Today I face my first 'must-win' game. We've done well in recent weeks and being the underdog has suited us but today I expect three points. Nybro IF sit one place and one point below us in the table, they occupy the last relegation spot. True, you still have another chance if you finish there due to the play-off but I want to avoid that at all costs. Survival resting on a one-off game doesn't sit well with me so today, I've demanded that we take all three points.
We have a couple of suspensions which leaves us light in midfield so while I keep our now familiar 4-5-1 formation, I'm forced to make a couple of reluctant decisions. Out on the wing we have almost no options, in central midfield, the same story. I could change the shape but I'd rather avoid swapping formations this early in my tenure. As such, I'm taking a bit of a gamble. Dlamini who really is a striker is being moved over to the left wing where he'll play as an inside forward. Hopefully, when we're in possession he'll be able to move in centrally and provide a threat. Simao who has been playing that same position is being moved in to central midfield. It's an experiment and I don't know what is going to happen.
IFK Hassleholm 2 - 0 Nybro IF
This management stuff is easy. We're now sitting comfortably above the relegation, a lovely 4 points thanks to our best performance yet. Nybro had no answer for my boys - I always said these were good players. We dominated the game from the off and ended up with 61% possession over the course of the match. They say there are no easy games 'at this level' (they say it about all levels) but we didn't even sweat it, even down to 10 men, we were golden. The new signings, Larsson and Englund are bossing it. Another clean sheet for the unfit two and incredibly a first goal for Larsson. We scored a second from the penalty spot to clinch the match.
Tobias Gustafsson who sold me down the river t'other week by giving away a ridiculous penalty is clearly still trying to sabotage me. It was late on but the dumb schmuck went and got himself sent off. This might not be entirely his own doing. I'll hold my hands up and say that we're not the politest team in the league, in fact, we're a bunch of untalented bastards. But, winning is all that matters right now. I get sacked here, my career could be done.
My First Enemy
I've made my first enemy as a football manager. Nathan Blake, manager of BW-90 IF. A journalist asked me about his 'direct' playing style - basically his team are even bigger shithouses than ourselves and I responded by defending him. That was a mistake, later he was on TV calling us bottlers, that we didn't have the guts to stay up. I might have responded a bit angrily - we may be rubbish, we may unfriendly but no one talks like that about my team of triers. I warmed up the sarcasm, asking how he has such a good handle on the mental strength of my players. Apparently he responded by laughing and insinuating that he'd wound me up, just like he meant to. Well, motherfucker, that's right. For context, BW-90 are 13th, they're going down and I'm going to make sure of it.
Last week was my first 'must-win' game, this week is the first I want to win just for spite. I'm going to enjoy seeing Blake's face as we ease by them.
IFK Hassleholm 1 - 0 BW-90 IF
'Ease' might not have been the right word but win we did and that's all I care about. We dominated possession in the same fashion we've been doing for most of our games, 59% possession overall but it didn't amount to an easy win. Fortunately, I didn't have to wait long for my revenge, we were up inside 12 minutes. Lindstrom curled an absolute blinder of a cross towards the back post. Andreas Gustafsson peeled away from his marker slotted it home. From there on, it was a close match but another clean sheet means that we extend our cushion above the drop zone to 6 points.
FK Karlskrona 1 - 0 IFK Hassleholm
For the last couple of games, I had us down as favorites despite what the bookies might have said. Since taking over, I've had the home games against relegation rivals down as the games that we had to win. Today we faced FK Karlskrona who are second and just 2 points behind the leaders in the title race. I didn't expect anything from my players, I said as much in my team talk, telling the lads to just go out there and enjoy the pressure free games. It seemed to work because despite the expectation of defeat, I leave their ground massively disappointed that we didn't win. This didn't feel like 2nd vs 10th. We dominated the game, we had the best clear cut chances but we simply couldn't get the ball in the net. So, when Olsson scored, it felt like a real punch in the gut. We snatched defeat out of the jaws of victory.
IFK Hassleholm 0 - 1 Lunds BK
My first home defeat gives me some worries. Once again, we completely dominated the match and yet we walk away - just like last week - as losers. It highlights the deficiencies in our attack. Defensively, we're solid especially with Larsson and Englund in the team but we lack creativity towards the other end of the pitch. It's a problem that we need to address with signings.
The defeat sends us back down to 11th, the 6 point cushion we held as quickly disappeared and suddenly we no longer feel so comfortable. One win out of our last two games will most likely see us survive but we need to learn how to score again, quickly.
IFK Hassleholm 1 - 1 BK Olympic
The last of the home games against relegation rivals and one I was feeling confident for. If the last two games gave me worries, this one cemented them as woes. We managed to score but not before BK Olympic found themselves ahead just after the first half. In yet another game that we dominated having had 62% possession, we still only managed a draw. Our visitors got lucky when Larsson misjudged a header, it looped over his head and Gronberg latched on it it before driving home a 20 yard shot. Vestermark got a hand to it but only succeeded in helping the ball on it's way. Such individual errors are out of character for my team but today, they came like buses. We toiled away for some time after, I told the lads to get forward still hoping for the win and Sandberg came on to rescue a point.
It leaves us with uncertainty. We're now almost back to where we started, just three points above the final relegation place. It's still in our own hands but our final game is against FC Rosengard. They're top of the league and top for a reason. I don't expect to leave with anything, luckily, Nybro face second placed FK Karlskrona but as we showed a couple of weeks a go, they aren't invincible. Our goal difference is the same so if Nybro do pull of a glorious victory, we'll be headed for the play off having seen all momentum leave us.
FC Rosengard 3 - 1 IFK Hassleholm
It's the final day of the season. We needed a point to guarantee survival. Unfortunately, we showed just how far away we are in terms of quality to the champions. They mauled us from the off and were three-nil up before the first half had ended. In our worst performance, we were left sweating as Nybro went up against FK Karlskrona. They put up a good fight and the last few minutes weren't an easy watch for us on the sidelines. At 0 - 0, one mistake, one glorious shot might have ruined our day. The goal came in the 92nd minute. Fortunately, it was Karlskrona who snatched the victory in the dying seconds. We'd done it! Rasmus asked me to avoid automatic relegation, I'm so good I went one further and avoided it altogether. I hope Nybro win the play-off, they'll provide an easy six points for us next season.