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An attempt to take lowly Fort William from the bottom of the Highland League to the top of the Scottish game.

Discussion
Fort William FC

https://i.imgur.com/wvNUs4N.jpg?1


The worst senior team in Scotland. To many, that's Fort William. The Highland league side have never finished above 11th (out of 18) in 33 seasons at that level, and have finished in very last place on 15 occasions. They've only avoided last or second last 3 times since 2000. In the 2008/09 season, they gained 1 point from 28 games over the season.

But it's time for all that to change.

Starting by conquering the Highland League and gaining promotion into the national league system, my aim is to create a new Scottish footballing force in Fort William. Considering the complete dominance of Celtic (and formerly Rangers), for anyone else to succeed in this league would take a huge effort, but for Fort WIlliam to achieve anything would be monumental. They have no facilities to speak of, next to no support base (due to the popularity of shinty in the town) and have struggled financially for many years. The one thing they do have is Claggan Park...


https://i.imgur.com/XqEWBwV.jpg


Not a bad place to watch football, although being in the wettest area in Europe makes it largely unplayable for most of the year...

Anyway, I'll be attempting to update this every few months of game time, and hopefully this will be more than enough to see me through to FM19. My next update will be a more in depth look at the club, along with any pre season friendlies and transfers I've managed to make.

Up the Fort.
Looking forward to this, great idea for a story/career thread.

I guess with that pitch and weather you will mainly be using a direct approach

You've gained one more fan already
Sometimes you have to stand in the shadows; to see the light.

OYSTON OUT
Cheers @Suffolk Seasider, hopefully it all goes well. Direct football is the Scottish way anyways!

Season 2017/18 - Pre-Season

https://i.imgur.com/wvNUs4N.jpg?1


Well, my first pre-season at the Fort has come and gone, and there's been some changes at the club but not quite as many as I would have liked, particularly with regards to the playing squad. First and foremost, I needed to add something in the way of a coaching staff, having only a player/goalkeeper coach when I arrived. To this end, we brought in an assistant manager, coach, physio and scout. Absolutely none of them are anywhere near the standard I'd really like, but needs must for the time being.

On the playing front, we were hampered by a, shall we say, limited wage budget...

https://i.imgur.com/bvacSBq.png


Nevertheless, there were a few additions to the squad.

https://i.imgur.com/XBkquZK.png


Willie Mathers joins as a left midfielder. He's quick-ish and can vaguely cross a ball, which makes him my best option in this area of the pitch, and hopefully he'll be able to contribute towards a not terrible first season. He was my only permanent signing, due to the wage constraints, but we also brought in a couple of loanees.


https://i.imgur.com/fAmrpNN.png

Alan Mitchell joins from Falkirk for the season. He's here entirely as cover because my squad looks incredibly threadbare. Had a real issue getting anyone on loan as even fourth tier sides want their youths playing with "higher quality players"...


https://i.imgur.com/MtKZrlV.png

Paul Smith looks decent, however, and I'd expect him to be a nailed on starter for me. He joins from Spartans, a club in a division supposedly at the same level as ourselves, although clearly miles in front on the pitch. I'm still trying to bring in a few others but we shall see how successful I can be in that regard. The problem is compounded by travel issues, with Fort William being somewhat isolated from every other senior club in Scotland...

https://i.imgur.com/iEBAqfL.png


All that leaves my squad looking like this:

https://i.imgur.com/QK4ijwO.png

Yeah, you did read that right, my second choice goalkeeper is 52 years old. Bearing in mind that 4 and a half stars for my team is equivalent to "Decent Highland League player" I can see this being a tough season, and the bookmakers agree. Thankfully, the board aren't expecting much either, so I have this season to hopefully just work out who I want to keep for next year and try to find some decent replacements.


https://i.imgur.com/nw7T2z3.png


I'm not interested in Friendlies, but did not that Stirling University Reserves were considered a much larger club that myself. We also sold a mammoth 20 season tickets, so crowds for the friendlies will probably be par for the course for the whole season. Anyway, the only way for this club to go is up, and with no leagues directly below the Highland league, there's no relegation to worry about so hopefully we can play with a bit of freedom with absolutely no pressure on us to do anything at all. Up the Fort.
Always have a soft spot for Scottish lower league save, definitely following!
https://i.imgur.com/jkqweZW.png?1http://i.imgur.com/ZiZpv0k.png?1



Same as DNZY, I like LLM stories especially scottish ones, good luck
Would it be worth asking the board to rush through a "trial day" and get some kids in?
Sometimes you have to stand in the shadows; to see the light.

OYSTON OUT
Cheers @DNZY and @Dan, hopefully you enjoy it.
@Suffolk Seasider, I tried that - board are having none of it!
https://i.imgur.com/wvNUs4N.jpg?1

July/August 2017

https://i.imgur.com/r1VsbDu.png


Been a busy start to the season in the North West Highlands, and we've so far massively surpassed my (admittedly low) expectations. Our season kicked off with the Aberdeenshire Cup first round, where we played fairly well, but couldn't kill the game off with a late Strathspey goal taking us to penalties. A tense shootout followed, before new boy Mathers missed the crucial penalty, sending us out. Quite why we play in the Aberdeenshire Cup is a mystery, considering Fort William is almost 100 miles from Aberdeenshire, but there we go.

The North of Scotland Cup followed, and we fairly comfortably saw off Inverness Athletic, a junior side. New signing Scott Davidson got his first goal, and a penalty from Ellis made sure. We were then beaten by Keith in our league opener, and they really could and should have won by more. Cup action, again in the NoS Cup, saw us progress again against Clachnacuddin, and Ellis once again proved the match winner.

We then hit a run of form that I can't quite believe. Brora are powerhouses of the Highland league, backed by considerable money (for this level), and we saw them off with ease. Buckie Thistle and Cove Rangers are also both very decent sides, traditionally at the top of this division, so 7 points from 9 in these 3 games is stunning. We got lucky being awarded a couple of penalties, and the Cove game in particular was day light robbery but still, delighted.

The end of the month was somewhat more usual for Fort William, a draw stolen against Inverurie, and a defeat against Deveronvale, where we fought back well from 3-0 down, but just couldn't quite do enough. Sandy Innes, brought in to provide a striking option, got his first 2 goals for the club in this game, so hopefully he can be a steady supply of goals.

All that leaves the league table looking like this:


https://i.imgur.com/DLbpgwA.png


We're scoring goals, and if we can sort it out at the back we might, just might have a more than decent season. We'll see how it goes, it could just be old "new manager bounce" in action!

Signings


I've managed to bolster the squad with a couple more players before the window SLAMMED shut (which has no bearing on me anyway). First off, as alluded to is Central midfielder Scott Davidson:

https://i.imgur.com/2fMWGIn.png

Solid enough I suppose, absolutely nothing special about him but he does give me options which were sorely lacking in central midfield, and means I'm not totally screwed if and when injuries or suspensions kick in. Next up, young striker Sandy Innes joins on loan from Alloa:
https://i.imgur.com/IJyLoPQ.png
Technically speaking, he looks pretty decent. He can finish and is reasonably composed. One major drawback is that he's as slow as a week in the jail, but I guess there's a reason he's at Fort William. Despite that, he'll hopefully be able to pitch in with a couple of goals this season.
Anyway, overall a good start to life with the Fort. Next up we have a cup semi final against Formartine to look forward to, and then it's back to league business. Our good start has slowed in the last two games, but with a bit of luck we'll be able to get back to winning ways. Not finishing bottom would be a success this season. Up the Fort.
https://i.imgur.com/wvNUs4N.jpg?1

September - November 1st

https://i.imgur.com/T0PS5jU.png


I may have somewhat brought this on myself by mentioning the new manager bounce, but the last 2 months have seen a catastrophic collapse in form. We started off by being soundly beaten by a frankly superior Formartine side in the NoS Cup semi final. Innes got another goal, before he added 2 more against Nairn as we once again gave ourselves far too much to do trying to overcome a 3 goal deficit, and once again we didn't manage to do it.

We actually led against Wick for a long time, but when they equalised with 15 minutes to go it was only a matter of time before they took the lead and they did exactly that 8 minutes later. We were completely outplayed if I'm honest, and can't complain too much. Then the real humiliations came.

