As the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League title race hots up, Workington manager Derek Townsley is more than happy to read people discussing other clubs as potential champions.

The Cumbrian outfit are currently on a fine run of form, winning nine of their last ten games ahead of big fixtures against fellow title contenders Blyth Spartans and Salford City.

Townsley also feels that Darlington will be in the mix when the business end of the season arrives.

And he is happy to see his side being regarded as the outside bet.

“I am more than happy to leave people to talk about Salford City or Blyth Spartans as champions, I absolutely want it kept that way.

I don’t blame people for not talking about Workington. Look at the finances and resources, Blyth had their cup run, that would have done them the world of good.

Salford goes without saying with their backing and there are others like Darlington, who are in the mix.

We aren’t pleading poverty, not at all, but we are happy to allow others to take the limelight. It isn’t mind games, their are expectations at those clubs, we have them but not as high as at the three clubs”skelton

It has been a successful transition from assistant manager to manager for former Motherwell and Hibs winger.

Former player-manager Gavin Skelton (pictured right) left in the summer, taking up a position at Queen of the South.

Continuity was top of the agenda for the Reds board and they offered the main role to Townsley.

As he reflected on his first six months in the role, the forty two year old is delighted with how his side has performed in a “competitive league”

“I think so far things have gone reasonably well. We had the continuity as I worked under Gavin Skelton last year, that meant there was little in the way of a transitional process.

We kept the nucleus of the side together and they did so well last year. Things are working against you, things like finances and our geographical location doesn’t help but that nucleus helped

I think our last season in the Conference North was impacted by changes at the club with politics at the club, it wasn’t a happy place.

We started from scratch, we kept the majority of the squad and the spirit improved. We built on that, we were pulling in the same direction and it is a competitive league so we were happy with how we performed last season and we have carried that into this season”

Townsley revealed that he chose to follow the lead of his board and opt for continuity with his playing squad.

The majority of last season’s squad, who narrowly missed out on promotion via the Evo-Stik NPL play-offs, were kept at the club, although Townsley had to find replacements for Skelton and influential defender Dan Wordsworth.

And he is happy to carry on the good work of his predecessor.

“It was a case of ‘if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. I would be lying if I said I had changed anything to be honest. We didn’t make radical changes at all. We just kept all of the players who we wanted to keep, we added a couple of new faces.

Losing Gavin hurt us because he was arguably our best player. We lost Dan Wordsworth because he chose to go travelling in Australia. They were big shoes to fill.

We have a good spirit in there and that is half of the battle”

Townsley’s Reds currently sit in second position in the Evo-Stik NPL table, eight points behind leaders Blyth Spartans, with two games to play against the Croft Park club before the end of the season.

salford cityAlso on the agenda for Townsley are clashes against the likes of Salford City (pictured left), Nantwich Town, Ashton United and Stourbridge, all clubs in and around the upper reaches of the division.

The Reds boss admitted that his side face a big month in March but is targeting a top five finish “at the very least”.

“I think when we get into March you will see the league taking shape, once teams are caught up after postponements.

For us, February is a huge month for us because we have some big games in there. Coming off last year, we felt we punched above our weight and we are doing it again. That is down to the players and we are delighted to be where we are, we don’t know if we will be come April but we will do everything we can to be there.

The top five is certainly our target at the very least”

Townsley paid tribute to the strength of the league his side are battling to get out of.

A number of Evo-Stik NPL clubs have made an impact in national competitions over the past three years, something Townsley feels “isn’t done by fluke”.

And he admitted that his side will have to be at their best if they are to finish as champions come the end of April.

“It is a strong league and I think it is stronger than a lot of people would like to admit. You look at the likes of Blyth and Salford, both have had great cup runs recently. Then there is Nantwich Town and Stourbridge in the FA Trophy, Darlington are a big club too.

All of this isn’t done by fluke.

The strength of the league is in-depth, that is where it is above other leagues at this level and it is what people from around the country say to me.

Anyone can beat anyone and it is a clich√© but there are no easy games at all and we will have to be at our best in every game left this season”

And if they do the Reds could well come out on top in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League title race, but just whisper that quietly.

Interview: Mark Carruthers
Images: Workington AFC /

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