After a couple of indifferent performances, we finally got our first win under Graham Westley with a 1-0 win at home to Hartlepool. A Danny Mayor thunderbolt with just 15 minutes left settling a game which lacked much in the way of entertainment. However it there was a large amount of effort and determination from a North End side where a lot of the players had made less than 20 appearances for the club and a handful of them were making their debuts for the team.
For the first time this season I wasn’t particularly nervous as we defended the one goal lead apart from a really hairy moment in stoppage time when Hartlepool should have scored had it not been for Nicky Hunt, the goalpost and wasteful finishing (in that order!).
After seeing games where the opposition has scored late on to nick points (Scunthorpe United in August and Oldham Athletic in October) it is really encouraging to see us close out a 1-0 win. Teams with aspirations of the top 6 do this and it shows how Westley has been improving the fitness levels of the squad although there is still a long way to go but the early signs are encouraging so far.
With Sheffield United away on Saturday, who are in formidable form at the moment, it was crucial that we got the three points last night. Westley wouldn’t want to have been waiting too long for that first win as after a while it can start to be a massive pressure. It took previous manager Phil Brown to thirteen games to get his first win and this was one of the main reasons why we were relegated. When he was appointed manager we were 4 points from safety but by the time we won 3-0 at Scunthorpe in March we were almost 13 points from safety, something we would fail to claw back before May.
Being realistic I think we will be very lucky to come from a ground where only 2 teams have won this season with a result, but at least there are signs that Westley is turning the rot around. However it is a very long turnaround and it is important we don’t get ahead of ourselves and think we are bound for the play offs because of a 1-0 win. Hartlepool were one of the form teams and on a good unbeaten run before the game, but with time the team will gel and become more tactically aware and with that comes better performances. Then the results will start to come which at the very least gives fans reason to believe that next season could be a fantastic one.