.....Premier Division promotion chase, Barnoldswick Town joint-manager Ben Hall is happy with the way the season has gone so far for his side.
The team’s consistent performances are all the more impressive given that they have had a tough time with injuries and player availability, which as Hall explained, is still causing them a problem nearly halfway through the season.
“I sound like a broken record complaining about it, but it’s been horrendous”, said Ben. “Spencer Jordan who scored twenty-three goals for us last season hasn’t kicked a ball this season, neither has Rob Smith who scored nineteen goals.
“Shaun Clough, who I think pound for pound is the best left back in the division hasn’t played for us this year, and is out for the season. Aaron Hollindrake has been out, Mark Threlfall has been out for several weeks, Neil Chapman as well.
"It’s been endless, we've just had one problem after another and it has meant that this season we have really had to dig deep in games where we have had a weakened side out, and had to get points in those games.
“We’ve had to play a lot of regular players out of position. For example Liam Blades, who is our normal right back, has been playing left back because we’ve been moving a centre half to right back to cover all positions.
“We drew at home to Stone and it was the worst point for all the injuries, I think we had something like thirteen players unavailable that day, it was horrendous. We also lost away at Ashton Athletic around that time when we were struggling for numbers.
“We have also had to sign Paul Fildes from Colne and Danny Boyle from Nelson to boost the numbers and they have done really well for us, they’ve come in and settled superbly, but I’m hoping now we are getting people back we can kick on.
“We have to look at the situation as being positive, to have only lost three out of eighteen league matches is a phenomenal achievement, with the problems we have had.”
As well as maintaining their place in the promotion chase, Barlick have also made good progress in the FA Vase, reaching the Third Round for the first time.
“The Vase is a great competition and we want to do well in it”, said Hall. “We have a fantastic spirit here at Barlick, and for the Chairman and committee it’s very important for the prize money that is on offer.
“We want to do as well as we can in the competition, there are sixty-four teams left and we are one of them. We’ve made history by getting this far and we told the players that after our win against Armthorpe Welfare in the last round.
“Even in that game, we had selection problems to overcome. We lost our regular goalkeeper the day before the game, Billy Carrington, Paul Fildes and Danny Boyle were ineligible, Neil Chapman was only fit enough to be a sub, and on top of that we have the long term lay-offs, so we had seven or eight players who would be considered first team players missing.
“On the Saturday of the Vase game against Armthorpe Welfare, the reserves played a Craven Cup tie up at Rolls Royce in Barnoldswick. We arranged that game as a 1.30 kick-off so that a couple of the reserve team lads could come down and take their place on the bench for the Vase game afterwards. So that gives you an idea of how short we were for the game.”
Nonetheless, despite the availability problems, Hall still believes that they have enough strength in depth to make an impact this season.
“I feel we are about nine points down on where we should be. We had one or two poor results when we were struggling for numbers, but the positive thing is I don’t think we’ve reached our peak yet, without wanting to sound arrogant.
“We’ll get Spencer Jordan back at Christmas, and once we get him and the likes of Rob Smith back, I really think we can be a force in this league. We are in reach of everyone else around the top of the league, although I think to team to watch will probably be Bootle, if they carry on doing what they are doing they will win it.
“But I am happy with the way things are going. We are playing well and in good form, you only need to look at the game against Armthorpe Welfare. Going forward we are a dream to watch at times, and we are averaging over two goals a game in the league, which is good going considering the problems we’ve had.”