With two months of the season gone, Hanley Town manager Dean Owen says he is happy with the way his side have started their Premier Division campaign.
Promoted as First Division champions, Town have survived the loss of two key players from last season, leading scorer Theo Stair and defender Joel Stair, and currently sit in 8th place after the win at Abbey Hey on Saturday.
With new players added to the squad over the summer, Dean says the way in which they have slotted in has been a big factor in his side’s form so far.
“The players we brought in were about boosting the whole squad, it’s not just about the starting eleven”, said Dean.
“We’ve brought three or four in from Evo-Stik level, lads with a bit more experience and that has helped us a great deal, especially some of the new younger lads who have come from local football.
“Dan Cope has hit the ground running, he has scored goals but could have scored more, and we have brought Sean Mountford in as well from local football.
“He’s been a big player for us in pretty much all the games we have played and has struck up a good partnership with Dan Cope. And Angelo Errico who we have brought in from Eccleshall has done well for us too.
“We also have a few more coming through the ranks – there are probably three or four in the reserve team who we could call on now as well, so it’s quite pleasing.
“On the whole it’s been quite a good start to the season. I think we had 11 points after the first month which I’d have taken coming into the new season, especially when we had to play the likes of Atherton Colls and 1874 Northwich in the early games.
“The thing about this league is that the sides who do well keep clean sheets. The top sides have one or two good goalscorers, so clean sheets is important.
“We didn’t play too well at Abbey Hey on Saturday but we kept a clean sheet. The goals we have been conceding are not goals teams have earned, they are goals that they have been given and that has been disappointing.
“We need to stop giving silly chances away and take a few more ourselves when we get them, because we are creating a lot of chances.
“It’s noticeable that the top sides are a lot more clinical, and in close games when you might only get two or three chances, they are sticking a couple of them away, and that’s the difference”.
Looking ahead to the rest of the season, Dean says that maintaining the good form shown so far is now the challenge for the squad.
“We want to move forward, we don’t want to stagnate”, he said. “We have a good set up at Hanley Town, a second team and youth teams, and having a good start will also give us a chance to have a look at the younger lads later in the season if we have a bit of stability in the league.
“We felt that getting a good start was going to be important in staying in the league and competing with the top sides, you need that when coming into a new league, and if you finish in mid-table in the first season in this league then it’s a good first season. But looking at where we are, I don’t think I’d be happy with mid table now.
“If we apply ourselves then I think we should be aiming at top five or top six, and looking to be with the teams up there.
“It’s a challenge for the lads but they are more than up for it”.