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The #KLeagueFM17 Challenges: Citizens Unite! [April '17]

The #KLeagueFM17 Football Manager Challenges - The Incheon United Project

Despite a convincing opening day victory against Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, Incheon United quickly returned to their form of 2016, ending the month on three points out of a possible nine. With easier fixtures in April however, can Matthew Binns' men start ascending up the table?

The Challenge: Citizens Unite! Stand up to the Korean Chaebols by leading a citizen club to title glory.

Previous Instalments: Pre-season '16 [Part 1], Pre-season '16 [Part 2], March '16, April '16, May '16, June '16, July '16, August '16, September '16, Post-Split '16, FA Cup Final '16 [Preview], FA Cup Final '16, Pre-Season '17 [Part 1], Pre-Season '17 [Part 2], March '17

We're off to Gwangju this April Fool's Day, with the joke no doubt being our defence which have conceded eight goals in their last two games. Seeing as Gwangju are rooted to the foot of the table alongside Jeonbuk though, this seems a prime opportunity to pick up points and get our campaign back on track.

Gwangju manager Park Sung-hwa seems to prefer a simplistic style, lining his side up in a 4-4-2 and relying on Jung Jo-gook to find the net. Their right back Lee Jang-min is also nursing a slight injury so at least I have someone to target my heavy tackles on.

I am once again forced to field young defender Nam Min-woo in the defence, despite him still playing for the high school team. Like the Seoul game last month, I'll probably drag him off after twenty minutes or so. Fortunately Velokoski has returned from international duty so we are at least strong in attack.

The first half is fairly uneventful for the majority of its duration, but a 44th minute Song Si-woo strike, set up well by Velkoski, sees us take the lead with the break almost upon us. While the away fans are still celebrating though, Jung Jo-gook is left unmarked, receiving a cross and slotting cooly into our net to make it one apiece at half time. Furious, I initially blame the young Nam Min-woo, only for replays to indicate it was the captain Ahn Jae-joon who had been so sloppy in his play.

Fortunately, we quickly reclaim our lead early on in the second half via a Ju Min-kyu screamer. I quickly look to reassure the defence bringing on Kim Hyung-il and Kim Gyeong-min for a tiring centre backs, and switch to a 4-1-4-1 to close up shop. The games finishes 2-1 and our team is praised for their professional display in the press and on social media.

It turns out Adelaide United manager Guillermo Amor had flown up to Korea to watch this match, with him later declaring his interest in signing man of the match Velkoski. It seems Western Sydney Wanderers and Newcastle Jets are also after him with it looking as if I will be fielding calls for his signature come the summer window.

The FA Cup is also drawn for the fourth round this week. After two consecutive final appearances, perhaps this year we can go one step further. We draw newly promoted Busan at home, which is certainly not a preferable fixture so early on in the competition. Still, I suppose it could have been far worse.

Next up is Jeju United and we have been buoyed in our preparation by the return of our first choice (and under 23 year-old) goalkeeper Lee Tae-hee. I also opt for Kim Hyung-il after Ahn Jae-joon's poor performance in the previous outing.

Well, that didn't go according to plan. Jeju's 3-1-3-1-2 formation seems to cut through the middle of our team with relative ease, with Tosano or Lee Keun-ho either scoring or assisting in each of Jeju's four goals, the first of which hit the back of our net in the 26th second. Despite desperate efforts to change it and reassure the defence, we cannot hold them out and the game ends 4-1, undoing all the good will I had built up from the last game. April feels a lot like last month already.

I realise a change is in order to try and reassure our defence ahead of our next game. However, my scout informs me we are already in the best suited formation to get a result against Ulsan. His less than informative reports have often failed me, yet I decide to believe him once more as we head into our next game three days later.

We enter at half time a goal down, but the majority of our play suggests that it should be us that are in front. Despite having had the lions share of first half possession, their right back Lee Yong made an overlapping run down the right flank in the 41st minute, crossing in low for Lee Jong-ho to convert, thereby undoing all our good work.

