Eccleshall manager Jamie Cullerton believes that with a bit of luck and a more settled squad available for their remaining games, they have what it takes to avoid finishing in one of the Division One relegation places.
Jamie took over the managerial reins at Pershall Park in November with the Eagles deep in the relegation zone, and they are currently eight points adrift from safety after Saturday’s defeat at Daisy Hill.
But with plenty of games still to play, Jamie is convinced that the opportunity is there for them to start closing the gap on their rivals.
“For most of the games I’ve been in charge, there have been positives to take from them”, said Jamie. “But every now and again we have a blip and seem to be back where we were before.
“It’s now about us putting back to back results together. Even if it was two draws, it would make a massive difference to us, just to give us something to build on”.
Having moved to the club from a coaching role at Evo-Stik League side Leek Town, Jamie was under no illusions about the task facing him when he took over, but he says that the challenge was one he couldn’t resist.
“The opportunity came up and when I first spoke to Eccleshall, I was impressed with the people at the club and the facilities, and the warm reception that I got”, he said.
“I was also impressed at how positive they were, despite the position they were in.
“I’d been assistant manager and coach and had various roles at Leek Town, and I just thought it was time I had to have a go on my own as a manager”.
Although Jamie has past experience of the NWCFL as a player and coach, he admits that after a few years away he feels the league is stronger than before, which in turn has made him focus closely on player recruitment.
“I knew the league from the past but I think it has improved. It’s a good league and while I had a bit of knowledge of it, I am gaining more as the weeks go on.
“The new teams that have come in have definitely improved the standard, and the teams that were already in there have had to get better, in terms of the quality of the players they have.
“At the time I took over, the league table didn’t lie. The team was struggling, they had just been beaten 4-0 at home by AFC Blackpool, and I’d seen games before when I had thought that the squad wasn’t good enough.
“So I tried to get some more commitment from players, and also bring in players with some North West Counties experience.
“It was a case of getting in touch with old contacts in this league, players I have come across in the past, going back to Leek Town and finding players who had been at that level. Just a case of getting the black book out and have a good look round.
“There’s now only a couple of players here from when I took over, and I feel we are not far away from having a squad I’m happy with. The main problem has been that a number of the players I have brought in haven’t been playing regular football and are not match fit, so that is an added complication, as it’s taking three or four games to get them fit.
“I always feel that I am getting to close to a settled squad and then something happens, someone is unavailable or we get an injury or something else, but we are not far away now.
“We’ll maybe look at adding a couple more in and then stick with what we have got, rather than keep chopping and changing, just to get some stability for the rest of the season.
“I’ve also brought in Wayne Johnson, who was recently at Hanley Town (as assistant manager). Wayne is someone I’ve known for 30 years, and as soon as I saw he had left Hanley Town I was straight on to him.
“He can offer something in terms of his playing ability on the field with his experience, but also he can offer something from the managerial side as well”.
So, with 13 games left to play, Jamie is now looking to build on the positive aspects of his team’s performance at Daisy Hill last weekend, where they narrowly lost 2-1.
“Yes, there were positives from Saturday. People keep saying we’re unlucky, but that is no consolation when you are not picking up any points.
“I thought Daisy Hill on Saturday was an opportunity to get something, and I think we missed a chance to be honest. If we had been a bit more at it and showed a bit more urgency and been more clinical in front of goal, we could have got something.
“But their lad scored a great second goal and that was it, and that’s what happens when you are down at the bottom struggling,
“Now it’s just about adding a couple more to the squad, dusting ourselves down after Saturday and going on to the next game”.