• The European Journeyman Ep 43

    We’re still in dream-land here with Red Star. We’ve avoided a Halloween nightmare in the Serbian Cup, and made it to November with a record of played 24, won 19 and drawn 5 in all competitions. Our win over Partizan last month saw us extend our lead at the top to SEVEN POINTS.

    This month sees us in action seven times against teams that are definitely beatable. Partizan have less games but the games they have are considerably harder, so there is a chance that our lead will increase as we go along. First up for us is a league game against FK Vojvodina. They’re sitting in 8th place and offer us the chance of our first league double!!

    Rosic, Bjekovic, Cardoso, Kovacevic, Bulat, Campar and Stanic ALL return to the XI after being rested for the cup game. Radojevic and Lorenzo are the only injuries currently in the 1st team squad, so it’s as strong a team as I’m able to field.

    MATCH DAY As has been the norm in the league games this season, we come out the blocks quickest and Simin has a golden chance in the 3rd minute to take the lead. Stanic does all the heavy lifting down the left flank before pulling the ball back to Mirosavic. The supporting left-back sends over a cross to the far post but Simin, unmarked and all alone, can only get under his header and send it skywards. It ends up being the only serious chance of the first half. Vojvodina are clearly happy with the point that they started with and are not being adventurous in the slightest!!

    SECOND HALF The players are told to improve their use of the ball, and less than five minutes after the restart we have the lead! Stanic again is at the root of the good work. He wins the ball on the halfway line and feeds Ilijin. It’s a simple one-two between Ilijin and Stanic that sees Ilijin get to the by-line and fizz over a low cross into the path of Simin. He’s seven yards out in the centre of the goal. All it takes is a touch and it’s 1-0 Red Star!!! It’s a goal that is both deserved and undeserved. We’ve had the more chances but our finishing AGAIN has been woeful! The shots on target ratio is improved five minutes later though! It’s a Mirosavic corner that causes chaos in the Vojvodina area. Kovacevic leaps highest but his header, destined for the top corner, is clawed away by the keeper. The ball falls to Milosavljevic and after a Cruyff turn on the by-line he pulls it back to into the area. Stanic times his run from the edge to perfection, and his first time shot beats the still sprawling keeper to make it 2-0!!! We’ve pretty much sealed the game now and Ilijin has the chance to extend the lead. His pace again terrifies the opposition defence but when he’s played in by Stanic he can only lift his shot over the bar. With five minutes to play, Vojvodina attempt to make a game of it!! Trifunovic firing in from the edge of the area after more corner calamities!! 2-1 Red Star! The last couple of minutes is made to be nervy ones after Mirosavic, who has been great going forward, goes straight through Trifunovic in the corner, is given a second yellow card and his marching orders!! Vojvodina don’t have the time to capitalise on the man advantage though and the match finishes 2-1 Red Star!

    We finished the match with less possession but massively ahead on chances and xG. Partizan win their game and the gap remains at seven points.

    We get a warning from the medical team that Campar is in serious need of a rest. A quick chat later and he agrees to be rested for the next couple of weeks. Barring injuries or suspensions I’m AIMING to hold him back until December. Stanic picked up a knock during the Vojvodina game so I’ll have to keep an eye on his fitness as we head towards to return fixture against St Johnstone.

    I am given a MASSIVE headache though just a day before the St Johnstone game. Goalkeeper Rosic suffers a hernia and is ruled out for up to FIVE WEEKS!! Milos Gordic is a capable deputy, but it’s a change I’d obviously not like to make.

    MATCH DAY Stanic, although recovered from his knock, isn’t quite up to a starting role. His spot is taken by Mijatovic and it’s a line-up that should still be enough to get past our Scottish opponents. We start the stronger but despite dominating the opening fifteen minutes, it’s St Johnstone who take the lead!! Macpherson stands over a freekick to the left of the Red Star area and lifts his freekick onto the head of Rooney, He sends his header back across goal and it creeps in off the far post!! 0-1 St Johnstone!! We’re stunned, and struggling to get a hold of the ball. St Johnstone smell blood and grab a shock second just TWO minutes later!!! It’s another Macpherson freekick that causes all the trouble. His long ball is missed in the air by Cardoso and falls to Charlie Kane six yards out!! 0-2 St Johnstone!!! We go more attacking. The two goal deficit almost demands it. The attacking intent seems to nullify St Johnstone until the stroke of halftime!!! Ilijin misplaces a pass in the centre circle and St Johnstone’s break is lightning fast!! Kane gets to the by-line and cuts it back to an unmarked Hendry!!! 0-3 St Johnstone and it’s getting embarrassing!! Halftime can’t come a minute too soon and despite have 60% possession and twice the amounts of shots we’re pretty much out of the game.

    SECOND HALF The water bottle is thrown in the changing room. They’ve embarrassed me and themselves and are left in no doubt that it’s not good enough. It’s going to take a miracle to turn this around, but the players seem to up for it!! Cardoso thinks he’s reduced the deficit on the hour mark, but his header comes back off the post and is cleared away to safety!! Stankovic has a chance to at least make it LOOK a little better, but his effort is cleared off the line. The game is put to bed with less than twenty minutes to go as Williamson picks up the ball THIRTY-FIVE yards out and unleashed an unstoppable shot that hits that mythical “top bins” location!!! 0-4 St Johnstone!! Just as things, SURELY, can’t get any worse. Stankovic loses his head and dives in two footed. It’s a straight red and we’ll see out the worse game of the season with ten men!! St Johnstone have been so clinical with their attacks. They’ve had just the eight chances but have been on target with seven of them and scored from four of those!! We manage to claw back a little bit of dignity in time added on, as Kovacevic nods home from Bulat’s free kick, but it’s way too little and waaaaay too late. 1-4 St Johnstone!! The ref, mercifully, calls time on the game and it’s our first loss of the season in any competition.

    I’m at a loss for words and the players are left to stew in the changing room. No post match team talk, and I’m tempted to make them WALK back from Scotland!!!

    Bestikas managed to beat Anderlecht 5-2, meaning a win in either of the two remaining games will be enough to see us qualify from the group.

    Things go from bad to worse. Simic was injured in the match and is out for a month with a twisted ankle. He’d only been on the pitch for ten minutes and will leave us with jus the two fit strikers until the window opens!!!

    After the horror show that we just witnessed, we couldn’t have asked for a better game to have next. We’re at home to 15th placed Feniks. They’ll be without their best player as well with Timotic being ineligible to play against his parent club.

    MATCH DAY The striker crisis has caused me to employ desperate measures. SIXTEEN YEAR OLD Mirza Veljkic is promoted to the first team and goes straight onto the bench for the Feniks game. Milosavljevic is replaced by Stanic, it’s not due to poor form or performance. He’s just too damned tired to start the game!! The team talk writes itself and the players are told that I expect MUCH better performance from them. Kovacevic almost gives us the perfect tonic in the opening five minutes, but his header from Bulat’s corner just creeps wide of the far post. Mijatovic and Kovacevic again have chances to open the scoring but are both denied by a determined Toroman. On the half hour, another corner nearly garners the opening goal. Mijatovic swings in a ball and Kovacevic again rises higher than the rest but his header this time comes back from off the crossbar and falls at the feet of Ilijin. His attempted finish is instinctive, BUT CLEARED OFF THE LINE!! The first half draws to a close and it’s been near total domination by Red Star. Unfortunately, they’ve come up against the keeper THAT I SIGNED FOR FENIKS, and has decided to prove me right!!

    SECOND HALF I can’t complain to the players, they’re sent back out with the message of just “keep doing what you’re doing!” Feniks start the second period in full lockdown mode. there’s not a single chance for either side in the opening fifteen minutes of the half. Simin is in poor form and the call is made for the youngster to make his professional debut on the hour mark!! Then, with fifteen minutes to play, AND WITH THEIR FIRST CHANCE OF THE MATCH, Feniks bundle home an Aleksic corner!!! 0-1 Feniks!! All caution is thrown to the wind. Losing in the European game was bad enough, but if we lose to my former club AT HOME then that would be worse!!! Salvation comes with barely five minutes left to play. Ilijin gets behind the Feniks defence and pulls the ball back to Rahman. His cross is to the far post WHERE DEBUTANT TEENAGER VELJKIC FINALLY POWERS A HEADER PAST TOROMAN!!! 1-1 with time left to win it!! Everything is thrown forward. Feniks struggle to get the ball out of their half and in the 90th minute Cardoso goes rampaging through the middle. His pass finds Ilijin and his knockdown is picked up by Rahman. Baba’s cross is again aimed at the far post. Veljkic beats his marker to it AND FLICKS THE BALL PAST TOROMAN AGAIN!!! 2-1 Red Star……HOLD ON THOUGH….VAR IS LOOKING AT THE GOAL…..AND ALLOWS IT TO STAND!!!!! 2-1 RED STAR!!! The Feniks players look broken. They had a historic victory against the Serbian big boys, managed by their former manager, in their grasp and they’ve let it slip through their fingers. Then, in the dying seconds of the game, Ilijin puts the game to bed. It’s a long ball from Milosavljevic that sends releases Ilijin. He rounds Toroman and slots the ball into the empty net!! 3-1 Red Star!

    It’s a result that was deserved. Feniks made us work incredibly hard for it, with Toroman a standout performer for them. Two goals on his professional debut for Veljkic will have him on cloud nine and Ilijin’s 7th league goal in 12 games just put the icing on the comeback cake!

    There’s a two week gap between games, giving us enough time to fully rest the players. TSC are up next and should prove to be a tougher test that Feniks should have been.

    The international break, though good for resting the majority of the squad, does not bring good news for Baba Rahman. He’s already got a move away agreed in January, and has played his last game for the club. He breaks down during an international friendly against Cape Verde and is ruled our for FIVE MONTHS with a damaged achilles tendon!! It’s the only injury the squad suffers during two week gap. Nikolic isn’t happy however. He wants for game time, and asks for a loan to get it. I tell him no, and that’s he’ll be better off straight off leaving. He agrees and it’s onto the transfer list he goes!! Joining him is Radovan Pankov. He’s 31, out of contract next season, and with one player ahead of him already and two other players that can play in his position I’m happy to cash in on him now.

    MATCH DAY Despite the two week lay off from league action, Bjekovic is STILL not quite at full match fitness. He’s sitting this game out and another youth team prospect, Predrag Kukic steps up into the starting XI. Milosavljevic returns to the starting line-up in the only other optional change. He replaces Mijatovic in midfield. Radojevic replaces the injured Rahman to round out the team. After two underwhelming performances in a row, I’m quite nervous as the match kicks off. Those nerves are put at ease after just twelve minutes. Ilijin’s pace again causing our opposition troubles as he races onto a ball over the top and pulls the back back to the onrushing Milosavljevic. His shot is instinctive rather than measured, and slots in past the near post!!! 1-0 Red Star! We’re a lot more composed on the ball than we have been the past two games. Controlling possession AND getting our shots on target. Our advantage is doubled just before the half hour. Milosavljevic launches a long free kick into the area, it misses everyone EXCEPT Cardoso. He tracks the flight of the ball and hits a cushioned volley at the far post!! 2-0 Red Star! TSC wake up a little and Bobic forces Gordic into an acrobatic save after connecting with Stanojlovic’s cross. It’s just a flash in the pan though and we continue to control the pace and possession of the match until half time.

    SECOND HALF The players are praised for the amount of shots we’re getting away. They’re motivated as they retake the field but that doesn’t stop TSC from starting the second half on fire!!! Toth feeds Stanojlovic in the Red Star area, he gets in front of Kukic and pulls the ball back to Csordas. He’s lurking at the near post and Gordic has no time to get across to his shot!!! 2-1 Red Star with less than a minute of the second half played!! Everything that we were doing right in the first half, we’re doing wrong in the second. TSC are growing more and more into the game, and the, once again, underperforming Simin is replaced by the youngster Veljkic just before the hour. He provides a crucial distraction just three minutes later! His run drags the TSC defence apart and Ilijin races onto Stanic’s back line splitting pass! He takes a single touch and hammers his shot past the keeper!!! 3-1 Red Star! The game starts to bogged down in the middle of the park and chances become a premium. Csordas sends a back post header over the top and at the other end Ilijin blows a great chance when one one one with the keeper. TSC guarantee that it’ll be a nervy last ten minutes when Azizov bundles in a second for TSC in the 82nd minute after great work by Toth!! 3-2 Red Star! The goal revitalises them and it’s all TSC until the ref calls time on a thrilling game!! Final Score 3-2 Red Star!!

    With Partizan not playing this weekend, our lead at the top is extended to TEN points. Anderlecht is up next followed by the first of a double header against Kolubara. Nikolic, after having requested a move from the club, is subject to bids that are accepted and I’m totally expecting him to leave the club in the next window.

    The build-up to a crucial Anderlecht game is marred by Campar knocking on the door asking why he’s not getting the game time he deserves. Well, it’s like this Zoran. You’ve been complaining of being TIRED so I’ve been resting you. Simple promise to play him again sees him leave happy. Transfer-listed Nikolic has a bid accepted and looks to be on his way out.

    There’s no injuries in the lead up to the Europa Conference match away to Anderlecht and with Stankovic suspended following sending off against St Johnstone it’s an easy way back into the starting line-up for Campar. The only other change is at right-back. Youngster Kukic isn’t quite fit enough and he steps aside for Bjekovic.

    MATCH DAY Despite being away from home, it’s Red Star who make all the early running. A long ball over the top from Stanic is just a touch too far ahead of Simin but a similar ball from Stanic, this time for Ilijin to chase, is right on the money. The lofted pass lands right in the sweet spot of ahead of the chasing defender but too far from the goalkeeper to collect. Ilijin outpaces his marker and fires a shot across the Anderlecht keeper and into the top corner!!! 1-0 Red Star after just 7 minutes!! It’s Ilijin’s 15th goal in all competitions and allows us to settle back and hit the Belgians on the counter. The game starts to get bogged down in the middle of the park with chances coming few and far between. The second goal of the game comes on the half hour mark. A Bulat corner is whipped in to the near post and met by the perfectly timed run of Cardoso. His flicked header is heading wide though until it deflects off Anderlecht defender Nsiala and in!!! OWN GOAL and 2-0 Red Star!! Anderlecht wake up and come straight back at us. Gordic making a fantastic close range save just 2 minutes later. Ilijin uses his pace to spring the Anderlecht offside trap again, but Von Crombrugge is more than a match for the shot this time. Half time arrives and it’s a two goal lead that Red Star take with them. It’s been an even game with good chances a premium.

    SECOND HALF The player are praised and kicked back out again. Von Crombrugge saves Anderlecht from going even further behind with a brave stop at the feet of Simin just before the hour but can do nothing two minutes later as Ilijin and Milosavljevic combine to send Campar through on goal. He waits and waits until Von Crombrugge commits and calmly slots the ball past him to make it 3-0!! The game is safe, and with the win should come qualification from the group. The attacking intent is knocked back and the game again settles into a midfield slugfest. Anderlecht are not able to make any type of inroads on us and Ilijin fires home a fourth to put the game to bed in the 90th minute. It’s a simple give and go between Ilijin and Bulat with the former firing past Von Crombrugge at his near post!! 4-0 Red Star!! The ref blows for full time and it’s as comprehensive a victory as you’re likely to see!! FINAL SCORE 4-0 RED STAR

    Bestikas and St Johnstone have played out a 1-1 draw which sees us, with one game left to play in the group stage, sitting level on points but top with 10 points.

    After the qualification celebrations die down, Mijatovic knocks on the the door and tells me he thinks he should be playing more and that his career is stagnating. Problem is, he’s a WINGER in a team that doesn’t play with width!! He’s been transfer-listed without success and told that it’s probably best if he just leaves. He backs down and claims he’s willing to wait his turn, WHICH IS NOT GOING TO HAPPEN!!

    The last game of the month sees us at home to 13th placed Kolubara. There’s just a 2 day gap between games, and apart from Bjekovic being in need of a rest, the rest of the XI are given an extra days rest. The squad is given a boost between games when Dragan Rosic returns to training following his hernia. Gordic, despite the St Johnstone horror debut, has been an able deputy but as soon as he’s match fit, Rosic will return to the line-up.

    Stanic is on the verge on setting a new Red Star record for assists in a season. The current record is 12 and he’s on 11 and we’re not even at Christmas yet!! He’s also weighed in with 9 goals from midfield which has been handy.

    MATCH DAY With the next round of the Serbian Cup coming just a few days after this match, it’s a chance to rotate the squad a little. Rosic, Lekovic, Tanasijevic, Stankovic and Mijatovic come in for Gordic, Bjekovic, Kovacevic, Stanic and Milosavljevic. We have no real options up front until both the window opens and Lorenzi returns from injury, so both Simin and Ilijin retain their places. Red Star, predictably, start the stronger and following a Bulat corner Cardoso is tripped and the ref points to the spot!! Mijatovic steps up……left-footed….. AND BURIES THE KICK TO THE KEEPERS RIGHT!! 1-0 Red Star! It’s been a feisty start to the game with Lekovic booked after minutes. He doesn’t learn his lesson though and in the 11th minute gives away a needless foul on the Red Star by-line AND PICKS UP HIS SECOND YELLOW!! Red Star will have to see out the remaining 80 minutes with ten men!! Simin is sacrificed and Pankov makes a rare first team appearance from the bench. Unsurprisingly Kolubara grow into the game following the red card. They have an attempt ruled out for offside and a free kick skim the crossbar, Finally, in the 24th minute, the pull the scores level. Saric with good work down the left, cuts the ball back into the Red Star area and Vujosevic is waiting unmarked to tap the ball home!! 1-1 with plenty of game time left!! The testiness of the match continues with Ilijin taken out, off the ball, and the Kolubara defender Marinkovic given HIS second yellow card to join Lekovic in the early bath!! Halftime comes around with Red Star back in the ascendancy. Stankovic fires over just before the whistle, but with the numbers back to level then the quality of player is starting to show through.

    SECOND HALF The water bottle is thrown at Lekovic. Getting sent off for two yellows after just ten minutes is totally unacceptable. the rest are told to continue as they have been and everything will be fine. They did exactly as they were told. Unfortunately though, Kolubara just shut up shop and are happy to leave with the point they have. Despite knocking and knocking on the door, we just can’t get the final touch. The game drifts off into a knock down, drawn out affair and ends as the first half did. FINAL SCORE 1-1!

