A midweek, mid-season goalless friendly, at home to Louth Town, of the Lincolnshire League, followed by their first game of 2023, away to Harworth Colliery, reintroduced Central Midlands League Premier North side, Retford United, following a winter break.
The win, against Harworth Colliery, sees Ryan Hindley’s Badgers open up a fourteen point gap at the top of the division, and stretches their unbeaten league start to sixteen matches (fifteen wins, one draw), and, although sides beneath them have games in hand, they’ve put enough in the tank in which to last.
A clean sheet against the mid-table side, was their seventh of the season, and, alongside fifty-three scored, they’re certainly go for that automatic promotion spot and with Thorne Colliery (2nd), and Dearne & District (4th) having games in hand, the gap is, well close to being, insurmountable.
“We aren’t going to be taking our foot off the gas, that’s for sure,” insisted Badgers boss, Hindley, who only took the helm in the summer.
“It’s a fantastic position we’ve put ourselves in, especially as we’ve played some tough teams this season, and none of them has gifted us a win, we’ve had to work for every point.
“There’s a target on us, and everyone wants to take that zero we have.”
With the win over Harworth being the first of four straight, games on the road, Mark West bagging a hat-trick which inches him ever close to a century of goals for the Badgers, they’ve already seen off fellow title challengers, Dinnington Town, and Dearne & District, in the past few months.
Dearne in fact, they’re one of the four away games on Retford’s upcoming schedule, following up Harworth with Phoenix (14 January), Dearne (21), then a local clash with SJR Worksop (28), come through those unscathed, and results go their way, then February will be even more interesting.
“If you’d said to me, at the start of the season, we’d be in this position, and be unbeaten,” continued Hindley.
“I expected it though, and I said that back then as well, we just need to stop conceding bad goals.
“But, we’ve gone with game-by-game management, and experienced; I feel that’s what we need, players who’ve got that.
“More as I’ve been at this club before, as a player, when they were in their pomp, and we not only deserve to go up, but it’s something we need.”
That experience alone can be seen in Hindley’s starting elevens thus far, with more than a dozen players having played twelve or more games, Owen Fieldsend (18) and Mason Barlow (17), leading the way; even the goals continue to be spread about, with Jonathan Froggatt top scoring with 11 (in 16), he one of fifteen to find the back of the net.
Although there are some big games upcoming, Dearne on the 21 certainly one of them, as well as their Notts FA Senior Trophy quarter-final with Collingham at the start of February, promotion has been on the minds of Hindley, the board, and the chairman, since day one.
With that, there’s the potential of local derbies with Ollerton Town, and near-neighbours, Retford, the Badgers motioning efforts towards the Northern Counties East (Division One); but there’s plenty of games in which to play between now and then.
“I’m loving the fact we’ve got four away games in a row,” added Hindley.
“We play well on the road and the trip to Dearne, that’ll be a tough test, and, to get through January, barring any brain-fog, then we’re nearly there.
“The aim has to be to get maximum points this month, then push on, but I’m not surprised with what the lads have done, and I’m really happy with what we’ve done so far.”
As for the Senior Trophy, this being their defence, although it doesn’t rank in importance, promotion is the main priority, the Badgers find themselves in a quarter-final (4 February, home) after two, home walkover success, against AFC Top Valley and Awsworth Villa, of the Nottinghamshire Senior League.
“The main thing is to get our name on the cup again,” maintained Hindley.
“It’ll be nice to see our name on their, for successive seasons, but, the focus here is very much on the league which the chairman, and the board, knows and agrees with.”
Following victory on the road at Harworth Colliery, the Central Midlands table-toppers are on the road for their next three games during January with AFC Phoenix (14), Dearne & District (21) and SJR Worksop (28) prior to the Senior Trophy clash at home to Collingham, at the start of February.
*Article provided by Peter Mann (Senior Correspondent).
*Main image @RetfordUnited Badgers striker Mark West is closing in on 100 goals for the club.