Non League Daily

BLOG: Simmo's Evo-Stik NPL Team of the Year

It was the year when FC United finally got to throw a promotion party they’ve been forced to postpone more times then they’ll want reminding writes NLD's Cheshire writer Andrew Simpson

(It’s four, by the way).

And who can begrudge them? If you do, then shame on you.

After losing heavily at Ilkeston in October, they lost only twice in a sequence that included 21 victories in 31 Premier Division fixtures.

A run of 11 successive wins, between Boxing Day and the end of February, was better –by some distance – than any of their rivals managed.

For the record Buxton, with seven victories, were next best.

More than anything this was a reward for manager Karl Marginson, who refreshed and – more importantly – strengthened a squad shorn once more of two of its best players last summer.

Their win against Ashton in February proves my point; toiling to find a way through expertly-organised opponents, he sent on Greg Daniels and Callum Byrne from the bench after an hour.

They changed the game, and 30 minutes later the Reds had scored three times.

I’ve watched more than 50 games this season involving Northern Premier League Premier Division clubs – usually playing against Witton – and have picked Simmo’s Select XI from the players I’ve seen.

To avoid outlandish accusations of bias, I’ve not included an Albion man in the 18.

Have a look, and tweet me why I’m wrong or to ask why I didn’t pick him or the other.

Easy answer – they must have been rubbish against the Albs!

Team of the year
GK: Grant Shenton (Ramsbottom); CB: Luke Ashworth (FC United); CB: Ash Palmer (Buxton); CB; Rob McIntosh (Skem); RWB: Kenny Strickland (Skem); CM: David Morgan (Ilkeston); CM: Ashley Young (Ashton United); LWB: Jerome Wright (FC United); F: Robbie Dale (Blyth Spartans); Dan Maguire (Blyth Spartans); Rob Duffy (Ilkeston). Subs: Alex Street (King’s Lynn); Liam Brownhill (FC United); Danny Jenno (Barwell); Alex Brown (Curzon Ashton); Elliot Osborne (Nantwich); Dale Johnson (Ashton United); Matty Tymon (Workington)

Manager of the year
Gavin Skelton. First full season as manager, and of a team that was relegated the previous season, yet guides them to second place in the table after losing only four matches after October 18. They won 23 of 31 league fixtures after that date.

Honourable mentions to FC United’s Karl Marginson, for obvious reasons, and Kevin Wilson (Ilkeston).

Meanwhile the freedom of Crosby should be granted to Sean Hessey following his miracle-working at Marine.

Player of the year
How I voted in the NPL Facebook Group poll:

Third: Grant Shenton (Ramsbottom)

Second: Luke Ashworth (FC United)

First: Robbie Dale, of course (Blyth Spartans)

Goalkeeper Grant Shenton stayed loyal to Ramsbottom United despite losing most of his teammates when management team Antony Johnson and Bernard Morley left to take over at Salford in January.

His performances on the pitch were similarly honourable, helping Rammy to collect the points they needed to avoid relegation back to Division One North after a single season in the Northern Premier League’s top flight.

Luke Ashworth had big boots to fill, literally and metaphorically, at the heart of FC United of Manchester’s defence following the departures of the excellent Tom Davies and Charlie Raglan to higher-ranked clubs.

Utterly unflappable every time I saw him – will be fascinating to follow how he progresses from here.

But for first choice, it’s only right to pick a man that encapsulates the standard of football played at the top of the Premier Division.

Dale isn’t just brilliant, but he’s a leader too.

A mesmeric dribble down the left touchline at Wincham Park earlier this month couldn’t help but make me smile – even though he was doling out punishment to Witton.

Absolutely impeccable player.

Article: Andrew Simpson @simmo_on_sport

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