    Partizan are yet to play so the gap is still 10 points, but it’s likely to to closed to seven.

    November, aside from the SHOCKING St Johnstone performance, has been pretty good considering the injuries and fixture congestion. Just the one league match has yielded less than maximum points.

    December sees us, finally, play less games. One cup game, one European game and three league matches. All are winnable, with the Bestikas match having the added punch of being the decider of who tops the group.

    Thanks for reading folks. Any comments, likes, follows etc are ALWAYS appreciated. You can find me on my other social media sites

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  • The European Journeyman Ep42

    Life with Red Star has starting well. Actually, that’s a serious UNDERSTATEMENT. We’re unbeaten in EIGHTEEN GAMES in all competitions. Drawing three and two of those were in the second legs of Europa Conference League qualifying rounds after the ties were won and line ups rotated.

    October has a worrying amount of games. FIVE league games, TWO Europa games and the first round of the Serbian Cup. One of the league games is the first of the, dare I say it this early on, title deciders. It’s the away tie against Partizan. If we win THAT game then we’ll be well on our way.

    The build up to Anderlecht in the Europa Conference League is rocked by Mijatovic suffering a calf strain. He’s out for four weeks. He’s replaced by Milosavljevic in the middle of the park in a very much like for like swap.

    MATCH DAY The injury is Mijatovic is the only fresh one to the squad and is a strong XI that takes the field against possibly our toughest opponent in the Conference League. Anderlecht come flying put the block and when Bulat gives away a silly freekick just inside our own half, it’s aimed deep at Bundu. His nod down is gathered by Oleksiak and his turn of pace is enough to have him one-on-one with Rosic. He fires across the keeper and after just 7 minutes Anderlecht take the lead!!! Ilijin thinks he’s fired in the equaliser after 16 minutes, but he’s easily three yards offside!! Despite the early Anderlecht goal, we turn the game around and finish the half on top and without them having another shot.

    SECOND HALF The main issue so far is the fact that we’re just not hitting the target. We arrive at half time having hit the target just one in four attempts. The players are told that their performance is just not good enough and they start much better. Bulat lifts a ball over the top of the Anderlecht defence and Stanic sprints after it. He manages to keep it in and as he turns, goes to ground. The ref takes a look…..AND POINTS TO THE PENALTY SPOT!!! Campar steps up with the chance to draw Red Star level. It’s a left footed penalty…….BUT IT’S BLASTED WIDE!!! On the hour mark Bulat, already on a yellow, risks an early bath with a crunching tackle on the halfway line. Red Star break at pace but when Bjekovic pulls the ball back to Ilijin, the Anderlecht keeper is well placed to beat the ball away!! We keep the pressure up and with twenty minutes to play Ilijin has another chance to equalise. He’s put clear by Rahman but his snap shot cannons off the crossbar and away to safety!!! Finally though, with just over five minutes left to play, Red Star make a chance count!! It’s a Campar corner that’s sent in at pace, record signing Cardoso rises higher than the rest and plants his corner into the bottom corner!!! 1-1 and game on!!! Anderlecht fall back and defend what they have and the ref calls time on a match we dominated but also feel lucky to have drawn.

    Despite scoring after just six minutes, Anderlecht failed to register another shot on target. The possession was even but our attempts and shots on target were far greater. If Campar’s penalty had gone in then we might have had enough time to push on. BUT, we’re still unbeaten, and with St Johnstone to come this month we have the chance to take a stranglehold of the group.

    With just four days between matches, and injuries starting to stack up, the starting eleven are given a couple of days extra rest in the hope that they’ll be fresh for the visit of Radnicki. They’re in the bottom half and we should be able to continue our dominating ways against them.

    MATCH DAY Stanic and Campar are not fresh enough to start the Radnicki game. They’re replaced by Stankovic and Matic in the middle of the park. Baba Rahman takes a break, with one eye on the upcoming Partizan game. He’s replaced by Mirosavic. With all the changes, it’s maybe no surprise that’s it’s a disjointed display in the first half. Chance conversion is once again poor, with just one shot on target from six attempts. On the plus side, the first half closes with Radnicki not even mustering a single shot.

    SECOND HALF The restart brings absolutely no change to the flow of the game. Chance after chance after chance is created, and chance after chance after chance is thrown away from the wasteful strikers. Ilijin takes the blame and is dragged on the hour mark, with Simin replacing him. Still we can’t break the stubborn Radnicki defence down. Until deep into time added on. Red Star win a freekick deep in the Radnicki half. The kick is sent deep and is met by the head of Milosavljevic!! The contact is sweet and rebounds off the far post and rolls over the line!!! The Red Star players mob Milosavljevic in celebration and don’t notice the ref talking to the VAR team……AND THE GOAL IS DISALLOWED!!!!

    It’s the final action of the match and an incredibly disappointing 0-0 draw.

    Just one in four shots on target tells the story. 60% possession is all well and good, but when the strikers can’t put the ball away it’s useless. Things take a better turn as we leave the ground though. Partizan lose to Cukaricki and fall four points behind us!!

    Up next is a MASSIVE game. We’re away to Partizan and have the chance to go a HUGE seven points clear of them. Milosavljevic will miss the potential title decider. He’s suffering from blisters and will be out for just over a week. Stankovic comes in to replace him.

    Things look up for the new year. Marko Lazetic agrees to come in on loan from Chelsea. The 22 year old has 50 Serbian U21 caps and 32 goals in those games. Lorenzi and Ilijin have been fine, but their inexperience shows at times when a more experienced head is needed.

    MATCH DAY Stankovic is the only change from the recent matches. It’s an even start. No surprise seeing as we’re the two biggest teams in the league. Bulat stings the palms of the Partizan keeper with an early free kick and Stanic clips the crossbar with a long range header. We make the breakthrough on ten minutes though!! The roaming CENTRE BACK, Cardoso, receives the ball on the edge of the Partizan area. He takes a touch to get it out from under his feet and unleashes an unstoppable shot into he bottom corner!!! 1-0 Red Star!! The goal wakes Partizan up and Baba Rahram has to be alert and on his toes to intercept a cute reverse through-ball on the edge of our area. Five minutes later we double our advantage!!! The move starts on the right with Bjekovic. He plays the ball into Bulat who moves it on to Stankovic. He plays the ball into Campar and plays a sweet ball ahead of Rahman. Baba drives into the area and squares the ball to Ilijin. He’s seven yards out and only has to make contact with the ball!!! 2-0 Red Star!! VAR takes a quick look at Ilijin’s position but the goal is quickly confirmed!!

    We’ve sped to a two goal advantage after just 15 minutes, Partizan do break through once but can only hit the post when one on one. The first half comes to an end and we’ve been in near total control. Partizan have managed just 2 attempts and have yet to garner a shot on target.

    SECOND HALF The players are challenged to up their game and put the match to bed. Despite this, Partizan are the ones that come out the dressing room the quicker. Terzic forces an early save from Rosic, but the attempt is chalked off for offside. We’ve not started the second period at all well. Partizan have come out and controlled the game. They get their reward just after the hour. Holender finding time and space on the edge of the Red Star area and his shot nestles in the bottom corner to breathe life into the match!!! 2-1 Red Star! The Red Star players get a rocket from the sidelines which works a treat!! Straight from the restart we control possession and after good work from Cardoso, Campar breaks through the Partizan line and fires across the keeper to restore the two goal advantage!!! 3-1 Red Star!! Partizan aren’t done though and they come back at us again. Rosic makes life difficult with one attempt before they win a free kick on the edge of the area with 15 minutes remaining. Nikolic strikes the free kick right footed, and it curls around the wall and in off the post!!! 3-2 Red Star!! Once again we go straight back on the attack. Baba Rahman takes a throw in on the left and the ball is worked to Stankovic but his cross is too deep. It’s recycled by Stanic who plays the ball to Simic. His shot is blocked but the rebound lands at the feet of Campar who has the easiest of finishes to double his tally and ONCE AGAIN restore the two goal advantage!! 4-2 Red Star!! Finally we manage to grab a hold of the game and see the final ten minutes out. The referee calls time on a thrilling match and it’s MASSIVELY IMPORTANT WIN for Red Star!!

    The result lifts us an impressive SEVEN points clear of our nearest rival with nearly half of the Preliminary Stage played. We have home games against St Johnstone and Radnicki Nis and an away cup tie against OFK Vrsac still to come this month. Campar and Bjekovic are TIRED!! A simple rest day between matches isn’t going to cut it. They’re both going to have to be rested, probably for the rest of the month. Milosavljevic should be recovered from his blisters by the time the next game comes around so he’ll fill in for Campar and Pankov is a able deputy for Bjekovic.

    Baba Rahman comes in to rock the boat after the Partizan game. His contract is up at the end of the season and “wants to explore is options”. I explain that I “want him to sign a new contract and stay“, he gets upset and THE MEETING ENDS WITH HIM TRANSFER LISTED AND ME ACCEPTING AN OFFER TO SELL HIM FOR £200k IN JANUARY!!! Admittedly, the meeting could have gone better!!!

    MATCH DAY!!!! There’s no need for any other changes, apart from the two being rested. St Johnstone are the “weakest” team in the group and we should have enough in the tank to get past them. A slight tactical tweak sees us dropping our line of engagement to standard to give Ilijin a little bit more pitch to use his pace with. The match starts pretty even, St Johnstone proving to not be the pushover that we maybe expected. We do grow into the game though and get the opening goal on the half hour!! Milosavljevic breaks from deep and collects Simic’ through ball. He strides on into the St Johnstone area and slots it in to make it 1-0 Red Star!!! The game restarts and despite dominating the possession we’re not really creating like we’re used to. Defensively, we’re fine. St Johnstone not having had a shot on target, but half time comes with the Red Star having just the one goal advantage.

    SECOND HALF The restart brings Red Star starting strongly. Simic rattles the crossbar from the edge of the area after just 45 seconds before Stanic nods home Stankovic’ far post cross!! 2-0 Red Star and that SHOULD be enough to seal the deal. Five minutes later, five minutes of near total Red Star domination, it’s all over. Milosavljevic plays a smart touch and go with Stanic and lifts his finish over the rushing out keeper to make it 3-0 with just over 30 minutes to play! St Johnstone have had enough, they’ve thrown the towel in and retreated to the edge of their area in an attempt to minimise the damage. It doesn’t work though!!! With just less than 10 minutes to play, substitute Simin races onto a Pankov pass and hits a beautiful first time cushioned volley over the St Johnstone keeper to make it 4-0!!! It’s the last action of the match and the 47 travelling St Johnstone fans are put out of their misery!

    The first play through of the group stage is done. We’re a point clear a the top and three clear of third placed Anderlecht.

    Four more points should be enough to see us qualify to the next stage which is exactly as far as the board as expecting us to go. Up next we’re back in league action against rock bottom Radnicki Nis. They’ve won just the one game so far, and we’re unbeaten in 13 league games!! Rahman accepts the terms of his new contract and he’s off to finish his career in Brazil with Palmeiras.

    MATCH DAY!!!! Pankov and Milosavljevic both keep their spots in the starting line up, and they’re joined by Lekovic in the back four. He replaces a tired Kovacevic at centre back. We start the game well and manage to stop Radnicki from even registering a chance in the opening 20 minutes. We struggle to find the opening goal though. Ilijin has the best of the opening chances. firing over from inside the area. Radnicki are sitting deep with TWO defensive midfielders in front of the back four. They succeed in stifling the game and the ref but both sets of fans out of their misery when the end of the first half finally comes.

    SECOND HALF The players are told, for the first time in what seems an eternity, that their performance isn’t good enough. They retake the field and immediately make amends for the poor first half!!! Stankovic is the catalyst for the attack. He starts the move on the halfway line and the ball is swiftly moved to Stanic, Ilijin and Simic before the final pass to Milosavljevic. He’s set through behind the Radnicki backline and lifts the ball over the keeper!!! 1-0 Red Star! Radnicki don’t collapse like St Johnstone did though and on the hour mark manage to bring the score back level! Dusanic manages to get behind the back line and sends a low cross over. It’s missed by everyone except the late arriving, unmarked, Zivojinovic. He hits his shot first time and buries it with Rosic stranded!! Ten minutes after that and Radnicki are nearly the architects of their own demise. Trying to play the ball out of defence, they have their pockets picked by Ilijin. He wins the ball on the edge of the Radnicki area and squares it over to his strike partner. Simic takes a touch but his shot, despite beating the keeper, comes back from the inside of the post and is cleared away!! We are not to be denied a second goal though!!! With time running out. Stanic splits the defence and Ilijin outstrips the defence before beating the keeper with his left footed, first time shot!! 2-1 Red Star!! There’s no fairytale second equaliser this time though. Radnicki are kept at arms length for the last ten minutes and as the ref calls time it’s another win for Red Star!!

    Radnicki made us work for it, and even though they scored from their only shot on target, it was a relief when Ilijin bagged his 6th league goal!! Partizan, not surprisingly, win their game and the gap remains at seven points.

    It’s the Serbian Cup up next, and semi-professional side OFK Vrsac. With four league games and two European coming up in November, I’m taking the chance to rotate the squad and give a few reserves at chance to stake a claim. There’s SIX changes lined up, but they played picked should still have enough quality to see them off.

    MATCH DAY!!!! It’s a surprisingly even start to the game and even a straight red card to a Vrsac defender can’t cause separation until the 15th minute when Tanasijevic is manhandled in the area and the ref points to the spot!! Mijatovic steps to to take it left footed…..He hammers it to the keepers right……BUT IT’S SAVED!!!! It ‘s a fantastic one handed save from the keeper who guessed the correct way and got across well! We are dominating the possession but can’t break them down. That changes in the 25th minute when a patient build-up sees Mijatovic make up for his earlier missed spot kick by laying it on a plate to Simin to slot his effort under the keeper!! 1-0 Red Star!! The goal appears to break to dam and four minutes later Red Star double their lead. A Mijatovic corner is met at the near post by Lekovic, his flicked header looks like it’s missing the far post until Milosavljevic ghosts in unmarked and nods in a from a yard out!! 2-0 Red Star!! Halftime comes around and after taking what seems like a age to start the scoring, we take a two goal advantage into the second half.

    SECOND HALF Vrsac hadn’t even managed an OFF-target shot in the first half and the match continues in the same vein. Simin is sent scampering after a lofted pass over the top of the Vrsac back line. He gets there ahead of the keeper, jinks himself around him and slots it into the empty net!! 3-0 Red Star!! It’s turning more and more into an attack vs defence training match, and the fourth goal is not far away!! Lekovic starts the move and the ball is moved quickly through the middle of the park. Mijatovic makes it a brace of assists when he threads a pass to Simin who fires past the despondent Vrsac keeper to complete his hat-trick!! 4-0 Red Star!! The early red card, even though the result was not really in doubt, killed the chance of a competitive game and Ilijin gets himself on the score sheet with 15minutes to play. Simin turns provider this time but it’s Ilijin’s pace that causes the trouble. It allows him to get clear of the back line and even though he’s forced wide when rounding the keeper, he still manages to bury it from the narrowest of angles!! 5-0 Red Star!! Vrsac don’t learnt heir lesson from the early card, and after four players are cautioned it’s almost inevitable that a second red would be seen. Filipov trips Pankov and earns his early bath alongside Bjelica! There’s no more goals, or cards, and the ref ends the goal-fest with Red Star ending up winning 5-0!!

    It’s exactly the result that everyone predicted, but despite not registering a single chance, Vrsac made us work for the opening goal.

    Despite a, relatively, disappointing start to the month. October has finished very well for us. Capped by a huge win away to Partizan, we’ve finished the month seven points clear at the top of the table. Top of the Europa Conference group, and through to the second round of the Serbian Cup!!

    November is another busy month. The additional cup game makes it now SEVEN games ahead of us!!

    Thanks for reading folks. Any comments, likes, follows etc are ALWAYS appreciated. You can find me on my other social media sites

    TWITTER – https://twitter.com/dave_goodgerfm

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  • The European Journeyman Ep41

    We’ve started well. This is the first season in my managerial career where I actually have some form of expectations to live up to. The SuperLiga season is 7 games old. We’re top with a three point lead, having won six and drawn one. Last season’s manager, Nebojsa Milosevic, could only manage to qualify for the Europa Conference League. The qualification rounds were long and gruelling, but we’ve made it to the group stage. Drawn against Turkish side Bestikas, Belgian Anderlecht and Scottish St Johnstone.

    September sees us playing five league games and Bestikas. We have a two week break between games and up first after that is Proleter Novi Sad. They’re sitting in 5th currently but should be a mere stepping stone. Mijatovic REJECTS contract offers from Olympiakos and Valladolid to stay at the club. He’ll add a bit of extra quality to the midfield, but if more bids come in for him, they’ll be accepted. Bids DO come in for Idrissu Baba. The 30 year old Ghanian has been replaced in the starting line-up by Bulat, and there are able deputies available in the squad already. Cagliari’s £1.9 million bid is good enough for me with Werder Bremen, Hannover and Darmstadt all told to match the bid or go away. They say no but Baba says yes to Cagliari and off he goes to the land of pizza and pasta.

    MATCH DAY Bjekovic and Milosavljevic come back into the match squad after being rested last time out. Simic continues up top alongside Lorenzi after scoring last time out. Once again, and despite Proleter standing quite high in the league, we start the game HOT!! Milosavljevic bursts into the area and is tripped as he’s about to pull the ball back from the by-line. The ref points to the spot, VAR confirms the decision, and after Stanic missed the last penalty, Campar steps up from 12 yards out. It’s going to be a left footed penalty…….WHICH HE BURIES HIGH TO THE KEEPERS RIGHT!!! 1-0 Red Star! The game settles down after the early goal. Red Star stay in the ascendency, but it’s not attack vs defence. Stanic brings out a wonder save from the Proleter keeper in the 20th minute, palming away his shot from all of 25 yards out. From the resulting corner though, Red Star score their second!! The dead ball is hit too hard and clears the area to the far side. The ball is worked back into Lorenzi’s feet just inside the area. A quick shuffle and he lets fly with a shot that crashes against the crossbar. The keeper is left stranded though as the ball drops at the feet of Simic who prods it into the empty net!!!…….VAR is looking at it though……Was Simic offside when Lorenzi took his shot? NO!! No he wasn’t!! 2-0 Red Star!!! The second goal has taken all the wind out of the Proleter sails and Red Star start to dominate. It’s minutes at a time that Proleter are chasing shadows. The ref finally calls time to the first half and Red Star walk down the tunnel having had a MASSIVE 64% possession.

