Worksop Town raced out of the blocks during their 4-1 home win against Athersley Rec at Sandy Lane – with 362 die-hard fans watching on.
Craig Mitchell (1 minute) and Steven McDonell (3 minutes) opened the scoring for the Tigers. On 11 minutes, Kyle Jordan expertly slotted home a penalty before Matthew Sykes added a fourth just before the break.
Athersley rallied after the break but got nothing more than a consolation nine minutes into the second half, when Kieran Scargill netted.
Tigers boss Craig Denton was pleased, especially in their first half display, “You come in at half time and try and get the lads’ feet grounded on the floor and backed up, making sure our mentality’s right, which we did.
“Athersley came out in the second half and threw everything at us, to be honest. The old cliché in throwing the kitchen sink and everything else with it! We found that a bit difficult to be over that ten minutes, which is testament to Athersley Rec because I think they might have got a bit of a rocket at half time. They’ve come out and they wanted to try to put it right. We certainly didn’t kick on from our first half display.
“I thought we were excellent. We were relentless and we kicked off the second half from the back again. Delighted, to be honest. We don’t like conceding so we were disappointed in conceding in the second half but we had several other chances where we thought the game should have finished 5 or 6-1. Their ‘keeper made one or two good saves but I’m just pleased with our lads creating so many chances. A manager starts to worry when his team doesn’t create chances so I’m pleased with that.”
Eleven minutes in, 3-0 up. We all thought it was going to be a cricket score in the end!
“I’ve mentioned that in my interview after the game. We just have to be a little bit mindful of thinking that Worksop Town are now going to start putting eight, nine and ten past people. That’s obviously disrespectful to our opposition. I have to remind people around me that we have to keep our feet on the ground and we have to show respect to our opposition. Don’t just expect that we can roll teams over.
“People expect with the opposition down to ten men but, to be honest, I thought that made them stronger. They were a lot more resilient and stronger in terms of both defending and going forward. It did us no favours at all that the opposition were reduced to ten men. It should have and we should have capitalised on that. Athersley Rec put us on the back foot and that’s testament to them and their management team so credit where credit’s due.”
You’ve got a very busy February coming up with seven games; six of those are in the League. If you put in a very good run, you’ll be up there as title contenders.
“We’ve always wanted to be in and around there. I keep banging on about it and really early on at the start of the season I talked about performances. I think if we continue to put those performances in and continue to put points on the board, we’re going to be in and around it. I think the lads have stuck to the script. We’ve changed personnel in and around during the season but there haven’t been many comings and goings in terms of player recruitment. I’ve added one or two and one or two have moved on but the whole group have continuously worked really hard and stuck by the script.
“I think everybody – including myself, the players and the club – are reaping the rewards because we’re right up there. In recent seasons at Worksop they’ve found that, coming towards the end of the season, they’ve not had anything to play for. We’ve got something to play for. We’re right up there and I think that’s great for a non-league club because I know, at this level, some clubs cut budgets, only one gets promoted and you see your attendances slipping away.
“We’ve maintained our credibility and league position, which has helped the football club in terms of attendances.”
You’ve got 28 registered players, which is probably the lowest in the league. Is that testament to your players that you’ve got a core group willing to fight for you?
“Yes, I think that’s testament to myself, to the management team and to the players. I made it really clear in pre-season that I did not want a revolving door of comings and goings. Don’t get me wrong: if I had to do it, I would have certainly done it. I’d certainly not be shy in terms of making wholesale changes if players weren’t doing their job but they have been so I’ve stuck by my word and so have the players, which is great. If players come available, they’ve got to be exceptionally good. They’ve got to have lots of quality if I’m going to bring them in to Worksop Town.
“The lads have been class and I think it’s what the Chairman and the football club want; they want a solid group. I’ve based that on teams such as Penistone, who are a perfect example of that. They’ve stuck by the same players throughout the last couple of seasons and I think that’s the way to go.
“We’ve tried doing that so yes, I’m delighted, to be honest!”