JOURNEYMAN (TAKE 2) – THE LEAGUE BEGINS

After our cup disappointment, we looked to correct things in our opening league game against Hapoel Acre.

Match 1: Hapoel Acre – We did just that! The complete opposite to that cup game, dominated on the ball, created lots and conceded little. 2-0 victors on the day, central midfielder Itay Tako opened the scoring in the 10th minute and wide threat Joof all but wrapped up the game for us scoring a header at the near post from a corner in the 44th minute. An excellent start to the league, but one we must build from.

Just after our opener the mood significantly dropped as starting goalkeeper Litvinov picked up a 3 month injury, so straight to the loan market we went and thankfully we were able to get Daniel Beinish in before the second game, zero wage contribution which helps the finances. Arguably a better goalkeeper than Litvinov, who had been a concern before impressing at the start of the season, Beinish could stake a claim at the number one spot with such a lengthy injury for Litvinov.

Match 2: Kfar-Shalem – the winners of our Toto Cup group. Revenge to be had, we found ourselves again 2-0 up at HT much like the opener. Tako again scoring from the CM – A role, and main man Kutalia getting his first league goal of the season. We managed the second half well to see out another 2-0 victory, 63% possession and taking our chances well.

After a debut clean sheet from Beinish, he’s now picked up an injury 3-4 weeks means we’ll be using a fairly poor goalkeeper for at least a couple of matches.

Match 3: Hapoel Ra’anana – Another team with 2 wins from 2. A poor performance from the Fahm boys, we draw 1-1, both sides converting from the spot, Ra’anana got their penalty in the 7th minute, it was that FM21 special as the centre-half slides and wins the ball with a superb tackle, only for the referee to say penalty. It’s the first game we’ve had less possession, and without it we looked significantly worse. But still no loss, onto the next!

Match 4: Hapoel Petach-Tikva – Thankfully due to a 2 week break between match 2 and 3 Beinish was able to return between the sticks for us! Just before half time, centre-half Abeba decides he fancies an early shower and two-foots the Tikva forward and reduces us to 10 men. We could only hold on until the 68th minute. A tough defeat to take as we still played well but ultimately the extra man paid dividends for Tikva.

Just before our 5th match, I had a very interesting scout report come through, we aren’t exactly flushed with cash at the minute, so signings have been few and far between, but this one was almost too good to turn down. Our current left-back Ilan Shaulksi, despite having some good technical ability, didn’t like the full back (A) role, something I was looking to play down the left.

So in came Shmuel Malul, technically not as good as you can see from the comparison, but mentally and physically so much better. Only on a season long deal means if it doesn’t work out, we can move on, and also with the way the journeyman works, we likely won’t be here long enough to worry to much about long term contracts.

Match 5: Hapoel Nof HaGalil – As perfect a performance as I could hope, 3-0 win, 2 goals from wide-man Joof, a superb free-kick from other winger Ganon and 2 assists from front-man Kutalia.

Interestingly, I wanted to see if the full-backs were working as intended, with Shreh at RB (D), I’ve also set him to sit narrower in possession, this allows us to have an extra option if the centre-backs have it, and because of his defensive role he sits just as deep, giving us a little more control. What I am surprised at is how narrow our right-sided winger is, something I don’t really know how to address given the instructions set on the W (S) role are what you’d want. Hopefully it’s just a cohesion thing and before long will adjust itself.

Match 6: S. C. Kfar Kasem – bottom of the league with just one point from their opening 5. An infamous FM banana skin if ever I’d seen one. With over 70% possession it took over an hour for the breakthrough in this one. But attacking-midfielder Jabarin, who had just been warned about his poor form, was left unmarked inside the box as Tako squared the ball across the box. In the 83rd minute the 3 points were sealed as Kutalia pounced after a missed header and fired in the back of the net! FT 3-0 after a late penalty from Ganon, another 3 points secured.

Match 7: Hapoel Afula – After back to back 3-0 wins we struggled to get going in this one. A drab game which saw us go 1-0 down to a corner in the 57th minute. I’d made peace with defeat in this one, until one of the more bizarre goals I’ve seen this year in Football Manager occurred in the 92nd minute. A free-kick from the edge of the box saw Ganon, who scored a free-kick just 2 matches prior, smash one into the wall for it to drop back virtually on the same spot and substitute winger Abed Jabarin curled one into the bottom corner to snatch a point.

The best journeyman news in between games! The board, after initially refusing, have agreed to give us our first coaching qualification! National C license secured.

Match 8: Nes Ziona – A very pleasing and accomplished 2-0 victory, our shape game by game is close to what I am looking for, as you can see from this picture below. The LB Malul on the ball, is nice and high, while our RB tucks in to create almost a 3 at the back. Plenty of bodies forward with our DLP (D) the closest to the defence. We scored both goals from crosses from Malul, the first time we’ve really seen him involved since signing him.

Match 9: Hapoel Ram-Gan – It’s a smash and grab 3 points for Fahm, a 3-2 victory in a game either side could have won. It’s a result that after 9 games puts us top of the league!

Young 16-year-old regen Tarek Mare, who had been featuring as a sub most games to get some minutes has sadly picked up a 2-3 month back stress fracture, a serious injury that could be the end of his career so early.

Match 10: Hapoel Iksal – A 2-1 victory to wrap up this episode, with a brace from Kutalia to put us 2-0 up. A late scare but we managed it well to get through to full-time and keep out spot at the top of the league!  

After saying previously we should be looking up with our mid-table expectation, I didn’t quite think we’d be this high! For those unaware, in my previous 2 journeyman’s, one this year and one last year, I was sacked very quickly at my first club. It became a theme, so this is a much welcome change, long may it continue!

UP NEXT – Mid-season review

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