Toolstation NCEL Premier Division
With the way Knaresborough Town’s luck has been since mid-August, Rob Hunter must have driven over ten black cats and smashed several mirrors.
Knaresborough were on the crest of a wave after a barnstorming start of four consecutive wins – three in the league and one in the FA Cup.
But since the victory at Goole AFC on August 17th, Hunter’s men have won only once and lost eight.
That’s mainly down to all the injuries which began to pile up in August.
Gregg Anderson, Dominic Creamer, Gregg Kidd, Cameron Bedford, Will Lenehan, Craig Hall, Sam Cook and Sean Hunter have all been on the treatment table.
“We won all three opening games to the season and never conceded a goal,” Hunter told Non League Yorkshire.
“In the week after the third game it was just an unreal situation.
“We lost two centre-halves and a full-back in one game – all injured.
“Then in the next game we lost our other centre-half and our other full-back.
“We lost five defenders in the period of seven days and we haven’t got any of them back yet.
“Gregd Kidd came back and broke down again.
“I spoke to all of them this week and Gregg Anderson, Dominic Creamer, Gregg Kidd, Sam Cook and Craig Hall are all due back in two to three weeks.
“They’ve all got hamstring, calf or knee injuries.
“All were quoted four to six weeks and in all my years in football I’ve never known anything like it where you lose five or six players in one go and everyone is a defender.
“Sean has been out as well – he’s missed five games – but he’s trained this week with no reaction so he’ll likely be on the bench on Saturday (against AFC Mansfield).
“That’s one player back.
“We still have a relatively good team but we’re massively short on experience (because of the injuries).
“Tom Rose is a centre-midfielder but he’s been playing centre-half in the last two games.
“We have had Colin Heath who is a centre-forward and who has not kicked a ball all season, he’s played the last two games at centre-half.
“It is the craziest situation I’ve ever been involved in.”
If there is a positive spin on recent weeks then it is Hunter’s utilisation of the club’s young players.
“We have got a reserve team and they are very good,” he said.
“I have brought Baz Littlefair into the club in the summer and he’s been a breath of fresh air.
“He’s been superb.
“He has got all the best young kids in the area playing for Knaresborough Town reserves.
“You can see that in the results because they are third in the West Yorkshire League Premier Division.
“For the last three seasons the reserves have been languishing in the bottom three.
“What is the point of me bringing someone like Baz Littlefair to the club to bring the best local players to Knaresborough Town and get them playing really well and then when I have a shortage of players I bring someone else?
“What would that tell the young lads in the reserves?
“I have such a young team.
“Jamie Hassall in goal is only 19.
“Ewan Gregson who has played nearly all the games is only 17.
“Cameron Bedford is only 18.
“Lewis Dobson is only just 18.
“This is the way we have been going.
“I would have liked to have managed these kids better and got them involved over a period of time with experience around them.
“Because of the situation we have been in, I’ve literally chucked them in.”
The other positive is Hunter’s mission to spark the resurrection of Mark Simpson’s status as a prolific NCEL Premier Division striker.
Since arriving in mid-August, Simpson has scored five times and Hunter says there’ll be more to come.
“Mark Simpson has probably been one of our best players,” he said.
“He works really hard and his quality has been good and he’s scored a few goals.
“But we’ve not seen the best of Simmo at Knaresborough.
“But I don’t blame him for that.
“I blame the fact we have been light on our team selection and I don’t think we have put the same team out since the first three games of the season.
“Last Saturday against Penistone there wasn’t much in the game at all except the fact that when our wide players got the ball we didn’t create any chances.
“They didn’t put the ball in the box early enough and our centre-forwards couldn’t get on the end of anything because there was nothing coming in the box.
“We had a full training session on Wednesday night and I based it on when that ball gets out wide you deliver.
“We showed them first hand just how many chances can be created by a good ball in the box.
“You don’t always have to beat your man or do a trick.
“I know it was a training session but Simmo and Sean got so many goals.
“Simmo came off training with a big smile on his face and he was like ‘this session is exactly what we needed’.
“The message was simple; get the ball out of your feet and put it into the box because Simmo and Sean will score for fun if we do that.”