Despite his side’s healthy lead at the top of the Hallmark Security League First Division table, Silsden AFC manager Danny Forrest insists there is no complacency in the camp.
A twelve-point gap between the table-topping Cobbydalers and nearest challengers Litherland REMYCA is a more than decent lead in mid-January, but Forrest says that he is focused on ensuring that his side don’t lose any momentum.
“I’ve said to the lads we’ve just got to keep churning the results out, keep ticking them off”, Forest told the league`s Ian Templeman. “I can’t ask any more of the group we have put together and the way they are buying in and embracing what we are doing. I am quite intense, I put everything I have got into it, and I demand the same from them, and I’m really proud that they have all followed.”
The last few months have seen a significant change of fortunes on the field for the club, after suffering relegation in 2015/16.
Danny took over as manager in November 2016, and he says that from that point on, he began planning for this season.
“The squad wasn’t where I would have liked it, but it wasn’t until the end of January that I managed to get two or three through the door, people who I could trust.
“I felt we turned the corner in the last three months of last season and we picked up some good points, we had good away wins at Whitchurch and Litherland and it felt like something was starting.
“The league had gone by then, we would have had to have gone on an amazing run to get in the play-offs, so it was just about building and raising standards and making us a more professional outfit from top to bottom.”
That planning and preparation was carried into pre-season, and Forrest believes that foundations for the success so far this season were established then.
“We were organised pretty early in pre-season, a lot of lads committed early on in the summer. So I knew what I was working with, and the lads knew what I expected of them, in terms of commitment, professionalism and the way we were going to go about things.
“I always felt after the pre-season we had – we were well organised, we got everyone fit, they trained properly, and the attendance was great at training and games – I felt like we had a good chance of starting strong, but once we got on a run we just seemed to keep going”.
The squad’s early season form was spectacular, with seventeen straight wins in the league before the run came to an end at Holker Old Boys in November, and looking back over the results Forrest says that his side generally got what they deserved from the games.
“During those seventeen games we won, I think we probably got out of jail a couple of times”, he admitted.
“The fourth game against Alsager was a very even game, it was 1-1 at home and with a couple of minutes left, one of our midfielders Arley Barnes, who doesn’t score many goals, crashed one in the top corner from 30 yards.
“Then a few weeks later, in the twelfth game against Carlisle City, we were 2-1 down with 10 minutes left, and then Joe Gaughan popped up with the winner in the 90th minute.
“So, we pushed our luck a couple of times in the early games, but in a lot of them, three quarters or more, I think we fully deserved our results. There was so much belief in the team, the momentum was unbelievable.
“But we went to Holker in the eighteenth game and got beaten 1-0, and I have to give all the credit to them and their manager for the way they set up.
“They had a game plan and executed it brilliantly, and I can stomach that, we went there and had a go, but I have no complaints about that result.
“Then we struggled a little bit, I don’t know if it was complacency or not, but a dip in form was always going to come.
“But it feels like the monkey is off our back now after that little run we had in December. We are in good goalscoring form, and have kept a few clean sheets as well, it’s three out of four now (after the Daisy Hill game on Saturday).”
Mention of goals leads inevitably to a question about the form of Joe Gaughan, whose 28 goals so far this season sees him topping the league’s goalscoring table, and Forrest is quick to pay tribute to his striker’s contribution to the cause.
“It does help having a goalscorer when games are tight, and you need someone to come up with something, and Joe Gaughan’s record is unbelievable this year. You have always got a chance when you have him in the side.
“He was a key signing for us. Last season we were scoring ones and twos, maybe a three, but this season we’ve had the feeling sometimes that when we get two or three we will go on and get more.
“I think he needed to find a home, and I think he has found that with us. He is a local lad, he has been at the club before and knows all about us, so it’s a perfect fit and he is showing that.
“I’m just really happy to see the way he is enjoying his football and what he brings to the whole group and the club is just phenomenal, it’s not just his goals.
“His enthusiasm during the week in training is fantastic. These goals aren’t a fluke for me, he works very hard at his game, and his training and application is tremendous.
“Of course, he has had great support from his team-mates too, and Niall Sultan, Kyle Hancock and Chris Wademan have all been in good attacking form in the shape of goals and assists.”
As far as the rest of the season is concerned, Forrest is concentrating his efforts on making sure his side maintains the standard they have set so far.
“I do demand a lot from players at this level. It’s not like they are getting big rewards financially, so I need players with a hunger to do well, and passion and heart.
“They are a young squad, some of them have got points to prove, and I just want them to be enjoying their football in a professional environment where I know they can thrive.
“As long the lads apply themselves properly – which we probably didn’t do for a couple of those defeats – if we get beaten it will not be a through a lack of application, it will be because the other team had a game plan or were just better than us, and if that is the case I can accept that.
“We lost a couple of games in December and the gap got a bit tighter, and we have played a couple more games than others.
“But I am just focussed on seeing it through now, to keep churning the results out and making sure we don’t get complacent”.