    SECOND HALF There’s nothing much that I can say to a first half performance like that. We’ve blown them away and after getting the second goal, just squeezed the life out of the opposition. The domination continues after the restart. Red Star could conceivably be accused of bullying, they are keeping the ball THAT well. With ten minutes to go, Proleter’s day goes from bad to worse. Mitrovic goes right through Bjekovic from behind and he earns a straight red for his trouble. Three minutes later and Red Star make the extra man count. Substitute Mijatovic, fresh from rejecting a move away, picks up the ball and drives at goal. The Proleter defence finally decide to close him down, but it’s to late. He takes one final touch then let’s fly with a shot that nestles in the bottom corner!!! 3-0 Red Star!! The ref once again calls time and puts Proleter out of their misery.

    It’s another incredibly dominant performance. THIRTY chances and NINETEEN on target!! We finish the game with 62% possession and an impressive 93% pass completion.

    Partizan have kept the gap at three points after beating Vojvodina 1-0. All attention turns to Europe now though and our trip to Istanbul to play Bestikas. If we can get a result here then it’s a massive marker for the rest of the group. There’s only four days between games and the starting eleven are given an extra days rest in an attempt to keep them fresh. It works, with the exception of Campar. He’s knackered and needs the rest. Mijatovic, fresh from his goal scoring sub appearance, moves into the starting eleven but there are no more changes needed and it’s a strong line-up that heads out in Istanbul.

    MATCH DAY Bestikas are the ones that come out the block quickest. Gyan making contact with a back post header that rebounds against the crossbar and is cleared to safety. It takes a while for Red Star to get any kind of traction in the game. But when they do, it’s to lethal effect!!! Bjekovic controls a throw-in on the right and the ball makes it’s way to the roaming Cardoso. The centre-back drives at the defence and his shot is arrow straight into the bottom corner!!! 1-0 Red Star!!! We take that goal and grow into the game. Stanic grabs the midfield by the scruff of the neck and begins to boss the game. It’s his pass, on the half hour, that finds Lorenzi in the Bestikas area. Stanic gets to the by-line after chasing down an overhit Simic pass. He pulls it back to the unmarked Lorenzi on the penalty spot. He takes one touch to get the ball out of his feet, and fires it across the keeper and in off the far post!!! 2-0 Red Star!!

    SECOND HALF The restart changes nothing. We control the game but can’t kill it off. Bestikas slowly come back into it and pull a goal back with twenty minutes to play!! Then, with five minues left, we finally put the result of out reach. Rosic comes out and collects a long ball before launching a counter attack. Ilijin, on as a sub, brings the ball down and brings Stankovic into the attack. His ball out wide to Lorenzi is controlled and pulled back to Stanic. Stanic plays a first time pass into Ilijin’s feet, and HIS shot is swept past the keeper and in!! 3-1 Red Star!! The final few minutes are played out in the middle of the park!! The ref blows and it’s Red Star that come away with a massive victory!! FINAL SCORE 3-1 Red Star!!

    We’re still three points clear of Partizan at the top of the table and there’s another four league games until we play them. With any luck, we’ll have a bit of a bigger gap by the time we play them.

    The transfer window shuts and the squad list is finalised. We had a busy window, eight players incoming and FIFTEEN heading out!! We spent £13.75m, but £11.5m of that was for Cardoso. Without that outlay we’d have received £7m for than we spent.

    There’s only three days between games, so not a lot of time for things to go WRONG. On the flip side, there’s not a lot of time for the players to rest up!! The starting eleven that beat Bestikas are given extra days rest, but it’s still too soon for Bjekovic, Stanic and Milosavljevic. They’re replaced by Pankov, Campar and Mijailovic and still a team that should be too strong for Vozdovac.

    MATCH DAY We dominate the opening 15 minutes, but despite carving out 8 chances, we can’t make the breakthrough. Our job is made a little harder around the twentieth minute as Lorenzi breaks down and has to be replaced. Ilijin replaces him, we continue to boss the game and finally take a chance in the 23rd minute. Campar twists and turns on the edge of the Vozdovac area and lays the ball off to Mijatovic. He takes a touch, and from fully 25 yards, finds the bottom corner!! 1-0 Red Star! Five minutes later and we’re knocking on the door again. Campar again is the spark as he plays a great reverse pass into the path of Simic, but his tame shot is easily saved. With ten minutes to half time, Bulat has a chance for glory. His freekick, from 20 yards out, rebounds off the crossbar before being hacked away. Ilijin has his first real attempt on the stroke of half time. He’s put through by Simic but is forced wide and his shot from an acute angle is blocked.

    SECOND HALF Twenty-three shots but only EIGHT on target highlights our plight. We’ve bossed the game but it’s still on a knife-edge. The players are praised, but also told that they need to up their efforts, and two minutes into the half, Simic is pushed in the area when attempting to reach Rahman’s cross. The ref sends it up to VAR and they back up his decision. PENALTY to Red Star!!! Mijatovic steps up to take it…..it’s left-footed…….AND LOW TO THE KEEPER’S LEFT!!! 2-0 Red Star!! Straight from kick off and we go again. Bulat wins another free kick but is foiled again by the woodwork. Vozdovac head straight up field and, after great work on the right, Lasickas bundles to ball in to keep the game alive!!! 2-1 to Red Star!! Campar flashes a shot wide as we look for an immediate reply, but we don’t have long to wait. Ilijin floats a ball over the top of the defence and Simic tracks the ball and places his cushioned volley beyond the keeper!!! 3-1 Red Star! Simic looks like he strained too much to get to the ball though, and picks up a knock. Stanic replaces him for the last half hour. He takes just ten minutes to make his mark. It’s a quick, one-touch move, that carves the Vozdovac defence open with Stanic firing past the keeper from inside the area after having it laid on a plate by Campar! 4-1 Red Star!! With ten minutes to play Vozdovac attempt to gain a little bit of dignity. Dinic lets loose from outside the area after good work by Stoisavljevic. It’s only 4-2 but the last ten minutes are just that little bit more nervous now. The game drops back into it’s usual pattern of Red Star attacking and Vozdovac defending. We create another couple of chances and with just a couple of minutes to play, Ilijin finally gets his goal. It’s a towering header from Cardoso that drops to Stanic. His simple touch to Mijailovic is moved on quickly into the path of Ilijin. He strides, unopposed, into the Vozdovac area and slams his shot past the helpless keeper!! 5-2 Red Star! We’ve still not finished hammering our superiority home. It’s another Bulat freekick that is palmed over for a corner. From that corner, taken by Bulat, Cardoso rises magnificently at the near post, and flicks his header home!! 6-2 Red Star!! The ref finally puts Vozdovac out of the misery and we head back to Belgrade with all three points!!

    It’s disappoint to concede two goals, although one was a banger from outside the area. There’s no defending against that type of goal, it’s the other goal that could, and maybe should, have been cut out when the ball was out wide that irks me.

    Partizan attempt to hold on to our coat-tails with a 2-0 win against Feniks, who are bottom but one, with just 6 points from nine games.

    We are rocked after the game though, Lorenzi’s injury is a bad one. The young striker has broken his ankle and is out for 4 months!! Simic’s knock is nowhere near as serious though, he’s only out for a few days.

    It’s only three days again till the next game, there’s no rest for the players this time though. It’ll be a squad rotation of any players not fully fit. There’s the small matter of Anderlecht on the horizon and we’ll be needed a full strength eleven for that one. It’s a total of SEVEN changes for the Mladost Lucani game. We SHOULD be too strong for them, even with the changes.

    MATCH DAY It’s an even game to start with. Ilijin has a couple of efforts. One beaten away by the keeper and one the is skied over the bar. We stay on the front foot and Nikolic heads over from a Matic corner. The break-though comes in the 23rd minute. It’s a simple long ball over the top from Stankovic, Ilijin out paces the defence and fires past the stranded Mladost keeper!! 1-0 Red Star! Mijatovic has a golden chance to extend our lead five minutes later, but his shot is dragged wide before our job is made harder in the 36th minute!! Matic dives into a tackle on the side-line and misses the ball. There’s nothing malicious but the yellow card is his second of the game. It’s an incredibly early bath for him and we have to play with ten men for the remaining hour!!! Mladost take advantage for the next five minutes and attempt to press their luck. Instead, we soak up the pressure and hit them hard on the break. Stankovic, playing deeper now in place of Matic, lifts a ball for Ilijin to chase. He takes the ball into the Mladost area before squaring it across to Stanic. His shot is blocked but rebounds back to Ilijin. The Mladost defence is all at sea, and it’s another simple square ball from Ilijin to Stanic and he rolls it into the unguarded net!! Ten men Red Star go 2-0 up!! The ref calls time and it’s another dominant 45 minutes of football in the bank.

    SECOND HALF The players are praised, and told to continue where they left off, EXCEPT Matic, he gets a water bottle thrown at him and berated that his actions are unacceptable!! We continue to control the game and on the hour the player count is levelled out. Cumic goes straight through Pankov and earns HIS second yellow card of the match!! With the Red Star mentality and attacking intent tempered down, the second half peters out and it’s a very comfortable win in the end. FINAL SCORE 2-0 Red Star

    Cumic’s rush of blood to the head, getting two yellow cards in the space of just NINE MINUTES in the second half, killed any chance of Mladost getting themselves back into the game. It’s an incredible SIXTEENTH win in a row in all competitions

    Once again, there’s only a couple of games between the Mladost victory and an away trip to Surdulica. It’s a case of rest and replace if we can. Tanasijevic makes his Red Star debut in defence as Nikolic moves into the defensive midfield spot vacated by the suspended Matic. Simin and Simic replace the tired Ilijin and Mijatovic up top as well as it’s ANOTHER three changes!!

    MATCH DAY The games starts even enough. Surdulica aren’t intimidated by our incredible start to the season and attack for than most do against us. It does serve to do nothing more than offer us a chance to hit them on the break though!! Pankov, standing in at right-back, plays a ball into Simin’s feet. He get the ball under control and plays a bending early cross into the path of Simic who despatches it smartly to the keepers left!! 1-0 Red Star after just ten minutes!!! Surdulica are not to be put off though. The disjointed and jumbled squad are kept on their toes and it’s not until the 39th minute that the 2nd goal comes! It’s a fantastic cross to the far post from Nikolic that finds Stanic steaming in!! His leap is too good for the flat footed defenders and the ball nestles in the back of the net!! 2-0 Red Star!! The first half ends with the opposition massively behind on possession, but ahead on chances. Most importantly though, is the fact that they are behind in goals!!

    SECOND HALF More of the same, is what is asked of the players. And it’s more of the same that the players deliver!!! Mijailovic to Simic. Simic to Stankovic. Stankovic to Stanic. Stanic to the back of the net!! Just four touches from backline to goal. Stanic’s finish is precise and trickles in off the far post!! 2-0 Red Star!! The early second half goal seems to take all the wind out of the Surdulica sails. Their heads drop and it’s just five minutes later that the next goal goes in!! It’s Stanic again, timing his run from deep to perfection and latching onto Simic’ pass. His shot is blocked by two defenders, but the rebound falls to Simin who has the easiest of finishes!! 4-0 Red Star!!! Surdulica finally wake up and start to make good on their early attacking play. It’s on the turn of the hour that they regain a little dignity. Bogdanovski throwing over three successive crosses, with the third finally reaching Burmaz at the near post!! It’s an instinctive headed finish from him! 4-1 Red Star!! It’s surely nothing more than a consolation. They’ve had their chances, but have been blown away by the Red Star attacks. All that might well be changing though just two minutes later. Burmaz again is at the heart of the action as his free kick is pushed onto the woodwork by Rosic. The rebound drops to the only player following up and Miladinovic has a two yard tap in to make it 4-2 to Red Star!! It’s like flicking a switch. All of a sudden, Surdulica have a self belief flooding through them. Rosic comes to the Red Star rescue pushing aside a close range Miladinovic effort. The resulting corner is cleared but the ball is recycled by Surdulica and Bogdanovski aims a cross to the far post that is met by Veljkovic!! Rosic is once again, up to the task and holds on to the ball this time!! The unsuccessful attacking efforts seem to take all the steam out the Surdulica and the final twenty minutes are controlled by Red Star. There’s no more goals though with the FINAL SCORE 4-2 Red Star!!

    The result is a little harsh on Surdulica, who didn’t buckle when four goals down. In fact there were more than a few moments of doubt when the comeback was in full swing!!

    It’s a been a profitable September. Five games and five wins, including the tricky away fixture against Bestikas!!

    October brings another tiring SEVEN matches including the first round of the Serbian Cup and two Europa Conference League matches.

    Thanks for reading folks. Any comments, likes, follows etc are ALWAYS appreciated. You can find me on my other social media sites

    TWITTER – https://twitter.com/dave_goodgerfm

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  • The European Journeyman Ep40

    We’re in the sixth season of my fledgling managerial career. We started in Greece. The Greek 2nd division SOUTH to be precise, with Aigaleo. After two and a half seasons of no progress and little chance of ever getting promotion to the first division, I jumped over to the Serbian Second Division. It was a backwards move to a lower ranked league, BUT, it’s an easier route to get promoted in Serbia than it is in Greece. FK Feniks, a club only CREATED in 2006, was the destination and after finishing 2nd in our first season, we gained promotion to the SuperLiga. The following season exceeded ALL expectations. We finished 9th, when all pre-season predictions has us 16th and relegated. With that minor miracle came the attention of Red Star, one of the GIANTS of Serbian football. The pull of European football was too much to resist. So here we are……….

    July saw us start our league and European campaigns with a 100% record. Two league wins and two Europa Conference League wins. TSC are up next in the league, one of FIVE league fixtures this month. After resting Rahman and Lekovic last time out, they’re restored to the starting eleven. As is Bulat, who WAS not registered for the European games. That’s changed now, so he’s set for a spell in the starting line-up.

    MATCH DAY As we have with every other game so far this season, we come out the blocks on fire!!! Just five minutes are on the clock when Milosavljevic thunders home the opening goal from the angle of the area!! He’s fed by Bulat on the edge of the box and drives at goal before unleashing his shot!!!! 1-0 Red Star!! The pattern continues with Red Star attacking and TSC defending. Lorenzi has the ball in the net in the 20th minute but he’s offside and it’s rightly ruled out……WAIT……VAR is looking at it…….THE GOAL STANDS!!! 2-0 Red Star!!! Milosavljevic turns provider this time, threading a pass between the TSC defence and, apparently, Lorenzi springs the offside trap and fires home! The TSC players surround the ref, the replay makes it LOOK like Lorenzi is offside, but the goal stands. TSC are still complaining three minutes later as Lorenzi doubles his tally and puts the game beyond their reach. It’s a cross from the right by Bjekovic that finds Lorenzi in ACRES of space and a simple tap in from 6 yards makes it 3-0 Red Star!! TSC wake up a little, only enough to stop us scoring another that half, but for them so far it’s an improvement.

    SECOND HALF We blown them away in the first half and the players are told to keep it up in the second. They obviously listen, as it takes just three minutes for Rahman to feed Milosavljevic, who moves it on first time to Campar. Campar hits his shot first time and just like that it’s 4-0 Red Star!! The early goal takes any wind that TSC had left in their sail and, with the game won, we take our foot off the gas a little. The release of constant pressure allows TSC to grow back into the game and with a little under ten minutes to play they score their consolation goal!! It’s a cross from the right that is met by a fierce shot from 8 yards out. That shot is blocked, but the rebound falls to Csordas and he makes no mistake with the goal gaping!! 4-1 Red Star!!! The last ten minutes brings out our defensive best as we just shut the game down. FINAL SCORE 4-1 Red Star!!

    As good as we were in the first half, we allowed TSC to grow into the match in the second. We bossed the possession but our shooting accuracy, again, is not good enough. Yes, we scored four goals, but they came from just FIVE SHOTS ON TARGET!!!

    The 100% league record continues with just Partizan, predictably, joining us on maximum points. We’re back on the Europa trail next. First leg at home against Lublana. I’m going strong for the first leg and trying to have the tie won after the first leg.

    The week start with offers flooding in for winger Dejan Zukic. He’s not a player that I’m ever likely to play, he’s not registered in the Europa or league squads…BUT……I’m not going to let him go for less than a decent chunk of his value. Offers of £880k for a player worth £3.2mill are rejected out of hand.

    MATCH DAY It’s another unchanged line-up as we attempt to put this tie to bed in the first leg. Ilijin and Lorenzi and clicked well when playing together, and the youngsters are going to be needed again if we’re to be successful. Red Star get us underway and almost open the scoring in the first minute. Lorenzi unleashing a shot from the edge of the area that flies over. It’s nothing more than a statement of intent from the Belgian, but it serves to get his eye in. Two minutes later and a cross from Bjekovic is met by the head of Campar. It’s another effort that doesn’t hit the target, HOPEFULLY, this isn’t going to be one of those nights!! No, No it’s not. We keep the pressure on, and in the 12th minute make the breakthrough. Ilijin running onto to Stanic pass and calmly slotting it past the keeper!!! 1-0 RED STAR!! Ilijin has a chance to double his tally in the 19th minute as he latches onto a lofted pass by Lorenzi. He lets the ball bounce once before lifting it over the oncoming keeper. There’s just a touch too much on it though and it clips the crossbar on it’s way over!! Lorenzi finally gets his goal in the 27th minute. The Red Star pressing forces Lublana to go all the way back to their keeper who clears it long to the waiting Red Star defence. The ball is quickly moved upfield and Campar threads a pass into the path of Lorenzi who finishes first time…….THE FLAG IS UP THOUGH…….VAR HAS A LOOK…….

    AND THE GOAL IS RULED OUT!!! Despite our near complete domination, there’s still just the one goal in it. Lublana haven’t registered even a single attempt as of yet and we finally get the second goal that our play has deserved!! Campar flashing a shot across the keeper into the far corner after great work by Bjekovic on the right. 2-0 Red Star!!! Still we keep the pressure on. Wave after wave after wave of Red Star attacks crash onto the Lublana back line. Finally, with a little over 5 minutes to go till half time, we get the chance to put the match to bed. Lekovic is pushed from behind when challenging for a corner and the ref has no hesitation in pointing to the spot!! Stanic places the ball on the spot and steps back for his run up. It’s right footed……AND IN TO THE KEEPERS LEFT!!! The Lublana keeper managed to get a hand to it but the power on the shot was too much to keep it out!! 3-0 Red Star!! Lublana wake up a little and finally register a shot on target just before the ref calls time on a great half for Red Star!!

