NOVEMBER was a big month for Nigel Adkins and his players.

And it looks very much like they could be ending it in far better shape than they were on Halloween.

Tonight they host Norwich and, despite the Canaries’ improved form of late, should start favourites to collect a third successive win.

A football season takes up an awful long time, and managers often break it down into bite-sized chunks.

A few weeks ago, Nigel Adkins couldn’t afford to look beyond November. Had he done so, he might not have been in a job by the end of it.

Suffice to say, you don’t find those sort of pressures in youth football.

But what you do find are a series of games that are incredibly important to the season as a whole.

My son’s team, Fordingbridge Town under-11s, are approaching just that sort of run.

This weekend we play West Harnham, who are the only unbeaten side in Division 2 of the Testway Youth League’s U11 section.

The week after we host Tidworth Tigers, who have led the league all season prior to last weekend when they were knocked off top spot because they didn’t play, in the League Cup.

Then, after a trip to north of Winchester to face South Wonston, we go to Harnham’s infamous sloping pitch in Salisbury three days before Christmas for the league return.

These are big games. Do not let anyone tell you that you don’t get those sort of games in under-11 football.

As I write, my son’s team are still in with a chance of finishing in the top two of the division, which should guarantee promotion.

To do so, we will almost certainly need to finish above Harnham or Tidworth.

We have already lost to Tidworth once, 6-2 away on the opening day of the season.

If we lose twice to Harnham, our promotion dreams could be over. And they could be over three days before Christmas.

That would leave a large chunk of the season left with only pride to play for.

We could also be out of the League Cup too.

Still, those are glass half-empty thoughts rather than glass half-full ones.

Let us be optimistic.

After all, if Saints can keep a clean sheet in the Premier League, anything can happen!

Harnham this weekend offers an intriguing contest.

They have only conceded two goals all season, in five league games, and inflicted the only league defeat Tidworth have suffered – 2-0 away, on the same ground we lost 6-2.

We also played Harnham pre season and lost 6-3, but there were mitigating circumstances.

One, we only had the bare nine players with no subs, and it was a fairly hot morning.

Two, we were going down the slope in the first half.

And it is some slope. Chris Bonnington would struggle to climb up it.

I have seen some slopes in my time – at Yeovil’s old Huish home and Barnet’s Underhill ground – but Harnham’s is worse.

We were 4-0 down at half-time and, going down the slope ourselves in the second period, ‘won’ the half 3-2.

Harnham’s league record is obviously impressive and two goals conceded tells a pretty good story.

So, knowing that six points against them in three weeks would be a fantastic achievement, how do we go about getting them?

It’s not only professional football that gets us talking tactics.

Youth football is just the same, only on a smaller scale.

With eight outfield players, how do you line them up?

We’ve generally had three at the back, four across the middle, and one up front – with the two wingers asked to bomb forward when we’re attacking.

As this is kids football, the two central midfielders are always keen to get forward too – making a 3-0-5 formation when bearing down on the opponents goal!

This can cause problems if the other team get the ball and quickly boot it forward.

I’m not the manager, so tactics and formations for West Harnham at home won’t keep me awake at night.

But it is an intriguing one.

Knowing they’re a better team than most of the sides we’ve played, do we aim to keep it tighter? Perhaps 4-3-1, with just one winger? And tell the defence to really concentrate on defending?

Or, knowing it’s a game we could really do with winning, do we adopt a more attacking formation? Even more attacking than 3-0-5?

But being too gung ho could leave gaps in midfield and in defence, and a point would be better than none.

Questions, questions. Dilemmas, dilemmas.

And Rafa Benitez thinks he has got problems because some Chelsea fans booed him!

What would Rafa make of trying to do the double over West Harnham, who have only conceded two goals all season and who put six past us in pre season?

Hopefully, after writing all this, there will be some football this weekend.

There wasn’t last week due to the rain condemning our scheduled trip to Braishfield to a watery grave.

Health and safety, I guess.

Can’t have our little darlings playing in the rain now, we can?

Of course, I know the grounds were sodden, I’m only jesting.

But you never know with healthy and safety, do you?

I still can’t believe my daughter going on a school trip to the beach last year and being told if she wanted to fill up a bucket of water from the sea, she had to get a teacher to do it.

Health and safety, eh?

We never had such rules at school, did we?

Where was the health and safety at Heles School in Exeter when the teachers made us do cross country runs in the depths of winter up one of the biggest hills in the city?

Where was the health and safety when we played hockey – at an all boys school! My legs still bear the scars.

The teachers told us it was character building.

‘My character doesn’t need building,’ we would chortle back.

To no avail.

We don’t want more rain, we just want to get stuck into these big games.

Myself and other parents know how big these forthcoming matches are.

The challenge is letting the kids know, without putting the fear of God into them.

It is West Harnham and Tidworth we are playing, not Barcelona.

I am not convinced these teams are way better than Fordingbridge Town are.

One thing is sure, though – I am about to find out.