SEDGLEY Tigers head into the new year determined to maintain their challenge at the top end of National League Two North.
The Whitefield men visit lowly Sheffield Tigers on Saturday looking to make it 10 consecutive wins – form in stark contrast to 12 months ago when 2013 opened with a run that saw them extend a run of 11 defeats in 12 matches in the higher division.
Following relegation, Tigers recruited 10 players with an average age of around 20, while they lost the experienced quartet of Richard Oxley, Nick Flynn, Simon Parrott and Mike Dutton. But after a slow start they have turned it around and sit fourth in the division going into 2014.
Roberts says the difference has been the balance of youth and experience in the squad and the confidence gained from a winning run.
He told The Guide: “What we have done differently to other years is get a younger team together, just with that smattering of experience.
“That’s really worked for us and we’re beginning to reap the benefits from it. “There’s a lot of talent that’s really beginning to shine and it’s mixed in with hard work as well.
“The players work as a team and work for one another. We’ve got something that we’ve not had for a number of years. It’s a case of developing it.”
The feelgood factor around Park Lane has risen dramatically. And that is down to a positive outlook despite the disappointment of relegation last season.
With up to a dozen senior professionals out injured at regular intervals, Roberts had no doubt about the major reason behind his side’s relegation. “We would have finished mid-table if we had not had horrendous injuries,” he said. “If we can avoid a repeat of that we could have a pretty good chance of challenging for promotion this season.” Last season was to end on a high, however, as Sedgley finished the campaign with some silverware when they lifted the Lancashire Cup with a 28-24 victory over Preston Grasshoppers. It was a case of sweet revenge for Roberts’ men as Preston had beaten them in the previous year’s final. The mood at Park Lane was lifted at last as the biggest crowd of the season finally had something to cheer about as Billy Fisher’s late try clinched the victory and the cup. That marked the last game of his career for club stalwart Oxley who retired after playing around 200 games. Roberts’ prediction of a promotion challenge this season has so far proved correct.
The new-look Tigers took a few games to settle into the new division, opening with a 36-0 victory at home to Caldy to instantly go top of the league before losing two of their next three games. Since then the only way has been up and Roberts is naturally pleased with the progress.
He added: “If teams can create momentum and keep it going, like we have done, then when you get promotion you go up with momentum too.
“You get that winning attitude and expect to win.
“I’m not saying there is an arrogance with it, it’s just a way of life. You can see that developing here.”