Matchday 34: Spielst ganz wo anders in Liga Zwei.

St. Pauli’s empathic 5-1 victory against Bochum on matchday 33 means the club go into the final day of the season with their safety in their own hands. A win away at Darmstadt will secure 2.Bundesliga safety, but anything less could see the club relegated. Darmstadt sit second and a victory for them will ensure they’re promoted automatically ahead of Karlsruhe. In the second half of the season, primarily through the stewardship of Ewald Lienen, St. Pauli sit 5th in the form table. They’ve picked up 24 points from 16 games, have scored 22 goals and conceded just 14. Contrast that to the first half of the season, with only 3 wins from 17, 18 goals scored and 36 conceded. It’s hard to understate the job that Lienen has done from an extremely difficult situation, but it could all be for nothing if the club lose on the final day and results go against them.

For St. Pauli to be relegated automatically, each of the following must happen:

St. Pauli lose, 1860 draw or win, Aue win, and FSV Frankfurt win – unless St. Pauli lose by 4 or more goals, then an FSV Frankfurt draw would be sufficient for them to stay up on goal difference.

For St. Pauli to be finish 16th and have to play the relegation playoff:

St. Pauli draw, Greuther Furth draw, 1860 Munich win and FSV Frankfurt win.

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Mercifully, all 6 teams who could possibly end up finishing 16th or 17th face away ties. Here’s who they have to face:

Aue – away at FC Heidenheim 

Aue have been resurgent in recent weeks, picking up 4 wins and 2 draws in 8 matches, including vital wins against 1860 Munich and FSV Frankfurt. But they’ll need to overcome a decent FC Heidenheim who are unbeaten in 5 and who have a good home record.

FSV Frankfurt – away at Fortuna Dusseldorf.

Two teams bang out of form. After 3 straight wins after the winter break, FSV Frankfurt couldn’t have envisaged they’d be occupying 16th place. But they haven’t won since then, 11 games without a victory, and have only picked up 2 points in their last 7 games. Dusseldorf’s season has been average – 11 wins, 11 draws, 11 losses. They’ve been nothing short of terrible since the winter break, but they won 2-0 at Sandhausen last week. They’ve only won 4 of 16 home games, though…

1860 Munich – away at Karlsruhe. 

1860 picked up a vital home victory against rivals Nurnberg on matchday 33 to give them a fighting chance going into the las game of the season, but they face a Karlsruhe side who could seal automatic promotion or a playoff spot depending on results elsewhere.

Greuther Fürth – away in Leipzig.

It’s unclear from the fixture schedule who Furth will be playing, however they are pencilled in for an away trip to Leipzig against an unrecognised opponent. Only 3 teams have travelled to Leipzig and picked up 3 points in the league this season, and Furth have only 2 away wins all season, managing only 12 goals in 16 away games. However Furth have a 4 goal advantage over St. Pauli, so would need an unlikely chain of results to see them go down.

Sandhausen – away at Bochum.

A 3 point deduction a couple of weeks ago means that it is still mathematically possible for Sandhausen to be relegated on the final day. They have perhaps the easiest trip of the relegation candidates, an away trip to Bochum who sit only 1 place and 3 points above them. Sandhausen are one of the best away teams in the league this season, picking up 21 points on their travels. Bochum have been draw specialists at home this season, with 9 draws in 16 games. A point for Sandhausen will do for them, and it’d be highly unlikely for them to be relegated.

How will the events of Sunday unfold? Unfortunately the beauty of football means that we can only speculate. The head says that St. Pauli should be safe from automatic relegation at least except for an exceptional run of results, but the heart says that it would be typical St. Pauli to fuck it up from this position…

You’ll Never Walk Alone.

Eins, zwei, drei, vier… THÜMPED!

St. Pauli bounced back from an early setback yesterday to thump Bochum 5-1 at the Millerntor, but it wasn’t enough to guarantee safety going into the final day. Former FCSP loanee Michael Gregoritsch scored his 7th goal of the season in the opening minutes of the game after a very poor pass in midfield by Buchtmann. It was a disastrous start, and one that meant St. Pauli were facing down at the 3.liga.

It’s not often that St. Pauli leave you breathless, but before half time the team had turned the game on it’s head with two superbly taken goals. Lennart Thy scored a wonderful volley from inside the box. The first goal had come from a long free kick into the area, as did the second. Another free kick was floated in, flicked on, and it fell to Marcel Halstenberg at the back post to smash the ball into the net, giving them ‘keeper no chance at his near post. It was a rare glimmer of quality from St. Pauli this season.

After half time it was Buchtmann’s chance to get in on the action, making a key interception just inside the Bochum half, before running for what seemed like forever unopposed into the Bochum box and hitting his shot hard past the Bochum ‘keeper – think Michael Owen against Argentina. Beautiful.

