Harpenden Town end of season report focuses on a campaign of much change
- Credit: Archant
With the football season over for all non-league club from step three down, Herts Advertiser sports reporter Neil Metcalfe reviewed the campaign for Harpenden Town. Here’s his end-of-year report.
Team name: Harpenden Town
Division: SSML Premier Division
Final position: 6th (29 of 40 games played)
FA Cup: Extra-preliminary round (lost 3-1 at Stotfold)
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FA Vase: First qualifying round (lost 2-0 at Eynesbury Rovers)
Season grade overall: B
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It started out as a season of uncertainty, it ended in a while heap of uncertainty and it will probably even begin next year as another leap into the unknown.
But in between there were moments of calm, moments of good football and a pleasing sense of satisfaction as Harps battled towards the top end of the table.
It was always going to be a tricky year with the departure of long-term boss Danny Plumb and the arrival of a new man but Martin Standen breezed in through the door full of confidence and as he boldly predicted back in June, they were sitting fifth when Bedford Town came calling with the offer of a move up the non-league managerial ladder.
It took a little while to get the right personnel in and settled but once he did Harpenden flourished.
The same was true after his departure but with first-team coach Mickey Nathan installed in the hot-seat they soon got over any troubled waters.
The national cups were a disappointment with exits at the first attempt in both FA Cup and Vase but both came during the early settling-in period for Standen’s new team.
Crowds were slightly up for the season though so overall there was plenty to be happy about down at Rothamsted Park.
Game of the season: Tring Athletic (home) - November 9
It was the culmination of a superb little spell for Harpenden and set them up as a genuine top of the table challengers.
Harps had won three and drawn two of the previous five games when league leaders Tring arrived and when they left, Town had made it six unbeaten with a 3-2 success.
George Robinson, Chris Blunden and Harvey Scott got the goals in a victory that was always likely according to boss Standen.
He said afterwards: “We are the team that will surprise people this year”.
A last-minute loss at Harefield United in their next game brought them down slightly but three more wins and another draw followed that to keep Harpenden on the shirt tails of the teams above them.
Most pleasing player: George Robinson
There’s an old saying, “in an uncertain world it’s good to know some things never change”.
George Robinson was one of the very few people to remain at the club from the Danny Plumb era but the full-back was the very model of consistency and professionalism.
He started in 23 of the 29 league games but appeared off the bench in the other six, seamlessly fitting in with the new squad and style.
Chairman Roman Motyczak said he would like a Harpenden core to the team and it is likely that players like Robinson were exactly who he had in mind.
Moment of the season: Martin Standen’s departure
While nobody could begrudge Standen’s decision to move to Southern League Bedford and an assistant manager role alongside close friend Mark Duckett, it could have been a decision that rocked the club to its foundation.
And yet Nathan’s appointment helped make the transition a smooth one. He maintain the same standards, the same training sessions and the same style of play.
More importantly he was able to persuade the majority of players to stay on.
That will hopefully give them a very solid base to work from going into next season.
It will definitely be a case of deja vu for Harpenden next year.
The same season replayed out and they will begin it with a fairly new man in charge.
Nathan has plenty of experience in the SSML though and because of what is stated above, he should have a good chunk of last year’s squad available to him.
The club will never be one of the league’s big spenders and won’t attract superstars.
Their good league position in this voided season will make them somewhat of an attractive proposition though.
And another top-half position with the potential to kick on and challenge at the very top of the pile would be very gladly received.