 1-0 win, a bit smash and grab but no complaints.

Our marathon month continues apace, and we head back north to host Watford, an intriguing side who have won half their games, scored a hat full of goals and yet my scouts tell me that Glenn Roeder is their most important player. As difficult as he may be to break down, I have more of a watchful eye on Neil Redfearn, who at 24 is just entering he peak years and looks dangerous. They play a standard 4-4-2, and I’ll stick to the Double Delight as it’s working oh so well.

It’s our first draw of the season, but we were the better side throughout. The first half is pretty quiet, but we put them on the back foot and Redfearn spends more time clearing his own lines than threatening ours. We have a penalty claim turned down on 20 minutes, an absolute certainty for anyone else, but denied for us. Always the way. On half time, O’Brien is denied by Roeder, and then Andy Thorn by the goalkeeper. It falls to young Clark to give us the lead. They target him in the second period, and just before the hour Kenny Jackett commits a heinous foul on him, forcing him off and not even picking up a card. This is 1989 and if you’re not a real man, you won’t get far. Clark is only 16, but I think he’ll become a real man. I, on the other hand, like hummus. Paul Wilkinson scores on 72 minutes and Watford close the game down. A draw is better than a loss, but it brings our winning streak to an end.

This Saturday – Wednesday schedule is arduous. The squad is exhausted.. Most of them have played all of those games for a whole month. But one more push will see us through, and then a fortnight’s international break for most of the squad to recover. It’s not exactly a been a successful month, but beat Swindon and we can maintain our league position. Once again they are a strong defensive unit, with Colin Calderwood the rock we will have to squeeze blood from. And Ossie Ardiles has them playing well. It won’t be easy.

It’s a close run thing, but a win is a win is a win. The first half is an open, attacking affair, a Newcastle side the likes of which we won’t see in real life for another seven years. They have a go, we have a go, and we’ll see who scores most. Swindon open the scoring, Steve White taking it past Brock and placing a shot beyond a despairing Tommy Wright. No matter, I’m sure we have quality in this side. At half time, I lay into them and make sure they know what’s on the line – my job. It registers. Four minutes into the second half, Quinn capitalises on a mistake by Colin Calderwood to find the net. Swindon try to come back at us, but we’re the better side and creating the better chances. I freshen it up by bringing Dublin on for Quinn and his shot, well saved as it was by Digby, falls to Gary Brazil to give us the lead. Dublin then gets one himself, his first for the club, to seal the victory. Swindon give us a bit of a fright in the 88th minute when Steve Foley runs the length of the pitch, beating four players, to reduce the deficit, but we hang on.

We finish the month, as we started it, in 15th position, but I feel we’ve turned a corner. We’re winning games, we’re playing well, and Geordies have stopped threatening me in the street. Unfortunately, the board don’t seem to feel the same. At least we’re still in the League Cup. We’ve got Arsenal in the Third Round. Oh.

Our thanks to Simon Treanor for his hard work, and letting us use his database. Follow him on Twitter and if you want to have a go yourself go to his website.

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