Forres Mechanics 4-0 Fort William. Absolutely awful performance, and we fully deserved to be destroyed in the way we were. We followed this up with insipid displays against Clachnacuudin and Turriff, leading nicely onto the Scottish Cup tie against Montrose. I had hoped to be drawn to someone beatable in order to draw a big team later on and get some much needed cash, but Montrose it was, and as if to highlight the gulf between us and the league above (in which Montrose sit 1st, admittedly), they tore us apart. This also made it almost 8 hours since we'd last found the net. Even more frustratingly, Martin McKinnon got injured against the Mo, meaning that 52 year old, and possible grandfather, Jimmy Paterson was my stand in number one for the time being. Something had to change.

And change it did. Iain MacLellan was brought back into the side, and proved exactly why he should be there with his second hat trick of the season. Rothes are a poor side, but then so are we and this was a huge win for ourselves, and richly deserved for the performance we gave. That leaves the table looking like this:

https://i.imgur.com/U1CAwI5.png

Our collapse has seen us rocket down the league, but a frankly terrible Lossiemouth side (whom we face next) should keep us off the bottom. Fraserburgh are no great shakes either, and we're still within touching distance of quite a lot of the sides ahead of us, but anymore form like we've just had and it'll be a long slog of a season for us (as per usual for the Fort, to be far).
God thats some rotten form! hope you turn it soon
Wow, that second lot of results looks like a screenshot from a @Shedender story

Is the only way out of this League as Champions then?
Sometimes you have to stand in the shadows; to see the light.

OYSTON OUT
@Dan, not sure what happened with them, just completely collapsed!

@Suffolk Seasider aye, you need to win the league and then get through a 2 legged playoff versus the lowland league champions and then beat the bottom team from the 4th tier in another 2 legged playoff... it's baby steps towards a proper pyramid in Scotland.
https://i.imgur.com/wvNUs4N.jpg?1

2nd November - December

https://i.imgur.com/p79k9EI.png

We managed to build on our thumping of Rothes by beating bottom side Lossiemouth. Michael Ellis got us off to a great start in the second minute, and while Lossie huffed and puffed, having plenty of efforts at goal, they never really created anything clear cut, and we were safe when Ellis got his second well into the second half. Job done.

A terrible start in our next game at home to Fraserburgh had us 2 down within the first ten minutes, but we managed to fight our way back into it and were level by half time. We fell away in the second half, and were perhaps fortunate to take a point in the end, but a point is what we got. Formartine were up next, and, once again, they were just much better than we were, and our 95th minute goal, and some horrific finishing on their part, made it look much closer than it actually was.

The start of December saw us return to winning ways against Strathspey Thistle, where we actually played really well. Next up we beat Huntly, by the same scoreline,, with Innes getting another couple of goals, and helped keep pushing us towards the right end of the table. This took us to the half way point of the season, and had us sitting not too badly in 11th. Looking at it, we seem to be a decent enough side, far from the worst in the league, but we're also an absolute mile away from being able to challenge for the title and get out of this division.

Cove Rangers were next, and sitting in 16th place they were having a shocking season by their standards, as they are usually a powerhouse in the Highland League. Despite this, we were unable to take advantage and fell to a pretty poor 2-0 loss, and although we had a few glimpses at goal, we didn't deserve anything out of the game. Our first 0-0 of the season followed against Keith, and that's all I can say about that game. Absolutely nothing happened. We saw out the year against big spending, top of the table Brora Rangers, and they blew us away. They're the standard we have to aspire to, and we're still some way off. As we enter 2018, we sit in 13th. I'd take that, considering the expectations for us at the start of the season, but hopefully we can push up the league in the new year.

https://i.imgur.com/phzVgYf.png

Other News

There's been a bit of movement player wise. First off, Jimmy Paterson has retired from playing and is now solely a goalkeeping coach. On one hand, he's 52 and absolutely nowhere near good enough so its not a huge loss on that front, but it does leave me with absolutely no cover should my first choice keeper get injured.
Secondly, Scott Davidson's stay with the Fort has proven to be a short one:

https://i.imgur.com/bmmvyOq.png

He was on a non-contract basis for me, and his appearance fee was a fair bit less, but this is still disappointing, as he's proven to be a useful, if unspectacular addition to the team, and once again I find myself with no depth in central midfield. I'll need to look into bringing in someone else.

Wow, that second lot of results looks like a screenshot from a @Shedender story

https://i.gifer.com/O2d.gif
https://i.imgur.com/wvNUs4N.jpg?1

January & February

https://i.imgur.com/1qzopXj.png

2018 kicked off with a tight game at home with Buckie Thistle, where they were dominant overall, but we did look dangerous on the break. MacLellan had our best chance saved, before they got the goal that they maybe deserved and saw it out till the end of the match. We then had two complete snoozefests back to back, 0-0's with Inverurie Locos and Deveronvale. We didn't do enough to win either game, but by the same token shouldn't have lost either game, so fair enough overall.

We then started a fairly poor run of form with a game against Nairn County. We didn't create anything (which has become a nasty habit) and, really, Nairn should have scored a few more goals. A break from league duties was up next, and we entered our final cup of the season in the Highland League Cup against Keith, and we held them well enough without doing anything of note for 70 minutes before they fired in two goals in two minutes and we fell completely away. Looks like they'll be no glory coming to Fort William this season!

Wick Academy away, the furthest trip of the season, was up next, and it was a cracker. We fell behind in the 37th minute, before a freekick on the wide edge of the box was crossed to Chisholm to fire in a matter of seconds later. A missed clearance from the Wick defender then allowed Ellis in behind to run clear and cut the ball to an unmarked Sandy Innes to finish from a few yards out. Wick then ramped up the pressure and they missed a handful of opportunities before their equaliser, which felt almost inevitable, but it was still cruel for Moffat who's heavy touch was seized upon and fired in from 20 yards. We ran out of steam at the end, and with us dead on our feet, Wick managed to grab the win with a header from close range. A hard one to take, but at least, unlike the previous 4 or 5 games, we actually looked pretty decent for most of it.

Forres Mechanics have been one of the top sides this season, and they proved it by taking a 1-0 lead in just 4 minutes. A defensive mix up allowed Barna Tot an attemot at goal, which was saved, but the follow up was not and we were back in it. We were doing pretty well, and certainly holding our own, but a direct free kick was fired in from the edge of the box and Mechanics were back in front. As we pushed to try to get back into it Mechanics picked us off, as we conceded another late goal, even though the game was probably gone by that point.

We finally got back to winning ways against Inverness based Clachnacuddin. Both sides spurned a couple of great opportunities, and when we managed to score our penalty mid way through the second half, you got the sense that there was no way back for Clach. We could have added another goal, but given the form that had preceded this game, I'll take a 1-0 victory every single time.

That all leaves us sitting a not completely terrible 15th.

https://i.imgur.com/40wojQq.png

Out of all the cups and clearly with no relegation and absolutely no chance whatsoever of being near the title, and therefore promotion playoffs, we have very little to play for for the rest of the season. My only worry is that Lossiemouth have still to win a game, and we've got them at home in the next month. I know it wouldn't matter at all really, but it'd absolutely enrage me if we lost to a team who've been a complete shambles all season.

Other News

Well as it does every year, January rolled around and with it the mid season transfer window came. There was one departure, in the form of 21 year old centre half Farquhar MacRae.

https://i.imgur.com/0y6Hcx2.png

He'd played a grand total of zero minutes for my team in any competitive games this season, and wasn't likely to do much more than that in any seasons following it, so I was more than happy to free up his wages.
On the incoming front, former Alloa and Albion Rovers player Callum Welsh joined.

https://i.imgur.com/j5N2ygD.png

I have high hopes for him, I think that he's going to be, for the next season or so at least, the main creative force in my team, which I've sorely lacked. Obviously, he has some pretty major flaws in his game, and asking him to pitch in defensively will be largely a complete waste of time, but hopefully he can play a kind of free role picking passes and creating for my attackers. We'll see how he gets on, but he's the main man for me at present.