The fourth goal said as much about Bochum as it did St. Pauli. Bochum have now conceded 55 goals this season, the highest in the 2.Bundesliga, and it’s no surprise. The passing and movement from St. Pauli was great, but Bochum’s attempt at defending makes St. Pauli look like Arsenal from the 1990s. The passing move ended with Thy alone inside the box to tap home in the easiest of fashions. Sobota came off the bench to score the fifth, picking up the ball on the edge of box and ghosting past the hapless defenders before firing home. Thumped, indeed.

Unfortunately a controversial win for 1860 Munich over Nurnberg means St. Pauli could still be relegated next weekend, which we’ll look at more over the course of the week, but they’re in a good position to save themselves after a disastrous season. Ewald Lienen, take a bow.

Credit to @PeterKeighery on Twitter for the title!

Preview: FC Heidenheim v FC St. Pauli – 26/04/15

The relegation battle at the bottom of the 2.Bundesliga continues to twist and turn. A huge light at the end of the tunnel appeared for St. Pauli after a last minute winner came out of nowhere to defeat Nuremberg, but the light was somewhat faded over the weekend. On 51 minutes on Saturday afternoon, thinks were looking pretty perfect for FCSP. Former St. Pauli man Michael Gregoritsch had given Bochum an early lead at 1860, and Eintracht Braunschweig had just scored in Aalen to take the lead. Perfect. But the following 39 minutes of football saw a huge twist in the chase for survival. Aalen equalised on 53 minutes, and then in the other game 1860 drew level on 56′. Not too bad, right? Well Ofosu-Ayeh scored Aalen’s winner on 69′, and in the last moments of the game in Munich, Stephan Hain scored a crucial goal for 1860. Just to make matters worse, Aue picked up a 1-0 victory and all 3 points at home to FSV Frankfurt on Sunday, meaning the bottom four teams had all won. As you were, then.

One positive from that was that Greuther Fuerth were now dragged back into the relegation fight. When they beat St. Pauli in mid-February it looked like they’d distanced themselves from the pack, however they’ve not won since. 5 draws and 3 defeats later, they sit on 31 points, just 3 points above St. Pauli on 28th who currently occupy the relegation playoff place. A trip to promotion chasing Karlsruhe, currently unbeaten in 11, isn’t exactly the trip Furth needed either. Elsewhere on Saturday, 1860 travel to Dusseldorf to take on a Fortuna side who have struggled massively since the winter break and still somehow find themselves in 7th spot despite not having won in 3.

So by the time St. Pauli kick off at 13:30 (12:30 UK) on Sunday, hopefully both Furth and 1860 will have dropped points and given St. Pauli a fighting chance of climbing out of the relegation places by the end of the weekend. In order to do so, St. Pauli must take revenge away at a FC Heidenheim side who beat them 3-0 at the Millerntor in November. Heidenheim were brilliant that day, soaking up the pressure from FCSP and counter attacking to great effect. Gulp.

Heidenheim haven’t won in 3 which is something for the optimists. But, it’s no surprise given those matches were played against each of the top 3 sides in the division. That said, with 1 win in 5 and only 3 goals in those 5 games, there’s certainly room for optimism for the boys in brown. Plus with only 3 wins this side of the winter break, Heidenheim aren’t the force they were in the first half of the campaign.

But then you have to remember that this is St. Pauli, away from home, with 1 win and 3 amassed from 14 away games so far this season. Big gulp. The guest block will be occupied by a sold-out 1480 following for FCSP. Lienen has declared the team ready, let’s go!

24 points.

720 minutes of football is all that remains of the 2.Bundesliga season. 8 games and a possible 24 points to play for, and St. Pauli sit bottom of the league. You could be forgiven for thinking luck was firmly against St. Pauli, with 4 points dropped in the last 2 games through individual unexplained errors – summed up by Robin Himmelmann’s air-kick in the 89th minute of the game at Union Berlin last week.

Last week a glimmer of hope shone through the clouds though, as fellow relegation battlers Aalen were deducted 2 points due to ‘negative equity’ – a poor financial balance which is against the strict financial licensing conditions of the league. Normally i wouldn’t take happiness in another clubs downfall, but when in desperate need of some luck, it’s hard not to feel satisfied by the outcome.

The points deduction for Aalen leaves them in 16th place on 22 points, ahead of Aue in 17th and St. Pauli in 18th only on goal difference, and gives 1860 Munich a 4 point cushion from the relegation battle in 15th. Into the final 8 games we go, who will survive?

Of the 8 remaining games left, the lowest rank team St. Pauli have to face is Nurnburg – who sit 11th. This includes away trips to Kaiserslautern (2nd), Darmstadt (3rd) and Karlsruhe (4th). Kaiserslautern are unbeaten at home all season, and Darmstadt have only lost once at home. If you’re looking to this article for some optimism, i apologise. With only 1 away win all season, there’s hardly room to go into those away games with confidence.

