BY GEORGE NEWELL
The boss assesses Skem’s promotion chances, ahead of the final game of the season
Skelmersdale United manager, Paul McNally, insists he couldn’t be prouder of his team despite recent results potentially costing them a chance at promotion.
Skem have been the surprise package of this season’s NWCFL Premier Division, with very few outside the club expecting to see them at the business end of the table this late on.
“It probably has exceeded expectations – I think we were expected to finish top-10,” said McNally.
A barnstorming run of 14 games unbeaten was pivotal in getting the Lancashire outfit to the top of the table – as little as two months ago.
However, dropped points at the likes of struggling Litherland REMYCA and Ashton Athletic has meant that they are now reliant on other results going their way if they are to get promoted.
The Blueboys currently occupy the all-important play-off spot, with one game left to play on Saturday April 2.
Although, Charnock Richard and Wythenshawe Town both sit four points behind with a potentially crucial two games in hand each.
McNally feels that securing the solitary play-off spot is currently a long shot.
He said: “I don’t think that we will get a play-off, to be honest.
“It’s in the hands of Wythenshawe and Charnock now.
“If it’s not to be, it will still be a fantastic season that we’ve had.”
However, McNally still acknowledges that there’s a chance his side could join Macclesfield in the NPL West Division next season, especially as Charnock and Wythenshawe still have to play each other.
He said: “Hopefully, you never know in football, it might turn around.
“I’m just hoping that it does change and then we can turn a corner.
“Charnock and Wythenshawe play each other this Saturday [March 26] so hopefully it’s a draw, or something that suits us, and we can profit from it.”
Despite recent results not going their way, McNally has no regrets about sticking with the bold, attacking, style which got his team to the top of the league.
“We’ve stuck to our plan, which is to attack teams, from the very first minute of the season.
“You could argue it’s been to our downfall at times, like at Macclesfield, but that’s our philosophy and it won’t change.
“I’ll stick by my beliefs, and principals, and the lads will back me in that,” McNally insists.
This eye-catching brand of football could prove to be a key factor if United do get promoted, as they boast a goal difference of 41 in comparison to Charnock and Wythenshawe’s 36.
Skem’s chances were also boosted on Wednesday night when Wythenshawe dropped an unlikely two points, in a 1-1 draw at Barnoldswick Town.
This means that if the Blueboys can win their final game of the season, at home to 18th-placed Lower Breck, then one of the chasing pack would likely need to take maximum points from their final three games – because of Skelmersdale’s superior goal difference.
Regardless of which of the many promotion stipulations that does unfold, Skem fans have a team that they can be proud of.
This is reflected in the long list McNally gave when asked who, in particular, had impressed him this season.
“Mikey Howard and Elliot Morris have been outstanding – they’ll get all the plaudits.
“But, it’s the unsung heroes in the team like Joe Herbert, Michael Grogan, and Ben Barnes, they’re your stalwarts.
“Danny Mitchley has also been outstanding, doesn’t get the same praise as Elliot and Mikey, but he’s scored a lot of vital goals for us.”
With the squad McNally has assembled, combined with the experience of a promotion run-in, Skem will pose a threat to any team they come up against next season – regardless of the league.
McNally said: “We’ve put ourselves back on the map and we’re already stronger for it, but we’ll be even stronger for it next season.
“I’ve got a lot of unsung heroes in that team and every one of them has been superb, and a credit to the club, so long may it continue.”
With Skelmersdale not back in action now until the all-important final day, all eyes will turn to Mossie Park for tomorrow’s six-pointer between Charnock and Wythenshawe.