After finishing last season on the high of the league cup final, the close season has seen some changes to the playing staff. Obviously losing four important players to Blyth was a blow for the club. It was also a fantastic opportunity for those players to test themselves at a higher level, and a reward for the performances they had put in at Benfield.
Several of last season’s squad have trained together over the break, to keep up fitness levels, and probably because they miss each other and the team spirit.
Pre season started well and saw the introduction of Derek Forrest as coach and Lee Fairley to work on the physical aspect of training.
Both of these people have been a huge benefit to myself and the players alike. The friendly games we have played in have seen some very good performances. It has also been interesting to see how the new players have fitted in so easily and quickly with the players that were already here. Looking forward, I think it is really important to organise these games as early as possible, so that we get the right games for the players, in terms of having a bigger test with each game.
It is also a hectic period as several players and staff have been away on family holidays, or have had work commitments, which meant that not everyone was always available, or got what they needed in terms of training or games. But this is the same for all teams at this level of football.
As the season started we were really looking to get off to a good start. Going away to Whitley Bay in the first game was a tough start, and coming back from a goal behind shows great character and determination. The game against Consett was disappointing from a result point of view, but also in our energy levels. Being so early in the season it is sometimes hard to find that tempo straight away, and constantly.
Knaresborough was a chance to test ourselves against a team from another league in the FA Cup. The support that we took with us was great and gave the lads a real boost, with their encouragement and cheering every time we took a shot or made a challenge. This is something that can really help, especially when playing away from home. So thank you to those supporters and we hope to see you do this again throughout the season.
The conditions and pitch really suited the way we were hoping to play, added to this, our attitude to work and press the ball, our quality in possession and being clinical in front of goal, made it a great day out all round and a great bus back with a few beers.
That was the start of a great week and onto West Auckland. We started the game well again and full of confidence, but not arrogance. West are a top side who will be at the right end of the league this season, so to get three points there was a huge result for us. The game was fast paced and had a bit of everything in it; goals, challenges, good play etc.
Onto our third away game of the week at Penrith. Again this is another side that teams will come unstuck against, with their never say die attitude to pressure the ball and their goal threats in and around the box. This was another great three points and added another goal scorer to our list. Not our best passing performance to date, but one which showed real character and desire when defending in and around our box.
With three victories back to back we are hoping to continue this run with our coming games. But there is never an easy game in the Northern League and any complacency will be severely punished by any opponent we play. We also have another round of the FA Cup to look forward to with Workington. This will be a huge test for us as they are another very strong side from the league above, but one we look forward to.
Thank you to all the players for their attitude, effort and quality so far. Thank you also to every fan that has turned up this season and for the support you have given the team.
It is the start of a very long season and will see many twists and turns. Hopefully we can enjoy some of the good times. But one thing is for sure, we will be doing it as a team. That added to all that is going on behind the scenes at the club to keep it moving forward, we are in a positive place.
Lastly both the coaching and playing staff would like to wish our chairman Jimmy Rowe a speedy recovery, and hope to see him back at the ground very soon.