Toolstation NCEL Premier Division
Jimmy Whitehead says his Athersley Rec young guns believe in the miracle of staying in the league and “are up for the fight”.
The Rec have won one, drawn one and lost four of the league games Whitehead has taken charge of since taking permanent charge.
The Rec drew 2-2 at Barton Town in midweek and Whitehead told Non League Yorkshire: “I was really proud of them because our average age which I worked out this morning was 19.
“That’s only so high because we have Jack Briscoe playing who is 29 and who came back from suspension.
“We have a lot of 17 and 18-year-olds and there can’t be many sides in this league whose average age is 19.
“Briscoe has been suspended for the last three so I bet our average age dropped down to 18.
“You’ve watched enough games to know it is difficult (in this league) but we are extremely proud of the fact they want to come and play for us.
“When they do surprise with results like that I do go away pleased.
“I’m not naive enough to think we’ll win every game because we won’t.
“But can we win enough games?
“That’s the question and we are still believing and we’re still fighting.
“Yes we are bottom but we’re only a couple of wins away from (being out of the relegation zone) so if you can hang on and get the odd win you always have that belief.
“The players we have got now believes we can do it.
“We have had a few players who have left us as they are not up for the fight and don’t want to be part of it.
“We’re happy with how it is going and we know it is going to be tough because we’re believing in miracles.
“Miracles do happen and we’re still fighting and the miracle is still on in my opinion.
“We’re up for the fight as a management team and the players are too.
“It has been tough playing Saturday-Tuesday.
“When you are winning you can’t wait for those games but when you are losing it is different.
“But when you are losing you find your characters.
“Some have left which is fine because I’ll work with people who want to fight.
“We’ll work together and when we do stay up everyone will wish they had stayed and been part of it.”
The Rec were so close to winning their second game of the campaign when they travelled to Barton – seven minutes to be precise.
Athersley had led twice through Muhamet Gashi and Connor Johnson.
“We got there late because of traffic on the motorway so they had to delay the kick off by five minutes,” Whitehead said.
“We didn’t there until twenty past seven so there wasn’t a lot of time to prepare but the lads didn’t moan.
“We got out there and it was windy, it was wet and the pitch cut up a little bit.
“We changed style and went to two banks of four to try to be difficult to break down.
“We knew they’d get the ball down and play as we had watched them last week against Penistone.
“The game-plan worked really well and we got the first goal from a really good high press.
“We conceded from a set-piece which has been a bit of an achilles heel.
“In the second half we got a goal ourselves off a set-piece to go 2-1 up.
“As it happens in football you do drop five or ten yards deeper towards the end and they had quite a bit of pressure and they equalised with seven minutes to go.
“Overall it was a fair result.
“Any point away from home is good for any team in this league, especially one near the bottom.
“It was a really battling display off the back of two disappointing results against Knaresborough and Hemsworth.
“Some may have feared the worst but we know with young players that they are going to be inconsistent.
“So one week we’ll struggle and then the next we’ll surprise and put a good performance.
“(Barton) felt like a mini victory even though we led twice.
“The remit is to make sure we don’t give easy three points and in the last couple of games we have fallen below that.
“We asked for a reaction and they gave us everything.”
Athersley visit Goole AFC this weekend.