The youth intake also happened at the end of February, and as it's pretty much as you'd expect:

https://i.imgur.com/B0AEUGf.png

Not much there to get excited about, although some of them could certainly prove to be decent enough players if they develop properly. Liam Allan is probably the best prospect, but he's miles off being able to make an impact, as are the rest of them. The main benefit is that they give me proper depth, and although none of this batch are near the necessary level, I'm a big fan of developing youth players into first teamers, so I'll be looking to do this in future. Up the Fort.
https://i.imgur.com/wvNUs4N.jpg?1

March & April - End of Season 2017/18

https://i.imgur.com/sSffl0p.png

Turriff was a pretty poor game from our point of view, not just losing, but the fact that we only managed to create a couple of half chances the whole match, and they were unlucky not to get another when they struck the post. Mathers was our one bright spark going forward, creating himself a few pockets of space, but his end product was lacking and we succumbed to a disappointing loss. Next up - Rothes. There's nothing better than a last minute winner. Nothing. We'd been wasteful throughout the game, with Ellis missing a couple of glorious opportunities, before, as the game fizzled out into nothing, Keiran Forbes launched a long ball over the Rothes defence. Liam Taylor, who had been a bit park player all season, and had asked to leave the club, ran onto the ball, took one touch to set himself and blasted the ball past the keeper. 1-0. Pandemonium among the 3 away fans at the game.

Lossiemouth were up next. I had a major fear going into this game. We were playing a side who hadn't won a game in any competition that season so far. I really didn't want to lose this game. It looked for much of the first half like we might, and without creating anything major, they were in control of the game. WIth absolutely nothing to play for in the grand scheme of things, I decided to give Liam Allan a run out in the second half, and it turned out to be a good move as not long after coming on, he struck, again when a long ball from the back wasn't dealt with by the Lossie defence, he ran in, took the ball into the box and placed it into the corner of the net. They fell apart after that and we could have added a couple more, but even without doing so there was no danger we were going to lose after going 1 up.

Everything we'd done well in the previous 2 games, we did badly against Fraserburgh. We didn't pass well, we weren't organised at the back, we didn't offer any movement up front. The one bit of decent attacking play from us in the whole game lead to our goal, with Tot, Allan and Welsh linking up to play Scott Chisholm in, who coolly finished to make it 3-1 at that point. I threw a fair amount of young players in against Formartine, and they did ok. We failed to clear a free kick crossed into the box which led to their goal. They had a few other chances which they didn't take before the last minute goal specialist himself Liam Taylor popped up with another one, hitting it high into the net at the near post to rescue the point.

The Strathspey game started in the same way as the Fraserburgh one, and we were 3-0 down in half an hour, with my young players not doing so well as the last game. Then the comeback started. A free kick by Welsh was knocked onto the bar by Mathers and then followed up by Moffat to bring one back. Another free kick was cut back to the edge of the box and Chisholm fired home, and we were back in with a shout. Straight from kick off Thistle gave us the ball back, we launched it long and Innes was able to finish the move and the game was tied. We almost won it moments later, but this time Innes couldn't get the shot away in time.

We struck early against Huntly in our final game of the season, with Taylor getting his 3rd for the club with a close range header. Moffat scored an own goal to let them back into it, and they took control and definitely should have won the game, but we managed to hold on to the draw. That was the season over for us, and the table finished up looking like this:

https://i.imgur.com/jRZCm48.png

15th isn't a bad season for us. Obviously, we're absolutely miles off competing at the top teams and being able to start moving up the leagues, but it's a decent enough start.

End of Season - awards and stats

https://i.imgur.com/9fTLx1y.png

Ellis and Innes joint top scorers, which, as my two main strikers, isn't really a surprise. Ellis seemed to score a bit more consistently throughout the season whereas Innes scored in bursts, but both were vital to the season. Chisholm was probably, in my opinion, our most important player.

https://i.imgur.com/NFpIvyE.png

Not my choice for player of the season, but he played a lot, was consistent, and didn't do anything particularly wrong. Like I said, I'd have given it to Chisholm but Tot gets the nod.

https://i.imgur.com/Eeat9yW.png

A stark reminder of the task facing us, the only team in the league getting less than 100 fans a game on average. There's no huge teams in this league, but we're the smallest. For comparison, the smallest team in the SPFL got almost 300 a week more than us. A big task to try and get the club on an upward trajectory with such a meagre fanbase, and the impact on finances but we'll need to see what happens. I'm planning to have a reasonable re-build over the summer, so hopefully my new look side next season, will both exist and be able to bring in the punters and a bit of glory. Up the Fort.
what is the editor data for this? I really want to manage Rothes, I've been following them for a laugh for about 3 years now
I love how there is a team just called "Keith".

Sounds like the most mundane team to be a fan of ever.

You say your youth intake was standard, but if I had one with that many potential 4/5 stars I think I would collapse! I guess the perspective is that they are all half star current ability or so and 4/5 stars in comparatively average for your league, right?

Time for a player cull?
Sometimes you have to stand in the shadows; to see the light.

OYSTON OUT
@StockenValla, I can't remember where I got the one I'm using, but there's a few out there with the Highland League.
@Suffolk Seasider Seasider, yeah 4 stars for my team is decent highland league player, which I'm hoping we won't need by the time any of them reach that level!
https://i.imgur.com/wvNUs4N.jpg?1

Season 2018/19 - Pre-Season

While I thought, and still think, that 15th last season was a decent enough first season for us, I really needed to bring in some new players if we're to have any chance of improving and pushing up the league. Some of my squad from last season simply weren't good enough to be at a top Highland League team, which is what I aspire to be at present. Obviously the four loanees of MacKinnon, Smith, Mitchell and Innes returned to their parent clubs. The first two signed players out the door were Glenn Fell and Richard Tawse, who were both released at the end of their contracts. Neither of them were anything more than back up for me, and I think got 1 start between the two of them last season, so it wasn't a massive loss to see them go. The two first teamers to leave were Foggo and Moffat, to Edusport and Armadale Thistle respectively. I wasn't too bothered about Foggo as, although he was first choice right back last season, I always intended to bring in better. Moffat was a blow as I had hoped to keep him as a solid back up choice, but oh well.

So that was 8 players from last season's squad, even though most of them weren't first team regulars, left us a little bit light. Improvement all over the pitch was required, so we set about bringing in some additions. First up, we had striker Aiden Combe in from Highland league rivals Fraserburgh:

https://i.imgur.com/ORwNiiw.png

His off the ball movement and pace should cause a few teams lots of problems, and his finishing isn't bad (for this level). He should be an asset, and I'm planning to use him as my main striker for this season, so hopefully he can pitch in with a few goals. He looks like an upgrade on anyone I had last season at any rate. With Ellis still at the club, we went back for a familiar face to complete our attacking options:

https://i.imgur.com/X9BFpqQ.png

Sandy Innes, on loan from Alloa, returns to the club for a second spell. He's a bit better than when he first came, and hopefully he can be a useful player again, as he was last season. With our attacking line up completed, it was time to turn my attention to the centre half situation. With both Smith and Moffat, my starting back 2 from last season, both having left the club, we were in desperate need of a couple of new players. Step up Jamie Ballantyne and Jack Harrison

https://i.imgur.com/sc5iMx8.pnghttps://i.imgur.com/9yHDudh.png

Both basically decent centre backs for this level, should form a solid enough partnership. They'll be joined in my new look defence by Steven Fraser:

https://i.imgur.com/tl4WpvP.png

I'll go on record right now and say I am an absolute sucker for a utility man. Especially playing in the lower leagues where budgets are tight, this guy can play (to varying degrees, all across the back line, and can fill in at centre midfield. I'll mainly use him as either my right back, or a centre half should either Ballantyne or Harrison be unavailable. That left me needing a goalkeeper. MacKinnon from last season was a very decent keeper for Highland league level, so I wasn't likely to get better than him, but in Matt McGinley, I've got a dependable keeper:

https://i.imgur.com/wLPEGRM.png

Far from a world beater, but he's solid enough and while this is probably the one area of my team which is weaker than last season, it isn't much weaker. Having seen most of the options available to me, I'm pretty please with him. Moving my attention to midfield, the one area of the pitch which caused me real issues last season was right midfield. Barna Tot won player of the year therem but he's really a right back and while he was steady, he wasn't much else. That's where I turned to Ryan Mackintosh:

https://i.imgur.com/vqdB9db.png

He's quick, can control the ball and hit a good cross. What more can you ask for in a Scottish fifth tier winger? Seriously, I think he should be a good addition, hopefully he can provide chances on a regular basis to my front players, because I really wouldn't be confident of him taking many chances which come his way... Next on the shopping list, and finishing off my activity so far, a midfield partner for Chisholm. Connor MacIver is the man I've turned to:

https://i.imgur.com/Hk9DEZs.png

He's a tidy enough looking player, I was hoping for more of an enforcer but he'll have to do. Anyway, I'm still on he lookout for a couple more players on loan, most notably a left back and a substitute goalkeeper. We'll see how that goes.

https://i.imgur.com/xaXzIIE.png

Friendly results. Played some fairly big teams to bring in some cash, and a few morale building wins at the end, but largely irrelevant.

https://i.imgur.com/tILI2mQ.png

Wow. The expectations are sky high on the back of an alright season. Considering the club has never once finished in the top half in its entire Highland League history, this seems optimistic to expect that as a minimum. We'll see how it goes, I think the first 11 should be good enough to do it, but any long term injuries to key men could cause a lot of problems. Still, it's a new season, we've still got 20 season ticket holders, back into all the cup competitions and it's time for wild optimism again. Up the Fort.
Some good signings there, glad Sandy came back for another season.