    SECOND HALF There is nothing but praise for the players at half time. They’re sent back out with a smile on their faces. We start the second as we finished first half, on the attack. Lorenzi beats his man on the right but his cross is over hit. Rahman keeps the ball in play on the left wing and lifts a cross back into the middle. Stanic is making a delayed run into the box and his header powers into the net with the keeper stranded!! 4-0 Red Star with just 3 minutes of the second half played. With the game in the bag and bigger fish to fry on the horizon, the intensity is dialled down and the games fizzles out. The ref calls time on a one-sided affair with Red Star running out 4-0 WINNERS!!

    It was the type of near total domination that we needed. The tie is already won now and the squad can be rotated in the second leg to keep the legs fresh. 9 shots on target from 21 is close enough to the one-in-two ratio that I class as acceptable.

    Mid-table Kolubara are up next. It’s only 2 days removed from the Lublana game so I’m expecting to have to rotate the team a little. The starting XI are given an extra day off to rest and come back fresh as a daisy though!!! So it’s an unchanged side that will face Kolubara, and then a rotated one for the return leg against Lublana. Lekovic comes knocking on the door after a bid from Almeria is knocked back. He wants to go, can’t fault him really. La Liga is a bigger league. We agree that if they come back with a bid matching his value then I’ll accept.

    MATCH DAY We are in great form, everything we’ve touched at the minute is turning to gold. Once again we are out the traps quickly and Bulat has a deflected shot cleared off the line after just 30 seconds!! The pressure continues and Lorenzi slams home the opener in the tenth minute!! Stanic picks up the ball in the centre circle and drives at goal. He’s not closed down until the edge of the area and he then threads a pass to Lorenzi. His first time shot fizzes past the keeper…….FLAGS UP THOUGH……..VAR IS LOOKING AT LORENZI’S POSITION……

    VAR COMES BACK AND UPHOLDS THE GOAL!!!! 1-0 Red Star and it’s another early goal. Milosavljevic has a good effort that inches wide on 20 minutes AND THEN, TEN MINUTES LATER IS SHOWN A STRAIGHT RED CARD!!! It’s a appalling challenge from behind and fully deserves his early bath. We’re ahead and in control, but will have to play for an hour now with ten men!! Before Kolubara get a chance to build up a head of steam with the extra man…..We hit a second!! A ball inside from Stanic to Bulat is moved on first time to Lorenzi. The keeper closes down the angle but can’t stop Lorenzi from going round him and rolling the ball into the unprotected net!! 2-0 Red Star! We’ve set up to be attacking and pro-active. We’ve got a cushion now, so the edge is taken off it and it helps to see out the remaining ten minutes of the first half.

    SECOND HALF Milosavljevic is given a dressing down at half time but everyone else is gee’d up. We keep control of the game and on the hour, Ilijin is sacrificed to bring another midfielder in. With four minutes added on by the ref, Lorenzi has a glorious chance to complete his hat-trick but his attempted lob from twenty yards out comes back from the cross-bar and into the waiting arms of the keeper. The ref calls time and it’s another win in the league!! FINAL SCORE 2-0 Red Star!!

    It wasn’t the walkover that we’ve had recently, that said we played for AN HOUR with a man less. We still had the most possession and Rosic, although he faced shots on target, was never really tested. Partizan have kept up the pressure and it’s both of us still with the 100% record. It’s a fair old time till we play each other so it’s a challenge to see who blinks first!! Next up is the return leg of the Europa Conference League qualifier, THEN, it’ll be our biggest test so far. We’re at home in the league to Cukaricki Stankom. They finished third last season and are breathing down our necks in third again.

    First though, we have to finish the job against Lublana. We’re a tired squad, who have been playing almost every other day. So, bearing in mind we’re 4-0 up, there’s NINE changes planned for the match. Only Milosavljevic and Rosic keep their spots. Plans for the season are thrown up in the air though. Granada come in and bid £1.7mill for Lekovic, it’s accepted and despite me wanting him to stay, I think he’s on his way out.

    MATCH DAY It is the nine changes from the team, that beat Kolubara. The players are urged to forget that the first leg happened and give it their all for the next 90 minutes. It takes the revamped team all of eight minutes to take the lead! Stankovic gets to the by-line and sends over a cross that’s met by Simin’s header. The header comes back off the cross-bar but falls at the feet of Mijatovic, he can’t miss and after the simplest of finishes it’s 1-0 Red Star!! Five minutes later and Simin hits the bar AGAIN! He’s put through by Milosavljevic but his dink over the keeper comes back off the bar and is hacked away. We have chance after chance after chance. Mijatovic blazes wide on three occasions and Simin finds the keeper when easier to score. Lublana wake up for a moment and Laci brings parity on the night when he meets a cross from the left and sends his header back across goal!! 1-1 on the night but 5-1 on aggregate. Everything settles down and as we take control again. The ref calls time though, and we go in all square.

    SECOND HALF The players are told that the performance is not good enough. We should be ahead and the finishing isn’t good enough. The team talk works it’s wonders and we take the lead just over five minutes after the restart. Mijatovic doubles his tally with a magnificent volley from Duric’s cross from deep. It’s a scissor kick from 13 yards out that’s past the keeper before he even knows it’s been hit!! 2-1 Red Star! Five minutes later though and Lublana begin to turn the game on it’s head. First, Catar manages to get between THREE defenders to turn home the equaliser. Then, barely five minutes later, Catar again outstrips the defence and lifts his shot over Rosic!! Just like that it’s 3-2 Lublana!! The players are given an on-field roasting and with just under twenty minutes to play Simin brings the scores level again. All the work is done by Mijatovic as he bursts through the back line and gets one-on-one with the keeper. His shot is beaten away but drops into the path of the following up Simin. He’s faced with an open goal and will never score an easier goal! 3-3 with time to get a winner. There’s no more action though, We finally managed to shackle Catar and they have no other threat. FINAL SCORE 3-3 on the night and 7-3 on aggregate.

    It’s not a good performance at all really. Mijatovic is the standout player, two goals and an assist makes his man of the match, but the others haven’t done enough to warrant keeping their place in the starting line-up.

    The draw for the final qualifying round of the Europa Conference league, sees us play AIK of Sweden. It should be a close game, albeit one we should be winning. First though, we have the simple matter of third placed Cukaricki in the league. They play a standard flat 4-4-2 what we’ve struggled to break down previously with our 4-1-3-2, as a result we’re switching it to a narrow diamond. Mijatovic comes in at the point of the diamond, with Ilijin and Lorenzi back up top.

    MATCH DAY Partizan have already played and needed an 87th minute winner to overcome Macva Sabac 4-3 and continue with 100% start to the season and it takes a full twenty minutes of withstanding Cukaricki pressure before Red Star take the lead. Twice the ball is worked into the area and twice it’s hacked away, third time’s the charm though as Rahman gets to the left hand by-line, pulls the ball back and finds Campar seven yards out. His shot beats the keeper at the near post and against the early run of play Red Star take the league!! 1-0!! We start to enjoy ourselves with Stanic firing over after some great inter-passing and then Cardoso have an effort saved on the line from a Bulat corner. Half time comes and Red Star have turned the game around and go in a goal to the good.

    SECOND HALF The front three have struggled in the first half and it’s targeted team talk designed to fire them up. IT WORKS A DREAM!!! Five minutes after the restart Mijatovic shoots through a crowded area to make it 2-0 after another fantastic pull back by Rahman in the area!! Campar goes close again on the hour but his free kick, destined for the top corner, is clawed away by the keeper to safety. The second goal takes all the wind out of the Cukaricki sails and we run out comfortable winners. FINAL SCORE 2-0 RED STAR!!

    This was our first real test in the league and after a slow start, grew into the game and came out the other end with ANOTHER dominant win to keep the 100% start going!!

    We’ve already played FIVE games this month and still have another FOUR to play!! Up next is AIK of Sweden, in the final qualifying round before the Europa Conference League Group. Once again we SHOULD be winning this, but there’s some tired legs in the squad. The strongest eleven, the one’s that started the last game against Cukaricki, are given extra days rest in the hope that they’ll be fresh for the AIK game, we can always rotate them out for the league game in between legs. We manage to navigate our way through the four days between games without injury to the resting players, and make the trip across Europe to Sweden with the starting XI intact. If anything, it gets stronger as Milosavljevic returns from injury and straight back into action.

    MATCH DAY After adopting the narrow diamond to success against Cukaricki, we’re back to the traditional flat midfield three that has served us well so far. AIK have won their last four games in this competition, but it’s Red Star that start the brighter!!!! Bjekovic, Stanic and Ilijin all combining in the 8th minute to feed the ball to Lorenzi on the edge of the area. He looks up and bends a sweet left-footed shot around the despairing AIK keeper and in!! 1-0 Red Star. We keep the pressure on and Lorenzi has a chance to double the lead on 20 minutes. He’s put through by Bulat but his shot, across the keeper, comes back off the inside of the far post and into the waiting arms of the keeper! The second goal comes less than a minute later though!! Bulat stands over a free kick on the left of the AIK area. There’s jostling in the area amongst the Red Star attackers and the defence, there needn’t be though, as Bulat lifts his effort over the wall and in off the crossbar!!! 2-0 Red Star! AIK are carved open AGAIN on the half hour. Ilijin feeds Lorenzi but his first time shot this time comes back of the NEAR post and away to safety!! AIK finally figure out a way to keep us out and the half time whistle brings a momentary respite to their busy defence.

    SECOND HALF There nothing much to say, other than well done & carry on. So that’s what I say. The AIK players must have had their ears bent during half-time though, they come out on the front foot and ten minutes after the restart get a goal back. It comes from their first bit of sustained pressure and a cross from their left wing. The far post cross is misjudged by Rahman and Widman has a simple nod-in to make it 2-1 Red Star!! The game settles back down into the routine from the first half. Red Star keep the ball without doing too much with it, and AIK defend stoutly keeping us at arms length. Lorenzi has another chance with 20 minutes to play, but completes his hat-trick of woodworks instead, as his header back across goal skims the crossbar on it’s way over!! Mijailovic comes on the replace the fading Milosavljevic but AIK seem happy to the score as is. The second half is called to an end with no goals in it. FINAL SCORE 2-1 RED STAR!!

    We dominated. In possession (56%), in chances 17 to 6, shots on target 6 to 2, and most importantly, in the scoreline. Whilst 2-1 isn’t as comprehensive as I’d have liked. It’s a lead that we bring home for the second leg.

    There’s just THREE DAYS between games this time round, so changes are having to be made. Iddrisu Baba replaces Bulat and Mijailovic and Stankovic replace Campar and Stanic. With four days between the Macva Sabac and the return leg against AIK I’ll have a chance to rest any of the others that need it then. Olympiakos come in with a £2.4million bid for Mijatovic that’s accepted, he’s primarily a winger and/or a striker (and not particularly goods at either). It’ll be a boost for the bank balance AND extra wage available in the budget.

    MATCH DAY We’re favourites, and once again start the game believing we are. Mijailovic has the ball in the net after just eight minutes!! VAR takes a look at it though and rules it out for offside!!

    Macva seem content to keep us at arms length and hold on to the point they start with. We don’t get another chance until the half hour mark when Ilijin snatches at a shot and sees it pulled wide. Half time arrives not a moment too soon. The players are told, in no uncertain terms, that their performance isn’t good enough.

    SECOND HALF A quick tactical change to the narrow diamond, and Mijatovic coming on to replace Stankovic, and the players come back out for the second half. Once again though, Macva seem happy to spoil the game and leave with a draw. We don’t manage another chance until the hour mark and that sees Mijatovic flash a shot wide. With twenty minutes to play Ilijin hits the post after good work by Mijatovic. Twice more we hit the woodwork, but there’s no breakthrough to be had and the game finishes 0-0!!

    It really was a dire game to watch. One shot on target from nine attempts underlines why we didn’t win, but the fact that we only created 9 chances with an xG of 0.51 is probably the real reason!! We get lucky elsewhere though, Partizan can only play out a score draw away to Radnicki Nis, and we stay locked on level points.

    We’re welcoming AIK to Rajko Mitic next and will have the one goal advantage going into the game. After resting some players last time out, it’s back to the strongest eleven possible now. Real Valladolid join Olympiakos in bidding for Mijatovic, he’s on his way by the looks of it. The fans are confidant in our ability to see out the tie. We’ll need our shooting boots on though, especially after last game.

    MATCH DAY As is the norm for ourselves, we start on the front foot. When we start to come against some of the bigger European teams in this competition, it’s going to be interesting to see how we cope. Ilijin has the ball in the back of the net in the 9th minute but he was in an offside position as Campar flighted in his free kick from deep. We stay on top and when Lorenzi clips the post in the 32nd minute it’s our 4th shot on target, it’s already an improvement on last match!! The ref calls time on the first half and with the scores still level there’s an air of nervousness in the crowd.

    SECOND HALF Nothing seems to change after the restart. We’re controlling the game without overextending ourselves. Simic comes on the replace the misfiring Ilijin around the hour mark and takes just five minutes to have the ball in the net!! It’s a long shot from Milosavljevic that’s only parried down by the AIK keeper. Simic is on his toes though and reacts quickest to the lose ball, prodding it home from a yard out!!…….THE FLAG IS UP THOUGH….VAR IS TAKING A LOOK AT IT……

    AND IT’S RULED OUT!! We continue to make the most of the game with Bulat striking a free kick just over the bar. The final twenty minutes pass by though and it’s back to back scoreless draws, although I’m happier with this one than the last!!

    Stat-wise, we were a lot better than last match. 63% possession and 21 chances with 9 on target. The draw was enough, and it’s a totally professional job done that sees us into the Europa Conference League Group Stage.

    Time for the draw for the Conference League groups. We’re seeded first, so SHOULD miss the big boys at least. Group A is ours and joining us are Anderlecht, Bestikas and St Johnstone. It could have been worse, not by much, but it could.

    We’ll need to get results against Bestikas if we have ambitions of topping the group, although I’d be foolish to overlook Anderlecht.

    The last match of August is an away trip to Napredak Krusevac. They’re in the bottom half with just the one win so far this season. It’s a chance to finish the month on a high after two successive 0-0 draws. The match comes too soon for Ilijin, he’s still not recovered enough for a starting berth. His spot goes to Simic instead and Stankovic comes in to replace the tired Milosavljevic.

    MATCH DAY Last time we juggled the match day squad, we ended up with a poor performance and and goalless draw. It looks like it’s not going to be another goalless performance though! Simic get’s his first goal of the season as he hammers a first time shot past the keeper in just the 6th minute!! It’s a period of Red Star possession that pulls at the Napredak formation and creates the space for Simic to shoot!!……HOLD ON THOUGH…….WAS HE OFFSIDE?….

    NO!!! NO HE WASN’T!!! 1-0 Red Star! We don’t get this match all our own way though. Napredak grow into the game after the early Simic goal and start to keep a little of the ball. They pull level in the 25th minute!! A Kocic free kick into the Red Star area causes absolute chaos, and when the ball is eventually hacked away it falls at the feet of Jacob Burns. He takes one touch to steady himself on the edge of the area and launches a shot into the bottom corner. 1-1 and plenty of game left to play!!! The goal seems to stun us, and Rosic has to come to the rescue. He races off his line to beat the Napredak strike-force to a long ball over the top. Just past the half hour mark we have a chance to retake the lead! Lorenzi looks like he was bundled over in the area. VAR takes a look and awards the penalty!! Stanic steps up to take the kick……Right footed…….BUT IT FLIES HIGH OVER THE BAR!!!!!! The score remains at 1-1! The ref calls time on the first half and although we have had the better of the game, with more possession and chances. It’s still anyone’s game and we’ll have to step up a gear in the second half.

    SECOND HALF The players are left with absolutely zero doubt that I’m not happy with the first half performance. It takes all of TWENTY SECONDS for them to rectify my anger. Rahman receives the ball straight from kick off and set off down the line. He plays a ball forward to Simic and he, in turn, pulls the ball back to Campar. Campar takes a touch into the Napredak area and slides the ball into Lorenzi’s path. The defence are stunned at how quick we’ve attacked and it’s a simple finish for Lorenzi!! 2-1 Red Star!

    Napredak again, shake off the nerves and come back at us in search of another equaliser. Just after the hour mark they pay for their endeavours. Campar picks the pocket of the midfield before spotting the run of Stanic from deep. His lofted pass into his path is perfect and Stanic’s first time shot, across the keeper, rebounds of the far post and in!! 3-1 Red Star!! Bulat and Simic both have chances in the closing stages to seal the deal but the Napredak keeper is equal to the task this time. The ref calls time and it’s a much improved second period that sees us run out 3-1 WINNERS!

    It took a half time rollocking to the players to buck them up a bit, but the second 45mins was a lot better and we deserved the win. The day gets better and better as news reaches us the Partizan have LOST their first game of the season, and we go three points clear at the top of the table.

    August has been a busy old month, but one we’ve finished unbeaten AND having qualified for the Europa Conference League group stage.

    September is looking A LOT more reasonable. Just the five games including the European group stage opener against Bestikas. We’ve managed to get ourselves a three point lead at the top of the table, and the four league games in September are all winnable.

    Things might be looking good!!

    Thanks for reading folks. Any comments, likes, follows etc are ALWAYS appreciated. You can find me on my other social media sites

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  • The European Journeyman Ep39

    It’s time to start the music, it’s time to light the lights. It’s time for my FIRST title challenging season AND my first EUROPEAN CAMPAIGN!!! We start the season at home to Vojvodina. Cardoso makes his debut, but Ilic, another defensive reinforcement from Partizan, only makes the bench. It’s a strong side that lines up in the same shape as I used to success with Feniks.

    MATCH DAY!!!! It’s not been often in my career, so far, that my team has been an overwhelming favourite to win the game. Red Star live up to their rep though, chalking up FIVE chances in the opening twenty minutes. NONE of them are on target though, and it takes a midfielder to show our wayward strikers the way! Milosavljevic lays the ball off to Campar on the edge of the Vojvodina area. He takes one touch and replicates is effort from the last friendly!!! 1-0 Red Star! Just past the half hour, Simic stings the palms of the Vojvodina keeper from close range, then five minutes before half time, Ilijin latches onto a through ball from strike partner Simic and the youth team graduate fires home A PROFESSIONAL DEBUT GOAL!!! 2-0 Red Star! The final few minutes of the first half are ALL Red Star, almost adding a third. The ref calls time and it’s near total domination from us.

