Andy Monkhouse wants Pontefract Collieries to use their first league win of the campaign as a springboard…when the NPL Division One North West season resumes.
The Colls dramatically won 3-2 at Pickering Town on Tuesday night, despite playing with ten men for the whole of the second half. The win allowed them to move above Ossett United and Brighouse Town in the table.
They were bottom going into the fixture and with the enforced break hanging over their heads, Monkhouse and his side were determined to enter the lockdown in a brighter shape.
“That was the main objective last night,” Monkhouse told Non League Yorkshire.
“The lads knew the lockdown was imminent and we didn’t want to be bottom of the league (going into it) so we wanted to finish on a win and make the table look a little bit healthier.
“I wouldn’t say it will make us enjoy the next four weeks, but hopefully it can leave us with a good feeling and that when we come back into the league programme we can kick on.
“I’m not going to make bold predictions, but it is a case of being competitive and finishing as high as we possibly can. I know there is strong teams that have been together for numerous seasons and have added quality in the summer and not really lost players.
“We’re at a different stage. We need to be competitive in every game and in some games we haven’t been and we need to sort that out. Last night was really pleasing to see, one, the performance which was really good, and two, ultimately getting the result we deserved.
“It is just a little disappointing we can’t crack on and keep the momentum going.”
Monkhouse has endured a tough few months in his first managerial posting. The Colls had drawn two and lost four of their opening six league games – alongside two heavy defeats in the FA Cup and FA Trophy.
The signs weren’t brilliant at Pickering at half-time as they were 1-0 down and down to ten men as Gavin Rothery had been sent off. The response was superb and Monkhouse paid tribute to his players who answered their critics.
“We carried on playing the way I want us to play and you couldn’t really tell we had ten men because of the performances of the lads who were on the pitch and that includes the players who came on,” he said.
“It was a real group effort and one that gives us confidence going into our next game whenever that is. It was nice (to get the win) and because it has been a tough start for us.
“We fully deserved the result last night and I’m pleased for the players. They have took a little bit of stick over the last few weeks so it was good to get that result and first league win.
“I’m not massive on social media, but you get to hear bits and bobs of what fans are saying. I appreciate the start to the season hasn’t gone as well as people expected, but I keep saying we are at the start of something and we will lose games.
“I think the manner of some of the losses haven’t been great and that means you’re going to get some stick, whether that’s me or the players.
“I’m just hoping last night gives people, not just the players, but the people in and around the club and the fans a little bit of belief that we have a good side. If we are competitive we will pick up results.
“The message has always been about patience and it is not going to change, but I get the fact if you’re not winning games then people aren’t going to be happy. But there’s more established teams at the wrong end of the table and a couple of wins you can go from quite low to middle of the table.”
The seeds to the Pickering victory were sown during a ten day break. Apart from the draw with Marske United where the Colls were 20 seconds away from beating the league giants, October was a nightmare month.
They were well-beaten in their other games against Ramsbottom United, Colne, Workington (FA Trophy) and Brighouse Town – undoing a positive September.
Monkhouse knew what they needed to address and with postponements because of Covid-issues elsewhere, Ponte used the break wisely.
“A lot of the goals we have given away have been really cheap goals,” he said.
“I keep saying to the boys whatever level you play at, if you are going to give soft, cheap goals away, it is going to be very difficult to win any matches.
“We gave a very sloppy one away last night from a set-play, but the reaction was there and we stayed in the game and we put our chances away.
“But it is about stopping soft, cheap goals. With the quality we have in the team we’ll create chances, that’s not a problem. I think in some of the league games this season we’ve been out of the game within 60 minutes through poor goals.
“I’m not going to make excuses because some of the performances were nowhere near what you would need at this level. But during the time we have had off we have trained so we’ve trained three times a week if we haven’t had a game on a Saturday. A lot of work has gone in on the training ground.
“Especially this last week we took advantage of not having a game and we had a game-plan of how we wanted to do things last night and we pulled it off really well. I’m just hoping the lads get the confidence from that and moving forward we can win a few more games.”
Monkhouse also admitted he has also had to make tough judgements on his squad.
“Going back to when I started the role, it is no excuse but we didn’t have any players,” he said.
“I’ve not had the real luxury of having five or six mainstays who have been there for a couple of years and can depend on. I’ve had to build a squad from scratch and it is difficult.
“Some players will flourish under that and some won’t. As a manager you have to be ruthless and I’ll continue to be like that. The ones who have been with me from the start are good lads and good people and they want to be successful. Hopefully last night will be the start.
“We’ve lost a few players over the last few weeks and I’ve brought a few players in which will help the squad. I’m happy at the minute going into this lockdown with the squad. We’ll have a couple more back from injury and we’ll be looking fairly strong. The minimum is the performance we put in last night.”