In the final entry in this season’s Captain’s Log, Moors skipper Darren Carter signs off with a review of the season in which he reveals the inside story of the ups and downs of the club’s successful attempt to pull off the ‘Great Escape’ and keep its National League status.
I remember the journey back from Maidenhead on Boxing Day, I always take defeats hard and that loss at York Road was our 17th in 26 games. I have never in my career had a run so horrid. The latest loss was the same old story, the odd goal the difference and we were on the wrong end of the result…. again.
Over half the season done and this was where we were. Rock bottom and 12 points adrift. A million miles away it seemed from even a remote light at the end of the tunnel. People had given up on us and you could not blame them. I’m as optimistic as they come but even I had a hard time foreseeing a road back.
Four days later we made the extremely long trip to Barrow, a trip you look for on the fixture list at the very start as its probably the most tedious. We set off ridiculously early and I think we all knew it was make or break day for us. A defeat would put us in a 15 point hole and potentially out of sight. No surprise it was a quiet journey up.
Inevitably in these sorts of games it was tight and only won towards the end of the game. A comeback victory that I think signified a change in momentum and mindset. Instead of a 15 point gap it was all of sudden down to nine. Optimism surfaced for the first time all season.
You could sense the determination in the group to back that up at home on New Year’s Day against Maidenhead and inflict some revenge for the defeat a week earlier. Another come from behind win and all of a sudden, a real injection of belief and confidence.
That four day swing was the turning point for me, we could have so easily gone the other way but we showed great character to finally get our season moving in some upward direction.
From that point on I thought we got stronger and stronger. Knowing the teams above us never really expected us to keep it going. A mini revival I’m sure many thought but surely not sustainable. I would be lying if I didn’t have my own fears, I remember saying to friends and family that we had given ourselves a real chance but because of our poor points return up to the new year, we had absolutely zero room for error.
Tim (Flowers) put it brilliantly to me after we finally secured survival at Tranmere, to go that many weeks playing under the intense pressure of needing results game in, game out really does take its toll but the whole group, players and staff responded magnificently.
The relief was clearly evident on the journey home from Merseyside and the physical, mental and emotional rollercoaster we’d been on had come to a joyous end!
That’s why I don’t think it was much of a surprise we ended the last day with defeat. We had fought long and hard to secure survival and we had nothing left in the tank.
I look back to the early parts of the season and try to make sense of why we had such a rough ride. Pre-season was positive but I think the opening day postponement was a key factor as it put a bit of a dampener on our momentum. Going to Orient and Boreham Wood back to back and taking two beatings bought us right down to earth and we never really recovered. Add to that what seemed to be a revolving door of players leaving and coming into the building, consistency was never going to happen.
Liam McDonald resigning and not long after Richard Money’s brief spell ended, at that stage to say it was turbulent and looking bleak was an understatement. Gaz Whild and Keith Bertschin restored some order and steadied the ship for a little while but the club as a whole needed stability.
The appointment of the gaffer, Mark Yates, and Tim came at a crucial time. From day one they had a plan - that firstly meant going back to basics and starting again from scratch. Defensively we were leaking too many goals especially late in games and they addressed that straight off. They changed up the training schedule and got us training more often and more intensely. Organisation throughout the team was also high on the agenda. It understandably took us a few weeks to adjust but we found our feet and turned the corner just in time.
So, in conclusion, it has been a rollercoaster year. This is my 17th season as a player and I thought I’d experienced pretty much everything the game has to throw at you but it always has a way of presenting you with a new challenge.
It has been a real honour to captain the club, through the extreme adversity and then the joy of getting the club to safety. I don’t like celebrating finishing 18th but when you put this season into perspective and review it as a whole, to have the second half of the season we had was quite remarkable!
Everybody connected with the Moors deserves huge credit, players, staff and fans. Be proud of your contribution. Everybody played their part in what will now go down in the club’s history as the ‘Great Escape’.
Enjoy your summer!