    SECOND HALF It takes just FORTY SECONDS FOR RED STAR TO HAVE THE BALL IN THE BACK OF THE NET AGAIN!! BJEKOVIC LIFTS A DEEP CROSS TO THE BACK POST WHERE IT’S MET BY LEKOVIC. THE CENTRAL DEFENDER CUSHIONS A FANTASTIC VOLLEY IN AT THE FAR POST……BUT IT’S RULED OUT!!! LEKOVIC STARTED FROM AN OFFSIDE POSITION!! There’s no change to the flow of the match. Mijailovic, Lorenzi and Campar all force saves from the keeper, but there’s no additional goals in the second half and Red Star run out comfortable winners. FINAL SCORE 2-0!!

    64% possession and holding the opposition to just the one shot on target makes for a good start to the campaign.

    Attention now turns to my managerial debut in a EUROPEAN COMPETITION!!! We’re at home against Moldovan side Milsami Orhei in the Europa Conference 2nd Qualifying Round. The squad list is finalised and we’re good to go.

    MATCH DAY We’re favourites. The pre-match teamtalk drills this into the players, and we start the match like we believe it!!! Baba Rahman is fed a ball down the left in the fifth minute. He gets to the by-line and fires in a low cross that’s met at the near post by ILIJIN!!! 1-0 Red Star!! We stay on the front foot and Campar forces a good save from a free kick in the 10th minute. Five minutes after that and we extend our lead!! Rahman again is the architect. This time it’s an early cross into the path of ILIJIN again. He rounds the keeper and from the tightest of angles slots the ball into the unguarded net!! 2-0 Red Star! The opening twenty minutes has been played almost completely in the Milsami half, but the third goal doesn’t come until five minutes before half time. CAMPAR, who had set his sights with the earlier free kick attempt, fires un UNSTOPPABLE free kick from fully thirty yards!!

    The keeper makes a dive for it, but can only get fingertips to the ball. 3-0 Red Star!!!

    Milsami start to have their attention drift to half time, but in time added on, ILIJIN completes a FIRST HALF HAT-TRICK!!! He’s sent scampering after a long ball by right-back Bjekovic, and fires a first time shot in at the near post!!! 4-0 Red Star!!! The ref finally calls time on a first half that has seen Red Star control everything and deny Milsami even an off target shot.

    SECOND HALF The half time talk is nothing but praise. I’ve never had a team, outside of preseason friendlies, dominate a match so much. We come out and continue as we left off, there’s no early goal though and as the hour mark comes it’s a triple substitution as Lorenzi, Stankovic and Mijailovic replace Simic, Matic and Stanic. There’s no goalmouth action though until the 70th minute, Baba Rahman gets his hat-trick of assists, after a fashion, as his quick turn in the box sees him tumble over an outstretched leg and the ref points to the spot!! CAMPAR confidently places the ball on the spot and takes his run up……left footed…….AND BURIES IT LOW TO THE KEEPERS RIGHT!!! 5-0 Red Star!! We close things down after the fifth to keep things fresh for the league and the match ends with no more action. FINAL SCORE 5-0 RED STAR!!

    We controlled the game from first whistle to last and the round is settled before the even get to the second leg!

    Slavko Ilijin is named man of the match for his hat-trick heroics and if he can keep that sort of form up then the 19 year old in for a glorious breakout season.

    We’re in for a very strange game next. It’s a trip to Feniks Arena and will be making use of the away team changing room for the first time!!

    The new manager has, obviously, imprinted his own tactical outlook on the team but it’s nice to see 8 of the predicted eleven are players I used myself.

    The recruitment hasn’t quite finished yet.

    More midfield reinforcements arrive in the shape of AC Milan’s Croatian Marko Bulat on loan. He’ll go straight into the starting line-up at the expense of Matic. That’s the only change from the demolishing of Milsami in midweek.

    MATCH DAY Last time out in the league Feniks were on the business end of the 5-1 hammering against Cukaricki and we go all out to better their score. Ilijin and Campar both have chances in the opening 10 minutes and a goalmouth in the 15th minute sees Ilijin, Simic AND Milosavljevic all have attempts cleared off the line or come back from the woodwork. The opening half plays out like a training match. We rack up 12 attempts on goal but our finishing is woeful with JUST THE SINGLE EFFORT ON TARGET!! Simic picks up a knock as the ref’s whistle brings the first half to a close. He’ll be replaced by Lorenzi after the break. Campar moves into a more advanced position as we shift into the narrow diamond and we in search of the opening goal.

    SECOND HALF The players retake the field with my bemoaning of their lack of cutting edge in their ears. It take less than two minutes for us to craft ourselves a gilt edged chance. Bulat sends over a low corner that is controlled by Cardoso. He’s bundled into from behind and the ref points straight to the spot. BULAT himself gathers the ball and steadies himself from 12 yards. It’s a right footed penalty……..THAT IS BURIED LOW TO TOROMAN’S RIGHT!! 1-0 Red Star!! Just past the hour mark and a lightning fast counter attack from Red Star sees Ilijin AGAIN blaze an attempt over when well placed. Just as the visiting fans start to worry about the single goal advantage Lorenzi outpaces the Feniks back line as he races onto a long clearance. He rounds Toroman and strokes the ball into the net……WAIT THOUGH……the assistants flag is up……VAR takes a look……BUT THE GOAL IS AWARDED!! 2-0 Red Star!! The goal wakes Feniks up and just five minutes later they pull a goal back. Aleksic takes a deep free kick aiming for the far post. Rosic comes charging out of goal to claim it but gets caught under it. The ball drops at the feet of LEVICANIN and he has an empty goal to finish into. 2-1 Red Star and game on!!!! We don’t crumble though, if anything the goal pisses us off. In the five minutes after the Feniks goal, Ilijin cannons a shot against the cross bar. Lorenzi has the ball taken off his toe by Toroman, and Stanic is foiled again by the in-form Feniks keeper. Then, with the clock running down, ILIJIN finally gets his goal and the two goal advantage is restored. Milosavljevic feeds him in the area and his snap shot is past Toroman before he even registers it’s been hit!!! 3-1 Red Star! The ref calls time and, despite the late Feniks rally, it’s another dominant performance.

    A huge THIRTY-THREE chances underlined our control, coupled with the 58% possession. It keeps the undefeated run to the season going, there’s four of us with two wins out of two.

    It’s the second leg of the Europa Conference qualification next. We’re 5-0 up and it’ll be a chance to rest a few players and give starts to others. Rahman makes way for youngster Mirosavic, Lekovic drops to the bench and allows Kovacevic to earn his debut and Lorenzi replaces Simic.

    MATCH DAY With the game won already I’m not really looking for anything special here. Once again we stamp our authority on the game early on and camp ourselves in their half. It takes until just before half time though to make the breakthrough. Campar the creator, as he feeds Lorenzi 30 yards from goal. he turns on the afterburners and leaves the Milsami defence for dust. The keeper races out but the shot is fierce and flies past him!! 1-0 Red Star! That’s all she wrote for the first half, and although we’ve stifled the game out of the opposition, we’ve managed just the single goal.

    SECOND HALF The restart changes nothing with regards to the flow of the match. Milsami defend, Red Star attack. Then a strange thing happened. Milsami start to grow into the game. It start with a couple of chance and ends with Chiriliov crossing for Rogac to tap in from a yard out!!! WAIT THOUGH……VAR IS LOOKING AT A POSSIBLE OFFSIDE IN THE BUILD UP……..It’s ruled out!!! Rogac was offside as the cross comes in. Still 1-0 Red Star! That’s the last action of the match, and a thoroughly professional performance sees us into the hat for the next qualifying round. the draw is made and it’s Slovenian side Olimpija Ljubljana.

    July is in the books and it’s a 100% record in two competitions. League wins against Vojvodina and Feniks has allowed me to settle quickly.

    August is going to be……BUSY! Five Preliminary Stage matches and and next round of the Europa Conference Qualifying. Hope my squad players and up to scratch!!

    Thanks for reading folks. Any comments, likes, follows etc are ALWAYS appreciated. You can find me on my other social media sites

    TWITTER – https://twitter.com/dave_goodgerfm

    TWITCH – https://twitch.com/davegoodgerfm

  • The European Journeyman Ep38

    WE’VE AVOIDED RELEGATION!!!! Whilst we were never really down in the bowels of the SuperLiga, to have stayed up is an achievement. TO HAVE TOPPED THE FINAL STAGE AND FINISHED 9TH OVERALL is a massive OVER-achievement.

    The board were happy, I’m understating the case of course. They’ve given me an A- mark which, seeing as they were anticipating a brave battle against relegation that would inevitably end in disaster and delivered a mid-table that never really did any more than flirted with relegation.

    The decent season is mirrored by the majority of the starting eleven having a average of over 7 and the rest in and around that mark. Vjestica and Garcia lead the way with 7.20 and Ilic, who only joined in the winter break, close behind with 7.18

    The awards follow on the same lines as last year. Kesic is again Fan’s Player of the Year, Top Goalscorer and Most Player of the Match Awards. Teodorovic wins Young Player of the year, which is surprising seeing as Timotic wins the Most Assists Award.

    The happy happy mood in the squad is soured as they head out the door for the summer break. Aleksander Ilic storms in and wants to know why I’ve not played him as a central midfielder. He’s been played as a defensive midfielder and averaged a fantastic 7.18 in doing so. I’m not splitting up the central three I’ve got playing there so he’s told, in a roundabout way, to SUCK IT UP BUTTERCUP!!

    The attention turns to new potential players as contracts begin to come to an end. It’s mainly just improvements on the back up players that we need. Midfield is a priority. Aleksic is THIRTY-FIVE and whilst he had a stellar season, I don’t want to be beholden to a declining player for my midfield creativity. Then…..out of nowhere…….

    The Red Star job comes available!! It’s one of only two Serbian jobs I’ll leave Feniks for and, let’s be honest, I’m not going to get it!!

    The End Of Season League Awards are in, AND WE’VE GOT THE BIGGEST OVERACHIEVERS!!!

    We’ve also have two runner ups in the Signing of the Season Award. Vjestica and Timotic both play 2nd fiddle to Rubezic. The first transfers in AND OUT are arranged. Kilibarda has agreed terms on a £14k move and coming in is 19 year old Justin Edwards, on a free transfer.

    My heart starts to beat a little faster though, AS AN INVITATION DROPS FOR AN INTERVIEW AT RED STAR!!!!

    Maybe, just maybe, it’s not such a pipe dream!!!

    It’s gone as well as I could expect. The preseason inches closer and closer, my mind is elsewhere though. I’m struggling to make plans when I don’t know if I’ll still be at the club……THEN IT LANDS……THE CONTRACT OFFER FROM RED STAR!!!!

    After two seasons with Feniks, it’s time to move on and test myself in EUROPEAN COMPETITION!!!

    There’s, obviously, a massive jump in quality here. But, and it’s a massive but, scratch the surface and we’re a little light on squad depth. Those players that we do have in reserve, are either too old or not good enough. BUT on the positive side, I’ve got £8million to spend, PLUS whatever I raise from selling the chaff amongst the wheat.

    Staff contracts are next up to deal with. Most seem to be good enough, but there’s a few that’ll be on their way out at the end of the season!! The preseason tour starts and the first friendly comes around. We’re away to Rodopa and it’s time to have a look at what I’ve got to work with!!

    MATCH DAY!!!! We almost score straight from the kick-off. Campar racing from midfield to meet a Baba Rahman cross, but his header sails harmlessly over the bar. We keep the pressure on, and have chances cleared off the line in the 20th AND 32nd minute. WE FINALLY GET THE BALL IN THE NET IN THE 38TH MINUTE. THREE TIMES WE FIRED BALLS IN, AND THREE TIMES THE RODOPA DEFENCE DEAL WITH IT. FINALLY THOUGH, RIGHT BACK BJEKOVIC WHIPS IN A CROSS AND JOAO PEDRO NODS IN THE GO AHEAD GOAL!!! 1-0 RED STAR!!! It’s nothing more than we deserve, we ARE the better team and have played as if we are.

    SECOND HALF We created a massive 25 chances in the first 45 minutes. Half of those on target. There’s changes for the second period, four to be precise, AND IT’S ONE OF THE REPLACEMENTS, CENTRE BACK DURIC, THAT SLAMS HOME A HEADER FROM THE BJEKOVIC CORNER IN THE 65TH MINUTE!! 2-0 RED STAR!! More changes disrupts the flow of the game and, apart from a Ivanic free kick cannoning back off the crossbar, the game fades to a quiet end. FINAL SCORE 2-0 RED STAR!!

    There’s just the one other friendly arranged before the season start in 18 days. It’s an away trip to Polish club Piast Gliwice. We then have a quite interesting fixture in our second league match……..A TRIP TO FENIKS!!!!

    The transfer window opens and a raft of OAP’s leave the club. 33 year old’s Sergi Gomez and Cristiano Piccini and 34 year old Slavoljub Srnic all leave for new care homes. Fellow pensioner Baba Rahman comes to pay me a visit, he wants to “explore his options” at the end of his contract. I’m happy to let him go, he’s not getting any younger and his wage will be better spent elsewhere.

    The average age of the squad is dropped even further with the signing of 18 year old Belgian striker Matteo Lorenzi.

    He’s still developing YET he’s already one of the better attackers we’ve got.

    MATCH DAY!!!! Time for the last friendly. It’s a changed squad with an eye to the future. Four changes including looking at the options at left back, with Rahman casting his eyes elsewhere, if his understudy is up to scratch I’ll sell now rather than let him go for free. We’re slow to start, BUT GLIWICE AREN’T!!! A CORNER FROM THE RIGHT CAUSES ABSOLUTE CHAOS IN THE AREA, AND AT THE FOURTH ATTEMPT, A SHOT IS DEFLECTED PAST TRIALLIST GOCMANAC!! 1-0 GLIWIC!!! It’s a early goal, but we don’t let it go to our heads. We keep to the game plan AND GET A WAY BACK INTO THE MATCH IN THE 19TH MINUTE. AGAIN, IT’S QUICK, IN TO FEET, PASSING THAT CARVES OPEN THE OPPOSITION DEFENCE. ILIJIN SMASHING IN AT THE NEAR POST!!! FLAGS UP THOUGH……..WAS ILIJIN OFFSIDE? YES HE WAS!!! NO GOAL! We keep knocking on the door though, Ilijin again forcing a smart save and the following corner is headed over the bar. Half time comes and it’s really not good enough. Behind on possession, chances AND goals.


    Come full time, We were ahead. Two debut goals from Lorenzi underlined the shift and it really was quite comfortable in the end. I put the change in performance down to the players. Bjekovic, however, puts the credit solely AT MY DOOR!!

    Who am I to argue??

    Straight after the match, a bid for a familiar face is accepted. Nemanja Timotic agrees to join and is immediately loaned back to them for the season.

    The ins and outs continues as the wheeling and dealing hots up. The big money signing is Gonzalo Cardoso. He’s a former West Ham United youth centre back with fantastic ball playing ability.

    He’s cost us £7.75m upfront, but if he realises his potential then it’ll be money well spent. Even if he IS a national record transfer fee!!!

    The 25 man Europa League squad is named. Two youngsters, Campar and Mijatovic, both first teamers, don’t have to be registered so they boost the squad and allows others to get game time.

    The pre-season is over. I’m pretty sure that we’ve brought in all the players we need to, and the squad is in a better place for it.

    This is the first season where I’ve been expected to actually perform. It’s my neck on the block if I don’t!!!

    Thanks for reading folks. Any comments, likes, follows etc are ALWAYS appreciated. You can find me on my other social media sites

    TWITTER – https://twitter.com/dave_goodgerfm

    TWITCH – https://twitch.com/davegoodgerfm

  • The European Journeyman Ep37

    The Preliminary Stage of our first ever SuperLiga season is done. We dropped off in the final couple of games, and missed out on finishing in the top half!!

    The groups for the Final Stage have been drawn and we only need to finish in the top FOUR places to avoid the relegation playoffs. That’s the equivalent to finishing between 9th and 12th in the Preliminary Stage.

    Up first is Radnicki Nis. They finished NINE POINTS behind us and are only narrowly keeping themselves out of the bottom two. We did the double over them in the Preliminary Stage, and our confidence is boosted further with news that our top goalscorer, Edin Kesic, has returned to training. He missed the run in, and that quite possibly played a part in the less than stellar finish.

    He’s not ready for the starting line-up, but it’ll be a massive morale boost for the players to see him on the bench. Petronijevic returns to the starting line-up, as does Milovanovic. He’ll partner Vjestica in defence, whilst Petronijevic replaces Paunovic.

    MATCH DAY!!!! It’s an even start to an important match. Timotic has the ball in the net twice, but has them both chalked off for offside. Toroman, at the other end, comes to Feniks rescue with a fantastic one-on-one save to keep the scores level. FENIKS FINALLY GET THE BREAKTHROUGH IN THE 20TH MINUTE. TIMOTIC, DROPPING DEEPER TO AVOID THE OFFSIDE TRAP, LAYS THE BALL OFF TO PETRONIJEVIC. HE PASSES FIRST TIME INTO THE PATH OF LEVICANIN. LEVICANIN STROKES THE BALL HOME FROM 12 YARDS OUT!!! 1-0 FENIKS!!Just four minutes later, Levicanin has the chance to double his tally. He takes to long to round the keeper though and the defence gets back to crowd him out. ON THE HALF HOUR, RADNICKI FIND A WAY BACK INTO THE MATCH!!! MITROVIC PLAYS A BALL INTO SKRBIC. HE TAKES ONE TOUCH AND UNLEASHES A THUNDERBOLT FROM 20 YARDS OUT!! TOROMAN MAKES A DIVE BUT CAN’T GET NEAR IT!!!! 1-1 AND GAME ON!!! Radnicki struggle to gain any momentum from the goal though, as Feniks go straight back on the front foot. THE PRESSURE PAYS OFF JUST TEN MINUTES LATER. LEVICANIN IS INVOLVED AGAIN, AS HE WINS THE BALL IN MIDFIELD AND MOVES IT ON TO CUMIC. CUMIC, IN THE SPACE BETWEEN THE LINES, TURNS AND PLAYS A PERFECTLY WEIGHTED BALL INTO THE PATH OF TIMOTIC. HE BARELY HAS TO BREAK STRIDE AS HE ROUNDS THE KEEPER AND SLOTS IT HOME!!! 2-1 FENIKS!!! Halftime comes around, and it’s been an even first period. Chances, both on target and off, are equal and Feniks have the slightest of advantages in possession. What we DO have though, is the goal advantage. The players are praised and sent back out to finish the job.

