From the Terraces
Despite the loss on penalties, Saturday’s promotion match away at FC Rauma was one of the best days I’ve had as a Tampere United supporter. The day is up there with the beating of HJK in the deciding match for the 2006 Finnish Championship away in Helsinki as well as with all the glory and non-glory in our various eurocup stints – you name it. As I have said a number of times this fall, it is all about enjoying the ride, and in some ways meeting the goals is secondary. Besides, not getting promoted this time means that we will do so later. It means that the history of TamU-K will include more matches where promotion is on the line than it otherwise would. Take that as a positive, a big one. We live for matches like this. Getting to experience more of them cannot be a bad thing, right?
Tomorrow our long season will come to its climax away at Rauma, when we play for promotion in a single-match playoff. The home team FC Rauma finished second in Nelonen in the Satakunta district, and are serious about wanting to move to higher divisions. Two busloads of supporters will travel from Tampere to the match, a distance of about 140 km (80 miles), and when those who travel by cars are added, the full size of the group might very well exceed 100 people. In any case, it will be the largest away contingent that we have seen in the TamU-K era.
The big one before the huge one. That is how you can describe the last match of our regular season away at Tervakosken Pato on Saturday. A convincing 0-3 (0-1) win takes us to the promotion playoff match, which will be played later this week on Saturday away at FC Rauma, about 140 km (85 miles) away from Tampere in the small coastal city of Rauma. It will be a one-off match for promotion. More than 50 supporters have already signed up for the bus trip to Rauma. Sinikaarti will have their own bus and the club has also arranged one of their own. It will be the biggest away trip in the TamU-K era, and probably by a large margin too. Arguably, it will also be our biggest match yet.
Here we are less than 24 hours to the last match of the regular season, and our dream of getting promoted is still alive. Before the start of the season many doubted we’d get here. Personally I lamented the fact that the longest away trip of the season (about 100 km / 60 miles) might be for a meaningless match. But here we are, traveling to Tervakoski for a Saturday 3 pm kick-off against Pato, and the stakes could not be much higher: a win or a draw takes us to a promotion playoff match against either FC Rauma or the second team of Musan Salama. That match would be played away, and the home team will be decided in matches that are played simultaneously with ours.
On Sunday we did what we needed to do, at least in terms of the result. A comfortable 3-0 (1-0) win over LeKi-futis means that we are in the driver’s seat on Saturday, when it finally gets decided whether us or NePa get to play for promotion against the second place team from Satakunta Nelonen. We did not quite yet look like a team who is ready for that final big battle, but there was fight and soul in the team that can take us there in the next couple weeks. Getting the three points was the main thing anyway – now a tie is enough for us next week away at Tervakosken Pato. I’m sure that we will go for the win, but not actually having to win changes the dynamics of the situation in our favor.
Sunday’s match against LeKi-futis is a must-win situation for us. Having played one match less than NePa, we are now one point behind them on the table. VaKP is already out of the race for the second place, since they lost their match against NePa on Friday, 0-3 was the score. If we won’t win on Sunday, we will need to do so in our last match away at Tervakosken Pato. Losing on Sunday is simply unthinkable. Not an easy situation to be in, but we’ve got only ourselves to blame for it.
The aftermath of Saturday’s PP-70 match has certainly been an emotional one. Just like earlier this season in the away leg at Ikuri, we played a bad match against PP-70. At this point of the season we are supposed to reach our peak form so that we’ll have a chance to win the promotion match, but now it is by no means certain that we will even play in that match. We still have everything in our own hands, and our quality should prevail in the remaining matches home against LeKi-futis and away at Tervakosken Pato. But in order to do that, we should show many more signs of that quality than we did on Saturday.
As I’m writing this match preview, it is less than five hours until kickoff against PP-70, but TamU-K has still not released a lineup for the match. I have heard surprisingly little about the lineup via the various channels I have, and so it remains a mystery as to who all will be available today. The best I have is that Thursday’s training session was well-attended, 19 players was the number I think. That is of course a positive indication.
Last Sunday’s match against SW was such an easy one that there really is not too much to say about it, and so this match report has been a long time coming. The result in the end was a comfortable 8-1 (4-1) victory for the boys in blue. In my match preview I called for the right attitude, and it turned out that even just a little bit of that right attitude was enough this time. The first goal got scored by Jonne Keränen after less than 7 minutes of play, an easy header from a nice corner kick by Osku Airesto, and by the half-hour mark the scoreboard read 3-0 and the game was beyond decided.
Tomorrow’s match is one of those that are difficult to approach. We beat SW 0-13 (0-4) in the away leg earlier this summer, and that is not the only drubbing they have received this season. Indeed, their goal differential after 17 matches is a desperate 14-84. Needless to say, they have been the bottom team throughout the season. But all this notwithstanding, the match still starts at 0-0 and we need to score a few goals early to make the match easy for us. With the wrong attitude that won’t happen, and we all know how difficult it is to adjust a poor attitude after the match has started. That is why the team needs to approach the match just like any other match – and if they do that, chances are that they can switch to a more relaxed mode even before the match is over.