By Matt Badcock
Connor Hall says Brackley Town have pushed his game to the next level – and the defender believes they have every right to believe they can reach Step 1.
The 25-year-old has been a big factor in the Saints’ National League North promotion push since joining from Step 3 Biggleswade Town in the summer.
Having started his career alongside England keeper Nick Pope at Bury Town, Hall was set to sign for Cambridge United when he was 21.
But a groin problem saw the move delayed and was followed by other injury issues that kept him sidelined for 18 months in total before the U’s opted not to complete after their promotion to League Two.
But now he’s on the up again with Kevin Wilkin’s Brackley and proving he can play higher in the Pyramid following his previous disappointment.
“It was a bit of a kick in the teeth and I went back to my original club, Bury,” Hall told The NLP. “That’s where I probably should have stepped up and not gone back to my comfort zone.
“I then went to St Neots because it’s near where I live and they’d got to a play-off final. But I didn’t enjoy it and was only there for about three months before going to Biggleswade.
“I had the best time of my life for the two years I was there. The gaffer (Chris Nunn) was brilliant with me. It made me love football again and think, ‘I can still go higher’.
“I still always thought I could, but just felt the chances were slim so I wasn’t concentrating on it because work comes first when you get to your mid-20s.
“I was hearing every now and then people were looking at me and at the end of last season I thought, ‘I’ve got to make the step up now. With work it’s going to be difficult but if it doesn’t work out at least I’ve tried’.
“I watched Brackley in their play-off semi-final and the gaffer said they wanted to sign me whether they went up or stayed in the National League North.
“I started the season there and it’s gone from strength-to-strength. A lot of the boys have had promotions out of this league or played higher and it’s nice to come to a team challenging.
“I knew it was a great opportunity for me and it’s been brilliant. It’s helped me push on – especially playing alongside Gaz Dean, he’s one of the best I’ve played with.”
The shift into defence – Hall felt it would be better for him – after a couple of seasons in the Waders’ midfield has certainly paid off.
One of the Saints’ star performers as they’ve combined a run to the FA Trophy quarter-finals with another promotion push, Hall has plenty of admirers.
Naturally determined to play as high as he can, he’s hoping Wilkin’s side can keep up their charge that was boosted by a win over high-flying Stockport County last weekend.
“I know there’s only eight games left but we feel we’re hitting our stride now. We’re scoring chances we weren’t earlier in the season so we’re not inviting teams onto us later in games,” Hall said. “Carl Baker has come in and been clinical and given us that edge which has made it even better for us and our promotion push. It’s what you want to be involved in.”