    SECOND HALF The second period starts as the first ended. WITH A FENIKS GOAL!!! ALEKSIC WINS, AND TAKES, A CORNER ON THE RIGHT. HIS CROSS IS TO THE NEAR POST AND VJESTICA GETS UP EARLY AND SLAMS HOME HIS HEADER!!! 3-1 FENIKS!! Edin Kesic makes his return to action with a little over ten minutes left, BUT IT’S THE MIDFIELD THAT PUTS THE GAME TO BED IN THE 90TH MINUTE!! ALEKSIC, AGAIN, IS THE PROVIDER AS HE SPOTS THE RUN OF PETRONIJEVIC AND SPLITS THE RADNICKI DEFENCE WITH HIS PASS. PETRONIJEVIC HITS IT FIRST TIME, ACROSS THE KEEPER, AND THE BALL NESTLES IN THE BOTTOM CORNER!!! 4-1 FENIKS!!! The second half finishes as even as the first, with the only genuine difference between the teams being the ruthless way we finished our chances!!!

    The win lifts us 12 points clear of automatic relegation, and five clear of the playoffs.

    Up next is one of the tougher games in the group, but at least it’s TSC coming to visit us, rather than the other way round!!

    The build up the the TSC game is marred by Jovanovic, and his manager, spitting their dummies out over his perceived lack of playing time. Seeing as he’s averaged a paltry 6.6 in his games this season, I’m in no mood to back down, and it appears that the fans back me as well!!

    There’s no changes needed, nor wanted, from the eleven that beat Radnicki Nis. Cumic has played over 600 minutes without scoring, and I’m not sure how much longer I can keep him in the squad. Both Miletic and Teodorovic PLUS Kesic are all breathing down his neck. Another blank here might well see him out the team.

    MATCH DAY!!!! Cumic is given a private chat, telling him that he needs to score else he’s out. We’ll see if it works it’s magic as the first half begins! Feniks have TWO glorious chances to take an early lead. Aleksic from clips the post with a free kick, then Levicanin has a better chance but can only drag his shot wide when clean through. THEN, JUST AFTER THE QUARTER HOUR MARK, ILIC PICKS THE POCKET OF THE TSC FULL BACK AND RELEASES CUMIC. HE’S 30 YARDS FROM GOAL BUT MANAGES TO HOLD OFF THE CHASING DEFENDERS. THE TSC KEEPER COMES OUT TO CLOSE THE ANGLE AND IT’S A BEAUTIFULLY WEIGHTED CHIP THAT FINSHES THE MOVE AND OPENS CUMIC’S ACCOUNT WITH FENIKS!!!! 1-0 FENIKS!! Twenty minutes later, after a sustained period of pressure that has Feniks camped on the edge of the TSC area. CUMIC PICKS THE BALL UP ON THE RIGHT OF THE AREA AND PLAYS IT IN TO PETRONIJEVIC. HE BEATS ONE MAN AND FEEDS LEVICANIN. LEVICANIN HAS HIS BACK TO GOAL AND SURROUNDED BY DEFENDERS. HE STILL MANAGES TO TWIST, TURN AND SHOOT WITHOUT LOSING THE BALL. THE BALL IS PAST THE TSC KEEPER WITHOUT HIM EVEN SEEING IT!!! 2-0 FENIKS!! The first half draws to a close and we’re in near complete control.

    SECOND HALF We continue the domination after the restart, and it’s not long before we extend our lead. ALEKSIC AGAIN IS AT THE HEART OF THINGS. HIS CORNER IS HEADED AWAY TO GARCIA ON THE EDGE OF THE AREA, HE LAYS IT OFF BACK TO ALEKSIC AND CONTINUES HIS RUN TOWARDS THE BOX. ALEKSIC FINDS HIM AND GARCIA’S FIRST TIME SHOT IS LIKE A MISSILE!! ARROW STRAIGHT INTO THE TOP CORNER!!!! WHAT A WAY TO OPEN YOUR ACCOUNT!!! 3-0 FENIKS AND IT’S SURELY GAME OVER NOW!! Miletic comes on to replace the under performing Timotic, AND IT’S HIS BALL TO PETRONIJEVIC THAT SETS UP THE FOURTH. PETRONIJEVIC REACHES THE BALL ON THE BY-LINE AND JUST KEEPS IT IN PLAY. HE FLASHES OVER A LOW CROSS AND LUKA CUMIC IS ON THE MOVE FIRST!!! IT’S AN EASY, ONE YARD TAP IN FOR CUMIC, AND HE DOUBLES HIS TALLY!!! 4-0 FENIKS!! There’s still twenty minutes to play. TSC finally manage to find a way to shut us down and it’s not until time added on that we get another chance. OF COURSE, IT’S ALEKSIC AT THE HEART OF THE GOAL. HIS CORNER, INTO THE NEAR POST AGAIN, IS MET BY AGAIN BY VJESTICA AND AT THE VERY END OF THE TIME SHOWN BY THE FOURTH OFFICIAL IT’S AN INCREDIBLY DESERVED 5-0!!!! WAIT THOUGH…..VAR IS LOOKING AT IT…..IS CUMIC STANDING OFFSIDE? YES, YES HE IS!!! GOAL RULED OUT!! There’s barely time for the keeper to take the free kick as the ref blows time and ends the torment for TSC!! FINAL SCORE 4-0 FENIKS!!! We really did dominate the game. 60/40 on the possession and a MASSIVE twenty chances. Admittedly we only managed 7 on target.

    We’re on the verge on being declared safe from automatic relegation.

    FOURTEEN points from the last relegation spot with just FIFTEEN left available. A trip to Sloga is up next, and with it a chance for another three points.

    With just the three days between games, there’s not much time for rest and as the Sloga match rolls around, it’s just too soon for Timotic. He steps aside and allows Kesic to come back into the starting line-up. The only other change is a tired Milovanovic being rested for Vojinovic. The players are told that if we win, we avoid automatic relegation and they are charged up for this one!!


    I’D SAY IT’S TIGHT….BUT THE ONLY THING TO DISCUSS IS WHO IS THE MOST OFFSIDE!!! Out of nowhere……and against the early run of play…..SLOGA STEAL THE LEAD!!! RADIVOJEVIC GETS THE BETTER OF GARCIA AND DRIVES INTO THE BOX. HIS CROSS IS BLOCKED BUT THE BALL FALLS TO GRBOVIC. IT’S A SIMPLE SQUARE BALL TO ARNAUTOVIC AND HIS FINISHES WITH STYLE!!! 1-0 SLOGA!!! We’re shell-shocked!! Our passes aren’t connecting and the runs aren’t being seen. ARNAUTOVIC PICKS OFF AN ATTEMPTED ALEKSIC PASS AND RELEASES THE PACE OF RADIVOJEVIC. HE OUTSTRIPS VJESTICA AND FIRES PAST TOROMAN!!! 2-0 SLOGA AND WE’VE GOT SOME WORK TO DO NOW!! There’s still only 15 minutes gone and plenty of time to get back in to the match. Things get even harder for us on the half hour as Petronijevic goes down injured. His replacement is Miletic, and brings about a change to the narrow diamond formation. We manage to stop Sloga from embarrassing us anymore, but we don’t make any in roads on the scoreline in the first half.

    SECOND HALF The players are dragged over hot coals in the changing room and sent back out knowing full well that they’ve NOT made me angry, THEY’VE JUST DISAPPOINTED ME!!

    Radivojevic puts the game beyond reach on the hour mark. HE AND ARNAUTOVIC COMBINE AGAIN, AND RADIVOJEVIC’S PACE IS A KILLER AS HE BEATS VOJINOVIC THIS TIME AND CRASHES A SHOT PAST TOROMAN!! 2-0 SLOGA!!! We slowly, probably too slowly, creep back into the match and WITH JUST UNDER TWENTY MINUTES TO PLAY VOJINOVIC MEETS ALEKSIC’S CORNER AND DRAGS FENIKS BACK INTO THINGS!! 3-1 SLOGA!! Just as I thought we had found a way back into the game ARNAUTOVIC AND RADIVOJEVIC COMBINE AGAIN TO SCORE SLOGA’S FOURTH!! THIS TIME IT’S RADIVOJEVIC SETTING UP ARNAUTOVIC AT THE BACK POST TO SLAM HOME!!! 4-1 SLOGA!! This is the type of result that we had when playing Sloga last season and probably half as many goals as they’ve scored all season!! The ref calls time on our embarrassment and Sloga go home with all three points! FINAL SCORE 4-1 SLOGA!!

    We were ahead in pretty much every statistical category EXCEPT the goals scored!! Radivojevic and Arnautovic ripped us apart and we had no answer.

    Petronijevic is done. It’s a serious, VERY SERIOUS, injury that rules him out for the rest of the season.

    He’s damaged his spine and Kolubara recall him from the loan. He’ll will be treated at his parent club and I’ll be watching from the distance to see when he returns.

    Our season is hanging by a thread. We were looking sooooo comfortable, but the terrible performance against Sloga means we are just 5 points from the relegation playoffs. There’s just the one definite change for the Subotica game, the Petronijevic injury means a space opens up for Radmilovic to start and Paunovic to move onto the bench.

    MATCH DAY!!! The players are told that their future is in their hands and they take the field in high spirits. The opening minutes are played almost exclusively in the Subotica half, Kesic has a great chance but his shot is pushed wide. Then, against the run of play, SUBOTICA TAKE THE LEAD!! IT’S A CROSS FROM THE RIGHT THAT’S DEFLECTED OUT TO THE EDGE OF THE AREA. AS THE FENIKS DEFENCE PUSHES OUT, GARCIA IS LEFT BEHIND AND PLAYS KOPUNOVIC ONSIDE!!! 1-0 SUBOTICA!!! Despite having the most of the ball AND chances, we’ve managed to find ourselves behind. The ref blows to bring the first half to a close and the players are in for a dressing down!!

    SECOND HALF The verbal tongue-lashing seems to make ZERO DIFFERENCE as play resumes. VOJINOVIC, DESPITE HAVING ALL THE INSTRUCTIONS TO PLAY SHORT PASSES, LUMPS A BALL STRAIGHT TO THE SUBOTICAN DEFENCE. IT COMES STRAIGHT BACK AND MIRCEVSKI FIRES IT ACROSS TOROMAN TO MAKE IT 2-0!!! Kesic has a chance to score an instant reply, but somehow manages to snatch at his shot and it sails harmlessly wide. It’s his final action of the match as BOTH strikers are replaced. Miletic and Timotic coming on in the hope that fresh legs and different roles will make the difference!! Even a change to three up top makes no difference to the way the match is playing out. Subotica absolutely bossed the second half. They switched the possession stats and finished with 61% of the ball. We had more chances in the end the but result was exactly what we deserved!! FINAL SCORE 2-0 SUBOTICA!!

    We’ve got to get a result next time out. We’re on back to back losses at a time of the season that we REALLY can’t afford to lose games. Surdulica are next to visit the Feniks Arena. They’re level on points with us now, and only our superior goal difference is keeping us above them. We are still five points clear of the relegation playoffs, but need to snap out of it quick sharpish.

    There’s no problems with injuries or suspensions, so it’s a totally unchanged eleven that will take the field in what could be, a relegation-avoiding decider!!

    MATCH DAY!!!! Surdulica come out the blocks hot. They keep the ball for the first five minutes. BUT IT’S FENIKS THAT MAKE THE BREAKTHROUGH!!! ALEKSIC SENDING OVER A CORNER THATS MET AGAIN BY VOJINOVIC AT THE NEAR POST!!! 1-0 FENIKS AFTER 8 MINUTES!!!! We are relentless. Pressing again straight from the restart RADMILOVIC SLAMMING HOME AN EFFORT JUST FIVE MINUTES LATER!!! ALEKSIC IS THE CREATOR AGAIN, THIS TIME LOFTING A BALL OVER THE TOP…..WAIT….THE ASSISTANTS FLAG IS UP!! AND IT’S RULED OUT!! It’s Kesic rather than the, running from deep Radmilovic that is offside. Still we stay on the front foot. Luka Cumic bends a beaut of a shot from the edge of the area that hits the post on it’s way wide. The first half comes to an end, and after playing defence for the first 5 minutes, it’s a dominant performance from Feniks. Just the one goal in it though, so we’ll need stay on our toes!!

    SECOND HALF!!!! We come out the changing rooms and carry on as if nothing happened. After just five minutes Garcia fires over from the angle of the area, and Aleksic has a chance himself to extend Feniks lead on the hour. WE FINALLY GET THE SECOND GOAL THOUGH WITH JUST UNDER 15 MINUTES LEFT TO PLAY. QUICK PASSING INTERPLAY ON THE EDGE OF THE SURDULICA AREA SEES MILETIC FEED THE UNDERLAPPING LEVICANIN AND HIS SHOT IS LIFTED OVER THE KEEPER INTO THE FAR CORNER!!! 2-0 FENIKS AND WE SHOULD BE SECURE NOW!!! The second goal finally seems to wake Surdulica up. LUKIC, ON THE SURDULICAN LEFT, LEADS GARCIA ON A MERRY CHASE BEFORE LIFTING OVER A CROSS THAT’S MISSED VOJINOVIC. IT DROPS KINDLY AT THE FEET OF DURONJIC AND JUST LIKE THAT IT’S A ONE GOAL GAME AGAIN!!! 2-1 FENIKS!! It is nothing more than a false dawn for Surdulica though. Feniks close ranks and see out the final 5 minutes. The ref brings the game to a close and it’s Feniks who are the one’s that grasp safety!! FINAL SCORE 2-1 FENIKS!!

    Results go our way elsewhere, meaning we are EIGHT POINTS from the relegation playoff spots and just SIX POINTS available!!

    We. Are. SAFE!!!!!

    The board are happy, as they should be, to have avoided relegation with two games to spare. It gives me the opportunity to give games to a couple of players who have waited patiently on the sidelines. Javor Ivanjica are up next, they’ve slipped through the trap-door back to the second division but will be playing for pride.

    There are changes a plenty for the penultimate game of the season. Radmilovic strains his abdominal muscle ruling him out the last two games. Paunovic will come in for him. Nikolic is making way for the young Belgian Lardaux and Kesic stands aside for Miletic.


    SECOND HALF!!!! There is nothing but praise coming the way of the Feniks players at half time, and while Javor make ALL THREE SUBS during the break, we retake the field in high spirits!! THE CHANGE OF PERSONNEL CHANGES NOTHING TO THE FLOW OF THE GAME!! JUST 90 SECONDS AFTER THE RESTART MILETIC HAS HIS SECOND OF THE GAME. ALEKSIC AT HIS CREATIVE BEST AGAIN, PLAYING A PASS INTO SPACE FOR MILETIC TO RUN ON TO. HIS SHOT IS ACROSS THE KEEPER AND AFTER A QUICK VAR REVIEW THE GOAL STANDS!!! 4-0 FENIKS!! Javor lose their heads after this. Within a minute of the fourth goal, Levicanin has a chance to make it five!! He’s sent through by Miletic but his shot has too much on it and it sails safely over. THERE IS A FIFTH GOAL THOUGH!! ON THE HOUR MARK, GARCIA LIFT A BALL INTO THE PATH OF LUKA CUMIC. HE SPRINGS THE JAVOR OFFSIDE TRAP, ROUNDS THE KEEPER AND SLOTS THE BALL INTO THE EMPTY NET TO MAKE IT 5-0!! Timotic and Basaric are brought on to rest some weary legs and see out the game. There’s no more action and the ref brings as end to Javor’s suffering!! FINAL SCORE 5-0 FENIKS!!

    That was the perfect way to continue to party atmosphere. Total domination and clinical finishing meant an easy ride and morale is sky high on the camp. The last game of the season is on the horizon and we welcome FK Novi Pazar to the Feniks Arena.

    They’re sitting 4th in the Closing Stage but a distant 10 points away from us. It’s just goal difference that’s keeping them out of the playoff spots, although Radnicki Nis have a game in hand.

    We make it through the week between games without an injuries or suspension, but there’s still a couple of changes to be made. Both Ilic and Paunovic are a yellow card away from a match suspension, they’re standing aside for Basaric and Timotic. Everyone else retains their place, as we look to finish the season with a win.

    MATCH DAY!!!! With Novi Pazar fighting to keep themselves out of the relegation playoffs, it’s kind of predictable that they dominate the early going. We manage to keep them at arms length and as we start to grow into the match TIMOTIC BURSTS INTO THE NOVI PAZAR AREA, AND IS TRIPPED BY JOVANOVIC!!! VAR CONFIRMS THE ON FIELD DECISION AND ALEKSIC STEPS UP TO TAKE THE KICK…..IT’S LEFT FOOTED…..AND STRAIGHT DOWN THE MIDDLE!!!! 1-0 FENIKS!! It’s a goal against the run of play, as Novi Pazar have had the better of the early play. After the goal goes in, we turn of the pressure and keep the ball a lot better. The first half comes to an end with the chances brought closer together but we’re ahead on possession.

    SECOND HALF Within a minute of the restart LEVICANIN SMASHES HOME AN EFFORT AFTER SOME SUMPTIOUS PASSING PLAY……VAR IS TAKING A LOOK THOUGH……BUT THERE’S NOTHING TO SEE AND THE GOALS STANDS!!! 2-0 FENIKS!!! The game is won. We close things down and attempt to see out the game. Novi Pazar come back at us and the frame of the goal saves our bacon on a couple of occasions. THAT BUCKS OUR IDEAS UP AND AS THE GAME DRAWS TO A CLOSE, SUBSTITUTE TEODOROVIC SPRINGS THE OFFSIDE TRAP TO SLIDE A FINISH PAST THE KEEPER!!! 3-0 FENIKS!! There’s no time left to Novi Pazar to much of anything, and it’s another clean sheet and we consign Novi Pazar to the relegation playoffs!!

