To say Buckley Town have had a monumental turnaround in recent weeks would be quite the understatement.
On paper, the record that the Bucks were on made for ugly reading. No wins in eight, and only one win in a run of 15 JD Cymru North games.
Despite the poor form, current player-coach Asa Hamilton still believed in his side, even though the points were not forthcoming.
“It looks terrible when you see it written down, but we weren’t getting smashed in games. We were losing games in the last five minutes, being 2-0 up against Bangor in the last ten minutes then losing 3-2 for example. It was so hard because we only had eleven or twelve players.
“We did have young lads on the bench, but they’re 16 or 17, and you don’t really want to be chucking them into those types of games when you’re 2-1 up or 2-2. Those lads should be playing in games when you’re four or five up and then they can come on and show you what they can do.
“We had boys who were playing injured, ones who were struggling, and they give me everything. There has been bad times, but I kept saying, as soon as we got that squad depth, that would make such a difference.
“No one gave up, and we carried on and now we’re starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel.”
That light began shining more than ever when Buckley finally notched up that all important win against Prestatyn Town in January.
It wasn’t just any old win either. It was a 5-1 victory against side who were down in the lower echelons of the table alongside them.
“I had a lot of faith in my boys,” Hamilton says. “The Ruthin game the week before we drew 2-2, and we battered them, but we conceded those late goals again, this time two free-kicks.
“At that point, because Ruthin are a good team who were on a good run at that stage, I knew we were starting to turn. I could see everything that we had worked on in training, things like triangles, patterns of play, our style. Every week now, it’s getting better and better.
“The day we played Prestatyn, I said today is the day, no more excuses, it has to start today. We’ve been unbelievable since then in the way we’ve played and controlled games. In the last ten minutes of games prior, we’ve been very naïve. But now I’ve seen lads grow up and acting like men.
“Josh Allen for example, he’s been absolutely amazing, and you see him now taking a little bit of that sting out of a game, which we weren’t doing before.”
Late goals have been a theme of Buckley’s season so far. Conceding three late goals to Bangor, a 96th minute winner against Llandudno, and a late Ruthin goal have all cost them points.
But in their last two games, the Bucks have scored late against Caersws and Mold to win games, and it’s certainly helped shape the mentality of Hamilton’s men.
“Caersws are a big, strong team, but we bullied them and outworked them. I’ve come on in the last 20 minutes and scored two goals, and that was a bit of a bonus for me! But we needed a win like that.
“The 5-1 against Prestatyn was great, but we needed to win in the last five minutes, we needed to score late to win, because that can take momentum through the roof.
“I was really confident going into the Mold game. We can’t knock Mold; they’re a great team and Mike Cunningham is doing an incredible job. We went there and after 45 minutes, we had dominated them.
“Second half they came out and gave us a challenge, but we always looked in control. To go and win in the last ten minutes again, that’s the difference. We have turned from a naïve team to one that knows what they’re doing. Everything is starting to click and it’s clicking at the right time.”
Now all of a sudden, the next run of games for Buckley looks exciting, and they can carry a lot of excitement and confidence into each game.
After this weekend’s game against Denbigh Town, the Bucks will welcome Connah’s Quay Nomads to The Globe in the quarter-final of the JD Welsh Cup; a game that means so much to Hamilton, the club, and the town.
“With the situation the club is in, not being at home for so long, the money situation, it’s been difficult for so long.
“I never realised as a player just how hard a job a manager has and how much the backroom staff like the secretary and the people you don’t really see as a player, just how much hard work they go through.
“Now I’ve seen everything that goes into it. We’ve been losing money every week because we’re playing at Deeside, so we haven’t been earning much.
“This cup game has come massively at the right time. I expect a really big turnout, because as a club, it’s going to be massive for us. It’ll keep us afloat at the minute, and it’ll be nice to earn some money.”
With the Nomads looking set for a top two finish in the JD Cymru Premier, it certainly looks on paper like a difficult task.
But for Hamilton, there will be no fear, and he is ready to give Connah’s Quay everything they’ve got.
“At the end of the day, there’s eleven men against eleven men. They’ve got different shirts on and that’s it.
“I played under Neil Gibson a long time ago, and he’s obviously got a great squad. I watched them train the other day and they’re players are of the highest quality.
“But the fact of the matter is, we’re playing at home, and I’ve never ever gone into a game thinking I was going to lose, and my players will be exactly the same.
“There’ll be loads of Buckley Town fans there cheering us on, and I hope Connah’s Quay are expecting a war. I’m really looking forward to it, and it’ll probably be my biggest challenge after staying up.”
The future is certainly looking bright in Flintshire, and now until the end of the season, Hamilton is aiming as high as possible.
“I think Denbigh are probably out of reach for us points wise, but I’d like us to push up as high as we can in the league. We’ve caught up with the likes of Caersws, Gresford, and Guilsfield.
“Let’s just go out and win every game until the end of the season and do it one game at a time.”
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