O’Neil dedicates Alfreton’s National League North status to the loyal fans

Alfreton Town manager Russ O'Neil
Alfreton Town manager Russ O'Neil

Russ O’Neil has dedicated Alfreton Town’s escape from relegation to the club’s loyal supporters.

The Reds drew 1-1 at already-relegated Altrincham on Saturday to secure National League North safety.

O’Neil admits it hasn’t been easy for the fanbase of late.

“It’s not in the way that we wanted, especially over the last few weeks, but our job was to get secure and get safe and we’ve done that,” he said.

“In all honesty, you look round the old place and we’ve filled two bus fulls of supporters.

“We’ve gone six without a win and they still keep coming in numbers.

“It’s about the supporters, it’s about everyone involved with the club, everyone has stuck together and I’m pleased for everyone.”

Alfreton now have the luxury of going into the final game, at home to Harrogate, free of peril.

This week is a chance to relax before the work starts again.

O’Neil said: “Regroup again, let everything settle.

“This week is the end of my 10th season and I’m really proud to do that, but it’s job done.

“You ask me how I feel about staying up and the first thing I’ve mentioned is the supporters and the whole depth of the club, from the chairman all the way down, everyone is so supportive and sticks together and that’s why it’s such a great club.

“We’ve lost six on the bounce, we’ve been picking everybody up, we’ve had circumstances with players dropping left, right and centre, any team that loses three centre-halves is going to struggle with results but they keep coming.

“We’ve got ourselves safe, I think everyone can take a deep breath, take a sigh and go into Saturday and enjoy the game.

“We’ve done our job.”

It hasn’t been the most straight forward of campaigns for Alfreton, who lost long-serving manager Nicky Law to a job at Premier League Burnley.

O’Neil, whose presence meant a measure of stability and continuity, has been able to guide them to 41 points and safety.

“When Nicky left we were a point above and we were struggling and you think we’ve got that win, we’ve got that win, we picked a couple of draws up against play-off teams,” he said.

“We’ve had six games, four against the top eight and we’re a depleted squad, we’ve struggled but we’ve managed to get over the line.

“We’ve got to 41 points by earning results and other clubs haven’t earned 41 points.”

And they’ve had to do so in an extremely competitive league, with a number of big spenders.

“We knew before we kicked a ball it was going to be the most difficult Conference North division probably ever, every manager was saying the same.

“Altrincham were expected to be a play-off team and they’ve been relegated three or four weeks.

“It shows the strength of the league,” he added.