23 May 2020. Yunist Stadium, western Ukraine.
Grigor Pasha, manager of Mykolaiv in the Ukrainian second tier, is reflecting after the game.
After that drubbing at Prykarpattya, I was expecting the sack. It didn’t happen. I guess they reasoned that, with only four fixtures left, it was too late to make a change.
I made good use of the subsequent weeks. In the two weeks in which we didn’t have league fixtures, I organised friendlies to keep the players match fit.
A bonus was that it helped Kravchenko find his shooting boots. In the next league fixture, he scored a goal that earned us a point. And then, against Metalist 1925, he netted a superb hat-trick that revived the hope of everyone at the club that we can avoid the drop.
So we go into the penultimate game here at Agrobusiness Volochysk on a high, with our go-to striker firing on all cylinders. And what happens?
After five minutes we take the lead. A soft goal: Ichuaidze, our left-back, left unmarked at a free-kick.
Come on, boys, if we can see this through we’ll be odds-on to stay up.
And then we fall apart. We concede five — yes, five — goals, every single one of them embarrassing. We switch off, we lack fight, we don’t contest balls, we lack leadership and organisation.
So we’ll go into the final game with, arithmetically, a chance of escaping the drop — but psychologically there is surely no chance. The boys looked shot when they come off. I’d prefer it if they looked ashamed. There’s a dreadful silence in the changing room that makes me feel sick in the stomach.
My job now is to spend the entire week telling people that we can give ourselves a chance by beating Obolon-Brewer and trying to look as though I actually believe it.
Which I don’t.