Hungerford Town are on an upward trajectory under manager Bobby Wilkinson but their latest achievement has gone unnoticed by everyone….apart from Wilkinson’s Dad.
Monday night’s 5-0 hammering of Truro City moved the Crusaders into the Vanarama National League South play-off spots.
That is a far cry from the aftermath of their promotion into non-league’s second tier at the end of last season, when Wilkinson immediately set them a target of forty nine points for the new season, a total he believed would help them secure survival in their new division.
The win over the White Tigers moved Wilkinson’s side on to fifty points and past the figure set by their manager back in May last year.
Survival has been achieved, although nobody is celebrating it, with the focus going on their unlikely play-off charge.
However, Wilkinson revealed that, for one person close to him, the success of survival is worth pointing out.
He said “I get people mocking me for saying it’s always been about survival, we were tipped to go down from the start and I understand why people were saying that.
“We are in a different level here. The budgets, the crowds, the size of clubs in this league are far different to where we have come from.
“We are doing a Leicester being where we are, although thankfully it’s a Leicester from last season.
“The win against Truro moved us past forty nine points, which was the target I have been going on about since we were promoted.
“That should be celebrated I think, but after the match only one person pointed it out and that was my Dad.
“But believe me staying up, for a club of our size, is a massive achievement”.
Wilkinson is right in his assessment of their achievement.
The Crusaders average attendance this season is 281, the lowest in the National League South.
Their season high attendance of 417 is under half of the highest attendances achieved by eleven clubs in the league.
This is a club punching well above their weight, but according to Wilkinson it owes much to the attitude of the players.
“It’s down to the boys” he admitted.
“They learn, they listen, they believe in what we are doing and that, as a manager, is massive for me.
“They deserve the credit, they deserve it all.
“Every year this happens, we are written off, we are told we can’t do something.
“People doubt us, they put us down and that’s fine.
“As a manager I just have to ensure these players believe in themselves.
“They are a confident bunch, but they listen so well. They are developing so quickly and they have a spark there.
“We continue to work harder to make things happen”
And making things happen is exactly what they have been doing.
Since their defeat at FA Trophy defeat against Gosport Borough in mid-November the Crusaders have been on an unbeaten run lasting eleven games.
Seven of those games were wins, meaning they sit second in the National League South’s form table behind Ebbsfleet United.
A meeting with the second-placed Fleet, and leaders Maidenhead United, will come before the end of February.
Before that comes a home game against relegation-threatened Bishop’s Stortford, a fixture that worries Wilkinson more than their meetings with two fellow promotion candidates.
“I take it game by game but these are the games that worry me as a manager” revealed Wilkinson.
“You worry about the ones that you are expected to win and this is one that people in the game will expect us to win.
“This is when football is at its most dangerous.
“The attitude has to be right. If the players come into training on Thursday, with cups of coffee in their hands, swanning about thinking they’ve made it and the game is in the bag, I will bring them down.
“Their attitude has to be right because Bishop’s Stortford have an incentive. If they beat us they are out of the bottom three and that is massive for them isn’t it?
“We have to match their attitude on the pitch”
There seems a reluctance to discuss their impending meetings with the current top two in the division.
When pressed on the subject, Wilkinson reluctantly and maybe begrudgingly discusses the fixtures.
“It’s your job to get me to talk about those games so if we have to, I will” he jokes.
“Seriously though I take it game-by-game and break our season into mini-leagues. Our latest one ends with the Bishop’s Stortford game.
“A new one starts at Ebbsfleet United and carries on with Maidenhead.
“They are big games for us, I know that, everyone knows that, but we have to be position.
“If we can get through those games with a good points tally, then we are in a good position to kick on for the remainder of the season”.
Maybe then they will have something else to celebrate and surely there will be more than just Wilkinson’s Dad joining in.
Article: Mark Carruthers (@marknldaily)
Images: Hungerford Town FC