Hi Jamie – so how would you summarise your season so far?
A massive rollercoaster! The start to the season was horrible – we had a poor manager who didn’t know how to motivate his players or use a system that created positive, attacking football. The club saw sense and brought in Dave Challinor, who has been a revelation. Up until a few weeks ago, the results have been outstanding, the players seem be really enjoying themselves and you get the sense they can go on to much better things. We went from dead and buried – and possibly even looking at a relegation battle – to top of the league and flying. We’ve wobbled in recent weeks with a few poor results, which means we’ve left ourselves with work to do. It’s the County way, to do things the hard way, so I just hope our players can find some energy from somewhere and drag themselves over the line. If they’re the ones to get us back into the Football League after 11 years away, they’ll be absolute heroes.
What’s the reasons for County’s recent wobble in form?
It’s difficult to say, but a lot of things have gone wrong at once. We were on such an amazing run of form that it was always going to come to an end. We managed to go half a season without losing a football match, which is remarkable when you consider how poorly we started the season. The thing that is annoying is that it all feels self-inflicted. We had two very costly red cards in successive games which neutralised our midfield for three games apiece – no argument with them, they were silly rash challenges that really cost us. Add on top of that a combination of long-term and persistent injuries, and we’ve found ourselves stretched. It’s not an excuse because every team has injuries in a season – you just have to get on with it and not feel sorry for yourselves. I think everyone just came at once and the players are tired and struggling for a bit of momentum. We’re so close to our target, it hurts.
What’s been the highlights of your season?
The middle two-thirds of the league campaign have been a delight and it’s been so nice to see County players enjoying their football again, and the belief among our fanbase grow that something special is happening.
Absolutely the highlight though has to be the two FA Cup games against Bolton Wanderers – 2-2 at their place and 5-3 at Edgeley Park in front of the cameras. They’ll live very long in the memory.
Who are your key players and why?
It’s such a difficult question! Ben Hinchliffe has been our rock in goal for six years now. Macauley Southam-Hales is lighting quick on the wing and we’re really missing him through injury. Paddy Madden captures the headlines as the big-money signing who bags all the goats, but I have to say the best player for me is Ryan Croasdale. He’s an absolute workhorse in the middle of the pitch, keeps us ticking over and is such a gifted footballer.
Are you confident of winning the next two games?
No! The last five or six games have rattled me a lot. It feels like the title is slipping away from us now. I just hope we can rediscover a bit of form and some motivation from somewhere to get ourselves over the line. It’d be such a shame to miss out now.
What’s the main strengths of the team?
When we’re on our game, we press relentlessly, high up the pitch and force our opponents into mistakes. We need to get back to that.
What tactics does the manager like to use and what’s your likely line-up?
Challinor is an attacking coach and likes to play out using good football. If we’re fully fit then we tend to use pace on the wings well, have three technically gifted terriers in the middle and play a big-man-little-man duo up top. But I honestly can’t tell you how we’ll line up – we’re having a nightmare with injuries and I think he’ll want to make changes after we capitulated at the weekend. I expect a reaction though!
Would you fancy your chances in League 2 if you do go up?
Yeah. With a handful of additions, I really think we’d give League Two a good go next season. You only have to look at how well Sutton have done, but I’m very conscious we have to get there first!
Which opposition teams and players have impressed you most?
Wrexham are the only side who I think have properly done a job on us this season – we’ve had other defeats but they’ve tended to be close games or us having a real off day.
The team that has impressed me most, not necessarily in style but for how consistent they’ve been, is Halifax. They’ve had a remarkable season.
And finally, what’s your prediction for Wednesday’s game?
Heart or head?! I’m feeling quite deflated and disillusioned at the moment. I’m going to stick my head above the parapet and say we’ll get the job done though. 3-1 County.