O'Neill takes the positives from Alfreton's campaign
The vast majority of Alfreton Town supporters will feel enthused that there is plenty to build on for the 2016/17 season after seeing their side finish tenth in the Vanarama National League North.
It was always going to be a difficult season with Reds manager Nicky Law having to totally rebuild his squad last summer following a first relegation since the 1998/98 season, particularly with the majority of his signings being under the age of 24.
But assistant manager Russ O’Neill feels there have been plenty of positives from the season.
“It has been a positive season. Having started with a blank canvas, going with youth rather than experienced players,” he said.
“As it has gone on we have got stronger and stronger and the players have adapted to what we are doing. I think the key to it is trying to keep as much of the group together as possible but that will obviously come down to finances.
“We have gone a long way to getting the mindset together and can’t wait to get them back in for training at the start of July.
“We have not made the top six due to the youthfulness and anxiety which has cost us some crucial points over the past few months.
“But, with the clean sheet against Belper and another one at North Ferriby, then we get the goal and win shows we are heading in the right direction. I think that if we can keep it all together we can have a good season and I really think we will be in a very positive position for next season.”
A poor start to the 2015/16 season which saw no wins in the first six games, and a subsequent return of only four points from a ten-game spell in the league later in mid-season, was still well overshadowed by a run of just three defeats in the last 24 games since December 19.
The run culminated in the club’s first silverware since the Conference North title-winning season back in 2010/11 as the Reds brought home the Derbyshire Senior Cup for the first time in 13 seasons as they saw off Belper Town 4-3 in a penalty shoot-out after a goalless draw in the final at Ilkeston FC’s New Manor Ground last Tuesday.
The run also included the fantastic record of being unbeaten on the road in 13 games in all competitions and Law’s side have impressively not lost on their travels since December 5. That nine of the 24 games finished as draws probably explains why the Reds ended up no higher than tenth position in the table.
However, there were mitigating factors which affected the final points total with suspensions and injuries in particular throwing the side off course at crucial times during the season, particularly the loss of hugely impressive 19-year-old Brad McGowan in central defence.
But there is a feeling throughout the club that there is a sound platform on which to build with the nucleus of a very good squad being in place already, with some of the players having attracted plenty of interest from Football League scouts throughout the last campaign.