Written on March 3, 2017
JOE Gibbons has been kicking his heels waiting for Saturday’s Evo-Stik North derby away to DROYLSDEN.
RADCLIFFE BOROUGH announced after their defeat at fellow strugglers Mossley on February 14 that manager Bill Prendergast would be moving into a youth development role, with his assistant Gibbons becoming interim boss.
Boro have welcomed applications for the first-team manager’s position but, for the time being, Gibbons is auditioning for the job. And he certainly made a good first impression as he took Boro to Glossop 2 weeks ago.
The Hillmen are in the league’s top 7 and they ended 3rd-placed Trafford’s unbeaten run 11 days earlier, yet the midweek managerial restructure had the desired effect for Boro. Dan Burns gave them a half-time lead, which was cancelled out by Adam Jones on 57 minutes. But, despite some Glossop pressure, Jack Hindle restored their lead on 70 minutes before winger Elliot Rokka fired in a superb volley on 79. The hosts weren’t done as Mike Norton pulled one back on 87 minutes, only for captain Hindle to fire home a minute later to seal a 4-2 victory and make it a winning start for Gibbons.
His first home game in charge was set to be against Ossett Albion last Saturday but the match was rained off, meaning Gibbons has had to wait another week to try to build on that success.
“From Christmas onwards we’d been on a poor run,” chairman Paul Hilton told Beyond the Big Two. “The results weren’t what we would have liked so we thought it best for Bill to move to a development role, which is better suited to his skill set.
“We wanted the lads to kick on and it was great that they managed to do that. Gibbo played a big part in that. He changed training and asked the lads to play a little differently, so it was great to see that hard work pay off.
“The profile of the club has risen over the last 8 months, helped with Raul Correia moving to Blackpool on deadline day, and I think because of that we’ve had some great CV’s come in for the manager’s job. We’ll take our time deciding on the new manager and until then Gibbo is in charge.
“He’s also expressed his interest so I suppose he’s being interviewed for it over these coming weeks. He was eager to play again last weekend and try to get a run going but at least he’s had another week to work with the players before we go again.”
It’s almost a year ago that Boro announced Hilton would be succeeding Bernard Manning Jnr as chairman and the club underwent a lot of change last summer, with Crewe’s former Academy director Prendergast returning as manager.
They rebuilt the squad, putting an emphasis on young players with the potential to move onto bigger and better things, and that paid off with League Two Blackpool paying a fee for Correia, 22, in January. Rokka is now thought to be attracting interest from League scouts having scored 14 goals this term and this week the 21-year-old was nominated for the Evo-Stik League’s Supporters’ Player of the Year award.
It speaks volumes about his form that a player in a team in the bottom half of the Evo-Stik’s second tier is among the 5 nominees. Trafford’s 24-goal striker Aaron Burns was named as one of 10 players that just missed out.
“Elliot’s kicked on massively this season, he’s been outstanding,” said Hilton. “He’s our most influential player; he’s got the most goals, the most assists and played in a couple of different positions.
“Our results haven’t shown the full picture. Sides might have taken the points in the game but they’ve shaken our hand afterwards and said ‘You’re a really good side. You just need a bit here, a bit there, but you’ve got some very exciting young players there’. People are seeing it, and over the course of the season, people have really spotted Elliot.
“For him to get nominated is brilliant. He was dead happy when I spoke to him yesterday (Thursday), and he’s worked so hard for it. He’s been here 4 seasons and really, because of the project we put in place last summer, he’s a different player to the one he’s been the last 3 years.
“It’s the same with Jack Hindle. He’s been here 3 years, last season he barely got a game, but he’s been our club captain this season, an ever-present and a very influential character for the club.”
Both Rokka and Hindle scored on Radcliffe’s last trip to the Butcher’s Arms for a thrilling FA Cup tie back in August. Rokka’s 2nd goal late on secured a 4-4 draw, with Boro winning the replay, but DROYLSDEN won their league match at Taurus Park in November.
That Glossop win was only Boro’s 2nd since Boxing Day and they go into Saturday’s game in 18th place, 8 points above the bottom 2. Droylsden are 13th after losing 3-0 to Trafford in their last home game before losing 2-0 at Goole last Saturday.
“We had to arrest our form and now it’s important we carry on that momentum,” Hilton added. “We want to put a run together, to move up the table and start planning for next season. I like Droylsden as a club and we had an awesome game there last time so if it’s anything like that we’re in for a cracker.”
HYDE UNITED are 2 points above Droylsden in 12th and host Farsley on Saturday while TRAFFORD have made a double signing in time for their trip to Scarborough Athletic, bringing in Glossop defender Anthony Griffith and Marine forward Craig Lindfield. Trafford were held to a 1-1 draw last week at home to MOSSLEY, who are 19th ahead of their trip to rock-bottom Burscough.
RAMSBOTTOM UNITED can go 8th with a win at Tadcaster Albion while mid-table ASHTON UNITED host Stafford Rangers in the Evo-Stik Premier.