MARK Owen says that it is full steam ahead for his Droitwich Spa side after a stop-start first half of the season.
The Saltmen went top of Division One of the West Midlands (Regional) League for the first time this term after beating Wrens Nest 5-2 in mid-December, proving a memorable point in an unusual campaign which has resulted in Droitwich only completing ten league games prior to Christmas Day.
Assessing the first half of the 2019/20 season, in which the club achieved a best-ever run to the second round of the FA Vase and progression in the Division One League Cup, Owen says momentum has built nicely to allow the club to have a successful end to the campaign.
“As I said at the start of August, the league is the most important thing for us this season,” said the Droitwich manager.
“We’ve just caught up now with our games on most of the other teams in the league, being top at Christmas was massive for us to have a strong second half of the season.
“The FA Vase was very important for the club and helped massively, both financially and in promoting the club in the area.”
And despite a backlog of fixtures now facing Spa, albeit an issue that will affect most of the other teams in the division, the Saltmen boss is confident that the busy schedule will prove beneficial in keeping his team sharp for the remainder of the season.
“It’s been such a lay off for the lads with all of the fixtures missed that I think it will help us to get back to sharpness,” Owen said.
“We’re going to be playing every four days in January, it is a backlog but it should help us in many ways.
“We can’t get ahead of ourselves. I’m delighted with how 2019 has finished by going top of the league table, the lads have been terrific but it all means nothing at this stage.”
Two names which have cropped up more than any other are the prolific strike pairing of Connor Collins and James Lemon, who have found the net 30 times between them prior to Spa’s final game of the year against Wyrley on Saturday (3pm).
Regardless of the outstanding contribution made by the pair, Owen is more inclined to pay tribute to his entire squad for their efforts in the first half of the season, adding: “Collectively in terms of goals scored we’re up there in the charts, and the opposite for goals against.
“Most of the goals have come from Connor and James, Jordan (Cox) has also done well in recent weeks, and they’ll take the plaudits, but there are players behind them that make their job easier.
“Players like Cory Rudd, Lewis [Phillips], Alex Dugmore and Seels [Mike Seeley] – everyone has played their part – so I can’t pinpoint just one player.”
And with a chance to reflect on the first half of the season before heading into the 2020 fixtures, Owen was quick to name two games which have defined the current campaign so far.
“Against Whitchurch Alport [in the FA Vase], everyone was surprised by how we managed to play considering we knew we were going up against,” he said.
“We lost against Lye Town, but to see the ground full of that many Droitwich supporters – I think we took in the region of 150 fans to the game – it really showed the potential of the club and the fanbase.
“It also showed how far we’ve come in such a short space of time, and then the overall highlight was going top for the first time this season before Christmas.”
Droitwich kick off 2020 with a trip to strugglers FC Darlaston on Saturday (2pm), prior to a midweek visit to Sikh Hunters on Tuesday (7.45pm).