By James Grayson (Twitter: @jamesAgrayson)
Considering that the title was Farsley AFC’s aim for the 2012-13 season, it is fair to say that a 14th place finish in the Evo Stik Division One North is an unmitigated disaster.
Hopes were high after the signings of Rob Pacey, Adam Priestley and Chris Walton from Garforth Town and the capture of FC Halifax Town full-back Aaron Hardy. But only two of them remain – Hardy jumped ship at the first opportunity to join Guiseley, while Pacey struggled and was gone by September.
Priestley is the only success story having started nearly every game and contributed 27 goals – for that alone he deserves the Supporters’ Club player of the year award. The striker would have hit the 30 goal mark had he not attracted unwanted interest from Worksop Town in January. Manager Simon Clark was turned down once, but unsportingly tried to sign him again seven days later. That finished off his season as he scored only four more times.
The Farsley management team had hoped to revert 4-3-3 system, but failed to sign Garforth’s Paul Walker, who joined Bradford Park Avenue. And when Adam Muller and forward colleagues failed to produce the goals, the system was rightly abandoned.
From a results perspective, alarm bells began to ring around mid-September. An early FA Cup exit was in the middle of a seven match winless run. But injuries to the likes of Ben Jones and Simeon Bambrook were costly blows and Farsley missed them. Up-front there was no-one to hold the ball up.
The arrival of James Riley and Matt Dempsey in late September made a huge difference and this shows in the records as Farsley recorded six straight league wins – conceding only one goal in the process. Goalkeeper Tom Morgan was in brilliant form and his injury at Bamber Bridge was a massive blow. If he hadn’t had missed several months, Morgan would have probably been the club’s player of the year.
The late 2-1 defeat at Warrington Town in November finished off any hopes of the title and also proved to be the end for Ryan Watson. Whilst some may believe the decision to be controversial, Neil Parsley was right to let him go. Watson is a good player and scored some fantastic goals, but his performances in games against Cammell Laird, Mossley, Ossett Albion (league, away), Bamber Bridge, Warrington and most notably Albion Sports were not good enough and it meant a parting of the ways.
In a year’s time, maybe there might be a place in Parsley’s team, but considering the play-offs were slipping away, Farsley needed new impetus and Brice Tiani brought that in his first ten games for the club. Tiani scored on his debut when Radcliffe Borough were beaten 2-0 as Farsley tried to repair their season.
A seven match unbeaten league run which stretched into February revived hopes of the play-offs. But three defeats against Curzon, Salford and Burscough killed Farsley’s chances and it was time to prepare for next year.
The signing of Robbie O’Brien has given Farsley a new leader. A player who is athletic and will drive Farsley forward – he is someone who fellow players and supporters will look up to.
The last few games were torturous as injuries stripped Farsley’s team to the bare bones. But the players who willingly turned out deserve credit for being competitive – the performances at Skelmersdale and New Mills were excellent considering the circumstances.
There can be one positive from the season – the club’s young players were given a chance. Tom Dugdale, Sam Robinson and Rob Etherington took their opportunity to play and the experience will be beneficial to them.
However, overall it has been a disaster and manager Parsley and his assistants Simeon Bambrook and Mark Jackson have been let down. Performances have simply not been good enough and because of that there will be a clear out and it is likely that not many will survive the cull.