On Saturday, the Bootiful Game heads to the G and R Construction Stadium to take in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League Division One Play-Off Final between last season’s NCEL Premier League Champions, Pontefract Collieries, and Brighouse Town. Although the clubs finished second and third respectively in their regular seasons, due to the Points Per Game comparator, only Colls are guaranteed promotion with a win. That’s not to say that Brighouse will travel to Beechnut Lane to make up the numbers; they are determined to win the Final to bring a fitting conclusion to a fine season, writes Colin Muncie.
Ahead of the game, TBG Editor Craig Kendall caught up with Brighouse Joint Assistant Manager Leon Wainman (pictured above with former Parkgate Manager Billy Fox) and in an interview expertly transcribed by our own Ellie Dalglish, picked up the background to Saturday’s clash and how Leon assesses his side’s season as a whole.
Leon, Brighouse Town finished third in the table and beat Sheffield FC the other evening. You play Pontefract on Saturday but if you win the Play-Off Final you won’t be promoted as it stands. How are you planning to approach the game?
We’re going to approach the game as we would every game. It’s not three points any more: it’s just getting the win. It’s a knockout competition and we just need to win the game so that’s what we’ll be going out for. From the other night the lads were very upbeat and they’ve all got the task of trying to win that game. Pontefract are the only team this season I think we’ve not beaten so it would be nice if we could beat them. We’ll be going into the game as underdogs, I would imagine, but we’re in there to win it.
Brighouse have had a fantastic season after having finished seventeenth last term. It’s a huge improvement for you on the pitch. Off the pitch you’ve increased your attendances too. It’s a positive outlook, even if you don’t clinch promotion.
Definitely, I think, from when we took over two years ago. We had about three players left from the Manager before so we pulled together players from the network of players that we knew and people local in the area from other teams and managed to get a team that we thought was good enough.
We did struggle in the League up until the last eight or nine games, when we went on an unbeaten run. So, from being in a relegation battle, we ended up pulling ourselves up the League into seventeenth, which in itself was an achievement.
I think all along we knew we did have the capabilities but they were a bit naïve in defensive situations back then. We got a couple of players in who solidified us and from then we just kicked on into this season. We kept a core of players that we wanted from last season and we’ve added to that this season. We’ve added a bit more quality, but we already had a core of quality there to start with.
You’ve played Pontefract twice this season. What did you make of them and what do you expect of them on Saturday?
They’re a very good side and the reason they finished second is because they’ve been consistent all season. They’re tough to play against. They’re very good at home but obviously effective away. They have beaten us twice this season but we need to turn that around because we feel we are capable of beating them. That’s our sole aim this time around.
Your form in the past six or so games has been quite decent. There are only four other sides who have actually been better than Brighouse in the run in. You must be full of confidence, albeit a unique situation you find yourselves in.
We’re confident because the players we’ve got have been good for us all season. Just after Christmas we probably had a lull but that’s when we had a few complications with getting injuries.
We can’t complain about that because every team has a similar situation where they have injuries and what not, so you’ve just got to try and press forward with it. We have got some depth in the squad so for some injuries we do have replacements for most positions.
We’ve got a good squad of players: 1 to 18. Then we’ve a youth team set-up who, now and again, will get involved if necessary, as well. That’s the development from last season: from having just three players initially we’ve now got a group of players we can trust and we can mix and match. As long as they’ve got the right mentality and they’re eager to do well, we’re having some success with that.
Looking forward to next season, if you don’t go up, I take it you’re all going to stay in your positions and try to win or qualify for the play-offs again? We’ve seen a few Managers leave in the off-season already.
There’s a lot going on, not just on the pitch but off the pitch at Brighouse so there are lots of interesting things in the pipeline. We’ve had full support from the Committee and the Chairman so as far as we’re concerned, we’ll be staying at Brighouse, I would imagine. I can’t see any reason why we wouldn’t be. We’re happy with the group of players we’ve got and we want to continue what we started.
You’ll be happy to know that if you win the Play-Offs next season you’ll go up!
If we weren’t to get promoted this season then that would obviously be the target for next season. I wouldn’t want to think that this was just a fluke season. I want to know what we’re doing is right and consistent so we could be pushing again for play-offs and promotion next year.