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Oxenhope Recreation makes a slow start in West Yorkshire League

Despite claiming the Keighley Cup over the summer, their first team have lost six of their eight matches in Division One thus far, including a 4-0 defeat at fourth-placed Swillington Saints on Saturday.

By contrast, their reserves have made a strong start to the WYAFL Alliance One campaign, though that was derailed somewhat by a first defeat of the season at home to Kirk Deighton Rangers at the weekend, leaving them sixth.

“I’m a winner, so the start to this season hasn’t been on,” admitted first-team manager Liam McNichol.

“After winning the Keighley Cup last season we were on a high, but the league season finished on an anti-climax.

“We lost three of the last four against two teams in the bottom five when realistically, one or two wins would have got us promoted.

“That’s probably been hanging over us so far this season, with some of the lads probably thinking that we should be in the Premier Division.

“In this league though, if you’re not willing to run through a brick wall, you won’t win games.”

Alongside that ‘hangover’ from last season, the availability of players has also played its part, with McNichol yet to name an unchanged starting line-up this season.

However, despite his side’s poor start, he is hopeful that one good result will spark them into life and see them improve on their current 12th-placed position.

“Oxenhope winning Division One of the Halifax (Cricket) League ruled out a number of players for the first eight games of the season, but I’ve managed to get a more settled side together over the last few weeks,” he said.

“I’ve not been able to name an unchanged side for 26 games now which has been a massive hindrance, but hopefully, we’re only another result from turning it around.

“We’ve won our last two home games and three of the next four fixtures are at home, so we will be looking for a successful end to October and through November.

“I’ve no doubt that the lads can go on a run of five or six wins in a row like last season.”

The Keighley Cup holders sailed through to the next round of the competition a fortnight ago with an 8-0 thrashing of Craven League side Bradley, but McNichol warned that his side cannot expect to easily reach a second consecutive final.

“A good run again in the Keighley Cup always helps morale, but there are a few more decent sides in it this season,” he admitted.

“My friend Chris Wademan at Silsden Whitestar has got a great squad together this year, and he’s doing a great job with them.

“Silsden Reserves are led by my old first team coach Jacob Mistry, they’re thriving and have quality all over the park.

“And Route One Rovers have been added this year as a team aspiring to be semi-pro next year.

“Over the last few years most clubs have folded or dropped down several levels, but it should be a good competition this season, which is good for local football.”

Earlier this month saw the third anniversary of the death of club captain Tom Marshall, with It’s Worth Talking About, the mental health charity set up in his name, remaining an important part of the club

As well as sponsoring the club’s shirts, founder Ryan Anderton now runs the Oxenhope’s social media accounts, and alongside a training session recently run by former Bradford City assistant manager Martin Hunter, things off the pitch are definitely on the up.

McNichol said: “It was a great session and the lads loved it. Having someone like Martin come down and lead a training session at the club can only build our profile.

“We’ve also got a new social media team in to push us forward as a whole, with Ryan now leading things on that front.

“It’s definitely helping to attract young players, which is what we’re trying to do in terms of developing the talent through the reserve team, which will hopefully lead to first-team football.

“It’s also helped us massively in terms of sponsorship, and with that we’ve been able to put a lot of money into improving the facilities at our Clever Energy Boilers Recreation Ground, as it’s now known.

“It’s not something that we’ve ever thought that we could do at our level to be honest. Our social media wasn’t the greatest when I was doing it and nobody was willing to pay and not get anything back.

“Now, any sponsors future or present do get a lot of value back with how good our social media is.”

Oxenhope train every Wednesday night at Marley from 7:15pm. Anybody interested in getting involved with the club should contact Liam McNichol or Dayne Ward on social media.

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