WHITBY Town boss Darren Williams is looking forward to a bright 2013, so long as his team can start better.
Blues have conceded in the opening 10 minutes of 11 games this season and their player-manager is sick of being on the back foot early on, with Derbyshire outfit Buxton next up, on Saturday (22 Dec).
He told the Whitby Gazette: “Earlier in the season against Buxton, we didn’t start very well.
“We were at sixes and sevens, but once we got to grips with the game, we were more than enough on top of it to get something.
“Unfortunately, we’d already done ourselves a disadvantage with the goals we’d conceded.”
The Bucks did lose out to the Seasiders on a dramatic final day of last season, one of Williams’ moments of 2012.
“Coming off the back end of last season was fantastic, it kept us in the division.
“Then this season we didn’t start off particularly well, playing some great stuff, but not getting the results our performances deserved.
“I also thought FC United at home was a fantastic performance, we did everything bar getting the win, but you’d take the point before the game.
“That was a reality thing - this is how far we’d come, we’d just played against probably the best footballing team in the division and we had the game by the scruff of the neck for the full 90 minutes.”
The Blues’ boss is optimistic going into the new year, with some pleasant selection issues ahead.
“I want a back half of the season, like we had last season,” Williams said.
“I want to have more consistent results, I want to maintain, performance-wise, the football we’ve been playing, because some of it’s been fantastic.
“We’ve had our ups and downs, but you’re going to get that in football.
“There’s nothing to say, that if we don’t have a really good back half of the season, that we can’t be there or thereabouts in the play-offs.
“The opportunity is there - we do have the players, we do have the squad and that’s something we’ve got to look for.”
Boxing Day brings another chance for revenge, at old rivals Blyth Spartans. Town have a number of the Northumberland side’s former players, including forward Graeme Armstrong (29), who can’t wait to renew old acquaintances.
“It’s always nice going back to your own clubs and playing,” he said.
“We were on the wrong end of the result earlier on in the season, so it’d be nice to put things right this time around.”
Striker Armstrong, who joined Whitby in the summer after a torrid time with Blyth in the Blue Square North, netted just seven goals in 44 games for the Croft Park outfit, though he doesn’t feel he has anything to prove.
“In a sense, the whole season was difficult for everybody involved, no-one likes going through the relegation we suffered last year.
“I felt for the players, the management and supporters.”
The former Gateshead front-man has moved on and uses any criticism as motivation to do better.
“I’m happy where I am at Whitby Town, I’m really enjoying my time there.
“I didn’t get a great reception from the Blyth fans going down to Whitby, not that I’m saying it was a great time.
“More than anything, I want to win and get back up the league once again.
“We’re always better when we push up higher and press teams.”
Armstrong has to be the least-fortunate footballer in non-league - he’s hit the woodwork repeatedly throughout the season, conceded a penalty at Buxton for handball, when just inches from the ball and had a strong spot-kick appeal of his own turned down, at the weekend.
“We haven’t been on the right end of a lot of luck this season,” he said.
“It’s frustrating, there’s been a lot of games which have been very close, which we haven’t picked up points in.
“Hopefully, looking at the second half of the season, we can really turn things around and start it this Saturday.”
Another former Spartan is having to sit out the seasonal skirmish, due to an agreement in his transfer between the clubs last month.
Craig Farrell has back-to-back Blues goals and has fitted in well with his team-mates at the Turnbull.
“They’re a good set of lads, with quite a lot of ability,” he adds. “I’m lucky that I knew quite a few of them.
“We’ve got enough players to go and get a result. I’d have liked to have gone there, score and got us three points.”
The two clubs, who used to meet regularly in the Northern League, are locked on 39 wins each, since their first clash in Hallowe’en 1964.
Buxton have just one defeat from their last six outings, including victories over fourth-placed Witton Albion and leaders North Ferriby United.
Kick-off on Saturday is 3pm, with admission £9 adults, £5 concessions, £2 under 18s and under 16s get in free if accompanied by a paying adult.
Boxing Day’s game is also a 3pm start, with gate prices as follows at Croft Park: adults £10 (£1 extra to be seated), concessions £5.50 (£1 extra to be seated) and children under 10 free with paying adult (50p to be seated).
A supporters’ coach leaves the Turnbull, bound for Blyth, at 11am. Seats £10 each.