A good preseason draw against the terrors too!
Sometimes you have to stand in the shadows; to see the light.

OYSTON OUT
@Suffolk Seasider Thanks! Hopefully they turn out ok...
https://i.imgur.com/wvNUs4N.jpg?1

August & September 2018

https://i.imgur.com/sMKX6MC.png

After a busy pre-season, we eventually got underway with the visit of Clachnacuddin in the Aberdeenshire Cup, and things got off to a great start when Willie Mathers mishit a cross - evading absolutely everyone and finding the corner of the net to put us 1-0 up. We played pretty well for the remainder of the first half, my midfield trio of Welsh Chisholm and MacIver having some neat interchanges of play, but couldn't turn this into another goal. We'd regret that as Clach came out a different, and better, side for the second half and were soon level when some ropey defending allowed them in, and McGinley couldn't quite get enough on the header to keep it out. We should have won late on, a good bit of play letting in Jack Lingard to shoot, but he managed to hit the bar from 6 yards out. Penalties came, and with everyone managing to convert in the normal shootout, we were into sudden death. Lingard stepped up, and once again hit the woodwork, allowing Clach the opportunity to win. They took it, and we were out the cup at the first hurdle, in exactly the same manner as last season.

We were quickly on cup duty again, and this time, despite conceding an early opener, we were simply too good for North Caledonian League side St Duthus. Combe and MacIver both opened their accounts for the club with braces in what was a pretty routine win. We got our league campaign up and running with a visit to Formartine, and pretty soon found ourselves 2-0 down. However, we were able to fight back into it, firstly through a Ballantyne header, and then Lingard, who's shot probably shouldn't have found it's way into the net, but somehow managed to bamboozle the keeper. Being back on level terms wasn't to last though, and having spent all our energy getting there, we weren't able to hold on, as a decisive break let Formartine grab a late winner with us dead on our feet. Gutting. Genuinely gutting.

Back to playing lower league opposition in the North of Scotland Cup, and it followed a very similar pattern, with us falling behind but then eventually just being a better side than Alness were. Welsh scored a great team goal, and MacIver got the winner with a decent finish from just inside the box. Alness tried in vain to get back into it, before Aiden Combe made sure with not long left to play, and a relatively easy finish from inside the 6 yard box. We'd performed reasonably well, at least in parts, of all our games so far, but that completely fell away in the first half against Cove. 3-0 down at half time, we were dead and buried, but MacIver managed to pounce on a poor bit of goalkeeping to get us back into it, and when Combe scored the most route one goal I've seen in a while (Ballantyne punting a freekick long and him running in and scoring from a tight angle) we were in with a chance. It turned out to be too little, too late as we couldn't create another opening and fell to another 3-2 defeat.

The Brora game was...odd shall we say. Leading at half time through another goal by Combe, we were quickly pegged back and then fell behind. However, the 89th minute came and we trailed 2-1, and though we'd had a couple of chances for Mackintosh and Combe to get back on level terms, it was Brora who got the 4th of the game to put it beyond doubt. We then, for reasons unknown to myself, completely collapsed and conceded another 2 goals in injury time to add a little bit of embarrassment to the result. We'd have won our first league game of the season against Clach had we been able to finish properly, as they created very little and we created a few opportunities but a combination of keeper and post denied Combe, and Harrison's header was straight at the keeper.

That first league win did come in our next game, and in very convincing style as we thumped Deveronvale 4-1. They took the lead just after half time, but when Combe equalised and Lingard put us ahead straight from the kickoff following, you had a feeling it might be our day. Innes added his first goals of his second spell late on to make sure, and repair some of the damage done to our goal difference by the Brora game. Back to the cups, and it was semi final time. Combe got us off to a great start, placing a powerful header into the corner of the net, before they equalised with a goal which I thought looked offside, but we still should have dealt with better. MacIver, in trademark style, placed the ball in from the edge of the box after they failed to clear a corner properly, and Barna Tot managed to somehow squeeze a shot in at the near post which the keeper definitely should have saved to send us through to the final, the first of my career at the Fort! We'll face Inverurie Locos next month...

Having just beaten them comfortably, we should have faced Turriff again with a lot of confidence, but we were slaughtered. I can't say much more than that, 5-0 wasn't even slightly harsh, and this was our one really, really bad performance of the season so far with no positives whatsoever to take. The Wick game was frustrating, our final ball was just awful although everything up to that point was decent enough. They on the other hand were incisive and took what opportunities to punish us they had very well, running out deserved winners. It all means that the league table looks like this:

https://i.imgur.com/rgMsELS.png

It's been a really weird start to the season, in most of our games (Turriff the notable exception) we've played pretty well, and have looked a match for most teams, but we can't seem to get results. Our defence is shaky at the minute, but I'm hoping once the players have gelled a bit more they should do better. If we keep playing as we are, the results should come so I'm not massively concerned yet, but if this keeps up I will be.

Other News

I said I was after a few more players, and we got two in on deadline day. First up, goalkeeper Ross Soutar joins on loan from Forfar:

https://i.imgur.com/DOcTztU.png

He's here to sit on a bench and nothing more if I can avoid it. Frankly he's not very good, but there were really slim pickings for us. A slightly more positive addition was Pat Reid, on loan from Ayr:

https://i.imgur.com/KocZtaJ.png

Better than what I had at left back, but still nothing special. In any case, he gives me depth in that area of the pitch, and in the games he's played so far, he's done fine so hopefully he'll be a solid enough signing. I've also been allowed to search for a new coach, which is ongoing as I really want a Fitness coach but the applicants have been dreadful mostly... Anyway, as always, Up the Fort
https://i.imgur.com/wvNUs4N.jpg?1

October & November 2018

https://i.imgur.com/Vu3egcK.png

Following on from a couple of disappointing losses at the end of the previous month, we faced Lossiemouth - who have been a far cry from the absolute shambles of last season and were sitting comfortably mid table. That said, they weren't able to match up to us. Combe was brought down to give Callum Welsh the opportunity from the spot, which he was able to put away with ease. 1-0. An almost identical situation occurred in the second half and the same outcome followed, to put us 2 up. Welsh added to his 2 goals with an assist for Ballantyne's goal, with a great ball in from a free kick which was headed in off the post. A very professional job, and 3 very well earned points. We reverted to type against Buckie, and lost 2 very, very preventable goals. A floated ball into the box wasn't dealt with, and Buckie's Michael Cheyne wasn't marked properly as he strolled into the box to stroke the ball home. We then conceded a penalty when Pat Reid pulled a shirt trying to defend a corner, and it was converted to make it 2-0. We almost immediately got a goal back when we broke up the pitch, lost the ball and it had shades of Paul Robinson against Croatia as a simple pass back went over the goalkeepers foot and into the goal. Despite this, we were never really in the game, and the match fizzled out into a simple loss for ourselves.

Keith was devastating. Their first should have been avoided. We were pushing forward looking for the opener, but left too much room in behind, which meant that a simple ball over the top allowed the striker an easy job to run in and place the ball past McGinley. Combe equalised with a goal very similar to the one which we conceded. Midway through the second half, we got away with one as we conceded a penalty for the second game running, but fortunately they passed that opportunity up. However, late on we lost it as a cross into the box was met by Liam Taylor who deflected the ball into our net as he attempted to stop them getting the ball. Heartbreaking.

