“Either way it’s been entertaining and eventful to say the least.”
John Haseldin - Manager
The end of another season and it’s a good time to look back, reflect on achievements, and to look forward, to see where we need to improve.
The aims were to try and better last season’s fantastic 5th place finish but we knew this would not be easy , Every team had high ambitions and strengthening their squads it was all set up for another exciting and un predictable Cymru Alliance season.
We had a strong Preseason winning 7/8 friendly games, recruitment had been good.
We added Gareth Sudlow, Jon Rushton, Sam Jones , Luke Wandless, Mark Bridge and James Graham as well we welcomed back Matty Harvey plus retaining almost everyone from previous season, we felt we had a stronger squad than previously.
We had finished poorly towards the back end of the season but I felt the mood had been lifted and confidence was again high and everyone was looking forward to the new season.
We took our good form into August and finished the month unbeaten with creditable wins against Gresford and away at Flint. We tasted our first defeat in October against Prestatyn and it was a story of 2 penalties. In a evenly contested game, we missed a penalty just before HT and they converted theirs early into the second half to record a 1-0 win. At the time I thought that maybe that is the little bit of luck champions need in games early in a season but little did I know missed opportunities from 12 yards would come back and haunt us again during the course of the season?
We were looking solid at the back and playing some good football but we weren't scoring enough. I felt we were a goalscorer short from being are really strong side , I'd tried to sign Lee Healey in the summer but couldn't agree terms he was still without a club and after speaking to him again he decided to give things a go. He had a immediate impact on the team scoring goals and the wins were coming convincingly.
2 further signings were added in October Shaun Tuck and Matty Hurdman.
Hurdman had played well against us for Druids the year before and Tuck I'd heard about so went to watch him play Sunday league in Liverpool , soon as I seen him that morning I knew he was a goalscorer and wanted him in with us we had a chat after and he signed straight away to my delight. They both mad debuts in a Flintshire derby away at Buckley. Both were excellent on the day but Tuck stole the show with a hat trick in a 5-1 win to the Delight to myself and the traveling support.
8 goals in his first 4 games for Tuck and defence still looking strong I felt if we could get results from next 2 league games Caernarfon and Llanfair at home I felt with the form and squad we now had we could put a serious challenge together. However despite an excellent first half against the Cofi’s things fell apart second half and found ourselves 2-1 down with 10 to go , we won a penalty unfortunately again the resulting spot kick was saved they broke and scored , we pulled one back but then Tuck received a second yellow and things went from bad to worse.
The following week we looked to bounce back at home to Llanfair but the game was cancelled due to frost stand side, we were the only game off that day and again lost more ground on the teams at the top. This was the start of a mixture of bad luck and bad performances which resulted in the worst run of results I had ever experienced as a manager.
Tony Roebuck and Ryan Davidson both left the club to go traveling and on loan Jon Rushton who was having a brilliant season was recalled to his parent club.
We crashed out of the Welsh Cup away at Aberystwyth then a poor display against Ruthin but picked up a point away at Penrhyncoch going into the Xmas derby game against Flint we weren't in the best form and confidence not fully recovered we were under par at best on a heavy pitch we didn’t cope with Flint physically on a heavy pitch , at 2-1 down we yet again paid the penalty for missing from 12 yards to draw Level , Sudlow received his marching orders with 10 to go former player Tyson rapped the game up in injury time.
At that point I thought things couldn't get any worse ..........I was wrong!
Prestatyn away was next, they had pulled well clear at the top of the league and were going through every team with ease. We started well, first half we were the better team unless you were there on the day knowing the result in the end it is unlikely to believe how well we actually played for the best part of a hour.
Tuck was brought down by their goalkeeper in a 1 on 1 situation but the referee only booked him and as was our luck he saved the pen and Tuck unbelievably became the 3rd player to miss our 4th penalty of the season all against the top 3 teams at the time!
We then missed 2 further chances to take the lead only to go behind from a header from a corner on the stroke of Half Time.
It was a difficult team talk, the lads had put everything into the first 45 minutes and still came in a goal down. 2nd Half the game turned on its head, Tuck was controversially sent off. Prestatyn then smelt blood and upped their game from then on things were hard to watch as we collapsed in uncharacteristically fashion.
We were wounded and confidence was at rock bottom.
I've got to say the support from the fans and committee was outstanding at this point never turned on myself or the lads if anything our next game at home to Holyhead I remember they were out in force this was as much a new experience for them as it was for us.
We had lost Tuck for 4 games but Sudlow was back from suspension, Rushton returned on loan and we had also managed to secure the signings of strikers Mark Winslade from Cefn Druids and a familiar face in Wayne Edwards from Greenfield.
Our bad luck didn’t show any signs of lifting as Matty Harvey's spectacular OG from 25 yards flew into the net and new signing Winslade having to leave the field early after receiving a heavy blow to his foot. Rooney stepped off the bench to convert a late penalty at last to rescue us a point when really 3 was deserved.
Another new face arrived at a crucial time for us, Jamie McDaid from Porthmadog. A player I have always rated highly who was a real hunger to score goals.
Gresford away was next and a first half which will stay with me for a long time , 3-0 down at half time and what felt was a real backwards step although we had a go second half the damage was done and the knives were out I think a lot of people away from the club had opinions and we had to take the criticism some deserved some not but when all you have had is success for a long period then people like to see a team fail but this seemed to be a turning point of our season.
After a few home truths the team pulled together the lads were training harder than ever and were determined to get back on track! I felt the squad was again strong with players returning from suspension and injury. We went on to lose just 1 out of the last 11 league games with some outstanding performances and results which was an exceptional effort for everyone involved.
Although finishing above Flint isn't our main aim at the start of the season to finish 5th and above our local rivals for a second successive season was very satisfying.
Another season over and one to look back on with pride in the end but also one maybe of what could have been and missed opportunities?
Either way it’s been entertaining and eventful to say the least.
On a personal note I'd like to thank everyone at the club for their support for myself and family during an extremely tough time with the loss of my Father in March. Andy, Chris, Ray, PT and the lads especially.
Enjoy the few weeks break either side of our presentation night and with the new stand coming in, hopefully we can continue to take the club forward together.
Updated 14:06 - 2 May 2017 by Steve Roberts