Neil Aspin immediately lavished his FC Halifax Town side with praise after they set up a Skrill Premier play-off semi-final with second-place Cambridge United.
The Shaymen drew 1-1 with Kidderminster Harriers, which ensured fifth spot, and now Aspin has set his sights on finally banishing the memories of Town’s first game back in non-league’s top-flight on the opening day of the season. He revealed to Shaymen Player after the game:
“I said to the players after the game that it is a fantastic achievement and that they should be proud of themselves and proud of their efforts this season.
“For a newly promoted team, and a part-time team at that, to get into the play-offs is a really big achievement. They’ve done fantastic all season, after a difficult start at Cambridge, and they have certainly done better than what anyone could have ever expected.
“Sometimes, as a manager, it’s nice when the team does better than expected and they have surpassed what I genuinely thought what they could achieve.
“If I said that we weren’t bothered about winning this game and that it was just a case about getting through the game then I think that it would have sent the wrong message.
“We wanted to win the game and we wanted to prepare properly because, even though it would have taken one hell of a swing, you just never know in football and if you start off badly then the game becomes difficult; I wanted to guard against complacency.
“I wouldn’t have been disappointed with a draw before the game but I wanted to make sure that we did not lose another game at home because I think that is a fantastic record.
“I was well aware of the other teams and who was playing who and what we might get if we finished in this position. Football is a funny thing because Cambridge wouldn’t have thought they would be playing us in the play-offs after they beat us 5-1 on the opening day of the season. It gives us a great chance to redress that balance.”
The draw ensured Town’s only blemish at home was the 4-3 defeat against Woking before Christmas and Aspin paid tribute to the fantastic Shay record this campaign. He said:
“Last year we had a good form away from home and we struggled at times at home, so I didn’t expect, going into this league, that our home record would be this good.
“But we got off to a good start in a difficult game against Wrexham and then followed it up with another good win at home and then just kept the momentum going.
“I must say that some of the form and play at home has just been tremendous. We have scored in every game apart from the Braintree game, which again is a good record, and that has given us a platform; that is why we are in the play-offs because we have picked up so many points at home.”
Matt Glennon and Josh Wilson picked up notable injuries against the Harriers, but Aspin insists that all of his young, fit and hungry players will be ready for the play-off challenge, as they search for a fourth promotion in five remarkable years. Aspin remarked:
“I was delighted for Josh but I was disappointed for him that he picked up an injury. It is unfortunate but you can’t legislate for the odd injury and I’m disappointed for him because he scored a good goal and he worked well.
“Matty Glennon picked up an injury and Phil Senior came on. I was going to put him on at some point anyway because he is in need of some match practice.
“If I make wholesale changes then I think it sets the wrong tone going into the game, so we kept a strong team. But Phil came on and produced a couple of tremendous reflex saves.
“You’re always going to get a few injuries but we are not a Grimsby where we can put out another team. We don’t have the depth to rotate eleven players. A lot of the players played when I would have liked to have rested them but they are young, fit lads and they have been doing it all season and they have just all to go again for the games in the play-offs.
“They have all done fantastically well and they have just got to enjoy being in the play-offs. Obviously they will have to play to their best but they must enjoy it.
“We have got a good record of promotions and we’re not fazed about the games in the play-offs, even at this level.”
The full interview can be viewed on Shaymen Player
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