That left us with the small matter of the North of Scotland Cup final...

https://i.imgur.com/RWVMHT8.png

BOOM! A great result, and our first bit of silverware. Combe opened the scoring with a great goal, ruining through a few defenders and finishing powerfully past the keeper. We could, and probably should, have been another goal to the good shortly after that when the Locos player made a completely needless challenge on Mathers as he chased a dead end ball. Welsh, though, was unable to take the chance as he tried too much power and put the ball over the bar. We continued to dominate however, and Combe should have scored his second, but put the ball far too close to the keeper who was able to save, and did the same thing moments later, albeit from a much tighter angle. In the second half, though, Locos took charge of the game and we were lucky to hold on as long as we did with them missing a whole host of chances to equalise. Their goal came from a ball into the back post and Harrison lost his man who finished into the net. We almost won it in the very last seconds of the game, as a corner was met by Harrison but as the ball headed in, a deflection took the ball inches wide. With no extra time, we went straight to penalties. Both teams missed one apiece before McGinley managed to make himself the hero by saving the final penalty to take the cup back to the Fort.

https://i.imgur.com/6qreLn0.png

We managed to keep our momentum going in our Scottish Cup match against Rothes, and a penalty from Welsh and a long range stunner for Mackintosh's first goal for the club were enough o take us through to the next round, where a money spinner (by our standards) against Raith Rovers awaits. Our league campaign had been very patchy, but we got ourselves back on track against Fraserburgh, with another penalty by Welsh, and a Mathers goal from inside the six yard box when he was left inexplicably unmarked 3 yards out from a knock back into the box after a corner was only partially cleared. Strathspey Thistle were the next to be swatted aside, as two Mathers goals, one just after the start of the game and one just before the end, but both following Mackintosh's ball into the box and him running through at the back post to place the ball into an empty net.

Rothes took the lead against us, and were frankly much, much better than us for the vast majority of the game, but when Liam Taylor got his first goal in a while, they completely fell apart and allowed MacIver to make his way unmarked to head the winner in following a Mathers ball into the box. That made it 5 wins on the trot, which I think is probably my best run of form since the save started. A hopeful ball into the box was miscontrolled and fell very kindly to Innes to get us off to a flyer against Huntly, giving us the lead after just 2 minutes. Nothing much happened until the 75th minute when a long ball let their left winger past the last man, and he confidently blasted the ball home. Injury time, however, was mental. We were awarded a 90th minute penalty and scored it, which had us staring victory in the face. However, it wasn't to be, and naivety was partly to blame as, rather than run down the clock and see out the game, we went forward, got caught on the break and conceded another goal down the left hand side. Gutting.

That all leaves us in a much better position in the league:

https://i.imgur.com/L6nOYTR.png

We were briefly bottom of the table but a great run of form has seen us shoot up into the top half. We're a fair way off the very top teams, but this isn't bad at all. Up the fort.
https://i.imgur.com/wvNUs4N.jpg?1

December 2018

https://i.imgur.com/Zfw4QT5.png

Our reward for getting past Rothes in the second round of the Scottish Cup was a visit from Championship side Raith Rovers. The game was watched by a mammoth (by our standards) crowd of 621, but unfortunately all they were witness to was a much better side putting us out of the cup with the minimum effort required. We defended pretty well overall, staying organised and limiting them to only a handful of real opportunities, but, going forward, there was very little for us against a full time defence. Still, a good experience, a bit of a boost to the finances (which aren't looking too great...) and we weren't embarrassed. That's about all I could hope for.

Our league campaign, however, continued to gain momentum. Our game against Locos was a game low on quality, and low on chances, but the one real chance in the game was taken by Liam Taylor. A defender completely miscontrolled the ball and Taylor picked up the ball and placed it past the keeper to give us a good 3 points. Taylor is one of those players for me, he's nothing special and he doesn't score that many goals but every goal he does score is an important one, and he's a bit of a cult hero in my eyes. Up next was Forres Mechanics, and it was the best we've played since I took over. We defended well, controlled the game and created a lot of chances. We weren't as clinical as I would have liked, but we managed to do enough to win the game, and there was no danger we were ever going to lose it. Welsh opened the scoring from the spot, and Innes finished off the game late on after Mackintosh won the ball back from their throw in, gave it to Welsh and he played in Innes who placed the ball past the keeper. I don't know what's happened to Forres this season. They won the league last season, have kept most of their players, have retained their management team, but despite this they're sitting bottom of the league.

We got a huge slice of luck against Nairn County in our next game, as Ballantyne's goal looked offside to me, and had it been against us, I'd have been furious. A corner was half cleared by Nairn, knocked back in, and headed down to Ballantyne, who looked a yard or so offside, to knock in. The Nairn players appealed, but the linesman wasn't moved and the goal stood. We were probably the better team overall, and I think we deserved to win so I'll take it, but we were lucky. We finished off a great year, well half a year, against Clachnacuddin, and main man Welsh opened the scoring again, this time after a great bit of movement in the box to create some space, he took one shot which hit the post but was first to the rebound and fired that home. Combe managed to get on the end of a wayward pass back to the keeper and fire past him to make it 2, before a scuffed finish into the corner let them back into it. They had a half chance following this, as did we, but the game ended that way, to make it 4 wins from 4 from the month, with 6 goals scored and just 1 conceded. The Raith game was the only blemish on the month, but there was absolutely no chance we were going to win that one, so I'm very pleased with the month.

https://i.imgur.com/UhtD9zy.png

Other News

https://i.imgur.com/BP7h057.png
https://i.imgur.com/O9Solys.png

A couple of job offers this month, although they're from teams lower down the same league as myself, and I've no intention of leaving the Fort through the course of this save, it's still nice to be wanted. I've also brought in a coach, in Bryan Bell, and a Head of Youth Development in Lee MacDonald. The latter will be an absolutely crucial job going forward, as we seem to be on course to get fairly strict work permit rules, which, although, they have no bearing on team just now, as we progress they will be, so we'll need to try to develop as much talent as we can.

https://i.imgur.com/wvNUs4N.jpg?1

January & February 2019

https://i.imgur.com/LpsTwco.png

We started the new year at home to Formartine, and it was a fairly routine win with 4 first half minutes proving to be the difference between the two sides. The first was a pretty classic Fort William goal, Welsh played Mackintosh in behind, he hit the byline and cut the ball across to Combe who applied the finish. Welsh also had a part to play in the second, cutting the ball back to the edge of the box for Chisholm to powerfully finish into the corner. The rest of the game was pretty dull, we didn't really create much but it was job done and our defence stayed organised. We got off to a poor start against Cove, when a Mathers pass was misplaced, and allowed them to get into the box and finish well. We got back into it when a corner from Mackintosh to the near post was met by Ballantyne who managed to head past the keeper. Each team had chances through the first part of the second half, but after McGinley picked up a knock and was forced off we completely fell out of the game and Cove had wave after wave of attack. We hung on, and just when I thought we'd managed to snatch a point, they struck, getting in down the right, hitting a wipped cross in and got ahead of a tried defence to score. Can't say they didn't deserve to win it (and with our one shot on target all game being a goal, we definitely didn't deserve to win), but for us to lose in that manner was irritating.

Top of the League Brora were up next, and we got off to a great start when Mathers ball in was met at the back post by Mackintosh, who managed to sneak the ball past the keeper. Combe should have made it 2-0 midway through the second half, and had he put the ball either side of the keeper he would have, but he managed to hit it straight at the keeper to let them off. We were made to pay for that miss not long afterwards as a decisive break from our corner led to Brora getting back on equal terms. They almost went ahead as a corner was headed towards goal, but fortunately for me, it clipped the post and went wide. Annoying that we hadn't managed to take our chances, as had we been able to, we would have won a huge 3 points, but we had to settle for just 1. The Deveronvale match was settled by a goal which was almost identical to our goal against Cove 2 games earlier, with another Mackintosh corner to the near post being met by Ballantyne to head in. That was his 5th of the season, which isn't bad at all for a centre half...

Turriff United. I don't have a clue how we didn't win this game. Although Turriff played pretty well and had a fair amount of chances of their own, we hit the woodwork 4 times. FOUR. Really, really frustrating. However, we bounced back with an emphatic win in our next game, our Highland League Cup first round match against Formartine. The first goal came from a Mackintosh cross (who else?) and Mathers managed to get in front of his marker to volley into the corner. Moments later, Combe had his shirt pulled in the box and the referee gave the penalty, which was duly dispatched by Welsh. Some poor defending from a free kick gave them a header to briefly get them back into it, but we quickly put ourselves back into control when a Mathers ball across was blocked but fell to Jack Lingard and he managed to curl the ball into the corner. We then found a fourth, with MacIver putting the ball into the box for Combe to finish the game off. Nothing much happened for the rest of the game, as our intensity dropped and Formartine knew they were beaten.