I bring on Kevin Oris, but he continues to prove himself as neither use nor ornament, and at £8,000 per week, I am taking serious consideration about offloading him in the summer. The second half peters out and it finishes 1-0 to the home side.

The games are coming thick and fast now, with this season's surprise outfit Jeonnam Dragons coming to town. The South Jeolla side have found good form so far this season and sit comfortably unbeaten in second place. Ignoring the scout's advice this time though, I decide to switch my attacking midfielder for a defensive one in a bid to provide that back line more protection.

It takes nineteen minutes for the deadlock to be broken, and it is done in spectacular style with a curling Park Se-jik free kick. With the few thousand in the stadium becoming increasingly vocal, we double our lead via Jin Seong-wook whose header caps off a wonderful mazy run and cross from Krste Velkoski down the right flank. Then, four minutes later we scored a third. This time it is a Song Si-woo tap in from a low Velkoski cross. The Macedonian this time chases the ball down and supplies from the left, showing just how versatile he can be and how much he wants that move to Australia in the summer. I opt for a more cautious second half, and see the 3-0 result out to the delight of the Incheon supporters.

It seems there is speculation in the press linking me to Suwon FC's Gavilan. The Spaniard stayed with the club despite their relegation due to the Champions League place I gifted them back in November. Having lost all four of their group games this far, it seems the winger wants out. I really rated him when he played against us in the FA Cup final, and it seems I could bag him for £35,000 on a £2,000 per week contract. Considering I currently pay Oris four times that, and Velkoski over double, it does seem quite the bargain. If I could offload Kevin and convince Velkoski to stay, this could prove to be a shrewd move. I declare my interest and the player reciprocates his desire for a move. I have a bid accepted and send over a contract. I now await his response.

It's local rivals Suwon Bluewings next, and the champions look a shadow of the team they were last season. They currently sit a place above me having lost the last three games. The scout cheerfully pipes up that they are also weak against my formation but I have given up listening to him.

After such an encouraging performance against Jeonnam, it takes two minutes for Suwon to find a way past my keeper, with Tadeu curling in a long range effort from approximately 25 yards out. Despite this early setback, we still look good and should be ahead by half time were it not for Veloksoki uncharacteristically skewing a one-on-one opportunity wide in addition to Song Si-woo missing a close range header into an empty net moments later. Somewhat typically though, we are unable to find a way back and the game finishes 1-0. I console my team and praise their efforts, with my thoughts being that this performance was genuinely positive and on another day we would have walked away with something. The fans don't see it this way and they take to social media to vent their frustrations.

Joo Tae-woong pretty much summarising my thoughts after nearly every other Incheon game

Fortunately it has not put off Gavilan who has agreed to my £2,000 per week contract and will join in the summer. I now have to decide when to break the news to Kevin Oris. I guess I will do that closer to the time.

Finally, we reach the last league game of the month where we face future FA cup opponents Busan IPark. I do not mess with the team, opting to field similar tactics as I have in my last two games. Unfortunately, I am forced to remove Ahn Jae-joon from the squad due to a hernia he picked up in training. It looks as if Kim Hyung-il will be getting a few weeks in the starting line up.

Yet another professional performance from my Incheon boys. It may have been a relatively simple change in tactics, but the addition of a defensive midfielder has really made us a much more difficult proposition to defeat. Velkoski bagged himself a brace to see us run out 2-0 victors here. His first was from the spot after Popp was deemed to have fouled Kim Hyung-il in the box. The second saw Jin Seong-wook thread an exquisite through ball for the Macedonian, pretty much confirming my plans to hold onto him this summer and offload Oris.

As April eventually draws to a close, I am fairly satisfied in the improvements my team has made. We still have not been able to achieve back to back victories, but at least we are still winning, especially given the amount of players I have been forced to sell. The adjustment to our approach seems to be paying dividends and we are looking far from the relegation candidates we were predicted to be at the start of the season.

Whisper it, but things are looking up in Incheon.

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