BLOG: The NCEL Premier title is long gone for Worksop Town, so what now?

Worksop Town finished as runners-up in the NCEL Premier Division after a 2-1 win at Tadcaster Albion, and were awarded with a trophy by league officialsWorksop Town finished as runners-up in the NCEL Premier Division after a 2-1 win at Tadcaster Albion, and were awarded with a trophy by league officials
Worksop Town finished as runners-up in the NCEL Premier Division after a 2-1 win at Tadcaster Albion, and were awarded with a trophy by league officials
You won't hear Mark Shaw saying it, you probably won't hear his players saying it, but Worksop Town's NCEL Premier title hopes are long gone.

Tadcaster Albion have moved three points clear of Tigers, with three games in hand.

Handsworth Parramore sit two points behind their Sandy Lane tenants, with three games in hand.

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And Cleethorpes Town make it a hat-trick of sides who will go above Worksop should they win their spare games.

It’s not mathematically impossible for Shaw’s men to lift the title this season, but it’s starting to require a lot of shock results elsewhere.

Reality bites, but there are nine teams currently in a better run of form than Worksop.

It simply hasn’t been good enough.

Looking back at the season as a whole, every month has brought at least one bitterly disappointing result, aside from a perfect September.

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In August it was home defeats by Clipstone and Staveley, October brought a Sandy Lane loss to Tadcaster, they lost to Handsworth in November, and December was winless.

January looked brighter, until Tadcaster served up some more reality, and on Saturday Maltby Main humbled the world’s fourth oldest club.

Where did it all go wrong?

Covering old ground, the departure of talented players and perhaps more importantly a lack of replacements has cost Worksop dearly.

Look at the team who celebrated earning second place at Tadcaster on the final day of last season.

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Gone are Jon Stewart, Tom Burgin, Jake Scott, Jono Wafula, Conor Sellars and most recently Tom Elliott.

Only Stewart has been adequately replaced.

Wafula took himself out of the equation with his refusal to sit on the bench, Burgin, Scott and Elliott should have been playing at a higher level anyway, and the Sellars situation did not play out well for the club, to put it mildly.

Sam Liversidge suffered a season ending injury after 91 minutes of the campaign.

Players who were expected to be consistent performers failed to show up in the ‘big’ matches.

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Tigers just couldn’t hold onto the side that finished second last year, and couldn’t attract players of equal quality to take their place.

Perhaps what Shaw had to offer in terms of financial carrots just wasn’t enough to tempt the rabbits out of the hat.

Or maybe dropping to the NCEL isn’t an attractive proposition for many footballers.

The club could do worse than to make the reasons for their recruitment struggles a matter of public record, and if nothing else take some of the pressure off the manager.

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Going one better this term was always going to be an uphill struggle.

In a working class town like Worksop, most football fans will accept that their team can’t and won’t win every match, as long as they see passion and endeavour.

Sadly, Saturday saw a complete absence of that from Worksop, and while the title hopes may have been fading fast prior to the weekend, the Maltby game has drawn the curtain on the 2015/16 season in many supporters’ eyes.

Shaw isn’t going to wave the white flag, he’ll want to fight tooth and nail for every point between now and 30th April.

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With any luck the players will too, at least if they have any remaining interest in playing in front of almost 500 at Sandy Lane every week.

But at least some attention has to turn towards next season, now.

A number of supporters want to see the promotion bids put on halt until Tigers can secure their own ground – however several hundred thousands of pounds aren’t going to magically appear.

And if the club elect to simply solidify their NCEL Premier status and concentrate on off-field progression, the crowds will drop off and interest in the town will wane.

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It’s a classic case of stick or twist, but the decision makers at Worksop Town need to choose their strategy now and start to work towards it.

If it’s promotion they want, big changes are needed on the pitch - keeping in mind that at least one of Tadcaster or Handsworth are still going to be in this division next season.

Can Shaw cobble together a team of winners from what he has now and whatever he can find in terms of affordable, available talent, between now and August?

And if it’s the ground that is to be chased as a priority, then a new major long-term fundraising scheme needs to be put in place.

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Either way, the Team500 season ticket initiative has to be rolled out again sooner rather than later, and the location of Worksop’s home games for the 2016/17 campaign must be secured and made public.

The Worksop Town faithful may not be in complete agreement with whatever the Decision Making Committee and Shaw come up with, but they’ve proven since 2008 that they’ll be there through thick and thin.

If the fans are kept informed and reassured that the club is being steered confidently and competently down a certain path, they’ll follow.

While tension is running high and patience is wearing thin, only clearly communicated, well thought out leadership will keep this club on track.