We were behind early on against Wick, but cam back strong to hit 3 goals, Combe netting the first from a corner, and the second by latching onto a ball over the top and sliding the ball under the oncoming keeper. Combe had a part to play in the third, as straight from kick off, we got the ball back, made our way down the left hand side, got the ball to Combe, who crossed the ball and MacIver managed to get on the end of it and cushion his header over the keeper, who frankly was in no mans land. We also fell behind against Lossiemouth but once again came back strongly to win in the end. Fraser got us the equaliser after a stramash in the box fell to him, and he managed to blast the ball into the roof of the net. Chisholm won it for us with a great finish from the edge of the box, and that was that. They created one chance all game, and took it, while we made 2, and took them so a fair result really.

Buckie started the game extremely well against us, and battered us for the first 10-15 minutes before they put the ball into the net. Fortunately for us, the assistant referee raised his flag for offside, and it was still even. This seemed to rattle them, and allowed us the chance to get back into the game, which we took and then managed to get on top. Aiden Combe got his first goal of the day when a mix up at the back for them allowed him to get to the ball first when he really shouldn't have and he managed to squeeze the ball past the keeper at his near post. Another bit of terrible defending contributed to the next goal, when once again their centre backs couldn't seem to decide who would deal with a relatively simple long ball and Combe got in to blast past the keeper. We let them back into game, as they advanced and worked their way into the box, Lewis Campbell tried to tackle the striker but was only able to divert the ball into the net. Young Soutar was in goal for this game in the absence of McGinley, and made a great double save to keep it level, and then Combe managed to complete his hat trick, as a corner wasn't cleared properly, passed to Combe just inside the box and he picked his spot and placed it into the top corner. Game, set and match.

https://i.imgur.com/BVffM8o.png

We're doing very well, but unfortunately Brora have been just far too good this season for us to even comtemplate catching them. Still, good signs for next season if we can keep most of our team together and make one or two additions to the squad.

Other News

https://i.imgur.com/ab9LwnW.png

Last season's player of the year has called it a day with us, and moved to pastures new. I'm a bit annoyed as it leaves us a bit light as he was quite versatile and was a good option to have on the bench, but on the other hand he's not of the required standard to really push on, so it's a bit of a mixed bag for me.
https://i.imgur.com/wvNUs4N.jpg?1

March 2019

https://i.imgur.com/FJ8x1dl.png

The month started with Strathspey Thistle in the Highland Cup, and we were thoroughly outplayed for the entirety of normal time. They had a number of good opportunities to score but their finishing left a lot to be desired, and Soutar made a couple of decent saves to keep us in the game until extra time. That's when we started playing. From a throw in in the left corner of the pitch, the ball was given to Welsh, who in turn found Taylor, who played in to Mackintosh with his back to goal, and he managed to turn and shoot past the keeper. They then had a player sent off, but continued to push forward and almost managed to get an equaliser, but we were able to see the game out, and send ourselves into the semi-final.

Next up were Keith. They managed to take an early lead when Soutar made a good save, but spilled the ball straight into the path of another player who finished into the empty net. Some poor defending led to their second as a ball into the box wasn't dealt with and a free header was converted. Combe got us back into it when he got on the end of a long ball forward, took a touch to set himself and finished low into the corner of the net. An equaliser came when Innes crossed deep into the box, Mathers managed to divert the ball into the centre of the six yard box and Chisholm was able to get onto it to make it 2 all. We had to play the same team next, and this time we started very well when Fraser converted a penalty, but then completely fell apart. Some completely avoidable goals, particularly their first where had we just tracked the man better, it would have been a completely different game, but c'est la vie.

Fraserburgh was the most annoyed I've been at this save, and at this game generally, in a very long time. Liam Taylor got through on goal and unselfishly cut the ball over to Combe who had the simple job of placing the ball into an empty net from a few yards out. 1-0 us. Taylor then managed to get through again, after a good ball through by Chisholm, and lobbed the keeper to put us 2 up, and we were absolutely cruising. Then, they scored a freak goal when a cross hit the bar and fell to the striker to tap it in. They equalised just after half time, a free kick was passed to a free man on the edge of the box, who hit a shot from 30 yards out which took a huge deflection and found the back of the net. Their winner came from a entirely avoidable goal, when a cross came into the box and was picked up by a completely unmarked player to striker the ball past Soutar. We huffed and puffed, but didn't create anything of note and, we had successfully thrown a game away when we were in absolutely no danger whatsoever. Seething.

We took out our frustration on Strathspey, despite a relatively even and uneventful first half, we completely blew them apart in the second half. Ballantyne got another goal from a corner, new boy John Cameron played a lovely one-two with Combe to set himself up and finish into the top corner. Combe was able to make it 3 by getting on the end of a MacIver through ball and placed it, with the help of the post, into the net. The rout was complete when a long ball from Mackintosh was met by Combe, who's first touch took it round the keeper, and he rolled the ball into the empty net.

https://i.imgur.com/rHAKpu5.png

Sitting comfortably top half, not a lot to play for really as we can't win the league, and are unlikely to finish much lower down the table that we currently are, providing we don't have a complete collapse. Ah well, maybe next season.

Other News

https://i.imgur.com/6DyvRYl.png

We got our youth intake, and there was only one player of note - John Cameron who looks like he might - and I really need to stress the might - turn out to be a good player with a lot of work. He got a goal on his debut, which was great but I'll need a bit of luck if he's to turn into a first teamer for me.

https://i.imgur.com/wvNUs4N.jpg?1

April 2019

https://i.imgur.com/yf2i1QH.png

The final month of the season kicked off with the visit of Rothes, and it was a decent enough performance although the killer touch was missing all too often. We got into positions but were unable to make the most of it, either not getting the shot away in time or not having enough quality on it. The only goal of the game came from John Cameron, getting his second in his first two games. Mackintosh hit the byline in typical fashion, cut the ball back and hit a first time finish into across the keeper into the net.

Next up were Huntly, and we struggled badly to create anything of note as they completely dominated proceedings. We particularly struggled from set pieces, where the opener came from, and they created a couple of chances from these. Our only goal was Liam Taylor's when a long ball was lumped forward and he managed to flick it past the oncoming keeper but by that point the game was over, and that was confirmed when they added their third shortly afterwards. Our whole team struggled in this game, but considering how little we have riding on it by this point, I'm not particularly bothered. A complete snoozefest followed against Locos, where absolutely nothing at all happened. Taylor had a long range effort which hit the bar, and that was the only time either side got close to scoring, but the less said the better about that dross.

The Forres game was slightly more interesting. We started off well, and deservedly took the lead not long before half time when MacIver played him in behind, he took one touch to get the ball out of his body and then another to fire the ball past the keeper. We continued to dominate, although we didn't create enough real opportunities, and then we were made to pay when we gave away a late penalty which was converted. Again, disappointing but considering we've nothing to play for, it's ok. The season finished with a routine victory over bottom side Nairn Thistle, a game where we created a barrel load of chances, hitting the woodwork twice, but once again we couldn't make them count enough. Welsh opened the scoring from the spot after Combe was dragged down. They then equalised, with what turned out to be their only shot on target of the game, but we were ahead just 5 minutes later when Mackintosh played a long diagonal ball, and Combe managed to blast it almost through the keeper. 2-1 it finished, and it was nice to end the season on a positive note. That means that with every game played, the table looks like this:

https://i.imgur.com/pmCCvCD.png

Sixth place is a great result for us, and I didn't expect it especially after the start we made to the season. Makes you wonder what could have been had we not had such a shambolic opening 7 or 8 games. Still, there's work to be done, I think we'll need to tighten up at the back, and hopefully not be as reliant on Welsh and Mackintosh, who are the real creative forces in the team, and we struggle badly without either one. That, and we'll need better back up to bring into the squad, but that's easier said than done.