While St. Pauli only facing 1 team in the bottom half of the table, Aue face four teams in the lower half of the table in the last 8 games. However since wins against ** ******* and Fortuna Dusseldorf immediately after the winter break, Aue have failed to win any of their last 5 games. A defeat away at 1860 Munich on Sunday would almost definitely leave the relegation battle a 3 horse place. But Aue then have winnable home matches against Sandhausen and FSV Frankfurt that provide good opportunities to gain points in their bid for survival.

Having picked up a win against Aue and picked up a point each against Greuther Furth and 1860 Munich before the winter break, Aalen would have been feeling rather positive about their chances of survival prior to the international break. But how much of a psychological blow will the 2 point deduction be? It could actually work in their favour if it brings the squad close together and provides them with even more motivation to beat the drop. Only time will tell, starting with a home game against Karlsruhe on Sunday. Karlsruhe sit 4th in the league and are the best away team in the division. Aalen also have to play Fortuna Dusseldorf (5th) and Eintracht Braunschweig (6th), but crucially they don’t play anyone in the top 3, and play several teams sitting mid-table who may not have anything to play for in the coming weeks.

The only predictability about the remaining 8 matches is simply that it isn’t predictable. If football was based entirely on league positions and form, then bookmakers would be out of business and we might as well all pack up and go home. That said, the odds are firmly stacked against St. Pauli. If we go down, let’s go down fighting.

In from the cold.

The winter break is almost over, and this weekend St. Pauli restart their 2.Bundesliga campaign with one objective – survival. It would be easy to have forgotten the first half of the season with only four wins in 19 games and a -17 goal difference, not to mention 3 managers and 2 sporting directors. But let’s not be all doom and gloom eh?

Matchday 19 saw St. Pauli secure a vital 3-1 victory over VfR Aalen, the club’s first victory in 10 games in new coach Ewald Lienen’s first game in charge. It was a performance that didn’t tally with St. Pauli’s league table and one that gives plenty of hope for the rest of the season. You can’t judge Lienen’s effect on the team on that one performance, but if the effort and application shown in that game goes into every game for the rest of the season then we should be ok.

The win over Aalen was vital to the league position going into the winter break, closing the gap on Aalen just above them to a single point. Sitting 17th and on 16 points, only Aue on 14 points sit below St. Pauli. Aalen and 1860 Munich(17 points), Sandhausen (20 points) and FSV Frankfurt (21 points) are all within reach of the boys in brown in their attempt to drag themselves out of the relegation zone. What better way to start the second half of the season then with an away trip to fellow battler Sandhausen on Saturday afternoon?

February will be a pivotal month in the club’s battle for survival. If you can have a “six pointer” with 14 games of the season remaining, then the Sandhausen fixture is every bit of that cliché. It’s followed by by a Monday night game at home to Greuther Fuerth, before another relegation ‘six pointers’. If the club drops points away at 1860 Munich and then at home to Aue it’ll be expecting the worst. 12 points from those two games would be great, Mr Lienen.

Lienen has done his bit to re-shape the squad during the winter break. He made his third and final signing of the transfer window yesterday prior to it slamming shut. (Does Sky Sports Germany present the transfer window in the same cringeworthy and horrendous manner as their English counterparts do? Answers on a postcard). Defensive midfielder Armando Cooper joined the club from Argentine club Godoy Cruz. Cooper is well known to Lienen, having played for him at Otelul Galati last season. Lienen stated yesterday that Cooper had been on his list of targets since he joined the club, and with the injury to Nehrig which looks set to rule him out for the rest of the season, the signing of Cooper become important.

He joins another signing, Julian Koch on loan from Mainz, as competition for one of the central midfield places. Koch has impressed in friendlies since joining the club, in particular in the recent 2-0 friendly victory over Bundesliga side Paderborn. However he has become an internet sensation in recent weeks not because of his childishly funny name or his performance against Paderborn, but for scoring this goal…

The other signing of the transfer window was Waldemar Sobota, a 27 year old Polish international winger on loan from Club Brugge. Sobota has very good credentials, with 17 caps and 4 goals for the Polish national side and having featured 4 times for Club Brugge in the Europa League this season.

The three new signings should add some quality to the St. Pauli side, and hopefully be the catalyst for a push up the table in the second half of the season. A first away win of the season on Saturday would be a decent starting point…

NOTE – YORKSHIRE ST. PAULI WILL BE MEETING TO WATCH THE GAME AT HEBDEN BRIDGE TRADES CLUB ON SATURDAY AFTERNOON, 3PM KICK OFF. FURTHER DETAILS ON OUR FACEBOOK PAGE. EVERYONE WELCOME. 

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