Avenue review of the season

Avenue fans will remember the season just finished as the one when their main man returned to rescue them.

There had been rumblings of discontent when John Deacey left the club at the end of the 2009-10 season but it was unavoidable due to health and family reasons.

Deacey had moved up from assistant to the top job, replacing a dispirited Lee Sinnott, earlier that campaign and went on a march that so nearly ended triumphantly.

Avenue were playing the football the supporters demand and were also getting results. They led the then UniBond League Premier Division for most of the season but ended the campaign as runners-up and lost out to Boston United in the play-off final. That was also an epic battle that went to extra-time.

A physically and emotionally drained Deacey walked away from Horsfall seemingly for the last time. That meant Avenue would begin the season just gone with an ‘under new management’ sign hanging outside the stadium.

Former Huddersfield Town man Simon Collins arrived and assembled a backroom staff of ex-Terriers, with Chris Billy as his assistant and Simon Baldry – who was already an Avenue player and crowd favourite – as first-team coach.

Collins and his men faced a tough task as the squad had broken up and drifted apart following Deacey’s resignation. Under difficult circumstances, the new management team had no luck whatsoever and the writing was on the wall.

A 3-2 home defeat to local rivals Frickley Athletic on the last Saturday of October, while most Premier Division clubs were in FA Trophy second qualifying-round action, saw Collins resign in the dressing room after the final whistle.

It was a dramatic exit but not a shock one as Avenue had lost 2-0 at Colwyn Bay in the first qualifying round earlier in the month and then suffered a 4-1 league defeat at Kendal Town.

Deacey was a surprise successor to Collins, with Billy and Baldry soon following their former Terriers team-mate away from Horsfall, and he brought former Avenue centre back Mark Hume with him as number two.

The fans were delighted, the results began to improve as signings were made, the board soon realised they had reappointed the right man and Avenue rocketed up the table, once the bleak mid-winter had relented.

Fans began to dream of the play-offs for a second season on the spin. Top spot was already out of the question, with neighbours FC Halifax Town easing towards the Evo-Stik League Premier Division title.

The rejuvenated Deacey and his squad, backed by the board’s sound financial planning, produced the goods and a play-off berth was secured as Avenue finished the regular season in third place. There was also the glimmer of a double as they reached the semi-finals of the League Cup.

But any hope of promotion and a trophy was shortlived as Avenue went down 3-1 at Northwich Victoria in the cup at the beginning of April.

Third spot guaranteed them entry into the end-of-season extras and even home advantage. But that was against FC United of Manchester and – in front of a deafening crowd of almost 3,000 at Horsfall, which was illuminated by flares lit by the visiting fans – the Mancunians won.

Having lost one league title to Guiseley, who have gone on to push for promotion to the Blue Square Bet Premier, and this one to FC Halifax Town, surely next season will be Avenue’s time.

Or will it, because the Bradford club will still be up against FC United – they lost the play-off final at Colwyn Bay – and joined by Chester, who are on a mission to follow Halifax through the pyramid system after reforming.

Avenue 2010-11 statistics

Goal scorers: 20 Tom Greaves; 15 Aiden Savory; 10 Adam Clayton; 9 Matty James; 7 Rob O’Brien; 4 Steve Burton, David Heagney; 3 Brice Tiani; 2 Nicky Boshell, Chib Chilaka, Tom Claisse, Danny Facey, James Knowles, Henry McStay, Kevin Sanasy; 1 Luke Gibson, Nathan Hotte, Matty Plummer, James Riley, Dominic Riordan, Nathan Taylor.

Appearances (maximum 50): Martin Drury 45, Aiden Savory 42 + 2 as substitute, Tom Greaves 38 + 8, James Knowles 30, Aiden Savory 26 + 8, Matty James 25 + 1, John Lamb 23, Steve Burton 20 + 2, Simon Baldry 20, Matty Plummer 20, Luke Gibson 19 + 11, Nathan Hotte 19 + 4, David Briggs 18 + 2, Dominic Riordan 17, Tom Claisse 16 + 5, Rob O’Brien 16, Nathan Hay 15, Nicky Boshell 14 + 1, Mike Hale 14, James Riley 14, Danny Facey 11 + 5, Brice Tiani 10 + 14, Henry McStay 9 + 5, Rob Tonks 9 + 1, Liam Chapman 7, Steven Kerr 6, Brett Renshaw 6, Mark Hume 5 + 4, Stephen Downes 4, Rob Scott 4, Kevin Sanasy 3 + 5, Liam Shepherd 3 + 1, Chib Chilaka 2 + 1, Lewis Nightingale 2 + 1, James Cotterill 2, Spencer Harris 2, Ryan Watson 2, Jordan Yorath 2.

Also played: Nathan Taylor 1 + 3, James Riordan 1 + 2, Dave Cyrus 1 + 1, Ross Hardaker 1 + 1, Marc Smith 1 + 1, Brian Gilmore 1, Anthony Lloyd 0 + 1, Ben Thornton 0 + 1.