End of Season Awards & Other News

https://i.imgur.com/wGa8LEq.png

As alluded to above, Mackintosh really is a huge player for me, and 14 assists is a great achievement. In all competitions, we scored 75 goals in total, which means that Mackintosh either scored or assisted 22% of all my goals this season. Not bad at all. Combe was also hugely important, scoring or assisting 36% of all my goals. The only problem is that, usually, when he isn't scoring goals, Combe has a tendency to go missing in games, but if he keeps this up, I'll forgive him. The other main man for me is Callum Welsh. Everything in my team flows through him. Everything. We'll need to work it out because when he gets injured, we struggle, but that's a problem to solve for next year.

https://i.imgur.com/EXARDpi.png

To the surprise of no one, Mackintosh is player of the season, somewhat surprisingly followed by MacIver and Chisholm, who have both been consistent, and MacIver especially had a great run, but haven't caught the eye as much as certain others. MacIver also got young player of the year, which is fair enough, and Taylor got goal of the season. I watch in 2D so can't really comment, but I'm sure it was a cracker.

https://i.imgur.com/9Ol3O4v.png

Last thing for this year, and our attendances have stayed exactly the same. I'm hoping our cup win and decent league campaign can bring in a few more next season, as if I've any chance of being vaguely competitive if, and when, I reach the SPFL, I'll need more fans. Fort William is the biggest town in the Highlands (outwith the city of Inverness) so hopefully it's possible, but we shall see what happens.

Anyway, a good season overall, and hopefully more success next season. Up the Fort!

Another good season @ptfc1876, it's just going to take a lot of persistence to gradually climb that table.

Not sure if you listen the the Football Ramble, but Fort William got brought up on there and now they've all started saves with them on FM! You're a trendsetter!
KEZWrites
Surprise
#iUsedToBeKiKó
@KEZ_7 Cheers, hope you're enjoying it. I don't, no, but good to see them getting some wider attention! Good chance they'll finish the season on negative points...
https://i.imgur.com/wvNUs4N.jpg?1

Pre-Season 2019/20

Well, after a successful season, it was primarily important to ensure that my key players were tied down, and fortunately we managed to do just that, retaining almost of my starting 11, except Pat Reid, who returned to Ayr after his loan spell. He was, to be honest, the weakest link in my team anyway, and I was after better, so I was pretty pleased with how that aspect of my squad building went. Michael Ellis, joint top scorer from two seasons ago, left at the end of his contract, which is fine as he's been kicking up a fuss about playing time for a while, but he's simply not good enough. Lewis Campbell, my reserve left back, left to seek first team football, which I don't begrudge him, although it did leave me with no one able to play there (other than Ballantyne, but he's my best centre back) and Liam Taylor left as well, which I was a bit gutted about just because I liked him, but objectively, probably isn't that huge a loss to the team. We also let a couple of young players head out on loan, which is fine as there was no chance they'd be getting a game for me anyway. That's the outgoings, let's have a look at who we brought in...

https://i.imgur.com/pwtZjhv.png

On paper at least, signing of the summer for myself. Fills a huge hole at left back which I've been papering over for two years, and can also more than capably cover all across the back line and in defensive midfield, which I don't use, but it's nice to have the option. He's quick, relatiovely solid defensively, but most importantly has good decision making and, at 22, plenty of time to improve the rest of his game. Good start to business.

https://i.imgur.com/rZoxjkq.png

A decent midfielder, who can also do a job on either wing, is great because it should allow me to rest Chisholm or MacIver when necessary, and means that there's not such a drop off in quality if one of them is injured. He's also quick and a decent technical player by highland league standards, so pretty happy with this as well.

https://i.imgur.com/ZPr47Yz.png

Cheap cover at centre back, and he's not that much worse than Harrison anyway, but essentially he was brought in so I don't need to move Fraser or Smith out of position should one of my centre backs be unavailable.

https://i.imgur.com/Hm6lReZ.png

Again, cheap cover at left back, and I'm training him to play right back as well. He looks like he could get quite good if he gets some games, but at the minute he's here as a rotation option at best.
https://i.imgur.com/mfGGFWh.png

I'll be honest here, this was an absolute panic signing that I only had one striker signed up, and I'd had a couple of rejections (most notably from Sandy Innes, who signed for Leith instead). He can finish, and head the ball, and has a bit of pace so hopefully he can grab a few goals and be a useful player, but I'm not holding out too much hope. He's here now, and if he can lighten the burden on Combe, then I'll be happy.
That completes my squad, and in terms of the first 11, we're looking roughly the same as last season (swapping Reid for Smith, which is a positive) but we should have a fair bit more depth. I'm still after a few players to complete my squad, especially a reserve keeper, as I currently haven't got one.

https://i.imgur.com/oNfcnHN.png

Friendly results, made a bit of cash off them and beat Dunfermline, which is a great result (although I don't think they had their strongest team out). Still, plenty of match fitness gained, and some money in the bank, so job done for us.

https://i.imgur.com/iqIuObv.png

The board aren't quite as optimistic as last season, and are only asking that we be competitive. I'm sure we can manage more than that... For some reason, we're not in either the North of Scotland Cup or the Aberdeenshire Cup this season, although they are happening, so I'm not sure why that is. Still, no pressure on us this season, which I always like better.

https://i.imgur.com/zvFNf62.png

Finally, we're still having a tough time flogging those season tickets, where numbers stay the same yet again... Still, another successful season will hopefully start to change that, so as always, Up the Fort

https://i.imgur.com/wvNUs4N.jpg?1

August & September 2018

https://i.imgur.com/xtMlGq9.png

Without the usual Aberdeenshire and NoS Cups to keep us occupied, we dove straight into league action, and it got off to a shambolic start with us falling behind after just 29 seconds. We responded well to dominate the rest of the half, but went in at the break still trailing. We picked up where we left off and started the second half positively, and managed to get back on level terms when a Welsh corner was headed down and Mathers managed to get there to blast the ball in. We took the lead when Ewan Moore, having come on for his debut, was brought down in the box, and Welsh managed to convert the resultant penalty. A good result to start the season.

We were behind again at Rothes, this time when they successfully counter attacked, managed to cut the ball across the face of goal and finish into an empty net. Most of what followed was fairly uneventful, and in truth they looked more likely to add to their goal than we did to equalise for the vast majority of the game, but our equaliser did eventually come from loanee Ewan Moore. Welsh played in to new boy Malin, and he was able to pick Moore out in the box, who hit a one touch shot which the keeper couldn't get enough on to keep out. A fairly poor performance from us, if truth be told, but a point none the less. Locos followed, and a terrible game was lit up only by a great winning goal from Aiden Combe. A long clearance was hoofed in his general direction, he took one touch to take it away from the defender, another to get into some space and then lobbed the keeper from the edge of the box. It was a goal which deserved to win a game, and that it did, despite Welsh missing a late penalty which would have wrapped it up.

Brora were up next, and last season's champions, beaten by Elgin City in the playoff final, look strong again this season. and so they proved to be by battering us for most of the game, and really they should have been out of sight by the time Chisholm's equaliser came. A corner was floated in, a shot came from Ballantyne, was blocked, ricocheted off several men and found Chisholm to prod the ball in. Again, unconvincing but we got the point in the end, and against such a strong side, I'll take it. We followed this up by beating Deveronvale, with goals from Mackintosh to open after the keeper spilled a Combe shot, and Moore put us back in front late on, seizing on a defensive mistake to fire in one-on-one with the keeper.

Our first loss of the season came at the hands of Keith. I just can't seem to get the better of Keith, no matter what I try, and it was the case again. We took the lead through Aiden Combe, getting on the end of a ball over the top, and finishing into the corner of the net, but after that we just fell apart and Keith took full advantage, more than deserving their 3 goals. We probably should have defended better for all 3 goals, but I can't complain about the result really. Cove Rangers were another team whom I would expect to be up there in the final table, and we welcomed them to Claggan park next, managing to get a 1-1 draw. Our goal, once again, came from a corner (where we've already got 3 goals from), and it was Chisholm again, ghosting in unmarked at the back post to fire in. Unfortunately, we never managed to seize control of the game, and looked shaky despite our advantage, so it was no surprise when we were pegged back not long into the second half, allowing them far, far too much room in the box to turn and get the shot away. We fared pretty well after that, creating a few half-chances but nothing major, but also restricting them to the same.

