(TAKING STOCK: Stockton Town’s Tom Coulthard in action with Thatcham Town’s Chris Rackley in the FA Vase final. PICTURE: Action Images)
By Mark Carruthers
Michael Dunwell has urged his Stockton Town players to use the disappointment of missing out on FA Vase glory as motivation for the new season.
The Anchors achieved a top-six finish in their first-ever season in the Northern League’s top-flight but they couldn’t add the FA Vase to their growing list of achievements after a 1-0 defeat against Thatcham Town at Wembley in May.
Rather than focusing on the negatives of that loss, Dunwell wants his players to gain belief from what they achieved throughout the last twelve months.
“We went into last season not knowing what to expect,” said the Anchors boss. “We went out of the FA Cup at the first hurdle and we didn’t win our first league game until the middle of September.
“But we grew into the season and realised we can deal with the challenges of playing at that level.
“The players realised that they are more than capable of challenging and you could see that belief grow throughout the season. We finished the league season with momentum and that helped us finish where we did.
“Obviously the Vase Final didn’t go our way but it’s been six weeks since the game so we have put it behind us.
“We won’t ever forget everything that the Vase run brought us but now it’s time to look forward, use what we learnt in the run and in the final and put it into progressing again this season.”
Progressing is something that Stockton Town have become used to over the past three years. Successive promotions took the Anchors from the Step 6 Wearside League and into the Northern League’s top tier.
Dunwell is confident that the club can continue their trend of improving their league performance year-on-year.
“The club has to keep progressing, although it will be tough this season,” he said. “We want to be in the top three or four and we are confident we can do that.
“The cups will be a challenge but that is somewhere we know we can improve.
“Guisborough Town put us out of the FA Cup early on last season, so a good FA Cup run would be nice and we would love another crack at the Vase.
“We are ready for the challenge and can’t wait to get going.”
Dunwell has added midfielder Jordan Robinson and winger Peter Bulmer to his squad for the new season.
There has been one key departure as last season’s top scorer Jamie Owens left to join newly-promoted Evo-Stik League East side Marske United.
The Anchors boss is still hopeful of adding to his squad but is happy with his business so far.
“It was a bit of a blow to lose Jamie Owens but that’s football,” Dunwell said. “We have brought in Jordan Robinson and Peter Bulmer and they offer us real quality and they give us something we didn’t have last season.
“We are still looking to add to our squad and but I am happy with the two signings we have made so far”
*This article originally featured in The @NonLeaguePaper which is available every Sunday and Monday
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