    It wasn’t a classic Feniks performance, but we grew into the game and once the first goal went in, there really wasn’t any other result on the cards!

    The season is over. We’ve finished top of the closing stage and a massive NINTH in the overall table. The board wanted to TRY TO AVOID relegation and we did that in spades!!!! Can we build on this next season? WE’LL CERTAINLY TRY TO!!!

    Thanks for reading folks. Any comments, likes, follows etc are ALWAYS appreciated. You can find me on my other social media sites

    TWITTER – https://twitter.com/dave_goodgerfm

    TWITCH – https://twitch.com/davegoodgerfm

  • The European Journeyman Ep36

    We’re getting incredibly close to the end of the Preliminary Stage of our first season in the SuperLiga. Despite the board wanting us to “attempt to avoid relegation“, we’re sitting VERY PRETTY in 10th place. Nine points clear of the last remaining automatic relegation spot, and just the three points away from the top half!!

    March sees us start off with a fixture that we’re more than capable of winning. Then again, we thought as much last time we played Javor Ivanjica. that game we got our asses handed to us in a 3-2 loss. we have a much stronger squad now though after the winter break saw us bring in another SEVEN PLAYERS!!

    The bookies have us favourites for the match at evens. Javor have lost their last five games, whilst we’re unbeaten in the same period. Belic, up until recently a midfield mainstay (when he wasn’t suspended), is ruled out for a month with pulled ankle ligaments. There’s no match squad injuries, and everyone is fully fit, so once again it’s an unchanged team that will take the field.

    MATCH DAY!!!! The first half is dominated by Feniks, without ever really putting their keeper under any kind of pressure. We manage to stop them from creating A SINGLE CHANCE, but the half ends with the scores level.

    SECOND HALF The restart brings little in the way of change, as Feniks continue to dominate the game but struggle to make the breakthrough. UNTIL JUST PAST THE HOUR MARK!! TWICE WE SEND THE BALL INTO THE JAVOR AREA AND TWICE IT’S BEATEN AWAY, THE THIRD TIME IS THE CHARM THOUGH AS TIMOTIC BEATS THE KEEPER AFTER BEING PUT THROUGH BY RADMILOVIC!! 1-0 FENIKS!! The game carries on as if nothing had happened…THEN WITH FIVE MINUTES TO PLAY, A LONG BALL FROM THE JAVOR RIGHT BACK IS REACHED BY THEIR WINGER. THE CROSS, HEADING BEHIND THE STRIKER, IS DEFLECTED BY NIKOLIC INTO HIS PATH AND WITH THEIR FIRST SHOT IN THE GAME THEY’LL LEVELLED IT UP!!! 1-1 WITH TIME RUNNING OUT!!! It looks like the unbeaten run might well continue but with a disappointing draw. Fenicks win a free kick with two minutes of regulation time to play. ALEKSIC STANDS OVER THE BALL. HIS KICK IS CLAWED AWAY BY A SPRAWLING JAVOR KEEPER, SUBSTITUTE CUMIC KEEPS THE BALL ALIVE AND DINKS IT BACK ACROSS GOAL TO THE UNMARKED NIKOLIC!!! HE MAKES AMENDS FOR THE DEFLECTION AT THE OTHER END, AND NO MISTAKE WITH HIS FINISH!!! 2-1 FENIKS AND SURELY THAT’S IT NOW!!!! There’s still time for Timotic to have the ball in the back of the net, but it’s ruled out by the narrowest of offside decisions!!!

    Well, maybe not narrow but he WAS offside!! The fourth official holds up FIVE ADDITIONAL MINUTES and the thousand strong Feniks home crowd start getting nervous!! They needn’t have fretted though, Javor have had the wind taken out of their sails and when the ref calls time an audible sigh of relief washes over the stadium!! FINAL SCORE 2-1 FENIKS!!!

    The result was a fair one. Javor created just one one chance, which they scored from. But Feniks had the game under control was first to last whistle. Results go our way elsewhere and it’s now a HUGE 12 point gap between us and the last relegation spot.

    Not only is the top half in touching distance, but 7th is now just the three points away!! The next two games though will, in all honesty, garner us no points. Vojvodina and Red Star and 4th and 2nd!!

    It was my 51st birthday as we played Javor, and the result was the perfect birthday present from the players!!

    The midfield grouping that has been so strong for us since the break, is having to be split up for the Vojvodina game. Radmilovic is ineligible so Aleksic comes in. The only other change is on the bench where Cumic suffers a tight hamstring in training and is replaced by Kilibarda.

    MATCH DAY!!! It’s just the three days between the Javor and Vojvodina games. The starting XI are given an extra days rest in an attempt to keep them fresh. It works, by and large, with Aleksic the only issue due to his lack of game time!! Vojvodina start off hot and IT’S ONLY THE SECOND MINUTE WHEN THE OPENING GOAL IS FIRED IN!! A FREE KICK JUST INSIDE FROM THE CORNER FLAG IS SENT OF AND CAUSES MASS CONFUSION. IN THE MELEE, IVANOVIC PRODS HOME THE OPENER!!! 1-0 VOJVODINA! We don’t let our heads drop, and grow into the game. FINALLY WE RESTORE PARITY ON THE HALF HOUR. KESIC PLAYS A ONE-TWO WITH TIMOTIC AFTER SOME GREAT DEFENSIVE WORK BY ILIC. HE GETS TO THE EDGE OF THE VOJVODINA AREA BEFORE SQUARING THE BALL BACK TO TIMOTIC AND IT’S A FIRST TIME SHOT THAT BEATS THE KEEPER TO LEVEL THE SCORES!!! We remain in control of the game and as the ref blows for the end of the first half, results elsewhere mean that we’re temporarily OUT OF THE BOTTOM HALF!!!


    AND THEN AWARDS THE GOAL!!!! 2-1 FENIKS WITH HALF AN HOUR LEFT TO PLAY!!! Vojvodina attack again, and again and finally the pressure tells!! VOJINOVIC GOES TO GROUND IN THE AREA AND CATCHES VIDAKOVIC!! VAR TAKES A LOOK BUT CONFIRMS THE DECISION! BOGDAN STEPS UP TO TAKE THE PENALTY LEFT FOOTED……AND NAILS IT LOW DOWN TO TOROMAN’S RIGHT!! 2-2 WITH JUST OVER TEN MINUTES TO PLAY!! Again, Feniks go on the attack. Time is running out but their hopes are boosted when Stevanovic hauls Kesic down and receives his marching order for two yellow cards. It’s makes no difference though, as Vojvodina shut up shop and the match fizzles out. FINAL SCORE 2-2

    The point is still enough to lift us out of the bottom half and, for the moment at least, safe from relegation!!

    Up next is title chasing Red Star. They’re on a unbelievable home run of TWENTY GAMES UNBEATEN, but they’re coming to our patch and if we play like we did against Vojvodina, we’ve got every chance of pulling a MASSIVE upset out the bag!!!

    The board are obviously happy with my work. They’ve only gone and offered me a new contract!!! It’s a two year deal, but I managed to add a clause to waive any compensation if another club comes calling……..JUST IN CASE!!!

    Our preparations for the Red Star game AND HOPES FOR THE REST OF THE SEASON take a nosedive in the week leading up to the match. Edin Kesic breaks down in training as is ruled out for SIX WEEKS with pulled ankle ligaments!!

    He’s our top goalscorer and a lot of pressure is going to fall on the shoulders of new signing Luka Cumic. He was brought in to be the understudy to Kesic and will have to step in a lot sooner than I’d have liked!!

    MATCH DAY!!!! The only change from the battling draw against Vojvodina is the injured Kesic dropping out for Cumic. We have the chance to put a serious dent in Red Star’s title challenge, and start the match the better team. It’s not until the 20th minute that Red Star even register an attempt. The match evens out and turns once again into a midfield war of attrition. Neither keeper is put under any great pressure and the ref puts the fans out of their misery to call time on the first half.

    SECOND HALF The only poor performances are from Nikolic and Timotic. Both are told that despite their performance so far, I have complete faith in them. The restart brings ZERO change to how the game has gone. Our narrow pitch and lack of width stifles the Red Star attacks and it’s no until the 90th minute that EITHER TEAM creates a chance of note. A corner from the Red Star right is looped over to the far post. A dink back to the edge of the area allows a shot on goal but the effort flies harmlessly over the bar. Once again the ref puts the fans out of their misery and calls time on the game. FINAL SCORE 0-0!!

    It’s a bonus point, coupled to the extra one we earnt against Vojvodina means it’s in our hands to finish in the top half.

    We’re sitting 8th with two games left. our next match though IS AGAINST VOZDOVAC!!! We’re ahead of them on goal difference only and played out a 2-2 draw earlier in the season.

    Red Star and Partizan have come sniffing around Timotic. He was the big money signing at the start of this season and I’m not particularly about the prospect of losing him so soon. There’s no injuries or suspensions to deal with as the week between matches finishes and our most important game of the season approaches.

    MATCH DAY!!!! It’s an unchanged eleven that take the field. We can all but guarantee a top half finish with a win here and we almost have the perfect start. Aleksic fires in a left footed free kick that comes back off the post, Cumic hits the rebound but that’s cleared off the line!!! Vjestica goes close in the 17th minute as he meets an Aleksic corner. His effort skims the bar on it’s way over though. Vozdovac remind us that we are actually here to compete, and latch onto a huge clearance by their keeper. The shot is rushed though as Vojinovic closes him down, and flies harmlessly over. Then with a little over five minutes remaining in the first half DISASTER STRIKES!!! VOZDOVAC WORK THE BALL DOWN THEIR LEFT AND NIKOLIC LAYS IT ON A PLATE FOR BELAKOVIC TO SLOT HOME AT THE FAR POST!!! 1-0 VOZDOVAC AND OUR HOPES OF A TOP HALF FINISH TAKE A TUMBLE!! JUST FOUR MINUTES LATER IT’S A CASE OF RINSE AND REPEAT AS NIKOLIC GETS TO THE BY-LINE AND SQUARES THE BALL ACROSS GOAL FOR THE UNMARKED BELAKOVIC TO GET HIS SECOND OF THE GAME!!! THAT MAKES IT 2-0 VOZDOVAC AND OUR HOPES ARE FADING FAST!!! The ref blows for half time and it couldn’t come a moment to soon.

    SECOND HALF We’ve had the better of the half, but it’s blatantly clear where our issues are!!

    Just ONE SHOT ON TARGET from nine attempts is woeful. The front line get a roasting and are kicked back out!! We restart the match and come out on the front foot. WE GET A WAY BACK INTO THINGS ON THE HOUR. CUMIC IS BUNDLED OVER IN THE BOX AND ALEKSIC STEPS UP TO TAKE THE KICK…..LEFT FOOTED……AND BURIES IT HIGH TO THE KEEPERS RIGHT!!! 2-1 AND GAME ON!!! We kick on and begin to abolsutely DOMINATE proceedings. With just under twenty minutes to play TIMOTIC HAS THE BALL IN THE NET!! IT’S A DELIGHTFUL BALL OVER THE TOP FROM ILIC AND TIMOTIC MAKES NO MISTAKE WITH HIS FINISH…..THE ASSISTANT HAS HIS FLAG UP THOUGH AND VAR TAKES A LOOK…..

    IT’S RULED OUT!!! TIMOTIC WENT JUST A SPLIT SECOND TOO SOON!!! We knock on the door time and time again, but our finishing is woeful. FINAL SCORE 2-1 VOZDOVAC!!!

    Just four shots on target from 18 attempts is nowhere near good enough, and we got exactly what the performance deserved. The result means that Vozdovac leapfrog us and go three points clear with just one game remaining in the Preliminary Stage. It’s not all over BUT we’ve got to play third placed Cukaricki Stankom AND WIN to stand a chance!!

    Ilic picks up a yellow card suspension and will miss the Cukaricki game. Radmilovic is a more than able deputy though and will move form the bench to the starting line-up.

    March is done and dusted. We’ve lost just the one game and drew games against both Red Star and Vojvodina. The disappointing loss to Vozdovac though, means that we need a miracle to finish in the top half. That last game of the season needs us to win AND Vozdovac to lose.

    MATCH DAY!!!! The only changes to the team that lost despite controlling the game are Radmilovic coming in for the suspended Ilic and Paunovic replacing Petronijevic who has picked up a knock. Cukaricki start, predictably, on the front foot and push us back deeper and deeper. They finally get the goal that their pressure deserves in the 20th minute. Cirkovic on the left crossing over and Milovanovic, despite being surrounded by three defenders, jumps highest and plants his header past Toroman!!! 1-0 CUKARICKI!! VAR TAKES A LOOK AT THE GOAL THOUGH…..AND RULES IT OUT FOR OFFSIDE!!! Just before halftime we get our first serious chance on goal. The ball drops to Timotic on the edge of the area. He puts bend on the shot but not enough and it clips the post on it’s way wide.

    SECOND HALF The half time teamtalk is full of praise and the players head out motivated. The restart brings little change to proceedings. Cukaricki dominate the play and on the hour have a chance to take the lead. IT’S A LONG BALL OVER THE TOP THAT HAS NIKOLIC SCRAMBLING TO GET BACK. THE CUKARICKI WINGER GET TO THE BALL FIRST AND CUTS INSIDE GIVING NIKOLIC NO CHANCE TO GET OUT THE WAY. PENALTY TO CUKARCKI!!! MILOVANOVIC STEPS UP RIGHT FOOTED…….AND FIRES IT IN LOW TO TOROMAN’S LEFT!! 1-0 CUKARICKI!! We begin to grow into the game and Paunovic has a great chance to level the scores. He’s put through by Aleksic, but his attempt is soft and straight into the keepers arms! OUR ATTACK DOES NOTHING MORE THAN WIND THE CUKARICKI PLAYERS UP, AND THEY HEAD STRAIGHT UP THE OTHER END AND PUT THE GAME OUT OF REACH. IT’S RIGHT-BACK CIRKOVIC RUNNING THE LENGTH OF THE PITCH AND GETTING ON THE END OF A BEAUTIFUL CROSS FIELD PASS BEFORE FINISHING IT WITH APLOMB!! 2-0 CUKARICKI!! The last fifteen minutes play out like the Alamo, with Feniks penned back in their area. The ref stops the punishment and it’s into the Final Stage Group B we go!!

    To have finished 9th in our first ever SuperLiga season is amazing. If we finish 9th or 10th after the Final Stage, we’re safe with no playoffs needed. Our record against the teams in the lower half is reasonably good, so we SHOULD be fine.

    Thanks for reading folks. Any comments, likes, follows etc are ALWAYS appreciated. You can find me on my other social media sites

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  • The European Journeyman Ep35

    The winter break is done and dusted. The squad has being strengthened EVEN FURTHER by the incoming transfers of left backs, Lardaux and Nikolic. Right back Garcia, midfielders Ilic and Aleksic, and striker Cumic. It brings our total transfer incomings at NINETEEN PLAYERS for a total of £300k. These are offset a little by FOURTEEN PLAYERS leaving for a total of £190k

    Newcomer Aleksic proves he’s not immune to the Feniks injury curse by straining his abdominal muscles in training, side-lining himself for 5 weeks!! To add a little bit more cover for the midfield, and before the transfer window slams shut, I dip into the loan market and bring in transfer listed Dimitrije Petronijevic until the end of the season from Kolubara. He’ll go straight into the starting XI against Surdulica, in the spot that Aleksic WOULD have played in.

    MATCH DAY!!!! The opening half hour passes by with the match turning quickly into a war of attrition. There’s very little for either keeper to do with just the one shot on target from each team. The significance of the match, and the chance for both teams to move close to the top half of the table is casting a shadow over the match.

    SECOND HALF The forward line are told, emphatically, that the shooting has not been good enough. It’s enough to gee up Kesic and Timotic, and as they retake the field it’s a positive restart to the match. We force back to back saves from the Surdulica keeper and then, in the 65th minute, WE MAKE THE BREAKTHROUGH!! TIMOTIC, WHO HAD BEEN STARTING TO FADE, PICKS THE BALL UP IN THE CENTRE CIRCLE AND FINDS KESIC IN WITH A FANTASTIC BALL PLAYED WITH THE OUTSIDE OF HIS BOOT. KESIC BREAKS INTO THE AREA AND FIRES HOME!!! 1-0 FENIKS!! VAR takes a look, but it’s the Surdulica left back playing him onside. Surdulica come back into the game, pressing more in search of an equaliser. Twice, Toroman in the Feniks goal has to beat away shots from distance and then, with ten minutes to play WE SEAL THE DEAL!!! THREE OF THE NEW SIGNINGS, NIKOLIC, ILIC AND CUMIC COMBINE TO SET UP PAUNOVIC. IT’S A SIMPLE FINISH FROM 12 YARDS OUT AND JUST LIKE THAT IT’S 2-0 FENIKS!! We see out the last ten minutes and, amazingly, register A CLEAN SHEET!!!! We finish the match with less possession and fewer chances, but it’s a deserved performance and one with few poor performances.

    The win lifts us up the league standings again, and puts us within touching distance of the top half.

    Two points from 8th but still only 4 points from 15th!! The bottom half of the SuperLiga is hella tight!!! Our next match is away to Mladost Lucani. They sit in 6th spot, but we’ve beaten them already in the SuperLiga and are looking to complete the double over a team for the first time this season.

    MATCH DAY!!!! I really didn’t want to change anything from the defence that kept a clean sheet, but Garcia is severely lacking match fitness so Markovic replaces him in the only change. Mladost, inevitably, start the match on the front foot and rack up chance after chance in the opening 20 minutes. We finally manage to keep hold of the ball for a while and ON 25 MINUTES SCORE THE OPENING GOAL!!! TIMOTIC TAKES A CORNER FROM THE LEFT, HIS CROSS IS MET BY VOJINOVIC. HIS NOD DOWN IS MET AT THE BACK POST BY THE LOITERING ILIC WHO HAS A SIMPLE TAP IN!!! WAIT THOUGH……THE FLAG IS UP……GOAL DISALLOWED!!!! ILIC WAS OFFSIDE!!

    The attempt does nothing more than rile up the Mladost players, and on 34 minutes they take the lead!! CUMIC FINISHING OFF A SWEEPING MOVE FROM RIGHT TO LEFT. TAPPING IN THE NOD DOWN FROM JOVIC FOLLOWING ANTONIJEVIC’S CROSS!! 1-0 MLADOST LUCANI!!!

