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SUNDAY December 1st, 2019
Game day. N.E.C. v Feyenoord.
Top of the table match. Feyenoord came to our house to try to knock us off the top of the division. All that was standing in their way was Sam Loosen.
I started with the 4-1-5 made famous by me in our American Olympic qualifying campaign. The fire power I have available to me is astounding. The Wanderer was in the focal position sitting behind the two strikers.
As one would expect with this formation, there were plenty of shots. Feyenoord had a free kick just outside of the box on the 32nd second. It went wide, but it’s never great to start like that. We came back with a number of our own shots, but nothing stuck. The front five were not quite finding their mojo. My half time talk gently addressed that. Gently like a hammer.
They listened. Lemar went on a run down the right just after the kickoff. He got the ball into the box where Uth took a shot that was rebuffed by their keeper. It bounced back into play and the Wanderer smashed it into the back of the net. Bam.
There wasn’t much more action for the rest of the game. Frankly, that’s the way I like it while Loosen is in goal. He made a few saves. Every one of them had me clenching numerous parts of my body. Some more than others.
More than three minutes into extra time we were awarded a penalty. I had been nervously waiting for the equaliser to squeeze past Sammy Loosen. Instead, we converted the penalty and banished Feyenoord from our thoughts as we go forward in the league.
WEDNESDAY December 4th, 2019
Game day. PEC Zwolle v N.E.C.
After the 2-0 win, I decided to stick with the 4-1-5. The Wanderer took a break and Rooney stepped in to replace him. At least his lack of pace doesn’t affect him too much there. Trujillo came back in after his ridiculous injury for the national youth team.
We scored in the 17th minute after our attacking numbers overwhelmed their defence. As I planned it. Vela got the tap in after a shot was blocked. I like that kind of goal lately. We’ve always got someone ready to take a free shot. Mark Uth got us a second goal in the dying minutes of the first half. Loosen still hasn’t let a goal in.
Trujillo got a third in the second half to celebrate his return. 3-0 to finish the game. This is like a dream at the moment. This Loosen bomb is going to explode at some point, but he hasn’t conceded in three league games. Amazing.
SATURDAY December 7th, 2019
Game day. N.E.C. v FC Twente.
With a European game coming up this week, I had to be careful with who was starting in this match. A European game… Not just any old game – we have to win to be sure we’re going through. I went with the 4-3-3 and gave Trujillo a rest so he was close to peak performance for Inter.
In the 17th minute, Zorba crossed the ball from the touch line, over the keeper and central defenders, onto the head of Lemar who was almost standing inside the net. The ball probably went out of play on its way, but I’m happy with blind linesmen sometimes. Goal to us.
Ayoub nearly doubled the lead with a thunder strike from outside the box, but it was deflected wide. Half time came and the Loosen miracle continued.
In the 59th, Rooney got a tap in to close out the game. I brought Trujillo on for a bit of a run to help with his match sharpness. Two minutes after he came on, he back-heeled a pass to a running Lemar, and we got our third. Beautiful stuff.
But then it happened. Loosen conceded. Finally. What’s this going to do to his confidence with Inter coming this week? Does it even matter?
TUESDAY December 10th, 2019
It doesn’t matter. Sam Loosen is out for six weeks after a training injury. This is insane. We’ve managed to concede a single goal during Big Sam’s reign in goal, but the injury gods have decided to test me further. We play Inter tomorrow to try to secure our path to the knockout stage and we are without a keeper. I’m told Van der Hart might be able to play if we strap his ankle. He’s still limping. My other option is one of the 19 year olds. Save me.
THURSDAY December 12th, 2019
Game day. N.E.C. v Inter Milan. Europa League Group D.
Van der Hart failed his last minute fitness test. So Rob van den Akker got his debut senior game in a vital European game against Inter. The debut senior game no-one at the club ever though he’d get – including him. Even his mum hadn’t considered it.
Van den Akker’s knees hadn’t even stopped shaking before Inter scored their first goal. In the sixth minute, the Danish Sione Pisto went streaking down the left flank and one-timed a shot from a long cross from the other side of the pitch. It went past my statuesque 19 year old keeper. And I don’t mean majestic, I mean motionless.
In the 26th, Lemar tried to get us back in the game with his own streaking run. His shot was rejected though. Four minutes later, Sisto showed Lemar the right way to score a goal. It involved running at a motionless keeper and just shooting it slightly wide of him. Second goal to Inter. Second goal involving a static keeper.
In the 36th, we got a lifeline. Trujillo scored from a great Nwakali cross. Panathinaikos were losing, so we were sitting in second. Another goal would obviously make me more comfortable.
A Sisto hat trick would make me less comfortable. And it did. Another easy goal. Two minutes later, Vela got us another and we were back in the game! The Greeks were still a goal away from going ahead of us on the table. There was half an hour left. A third goal would mean Panathinaikos would have to score two.
We didn’t. They did. Eight minutes from time, Panathinaikos scored, going ahead of us on the table. Kill me.
TUESDAY December 17th, 2019
Game day. N.E.C. v Sparta. Dutch Cup 4th Round.
Mickey van der Hart is finally back. I expect our campaign to get on track. I’m a poet and I didn’t know it.
The game was a welcome back to reality as we dispatched little Sparta 3-1. The Wanderer was involved in each of our goals, scoring two and laying up one for Trujillo.
Now we have a long winter break. Top of the table and still in the Dutch Cup. Europe is but a distant memory. Who cares about the Europa League anyway? We’ll be in the Champions League next season as Eredivisie winners.