As we approach Christmas I asked Mark to look back at the season so far. It has been a very frustrating season as the team that Mark originally envisaged representing us never really happened because of injuries. He had settled on Harry Draper and Jay Bird as his strike partnership and was excited by the prospect. Unfortunately Jay was injured at Needham Market in the second game of the season and had to have an operation while Harry managed just five appearances before sustaining a season finishing injury.
To add to the striking problems first choice goalkeeper missed the first four games and first choice right back Jack Green missed the first seven games. Jay Dowie also missed the first four games through injury and later had to concentrate on his new business. Other injuries were suffered by Alex Anderson, Dan Webb, James Verney, Josh Bickerstaff and Brett Donnelly. We seemed to be cursed and this was emphasised when after signing Layne Eadie he made three promising appearances before suffering a mystery illness that has kept him out since.
Mark did not want to use this injury misfortune as an excuse but it meant he was unable to play the team he wanted to and was forced to play more young players than was ideal. Jordan Noville-Williams had impressed at left back but he was recalled from his loan spell by Cambridge United.
Mark thought we played well against pre-season favourites Stourbridge and Needham Market despite only picking up one point before a poor performance at Alvechurch. The defeats at home to Rushall and Tamworth were perhaps a shade unlucky while two missed penalties at Banbury cost us a well deserved win. Indeed the curse of missed penalties has been a real blot on the season and has cost us dearly in league and cup games.
We have also been somewhat unlucky in the timing of some of our games when our opponents have been in particularly good form. Our opening fixtures saw us play a succession of teams in the upper reaches of the table but Mark readily admits that our form was not good enough in the opening period of the season..
The FA Cup presented welcome relief from the league struggles and wins at Wisbech and Barton saw us face a daunting trip to Maidstone. We played really well and were desperately unlucky to lose with another missed penalty adding salt to the wounds.
The League Cup defeat at Welwyn was a desperately poor show and led to a number of new signings being made and this led to an upturn in fortunes. Despite bad setbacks at Kings Langley and Leiston there were good wins over Stratford, Coalville, St Ives, Redditch and Barwell and good draws with Royston and Nuneaton. This meant we pulled away from the relegation zone and it was very disappointing that the two most recent games have seen defeats against Lowestoft and Hednesford. We need to return to winning ways and Mark is convinced the squad is now much stronger than earlier in the season. He also says that there is a very good team spirit which is always needed for a team to progress.
Mark was honest enough to admit that during the poor start to the season some of the senior players lost both their confidence and form. The new signings certainly lifted their spirits and if we can avoid the injury problems that have plagued the season so far improvement in results should continue.
BY ROY IZZARD