    SECOND HALF Edin Kesic is told, quite bluntly, that his first half performance is not good enough. It looks like it motivates him, but there’s little improvement in the game after the restart. Just as Cumic is lining up to replace him though WE GRAB AN UNLIKELY EQUALISER!!! NIKOLIC WINS A HEADER ON THE HALFWAY LINE AND THE BALL DROPS TO PAUNOVIC. HE MOVES IT QUICKLY ONTO TIMOTIC. TIMOTIC IS QUICKLY CLOSED DOWN, AND HIS ATTEMPTED PASS TO KESIC FALLS INSTEAD TO THE ONRUSHING LEVICANIN!! HIS RUN TAKES HIM CLEAR OF THE MLADOST DEFENDERS AND HIS SHOT IS ARROW STRAIGHT INTO THE TOP CORNER!!! 1-1 WITH 30 MINUTES TO PLAY!!! With 15 minutes to play we are almost undone by ANOTHER long ball. It’s just a simple punt from the Mladost keeper that Milovanovic struggles to deal with. His attempted clearance rebounds off the opposing striker but Toroman is more than equal to the following shot, pushing it away for a corner. Mladost push and probe for an attempted winner, but the Feniks defence seems to be made of sterner stuff since the winter break and hold on for a hard earned draw!!! FINAL SCORE 1-1!

    The win lifts us to within a point of 8th place and the top half and there’s a very real possibility that we can push on and challenge for that spot.

    Next up is Napredak Krusevac. They’re another team riding high, safely in the top half, almost safe from the relegation zone in 5th spot. It was a straight up 1-nil loss last time out, but we’re a stronger squad now. Garcia returns at right back after Markovic was given a torrid time last match. He’s joined back in the starting line-up by Vjestica. He missed the Mladost match through suspension.

    MATCH DAY!!!! There’s no other changes to the team. Aleksic is still a few days away from training, so the midfield quartet of Ilic, Radmilovic, Petronijevic and Levicanin will continue. Timotic has taken to his more advanced role like a duck to water and continues to partner Kesic in attack. We are unbeaten in our last three games, whilst Krusevac haven’t won in their last five. AND IT’S FENIKS WHO OPEN THE SCORING!!!! VOJINOVIC MEETS ILIC’S NEAR POST CORNER AND BEATS THE KEEPER!!! 1-0 AFTER 15 MINUTES!!!! Krusevac take just over five minutes to level the scores though! JOVANOVIC FINISHING OFF A FANTASTIC BIT OF PLAY BY KOCIC BY TAPPING IN AT THE FAR POST!!! 1-1 AND GAME ON!! Kocic almost supplies another goal on the stroke of halftime. His corner is met at the far post but the header flies harmlessly over.

    SECOND HALF We’ve had the better of the first half, and it’s a cry of “REVENGE” that echoes around the changing room as the players retake the field!! Feniks have the first chance of the second period as Ilic sends over another corner that is met again by Vojinovic. His header is blocked and when the ball rebounds at the feet of Garcia he launches it straight back at goal…..his effort looks destined for the top corner but instead crashes against the crossbar and away to safety. With twenty minutes to go, Krusevac have their own attacking corner drama. Kocic, again, sends over a floated ball that is met full force by the head of Jovanovic. His header is clawed away by Toroman, but he can’t hold on to it. The loose ball is stabbed at goal but Nikolic is on the line to save the day and hack the ball clear!! The rest of the game is played out at a frantic, but error filled, pace. Attacks begin and end with mis-placed passes, or with poor quality finishes. The ref eventually blow for full time and it’s an honourable draw. FINAL SCORE 1-1.

    The draw keeps our undefeated month going, and puts us on 5 points in February and up to 26 points in total.

    The press come round after the match asking about links to me and the vacant Spartak Subotica job. Pfft, if I wasn’t about to leave for TSC, then I’m not going to entertain Subotica.

    The last match of the month sees us travel to 15th placed Radnicki Nis. It’s another opportunity to complete a SuperLiga double AND extend the gap between us to nine points. Danijel Aleksic returns to training after being out for a month with pulled abdominal muscles. He’ll have to make do with a spot on the bench to start with, We’re unbeaten in four matches now and no reason to switch things up.


    SECOND HALF The halftime talk is all about praise. They’re playing well, and the scoreline proves it. WE START THE SECOND HALF EVEN BETTER THAN WE DID THE FIRST!!! ONCE AGAIN IT’S A TIMOTIC CORNER THAT’S MET BY VOJINOVIC. THIS TIME HIS HEADER CRACKS AGAINST THE WOODWORK BUT FALLS AT THE FEET OF RADMILOVIC TWO YARDS OUT!!! HE REALLY COULDN’T MISS AND JUST 2 MINUTES AFTER THE RESTART IT’S 4-2 FENIKS!!!! Toroman is called into action with fifteen minutes remaining. Milosevic curls a beauty of a free kick around the wall, but Toroman is more than equal to it and pushes the shot wide and away. The final minutes fly by as the game flows end to end. Neither keeper is tested again though and when the ref blows for full time is Feniks who emerge victors 4-2!!!

    It was an even game and the only real difference was our clinical finishing. The win keeps us in close proximity to the top half but, more importantly, extends the gap between ourselves and the automatic relegation spots to a massive NINE POINTS!!

    February has been kind, EXTREMELY kind, to us. Two wins and two draws means we end the month with 8 points from a possible 12. Our run in though, has the potential to TOTALLY DERAIL US!!

    After we start the month at home to 14th placed Javor Ivanjica, we play 3rd placed Vojvodina and 2nd placed Red Star. March is then rounded out with a HUGE GAME against Vozdovac, the team currently sitting in the final top half spot!! The Preliminary Stage is then rounded out by a visit to 4th placed Cukaricki Stankom.

    Is seven points too much to hope for? Probably, we can live in hope!!!

    Thanks for reading folks. Any comments, likes, follows etc are ALWAYS appreciated. You can find me on my other social media sites

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  • The European Journeyman Ep34

    We’re heading into the winter break of our first season in the SuperLiga. There’s just two games left of the calendar year, up first is a tough game against top of the table Partizan. They’re followed by the polar opposite and a visit to rock bottom Sloga.

    Whilst the league POSITION isn’t as good as it possibly could have been, the actual POINTS TALLY is far better than I expected. After 19 games, we’ve accrued 18 points. Yes, we’re third bottom in the table but we are only 3 points from ninth and five points from the top half!!

    The next crop of youngsters coming through from the academy is announced, and it’s looking pretty decent.

    Defenders, and midfielders are all looking to be pretty good. We’ll see when they actually announce the intake, but good things on the horizon.

    Petar Glintic gives attempts to give me a heart attack on the build up to the Partizan game

    before he comes clean with five days to go that he’s only out for 2 days!!

    The rest of the week passes with no starting players picking up injuries. Subotic though, is ruled out of the bench by picking up a virus. His place is taken by Sredojevic.

    MATCH DAY!!!! Last time we played Partizan, I adjusted our playing mentality and it cost us dearly. This time, I’m keeping everything the same and whatever will be will be. I’m refusing to sit back and wait for the walloping, I’m going out IN SEARCH OF IT!!! It all starts so well. We manage to have a fair bit of the ball in the opening few minutes before Partizan counter on us with pace. Terzic sends over a deep, deep cross aiming for Holender, Glintic comes out to claim it but misjudges the flight of the ball completely and the ball sails over his head and, bizarrely, straight into the net!!! 1-0 PARTIZAN! BUT WAIT……VAR IS LOOKING AT THE GOAL…….IT SEEMS THAT THERE’S A PARTIZAN PLAYER IN AN OFFSIDE POSITION AS THE CROSS COMES IN!!! DESPITE THE PLAYER GETTING NOWHERE NEAR THE BALL, THE GOAL IS RULED OUT!!!!

    There’s a little bit of end to end action that leads to Teodorovic forcing the Partizan goalkeeper into conceding a corner. Nothing comes from it, but it’s a signal of intent and will serve to keep the Partizan defence on it’s toes. We start to grow into the game a little more, Edin Kesic is sent through one-on-one with the keeper, he manages to get round him but is forced too wide and his effort is easily blocked on the line. Partizan finally get the opening goal with less than five minutes of the first half remaining. Left winger Jovic is sent sprinting after a lofted through ball and leaves the Feniks defence behind. He collects the ball in the area and waits until Glintic makes his move. Jovic simply waits and waits then lifts it over Glintic and into the empty net. 1-0 PARTIZAN!! It’s the last real action of the half, and despite being MASSIVELY behind in both possession and chances, we’re only a goal behind.

    SECOND HALF We come out for the restart in good form and take the game, as much as we’re allowed, to Partizan. The games starts to get mired down in the middle of the park, and the first good chance of the second half falls to Feniks. It’s a cross from Mirkailo, with twenty minutes to play, that’s met by Vjestica. His header beats the Partizan keeper but creeps narrowly over the bar. With ten minutes left, we have another gilt edged chance to level things up. Timotic, playing now as a striker, makes a fantastic run that is picked out by Radmilovic. Once again the Partizan keeper is rounded, but once again the Partizan defence has tracked back and the shot is cleared off the line!! We keep pushing and probing but the Partizan ranks close up and the referee blows for full time. FINAL SCORE 1-0 PARTIZAN!!

    Although it’s, stats-wise, a comprehensive defeat. We more than held our own and had chances to level the game in the second half. The players are told as such, and despite that being our third loss in a row, they leave the ground in high spirits.

    The last match before the winter break is on the horizon, and my assistant decides to state the bleeding obvious, by saying that morale is a little low and a team talk might help!!

    I call the players in, and clearly tell them that “although things are tough at the minute, we’ve go the talent to pull through!”

    I think you could say it went down well!!!

    Sloga await us before a near two month break. They’ve managed a paltry 7 points from their 20 games so far, but we couldn’t beat them LAST season, and will have to be at our best to avoid an embarrassment here. Tesic comes to pay me a visit asking for more game time. He’s not as good as any of the four midfielders I’m currently starting, and is told to wait his turn. He’s not particularly happy with that, a quick warning that if he wants I can straight up sell him doesn’t go down any better either. That meeting is followed quickly by Teodorovic knocking on my door asking for a new contract. He’s played well since coming into the team, scoring 7 goals in his 13 SuperLiga appearances. I’m happy to sit down with him, He’s currently on £150 p/w with a £8 appearance bonus and £5 goal bonus. He OPENS with a request for £160 p/w, £10 appearance bonus and £10 goal bonus PLUS a 10% year on year increase. He ACTUALLY WALKS AWAY WITH a shiny new contract worth £150 p/w, NO APPEARANCE BONUS, NO YEAR ON YEAR INCREASE AND A £40 GOAL BONUS!! He’s happy because he’s got a new contract that could earn him more money. I’m happy because for him to earn that extra money, he’s got to put the ball in the back of the net!!!

    MATCH DAY!!!! After being ineligible for the Partizan game, Miletic returns to the bench. Teodorovic, still beaming about his new contract offer, keeps his place alongside Kesic. Both teams have come into the game on the back of three straight defeats and it’s Feniks who SHOULD HAVE OPENED THE SCORING, Edin Kesic dragging his shot wide from the angle of the six yard box. This first half continues in that vein. Sloga have a similar chance to the Kesic one, the shot AGAIN being dragged wide when well placed. Much of the game is played in the middle third, and the first half draws to a close with Feniks ahead on chances but level on goals.

    SECOND HALF The restart brings much of the same, a slight tactic switch to a narrow diamond changes nothing and just before the hour mark Radmilovic loses his head and trips Todorovic in the box. The ref has no choice but to point to the spot!! Radivojevic steps up to take the kick…..Glintic bounces on his line…….but can do nothing as it’s powered straight down the middle!! 1-0 SLOGA!!! There’s still over half an hour left to play, as Feniks restart the match. AND IT TAKES LESS THAN A MINUTE FOR THE SCORES TO BE LEVELLED!!! IT’S THAT MAN KESIC AGAIN THAT COMES TO THE RESCUE!! HE WINS AN AERIEL DUEL FIRST, NODDING THE BALL DOWN TO TEODOROVIC. HE STRIDES FORWARD AS KESIC SPINS AND STARTS HIS RUN. TEODOROVIC’S PASS IS INCH PERFECT AND KESIC DOESN’T HAVE TO ALTER HIS STRIDE…..HE JUST STROKES THE BALL PAST THE STRANDED SLOGA KEEPER!! 1-1 AND TWO GOALS IN TWO MINUTES!! The match goes back it it’s midfield stalemate and as the fourth official holds up a board show four additional minutes, there’s a groan from the gathered crowd!! Those groans from the travelling Feniks supporters though TURN TO SHOUTS OF JOY!!! JOVANOVIC GOES ON A MAZY RUN DOWN THE LEFT, HE CUTS THE BALL BACK FROM THE BY-LINE AND IN THE CHAOS IT CREATES, SUBSTITUTE MILETIC ON WHEN THE TACTICAL SHAPE CHANGE HAPPENED, POKES HOME WHAT MUST SURELY BE THE WINNER!!! 2-1 FENIKS!! There’s still time for Sloga to break on us from a Feniks corner. Arnautovic finding himself all alone on the edge of the area, but a rush of blood to the head sees his shot sail high and wide!! FROM THE RESULTING GOAL KICK THOUGH, THE FINAL NAIL IS HAMMERED IN. TIMOTIC GATHERS A PASS FROM GLINTIC AND PLAYS IT OVER THE TOP FOR KESIC TO RUN ONTO. KESIC OUTSTRIPS THE SLOGA DEFENCE, ROUNDS THE KEEPER AND ROLLS THE BALL INTO THE EMPTY NET!! 3-1 FENIKS AND GAME OVER!!!

    After an even first half, the change in shape brought about a fantastic response to falling a goal behind. It’s great to put a stop to the poor run of results, and even better to do it coming from behind, after suffering the heartache of that ourselves recently!! The goals from Edin Kesic were numbers 19 and 20 for him this season. 17 of them coming in the SuperLiga.

    The players pack their bags and head off for the winter break. The league will restart in SIXTY DAYS with the final nine games of the Preliminary Stage. The time off starts with a dilemma. TSC, a bigger and more established SuperLiga club, are making noises about wanting me to take over as their manager. To be honest, it’s not even close. NOW, if Red Star or Partizan come a knocking, then I’ll be out the door. But as it stands, I’ve got the opportunity to become a legit club legend. I’m already the FIRST Feniks manager to lead them to the SuperLiga, the ceiling of my ambitions is only as high as I set it. The board seem happy that I’ve turned them down, not happy enough to give me a new contract yet…….but happy none the less.

    My search to a decent, consistent, left back begins in earnest. I’d hoped that Maidanos would be the answer but his performances have been shocking in the extreme. Three players have bids accepted for them, and three times I’m turned down by the player themselves. Each time it’s the lack of financial muscle, that lets us down.

    The search for a left back becomes EVEN MORE pressing. Lazic moves on to pastures new, and Maidanos is recalled by Aigaleo!! Our only remaining left back is now the incredibly inconsistent Jovanovic!! We finally, after being turned down time, after time, AFTER TIME, bring in left sided reinforcements. Nikolic joins from Novi Pazar, and he’s joined by young Belgian, Jef Lardaux.

    More positive transfer news, as Vojinovic and Miletic agree to continue their loans till the end of NEXT season. Tesic has a bid come in from Ergotelis that’s accepted, but on the flip side, Josh Burgess is upset that I haven’t played him as a central defender, despite the fact that he’s my FIFTH BEST in that that position. He hands in a transfer request and bids from Bolton, Barnsley and Sheff Wednesday all appear in a matter of minutes!!! The Barnsley bid offers the better long term deal for the club PLUS THEY OFFER TO LOAN HIM BACK WITH ZERO WAGE CONTRIBUTION!!! The only fly in the ointment is the Feniks board. They get a little greedy and demand that Bolton pay a minimum of £53k instead of the £33k they had previously agreed. It’s a cap in hand trip back to Barnsley, hoping that they’ll agree to the higher asking price. As expected, they decline the higher price. BACK onto the transfer list he goes, and just as quick we get bids from Nottingham Forest, Millwall, Bristol Rovers, Blackpool, Swindon Town and Rochdale. They’re all for £42k and they’re all ACCEPTED. Pretty sure the board will veto these bids as well but we can only wait and see!!

    AGAIN, the board want to get their monies worth from a player that came in for just £4k. It’s another demand of £53k before they’ll accept and the bids go back to the clubs involved!!

    Despite by announcement in the press that I wasn’t interested is being offered the TSC job, the board STILL come forward and offer me an interview.

    It’s declined out of hand. I still feel I can do as well with Feniks if I’m given the time.

    The winter transfer window opens and, adding to the THIRTEEN PLAYERS we signed before the season started, I bring in another FIVE, with more still in the negotiation stage. Osmic, Tesic and Sredojevic all leave, with Burgess, Belic negotiating their departures. Spaniard Ruben Garcia joins the club on a free transfer, he plays as right back and is a genuine improvement on the players currently at the club.

    The first mid-season friendly gets underway. It’s an away trip to Dunaujvaros Pase. All the new recruits get a run out, as does Toroman in goal. He’s developed well and has earnt a run between the sticks. It’s a decent run out and a comprehensive victory. Timotic, who has been moved into the front line since the midfield improvements arrived, gets a brace. It’ll do his confidence the world of good, and help to settle him in his new position.

    The other two mid-season friendlies come and go with unspectacular results. The THIRD string XI lose a high scoring affair 5-4 to Budafok and then play out a 1-1 draw against Pesci.

    Josh Burgess FINALLY gets his move away from the club. Walsall pony up £85k for a player that cost us £4k less than a year ago. The reason for the board declining the previous bids becomes clear, part and parcel of the agreement to BUY Burgess included a whopping 40% SELL-ON CLAUSE!!! We sell him for £85k but have to hand over £34k to Basingstoke!!!

    The Preliminary Stage is set to restart. Home games against Radnik Surdulica and Napredak Krusevac and trips to Mladost Lucani and Radnicki Nis make up February’s games. At least two of those games are winnable and the target is a realistic seven points, that would take us up to 28 points.

    Thanks for reading folks. Any comments, likes, follows etc are ALWAYS appreciated. You can find me on my other social media sites

    TWITTER – https://twitter.com/dave_goodgerfm

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