The Fraserburgh game was largely similar to the Cove one, with the roles reversed, as they held the lead for most of the match while we absolutely battered them. Our goal finally came when at the very end of the match, a free kick from out wide was floated into the box by Mackintosh and Ballantyne was able to get his head on it and score. We really should have won this game, we created more than enough chances to but just couldn't take them. Still, only one defeat in our opening months and the table looks like this...

https://i.imgur.com/j7bUeSa.png

Not bad, we've picked up solid results, but our performances have been, for the most part, unconvincing. In fact, I'd say we've only played really well against Fraserburgh and Nairn. Still, if we keep picking up decent results when not playing well that'll do, but I'd rather we started to play well...
https://i.imgur.com/wvNUs4N.jpg?1

October & November 2019

https://i.imgur.com/lyHaPqm.png

Following on from our, let's say, mixed start to the season, we faced a Lossiemouth side enduring a torrid start to the season. In the end, we recorded a very comfortable win, but once again the performance wasn't quite as good as I'd really want it to be. We huffed and puffed without any real quality for much of the game, but when John Cameron came off the bench on the hour mark, he proved to be the matchwinner. His first and second goals were very similar, as he got on the end of a long ball, took a touch and finished past the keeper, and then completed his hat trick when he got on the end of a Mathers cross and tapped in from inside the 6 yard box. Job done. We were, however, unable to follow a good result up with another one as we once again failed to perform, and this time facing one of the better sides in the league we were caught out. We did create a couple of chances, but were unable to make the most of them, whereas they were clinical with their one real opportunity. A disappointing result.

We bounced back at Clachnacuddin, after falling behind, we fought back well to claim a great victory. Having seen McGinley beaten at his near post, we got back into the game when Combe getting a bit of a lucky break, as his shot was straight at the keeper, but he only managed to parry the ball onto the post, and it then found its way in. We were ahead when a corner wasn't properly cleared, and we managed to work the ball back into the box for Ballantyne to head in a winner. They managed to create a chance to win it, but fortunately they hit it straight at McGinley.

Next up, we faced our Scottish Cup tie against top of the League 2 Stirling Albion. We managed to hold them to a very, very respectable draw in the first leg. Former Northern Ireland international Andy Little opened the scoring from a decisive break up the park, but we were able to get back on level terms with a bizarre Combe goal. He seemed to head the ball on from the edge of the box, and the keeper managed to make a complete hash of it and fumble it into the goal behind him. They then took the lead again, this time when a penalty given against Fraser was dispatched. If combe's first goal had been lucky, his second certainly wasn't, as he received the ball midway inside their half, took the ball past 2 men on his way into the box and then finished expertly from a tight angle. We should have won the game late on, when Combe again found himself some space and crossed the ball in, but Chisholm was unable to get enough power on his header, and so we had to settle for a replay. Under normal circumstances, I'd be thrilled with that, but we played brilliantly, and could have easily found ourselves into the next round. The replay itself was a bit of a let down, as a simply better team than us exerted their superiority, and thrashed us 4-0. They simply ran riot, and were a stark reminder of how far behind that division we really are. Still, a crowd of 440 is excellent for ourselves, and will definitely be our biggest of the season, so a bit of cash is always nice.

Back on league duty, we faced Strathspey, and we started the way we had played in the Stirling replay - horrifically. They led within 4 minutes with some awful marking and just not picking up runners cost us as they got 3 tries to score with McGinley making a good double save, but with nothing he could do about the third effort. A penalty was then awarded their way, and fortunately crashed back off the crossbar and stayed out. That should have given us a boost, but we were still sluggish and struggling to get into any sort of rhythm until we were handed a very lucky goal. A cross into the box was hit by Mathers, saved and then a defended attempted to clear but managed to hit the ball off his teammate and deflect it in. Back on terms, we managed to lift ourselves up a gear, and found a winner through Mathers, who scored a rare header when a freekick was floated in and he managed to outjump his man. Job done, but still not good enough from ourselves.

We finally found a good performance in our win over Forres Mechanics, with Moore and Mathers getting first half goals, with Moore getting onto a long ball, which was inexplicably left by their defence to finish, and Mathers finding space at the back post to volley in a deep cross. Forres went down to ten men on the stroke of half time, which meant that they spent the rest of the game in ultra-defensive mode and meant we struggled to find any openings to add to the scoreline, which was disappointing, but ultimately a good result, and a professional performance. We fell behind early against Formartine, but got back into it quickly, and it really never looked like we weren't going to win the game, Moore's winner coming after yet another ball over the top proved fruitful. Again, we probably should have scored a few more, but I'm happy with the 3 points.

The month ended with a cracking game against Huntly, as we opened the scoring just 4 minutes in, outmuscling a defender, working his way into the box, and then managing to tap in the rebound when his initial effort was saved. Soon after that, however, it looked like a horror show as we lost 3 really soft goals to find ourselves 3-1 down by half time. The second half saw a completely different performance level from us. We started with Gavin Malin hitting a great first time shot from the edge of the box into the top corner, before Mathers managed twice to drift off his man at the back post to get on the end of crosses and finish put us 4-3 up. The comeback seemed to have taken it all out of us though, and we allowed them too much space and time on the ball, when they found a way in behind the defence to equalise right at the end. An entertaining game, but one which we should have taken all 3 points from. All that leaves the table looking like this:

https://i.imgur.com/EKYZmqT.png

We're doing very well, performances are starting to pick up and we're getting results so 4th is a great position to be in for us. Brora and Turriff look to be flying though, so we'll need to hope they falter somewhat as they're already 9 and 7 points ahead. Forres look to be having another really tough season.

Other News

Right at the end of the month, a keeper became available, and with no cover and McGinley having a poor season, I brought in former Celtic youth player Reece Willison:

https://i.imgur.com/PPc7LDv.png

He looks at least as good as McGinley, and he's young enough to improve so I'm hopeful that between the two of them, that should be me for the next couple of hyears at least.
https://i.imgur.com/wvNUs4N.jpg?1

December 2019

https://i.imgur.com/IRFu1U7.png

A quiet month in terms of fixtures, but with us facing two of the three sides ahead of ourselves, an important one. We started by taking on Wick Academy, the side directly above us in the table, and a side who usually do pretty well in the table. We were able, however, to record a vital victory and a thoroughly professional performance against them to leapfrog them in the table. Ewan Moore opened the scoring early on, when a Welsh ball through left him with just enough space to squeeze a shot away, which the keeper managed to get a hand on, but only divert it onto the inside of the post and in. The victory was assured when we broke quickly up the pitch from defending free kick, with Mackintosh taking it past a few players himself before hanging the ball to the back post where Mathers waited completely unmarked to volley home. We didn't really create much for the rest of the game, and it was a bit of a backs against the walls job at times, but we restricted Wick to just one good opportunity (well saved by Willison on his debut) and were generally solid, so all in all, a great performance.

Next up were table topping Turriff United, away from home, possibly the hardest game of the season on paper. I was, therefore, absolutely delighted to come away with all three points. Our goal came from one of very few opportunities, and produced both of our shots on target of the match, as a Mackintosh free kick was floated in, headed towards goal by Harrison, saved but spilled straight back out and the rebound blasted in by the same man. We could have doubled our lead when a good bit of passing play saw Welsh get in, and he picked out Moore in a pocket of space, but he rushed the shot and dragged it well wide. I'm not sure if we got another touch inside their box after that chance, and that was in the 35th minute, Turriff completely dominated the game, but once again, we defended well and they didn't manage to take any of the few opportunities to score they did create. A job very well done.

On the back of two excellent results, against two excellent sides, it was hugely frustrating to then draw against what is frankly a terrible Nairn side, but that's exactly what happened. Lingard opened the scoring by beating the keeper to the ball as he rushed out and stabbing it past him into the empty net, and I thought we were on our way to a valuable win, but they fought back and equalised from a simple ball into the box which wasn't dealt with and fired home. We were back in front moments later when Combe scored from around the penalty spot after holding off his man, but we were clearly shaky and weren't creating much. We did hold them for most of the game, but in the final 10 minutes we were undone by a corner, which again wasn't dealt with properly and the flick on found an attacker to tap it in. Really annoying, specially given how solid we'd been against Turriff and Wick. All means that it's as you were, more or less, in the standings:

https://i.imgur.com/KTSeYRp.png

We're still 4th, Cove have overtaken us, although we have a game in hand on them. The gap to Brora and Turriff is slightly smaller than it was, but those 2 points dropped against Nairn are really annoying, and I can see them coming back to haunt us as, particularly Brora, look to be a very good team, unlikely to drop many points.
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