Highs and lows of the season that was 13/14

Worksop Town players thank the fans at the end of the season
Worksop Town players thank the fans at the end of the season

Forty-four players, 56 games, 31 victories, 265 goals and one incredible season of football.

How do you sum up a campain that was sublime and ridiculous, entertaining and frustrating, brilliant and heartbreaking?

I’ll hold my hands up, I didn’t see it coming.

When Jason Clark told me that Mark Shaw would be working with a reduced budget and focusing on young talent, I did not forsee a potential title charge or a play-off berth.

Nor did I consider that this would be the best season a Tigers team has produced since I arrived at the Guardian in 2007.

There was no doubt that there would be goals.

The re-signing of Leon Mettam and Tom Denton, along with new recruit Jack Muldoon made that clear.

Could Mettam lead a side? Could Shaw find the players to compete? Would Tigers fans back the new regime?

The answer to all those questions was an emphatic yes – eventually.

Mettam was an inspiration all season, banging in 50 goals, and keeping everyone on their toes on the pitch, in the changing room by all accounts and even on Twitter.

Some of the youngsters brought in didn’t make it.

But some of them, Conor Higginson and Alex Pursehouse for instance, proved they were capable of playing at this level and beyond.

When he needed experience, Shaw showed he had the ability to spot a player – Jon Stewart and Adam Quinn the obvious examples.

Worksop’s for and against columns caused fear and derision all season, admiration of their attack often followed by amusement at the defence.

But the ‘you score three we’ll score four’ attitude endeared itself to the crowd, who lapped up thrilling victories.

“We score lots of goals, say we score lots of goals,” became the terrace chant.

Some players also took time to win a place in their affections.

Shane Clarke had a slower star to the season than he would have liked, but he came to show the pedigree he has in the middle of the park.

Laurence Gaughan too struggled early on, but grew in stature alongside Quinn, and was a big loss when he left.

Others could do no wrong in the fans’ eyes.

Denton, the affable free scoring targetman, had a career season.

Phil Roe was first-choice left-back all year long, barring injury or suspension.

Muldoon plied his trade up front and on the wing, providing goals and umpteen assists.

The return of the tough tackling Jake Scott – who leaves his mark on the opposition in a consistently legal fashion – was welcomed.

And back came Jamie Jackson, once the main man, now willing to fight for his place, as part of a supporting cast.

The aforementioned Stewart and Quinn added physicality and calm heads.

That bunch of players, and others who did their best in a yellow shirt, provided some tremendous highlights.

The 5-3 FA Cup win at Stalybridge, and Mettam’s sublime goal, a 5-0 drubbing of Stafford at home with five different goalscorers.

That crazy night in Stocksbridge when five goals went in during the last 10 minutes in a 5-4 Tigers win.

And the instant classic at Gigg Lane, game of the season for me, when a 4-4 draw left everyone breathless.

There were low points too, like the home defeats by Fylde and King’s Lynn, the inability to go to Chorley and Skelmersdale and pull out big results, and the calamitous FA Trophy exit at Ramsbottom.

But what Shaw, his assistant Pete Shuttleworth, the staff, Mettam and the players knew all along was that they could do something special.

Clark obviously realised this, loosening the purse strings when it became clear a promotion bid was possible.

He played his part by backing Shaw financially.

The fans were swept along too, travelling in impressive numbers to away games.

It was hard not to be infected by the hope and belief.

And it nearly, so nearly ended in glory.

It will forever remain a mystery as to how AFC Fylde escaped that play-off semi-final with a 3-1 win.

The disappointment etched on the faces of Higginson and Tom Burgin as I shook their hands was utterly devastating.

But as the club gathers to celebrate the season on Friday night they should hold their heads high.

They gave it their best shot, they gave a fanbase who have had rotten luck for several years something to shout about and they gave us all some great memories.

Another season in the record books, and wasn’t it a good one?