At The Rail this Saturday afternoon (30 July), Chris Woodhead leads his Choughs side into battle once again, as they host that of Nostell Miners Welfare on the opening day of the Northern Counties Eastern League Division One season.
Having finished seventh last time around, just outside of the play-offs, Woody knows what’s needed in order for his Retford side to make that leap from ‘outsiders’ to promotion contenders, he’s hoping that, this season, with a mix of youth, and experience, there’ll be enough for them to make a real good go of it.
“Last season, that was our first, full season at this level,” admitted Woody, as his side completed a season for the first time in three (blame a pandemic).
“It became a case of, we needed more strength in depth really, that’s what cost us as the end, so yes, we’ve strengthened in a couple of places throughout the squad.
“We’ve also got some really good youth players coming through as well, and have a really good crop of 17-19 year olds playing first team football.
“It’s tough though, we all know that, and it takes a lot out of you, as was shown last season.”
Although finishing seven points behind sixth place Selby Town, come the final standings, winning more than half the league games played offered some food for thought for Woody and his coaching team at The Rail.
Pinpointing a specific part of the 2021/22 campaign, even with some difficult results to take, was rather an easy task for the long-serving manager, and, ultimately, it proved the deciding factor between play-offs, or nothing.
“At one point we were just a few points off fourth place,” admitted the Choughs boss.
“But yes, there’s a specific point in the season that affected the outcome, a turning point.
“We’d just won three straight (February, against, Teversal, Nostell MW, and Swallownest) before losing at home to Rainworth Miners Welfare (2-1 on 26 February).
“We then dropped in the games with Rossington Main, Ollerton Town, and a tough one against Worsbrough Bridge Athletic.
“Those were the turning points for me, and I feel I’ve learnt from those games, results, but, now, it’s 24/7, and I’m more than excited to go again.”
Following on from the season opener, with the visit of Nostell, a game Woody hopes the Retford faithful, and more, turn out in force for, is followed quickly by their first away game of the season, and a trip to Dronfield Town.
Meanwhile, and with they not being in this seasons FA Cup, focus, for national cup competitions, will be on the FA Vase, the Choughs sitting in wait for the winner of the opening round tie between Wythenshawe Amateurs and Cammell Laird.
“We know that, not only do we need to start well, but also make sure we do not lose the first game, at home to Nostell,” added Woody.
“The homework has been done, and we know what have to do, in fact, I’ve probably done more homework than ever before to make sure we’re really ready to go for it.
“We’ve also sold more season tickets as well, so we’ll definitely be hoping for 150-200 spectators for the opener.
“This town, it is football mad, and that’s a good thing.
“As for the cups, we’ve never been particularly good there, so I’ll be looking to change that as well this season.
“I’ll certainly be doing some scouting on the two, potential, Vase opponents, before that comes around.”
As for Saturday’s game, there will be two, major absentees for the Choughs, last season’s top scorer, Adam Scott, with family, and centre-half Graham Severn, with a slight injury, but, with the players coming through the ranks, and the new signings made, Woody’s closing words are perhaps wise ones.
“It is life, we just have to get on with.”
*Article provided by Peter Mann (Senior Correspondent).
*Main image @Retford_FC Chris Woodhead has done his ‘homework’ ahead of the campaign.