Season Review Part 1 - SFC First Team
A month by month look back at the season just ended for the first team and also thoughts forward into the next campaign too...
AUGUST and SEPTEMBER (player of the month – STEVE WOOLLEY)
After reaching the play-offs last season hopes were high that new manager Curtis Woodhouse could bring an improved title challenge this time round, following the poor capitulation at Ilkeston to end Mark Shaw's reign in charge, and things looked promising too with an opening day 6-2 hammering of Lincoln United. Several new faces had joined the squad and a few familiar ones had returned too and everything looked positive, even after a home defeat to Loughborough and throwing a two goal lead away to draw at Belper.
Despite exits from the FA Cup, at home to lower league Abbey Hey, and FA Trophy, at Trafford, the league campaign still looked very much on track in September. Charlie Weir & Steve Woolley saw off King's Lynn in a sparkling performance in which Anton Foster shone in the midfield anchor role. Shaq McKenzie completed a fantastic comeback win at Gresley with a fine finish before scoring again in a hammering of Rainworth at the BT Local Stadium. Chris Adam & Steve Woolley scored the goals in a draw against bogey team Carlton but we should have picked up maximum points again and we remained in the mix at the top of the table.
OCTOBER (player of the month – STEVE WOOLLEY)
Warren Burrell was in fine form once more in a great win at Halesowen before a hard earned Senior Cup success at home to Hallam, Shaq McKenzie netting in both games. There were perhaps signs of tough times ahead in a 3-3 draw at home to Hucknall and this was rapidly followed by home losses to Sutton Coldfield and Brigg Town. Another shaky showing did at least bring three points against Northwich, thanks to goals from Powell and Adam, but everyone was hoping for more than four points from a run of four home games and the performances were not looking like those of a promotion chasing side.
NOVEMBER (player of the month – STEVE WOOLLEY)
This was a disastrous month in the league which ended with a play-off place looking unlikely if form didn’t change. Stamford handed us a 4-1 hammering and the performance away to Romulus was far worse than the final 1-2 score suggests. Home draws against Chasetown and Mickleover didn’t do much to lift spirits with neither producing impressive performances. Cup competitions saved the month with Ellis Wall turning in a fine display in a Senior Cup win at Hemsworth, where manager Woodhouse made his first appearance as substitute and being sent off less than 10 minutes later(!), followed by an exciting 5-3 League Cup success at home to Harrogate Railway.
DECEMBER (player of the month – VILL POWELL)
Andy Gascoigne sparked hopes a little with the only goal of the game away to Newcastle Town and Vill Powell came from the bench to score two, and earn the man of the match award, in a mid-month League Cup win at Garforth. In between those games the lack of ideas and confidence in the side was pitilessly exposed by 1-4 defeat at Loughborough. Then, on Boxing Day, local rivals Belper came to the BT Local Stadium and won 5-1 in a display which lacked the fight one would expect of a side managed by a pro-boxer; Woodhouse was to resign the next day, admitting he couldn’t balance his boxing and football commitments.
JANUARY (player of the month – JACK MULDOON)
2013 began with a new temporary management team of Ian Whitehorne and Vill Powell in charge and we travelled to Kidsgrove on New Year’s Day hoping for a change in fortunes. Loan forward Jack Muldoon was in fine form that day, scoring in a stunning 4-1 success as Powell celebrated his new role with two and Ellis Wall rounded it off with a cracker. Powell scored again in a 3-3 draw at Mickleover before Wall and Muldoon, with a hat-trick this time, led a 5-3 win away to Brigg in the League Cup. Suddenly the last few months seemed like a bad dream but Halesowen swept us aside, 3-0, on the 12th and the bad weather put an end to any chance of quickly rebuilding momentum.
FEBRUARY (player of the month – JAMIE HADFIELD)
After a three week break a heavy loss away to Sutton Coldfield, defeat to a Cameron Stuart wonder hat-trick at title chasing Coalville and a limp defeat at home to Leek ended any lingering hopes of a late play-off run. A trip to struggling Hucknall boosted confidence as Steve Woolley netted a hat-trick in a 5-0 win. Premier Division leaders North Ferriby saw off our brave challenge in the League Cup – Jamie Hadfield man of the match in that despite the defence letting in 6! Hadfield finished the month with two more stand-out showings in wins against Market Drayton and Leek, games in which Muldoon netted three more.
MARCH (player of the month – JAMIE HADFIELD)
Muldoon was on the score-sheet in a feisty draw against Coalville and a Senior Cup Quarter Final game at Worsbrough Bridge which went to penalties where Liam Flynn proved to be the hero. A 3-6 defeat away to Market Drayton was followed by another weather enforced break but that result proved to be just a temporary blip; firstly newly returned Joel Purkiss opened the scoring in a 3-0 win at Brigg before Jamie Hadfield scored the winning goal at Rainworth to cap another man of the match showing.
APRIL and MAY (players of the month – JACK MULDOON / ANDY GASCOIGNE / WARREN BURRELL)
After so many games lost to the bad weather April was always going to be a busy month but the results have generally been good as Club push on for a finish in the top half of the table. Strike partners Muldoon & Purkiss got the goals to beat Kidsgrove before a couple of tired performances at home to Lincoln and away to Northwich both ended as 2-2 ties. Woolley, Muldoon, Hadfield & Gascoigne scored in a comfortable Senior Cup win against Staveley and the latter pair scored again in a great win over Stamford. Deadly duo Muldoon & Purkiss scored the goals again in a comfortable win over Carlton, play-off chasing Chasetown stuffed us at their place and Muldoon netted the goal of the season with the only goal of the game at home to Newcastle. Despite a loss at home to Gresley other results meant we secured a top half finish from a season in which that target seemed unlikely during our free-fall before the turn of the year. A brave second half performance almost spoiled King’s Lynn’s championship party in front of nearly 2,000 fans and we rounded off the league campaign with a comfortable 2-0 win over Romulus to seal 9th place in the table. The Senior Cup Final saw us take an early lead before a tired performance for around an hour saw us 1-3 down with before a late flurry made it 3-3 and a late scrambled winner for Frickley broke Club hearts.
LOOKING AHEAD (player of the 2012/13 season - JAMIE HADFIELD)
Wit and Vill have clearly turned form around and this has been recognised with them being appointed permanently ahead of next season. In brief summary we saw a thrilling League Cup run, which saw 28 goals in 4 games, another journey to the Senior Cup Final, a total of 48 different players used and a final finish of 9th place. The league campaign saw us fancied challengers, looking nervously behind us and then happily tying up a top half finish ahead of some good sides such as Leek, Gresley and Carlton.
The good news going forwards is that it is for all to see that the new management team have improved morale, performances and results which give much optimism for the upcoming season. From mid-February, over our last 18 games, we displayed play-off form – and this from a side with seemingly nothing to play for and which had to contend with games every 2, 3 or 4 days throughout the period (apart from a weather enforced 17 day break!). Our 6 seasons so far in the NPL have seen us in the play-offs, 11th, play-offs, 11th, play-offs and now 9th so we’re due another crack at the promotion challenge this time!
Looking at the squad that finished the season and hopefully a few familiar faces available to come back into the reckoning too it doesn’t feel far off a team which can come back fresh and challenge next time out. I guess we find ourselves going into 2013/14 just where we came into this one then – with hopes high for a real challenge.
UP THE CLUB!