In Form Kimberley Closing In On Hinckley

As one of a number of Nottinghamshire sides in the Uhlsport United Counties League Division One, and the front-runners of five in the top ten, Kimberley Miners Welfare are looking for a stellar finale’ to the league season, one which could still see them go up as champions.

Unexpected as that would have sounded at the start of the campaign, and after winning just ten games combined (from thirty-nine played) over the previous two, in the East Midlands Counties League, the addition of Ant Ward and Graham Furnell as co-managers soon changed all that.

This campaign alone, and with them heading fast into the business end of the season, they have won twenty-eight and drawn four of their thirty-six league outings; it’s been a run which has seen them win their last seven outings and be unbeaten in their last fifteen in the league overall, the last defeat coming away to Harrowby United back in mid-October.

The run-in however, beginning with back-to-back away games, will prove instrumental for a Kimberley side who are, at present, joint-top of the UCL; we all know everything can change in the blink of an eye and, following away trips to Barrow Town and Birstall United Social, there’s the small matter of a local clash at home to West Bridgford, before travelling to their title rivals, Hinckley.

“It’s a cliché, but the remaining games are all cup finals for us,” began Graham Furnell.

“We are having a fantastic season, but also know we’re punching above our weight, especially after, when we came in three seasons ago, we needed to stabilise the club.

“And then covid came, whilst we were battling away at the wrong end of the table; this time though, we’ve been the surprise element at the top end, which is nothing short of being momentous.”

Having worked alongside each for a number of years within the Nottinghamshire non-league system prior to their arrival at Kimberley, both Ant and Graham boast an astute knowledge of the beautiful game.

The success in which they enjoyed being one of that factors of their landing the position at The Stag Ground, something which they hoped they could bring to their current home – it could well be happening a little sooner than they hoped.

“Coming here, to Kimberley, was something in which we couldn’t really turn down,” admitted Graham.

“Considering their league position, pre-covid, when we arrived there was suddenly no players, and we had an almighty challenge on our hands, especially as we needed to fill both our first team, and our reserves – it became a lesson well learnt.

“In keeping a good nucleus of players from last season, going into this however, really helped us, and we just needed to identify the areas we needed to strengthen – that and we’ve been really lucky with injuries etc.”

Having begun the season with a won one, drawn one, lost one scenario, the loss coming on the opening day away to Aylestone Park, Kimberley would embark upon a thirteen-game unbeaten streak in the league (up to the Harrowby game).

Cup exits to Nottingham Forest U23s (on penalties) in the Nottinghamshire Senior Cup, and to Stourport Swifts in the FA Vase withstanding, only added more to fire to succeed in the league.

“Never in our wildest dreams did we have promotion as a target, not yet anyway,” continued Graham.

“Our ambitions though, they started to heighten after what, five, six games.

“But we’re not looking at the run-in, even if what, three wins mathematically ensures the play-offs.

“There’s still a hell of a lot to play for as well, and teams like Dunkirk, and Harrowby, will still have a say in what happens.

“But the committee, and the supporters, they’re keeping a check on things, we’re just savouring the victories and trying to relieve any pressure on the players.”

At both ends of the pitch, Kimberley have shown their strengths this season and, alongside Luis Rose and his thirty-four goal masterclass up top, several others have hit double figures this campaign – Aaron Coyle (13), Nathan Banton & Sacha Markelic (10 apiece) also registering.

And at the other end, just thirty-six have been conceded in all competitions, Furnell continuing that: “we pride ourselves defensively this season, and we’ve got a very young side.

“There’s differing pressures and, although they’re still there, and considering where this season is headed, the lads are coping really well.”

The one thing Graham wasn’t going to get dragged in on was a prediction as to how the season would end up – both Hinckley and Kimberley are level on 88 points, and they both have big games still to play, including against each other.

There’s also still a lot of football to play directly beneath them in the table as clubs jostle for a play-off spot, or better if an opening presents.

Time now, will certainly tell what happens next and, as Graham Furnell finished: “If the show was on the other foot, then I’d certainly ask the same question.

“But we are a scalp that opposing sides want to take now.”

As they start their run-in at the top of the United Counties League, keep up-to-date with what’s sure to be an exciting end to the season, via their Twitter.

*Article provided by Peter Mann (Senior Correspondent).

*Main image @KimberleyMWFC the club received the league’s team of the month award for February.

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