Shane Kelsey was left speechless by Athersley Rec’s “game-changer” Boxing Day victory over local rivals Hemsworth Miners Welfare.
Lee Garside’s fifth minute was enough for the Rec to record their first three points of the campaign and move within a point of Bottesford Town in the Toolstation NCEL Premier Division table.
Their incarcerated manager Kelsey, suspended anyway but isolating at home following the birth of his daughter, could not break into scenes into jubilation though.
“I wasn’t (dancing around the living room when the final whistle went) as the bairn is only two weeks old so I had to be quiet,” Kelsey told Non League Yorkshire.
“I was trying to not look at my phone too much incase I woke her up.
“The nerves were jangling and we haven’t kept a clean sheet for a long time so I kept thinking ‘can they do it, can they do it’? I was just wanting the lads to pull it off so much.
“But because of the bairn I couldn’t celebrate (when the final whistle went) and it got ten times worse because Barnsley scored in the 94th (to beat Huddersfield Town) 2-1. I couldn’t celebrate that either.
“I had to wait until four o’clock in the morning when everyone was in bed to go downstairs and let it all out and scare the living daylights out of the dog. The dog wondered what was going off.”
The youthful Rec enjoyed a degree of good fortune to record their first victory since February, ironically the shock win at Hemsworth when Robbie Miller scored in the last minute.
On Boxing Day, the Wells hit the crossbar and post several times as Athersley desperately clung onto their much-needed win.
Kelsey was appointed in March with the task of developing young players in the first team and he agreed the win was a major reward for everyone’s efforts.
“It brings huge positivity and it is a game changer so to speak,” he said.
“It changes the whole outlook of everything. It gives everyone a lift. It gives everyone a bit of belief, especially these young lads who are playing in the Division for the first time.
“Some of them hadn’t had a win in the Division before. It starts them believing and thinking ‘we can get results’.
“Reading reports I’ve received and watching highlights we did ride our luck a bit, especially towards the last ten minutes when they threw the kitchen sink like any team would.
“They say in football your luck evens itself out over a period of time. We certainly haven’t had any so it was about time we got some.
“Gradually we have been growing into it. We have been more competitive in games as the lads have got to know each other.
“I received a lovely text from Craig (Ogilvie) at Yorkshire Amateur last week (following the 4-2 defeat) and again he was very complimentary about us. He even said he couldn’t it being too long until we started picking points up.
“When you’re receiving that sort of praise from one of the best teams in the league you’re moving in the right direction.
“We have every confidence in the lads. It is trial and error with youngsters and we have to allow them to make mistakes and learn from them. Other teams would ship them out after two bad games.
“We have that luxury of time on our hands and no-one is under any illusions how bigger task it is. We said when we took the job we had a vision and a clear strategy of what we wanted to become.
“We weren’t just saying things to get the job or sound good. We were brutally honest and we said it may be a long time before we start producing positives. But we were told that if we stuck to the original ethics of the club then we would be allowed time.
“Pete (Goodlad) has been true to his word and we haven’t diverted from that plan and Boxing Day was the bonus that the lads deserve. But not just the lads, the backroom staff, the supporters and the volunteers who work tirelessly to make the club what it is.”
The Hemsworth clash at Sheerian Park was the second game of the NCEL restart and Kelsey admits he was bowled over by the level of interest in the fixture.
“I’m glad we played the two games and you can see by the response of the players that everyone wanted to play,” he said.
“I had one player unavailable and we knew that for a while.
“The crowds; we had only over 500 enquiries for tickets. That’s how much Non League football means to people.
“If everyone was in the opinion we shouldn’t be doing it then you would have had 20 folk there.
“To have over 500, nearly 600 enquiries four days before the game is incredible.
“I’ve seen posts on social media from people asking if anyone had any spare tickets. That’s nuts for a Northern Counties East League game.”
The Rec are due to host Goole AFC, who have sacked joint managers Mark Pitts and Simon Portrey after just six games in charge, on Saturday.
There are fears the country could head into a national lockdown before then as the NHS and various bodies are concerned with the number of covid patients being treated in hospital as it is higher than the previous peak of 19,000 in April.
Kelsey hopes football continues but remains realistic and says the uncertainty is difficult for everyone.
“There seems to be no end in sight,” he said.
“The thing they’re highlighting now is to go back to more-or-less lockdown with Tier 4.
“Why relax it is in the first place?
“That was my big issue. I was grateful that they said we could play and I was over the moon that we got these two games in but they (the NCEL) should not have restarted until January which they originally said.
“The sensible side of me said ‘hold your horses and wait until January’.
“It is the constant changing of the goal-posts and changing of rules. They say you can do this in Tier 3 and then come back three months and say ‘we’re taking this away and this away’.
“People don’t know where they stand and the pessimistic side of people comes out because they are frustrated as they see us go one step forward and then two back.
“There’s no confidence in what’s going on.
“I’ve got everything crossed that Saturday goes ahead and I’ll be disappointed if it doesn’t.
“If doesn’t go ahead they’re going to say a minimum of two weeks of lockdown and they’ll probably say we’re looking at four weeks.
“Then we really are going into the realms of we are going to struggling to complete the season. That is a real concern. If they close it down again you really have to question what it is the point of this season?”
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NLY Community Sport, run by James Grayson and Connor Rollinson, has always had combatting social isolation at the top of our objectives when running our Disability Football teams. When we properly return to ‘action’, our work will play an important role in reintroducing our players, who have disabilities and learning difficulties, back into society.
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