Retaining Smith is key to Saints’ hopes of going one better
It was a case of so near, but yet so far for Southam United as they failed to land the Athium Midland Combination Premier Division title, ending the season four points adrift of the top, writes David Hucker.
In finishing second, Saints equalled the number of wins of champions Continental Star, were the highest scorers and attracted the biggest average crowd.
But, despite all this, it is the thought of missing out on promotion to step five for the first time in their history which lingers in the memory for manager Luke Fogarty as he looks back on his second season in charge.
“We set our stall out to challenge in the league and thought we had a good enough squad to make the top six, so I’m proud of all the lads for pushing Star so close for the championship,” said Fogarty.
“Normally, I would have been satisfied to win a decent cup and finish second in the league in my first two seasons, but we could have been more professional in some of the things we did and, at the end of the day, that cost us the four-point gap and the title.”
Fogarty used 34 players for the 40 league and cup matches, often having his hand forced by injuries and suspensions.
He lost influential midfielder Josh Cole to Banbury United after playing just nine matches and captain John Blunsom through injury for the second half of the season.
Defender Jack Taylor made the most appearances, playing 37 times and scoring ten goals to become the second highest marksman.
Simeon Smith, who joined in January from Bolehall Swifts, hit the net 22 times in just 17 appearances and keeping him at Banbury Road could be critical to Saints’ chances of going one better next season.
Another player to make an impact in his short loan spell was experienced striker Howard Forinton.
He subsequently moved from Daventry Town to Banbury United, but it would be no surprise to see Saints try to tempt Forinton back on a permanent basis.
Academy manager Ian Ray can be well satisfied after seeing three of his protégés, Michael Clough, Joe Williams and Sam Wimbush make their first-team debuts and the launching of an under-21 side in the Midland Combination next season will continue their development.
Midfielder James Hardie picked up the prize for the most player-of-the-match accolades at the club’s awards ceremony, having been nominated nine times in 29 appearances. But a return to university could see Saints missing his calming influence for much of the 2012/13 campaign.
On the plus side, experienced central defender Quentin Townsend may put off retirement to play one more season at the club.
Fogarty added: “I’ve spoken to the majority of the players who are up for another go next season and, hopefully, we will put it right and win the title.”
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