Friday, January 20, 2017

I’d like to start by wishing all the readers of The Nationalist a very happy New Year and I hope 2017 is a great sporting year for the county.
We have just come through the busiest period of the season and it was an OK one for us. Our performances in the last three games have been very good but the results have been mixed. We won one, lost one and drew one in those three games.
In fact our best performance of the three was on Saturday when we were beaten 1-0 by Grimsby Town. We were the better team by a distance during the game and, unfortunately, we didn’t get the result we wanted.
The goal they scored was offside from looking at the replays and we also should have had a penalty when there was a blatant handball by a Grimsby player when there was nobody around him. But the referee decided it wasn’t, to our disappointment.
It was the third game in a row that I had come up against a former club of mine and I couldn’t make it three goals in three games after scoring against both Morecambe and Accrington Stanley.
It was obviously disappointing not to be able to do that, but I am pleased with my performances over the past few weeks and hopefully I can continue that vein of form and add more goals to my tally to try and propel us up the league.
We are away to Crawley Town on Saturday and it is a massive game for us because they are in and around the same position in the league. A win for either of us would be massive so we can look at teams above us rather than looking behind us.
The past weekend saw the Premier League teams enter the FA Cup at the third-round stage and although in previous years the competition has lost its sparkle, this year it had its fair share of upsets which is brilliant to see.
Bournemouth, Stoke and West Brom were all beaten by teams in lower leagues than themselves but the result of the weekend must go to League Two side Plymouth Argyle who held Liverpool to a 0-0 draw at Anfield on Sunday.
Plymouth have been doing extremely well in League Two this season, playing some fantastic free-flowing attacking football and are in second place now. But Sunday’s performance against Liverpool was all about surviving and defending as if their lives depended on it, which they did superbly.
The result for them is a blow for the rest of the League Two sides because now they will have quite a big windfall of cash to throw into their budget which would have been very unexpected.
They can now probably get another couple of players in which makes them favourites for the league. Liverpool did give them a helping hand by selecting the youngest team in their history as the average age of their side was just 21. But unfortunately for Jürgen Klopp, they couldn’t justify their selection and I think that Klopp will now field a far stronger side in the replay and get Liverpool into the hat for round four.
The rest of the top six sides in the Premier League all qualified for the fourth round draw, and with the exception of Arsenal who scored a last-minute winner, they all went through very easily.
Manchester City were probably the most impressive as they beat an out-of-sorts West Ham side 5-0 away from home. Chelsea were easy winners against Peterborough with a weakened side and they have been unbelievable in the last couple of months, especially in the league having won 13 of their last 14 games which is unbelievable form.
My favourites for the FA Cup this season is Manchester United though because it probably represents their best chance of a trophy this year. After a very indifferent start to the Jose Mourinho era, it now looks like United are hitting top form and becoming the force they used to be.
The signing of Zlatan Ibrahimović has been crucial to this revival, as has Paul Pogba who has really stood up to be counted and put in some great displays in the last six or seven weeks. Winning the league is out of their grasp now, but a successful season for them would be winning the FA Cup and finishing in the top four.
While that would not have been considered a very unsuccessful season in the Fergie era, this is the first time since Ferguson retired that United look like they can beat anybody and they look like they are making progress.

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