Sherwood’s Season Of Joy

This season has seen Sherwood Colliery lift their first piece of silverware in some seven years, this the United Counties League Premier North title; not since winning the Central Midlands Alliance (League) Floodlit Cup, back in 2017, have they achieved that feeling.

It’s been a tiring run for manager Wayne Savage and his merry band of men, promotion having been achieved ‘through the back door’ so to speak, in 2021, into the Northern Counties East League, before being laterally transferred into the United Counties twelve months later.

That, last season (2022/23) saw the Wood finish in seventh place, a massive thirty points adrift of eventual champions Anstey Nomads, winning twenty-two and drawing three of their thirty-eight outings; this time around though it’s been a completely different story for Savage’s men.

Now, heading into their last match of the 2023/24 season, where they host local rivals, Newark & Sherwood United, at Debdale Park, the Wood will be looking to end with a flourish, and what could well be an impressive, fourteen-point advantage at the top.

Currently boasting twenty-five wins and six draws from their 33 outings (thirty-four wins and seven draws overall), it’s been just as good a season in attack as it has been in defence; the Wood’s front-line have scored 130 goals whilst the rear-guard have let in just 33, the best defensive, non-league record in the country.

Looking back at the season finishing, the UCL Premier North champions’ manager, Wayne Savage, said: “We’ve managed to get all of our fixtures in quick-time, and it’s really been a case of winning the league, or nothing, for us.

“Although we did do pretty well in the cups, even though against Lincoln United (Sports Ground Development UCL Cup quarter-final) we did rest some players.

“Their (Lincoln) fixtures got worse though, whilst ours have got better.

“The (cup) games we lost throughout the season though, we should have won the other three and were actually miles better, but you can’t mess about.

“Against Clipstone (Nottinghamshire FA Senior Cup), we were in full control, but they really deserved that win (the Cobras netted in stoppage time at the end of each half).”

Throughout the season just finishing, the Wood have put together two unbeaten runs of ten games apiece, whilst ahead of their final outing, they are currently six unbeaten.

An impressive nine of Savage’s playing staff have made 40+ appearances, which will become ten if Jake Wright appears against Newark & Sherwood; making the most appearances is top-scorer Craig Westcarr (32 goals), and midfielder Ewan Robson (interview to come), on 46 each, going into the final game.

From their opening day win at Skegness Town, Robson with the first goal of the season inside ten minutes, back on 29 July 2023, the Wood have been pretty much unstoppable.

Of their six defeats (in all competitions) the four in the cups have all, quite surprisingly really, been by the same 2-1 score-line (against Worcester City, Stourport Swifts, Clipstone, and Lincoln United), whilst in the league the two reverses were at Loughborough Students (1-0, 2 December) and at Kimberley Miners Welfare (3-1, 3 February).

“Over the season we’ve lost, on average, what, once every eight matches,” continued the Wood manager.

“As I’ve said though, the only thing in mind has been the league.

“I really didn’t think we’d go on and win the Vase, as for the FA Cup, you can go as far as you can any given season really.

“We’ve put in some good performances though, the 5-1 win against Eastwood CFC (16 September, goals from Craig Westcarr and Job Shaw with braces, and Ethan Wiesztort), the 2-0 win over Lincoln, at their place, when our ‘keeper (Jordan Pierrepont) saved a penalty at 1-0 (23 January, Westcarr and Robson netting).

“And against Sleaford when we were down to nine men (Carter Widdowson and Jamie York dismissed) and went on to win 2-0 (16 December, Robson, and Bradley Wells scoring), so yes there’s been a couple of defining games really.

“Our players though, they’ve all been class, every last one of them.

“They’ve been great on-and-off the pitch all season; we brought in a couple of experienced heads to add to what is still a very young side really but, actually winning the league, it’s not had the chance to settle in yet.

“We don’t get the trophy itself until after Saturday’s game, but yes, we’ve had a celebration already.”

Despite how well they’ve done throughout the season as a whole though, has there been moments in which Wayne Savage and his coaching staff have thought it might not go their way? And what about next season, in the Northern Premier League, have there been any thoughts yet?

“There was a couple of times I thought we’d might have blown it, yes,” admitted Savage.

“But I watched Lincoln in their game against Belper United (mid-March), which they lost 1-0, and that’s when I thought, we’ve got this.

“Then we go and get a goalless draw with Eastwood in our next match (16 March).

“It’s been a topsy-turvy season though, and Lincoln, they’ve certainly been a standout challenger, although with Loughborough Students in the mix as well, then they’re a really tough ask when games are at their place.

“As for next season, I’m not overly fussed as to whether it’s the East, or the Midlands Division (NPL), we’re place in as my family are in the north-east and I’ve got some knowledge of the non-league scene there, but I’ll be happy with any.

“Plus, it’s all on the A1 anyway, even if there are some big treks to make, but that doesn’t bother me in the slightest and we’re all thriving here at present, the lads, they know what’s what when moving forward, and we can’t stand still.”

With Newark & Sherwood United the final opponents of the league season for Sherwood Colliery, at Debdale Park, the club have a ‘Pay What You Want’ in place for entry for the 3pm kick-off, with 50% of proceeds being donated to that of the Lashes Foundation, and to the Alzheimers Society.

The weekend after their final game, Sherwood are scheduled to face the Premier Division South winners, Wellingborough Town, for the Champions Cup.

Wellingborough hold a nine-point advantage on second place Aylestone Park and having won 27 and drawn five thus far; their top scorer, Nehemiah Richard-Noel, has 36 goals in 42 games thus far, whilst three other players are in double figures.

*Article provided by Peter Mann (Senior Correspondent).

*Main image @SCFC_08 Sherwood’s championship winning players enjoyed a guard of honour at AFC Mansfield.

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