Grigor Pasha writes: In my review of Neftochimic 1962’s squad during the mid-winter break, I came to the conclusion that, though we were placed third, we were unlikely to go up.
Cue a record-breaking 14-match unbeaten run, using the above formation (or, to be precise, the mirror image of it). I do like that staggered midfield.
With two games to go, we were top of the league.
Unfortunately our visitors in the next game were Septemvri Sofia, the only team who could catch us. We lost to them at home, 0-1.
Our fate remained in our games. A win, in a winnable away match against Kariana, would see us promoted as champions.
But we could manage only a 0-0 draw, so Septemvri went up instead — on goal difference. The fizz had gone out of game.
We blew the play-off too, against Botev Vratsa (from tier 1)
What went wrong?
Well, we couldn’t blame luck. In fact, during our record-breaking run we clearly enjoyed some slices of good fortune, including an offside goal being allowed to stand.
No, it wasn’t luck.
I said just now that the fizz had gone out of our game. I reckon a couple of injuries and, at the same time, a suspension were sufficient to precipitate a falling off. perhaps I kept the formation going too long and the players became jaded?
At least those who’d been there to witness our 5-1 demolition of Litex away will be able to tell their grand-children they were there that spring night when Neftochimic really did play like Brazil.
Well, I say ‘they’, but a check of the record reveals that, out of 294 fans, only 1 was an away supporter, so I should have written that sentence in the singular.
But the main reason we lost was that Septemvri were better than us. They won both their games against us. The goal that, in effect, decided the title race was a great goal. The scorer, Preslav Yordanov (on loan from Vitosha Bistritsa) bullied us.
Botev Vratsa were better than us in the play-off too.
We could have no complaints.
The main learning point for me at the end of my first season was that I should have given more attention to the question of which players did, or did not, have a big-match temperament.