There is no game for Ramsbottom United this Saturday which gave manager Lee Donafee a chance to take a break and assess what has gone before over the last few weeks.
To say it has been a tough period for the fledgling boss would be an understatement, seeing his side go seven games without a win and score only two goals in the process prior to last Saturday’s complete turnaround against Newcastle Town.
That 4-0 victory boosted morale and confidence in the dressing room – it was very much needed.
And after a very hard week in training, ‘Diego’ gave the players the weekend off to recharge their batteries, spend a rare weekend with their families and target the next game at 1874 Northwich on Saturday.
“We have trained really hard over the last few weeks and things have been tough for us but its rare in non-league to have a weekend off that isn’t because of the weather so we did everything we wanted to on Thursday.” said Lee.
He himself wasn’t having a day off though. “I am off to watch a game this afternoon,” he admitted.
The relief last Saturday was huge, and it lifted the atmosphere in the dressing room to the point that “I ended up in the shower fully clothed!”
There was an impassioned team talk prior to the Newcastle Town game, longer than his normal one. “My talk normally starts about 1.50 before the game but last week I started at 1.30 and I had messaged some of the lads the night before as well.
“One of the coaches said that my team talk made the hairs on the back of their neck stand up but I wanted to get the message across, getting them to believe in what we are doing. Sometimes you had to go backwards before we went forward.
“There were five lads in that room who were Rammy lads, and I wanted them to be proud of the shirt and representing the town, but we also needed to go back to basics. I do feel that we are getting better as we go along.
“I have said for a while that all we needed was a number nine and signing two in the week was really important. We weren’t going to go through that again!
“We build on John Murphy’s early pressing, which was great, and we were very disciplined. And to see all three new signing score, we deserved it.”
He felt that the Pickering Town defeat in the FA Trophy was his lowest point in football and it took him a while to get over it, especially as club chairman Harry Williams had a quiet word afterwards too.
“The relationship that I have with Harry is really great, there is a lot of respect there but after that Pickering game, I felt that there was a lot of pressure on me.
“I am not the sort to put that pressure on the lads or the other coaches, I take that all on myself. I spoke to Harry and said what we are trying to achieve but when the results aren’t coming then he will question what we are doing.
“But I think that the transition from Chris to myself has been harder than I expected. I had two weeks prior to the first game to get everything in place. I didn’t see Nico leaving or Dharius taking time away from the game.
“Losing players like Richie Baker and Jamie Rainford hasn’t helped either nor seeing James Murphy or Dale Jennings come and go so quickly. But I am not going to use those as excuses, that’s football at our level and I think Harry realises that.
“We are giving opportunities to keen, young lads who some teams might not have thrown into their teams. Players like Will Hall, George Wyatt, Owen Collinge and Sam Twist, all teenagers and exciting players like Luke Barlow at 21 and Tom Hartley, who has really impressed since he came back to the club.
“If you coach these lads well, they will run through walls for you.”
While feeling a real high after the win seven days previously, he knows he must keep his feet on the ground as it is “just one win” but he wants his charges to build on that next weekend when the Rams tackle 1874 Northwich for the very first time.
“Training has been really good this week and we will go hard again next week ahead of the game at Northwich, but we know that one win doesn’t change everything, it helps but we have to build on it.
“Getting Hugo [Rodriguez] and John in has really given us a boost and there is a real feeling that they could both play up front and Tom can also play there too. That’s what we need, to make it hard for the opposition and their defences.
“Domaine did a great job for us in that role, but we knew we needed proven strikers at this level. Getting Hugo and John in gave us that – John’s someone I have tracked for a while at lower league level, and I know what he can do.
“Everyone played their part last Saturday; I don’t want to single anyone out really. But we need to keep that high going.”
His final comment was to thank the fans for the support during the difficult times. “The fans have been great in their support for me since I have come in as manager, and during that time when we were struggling.
“I have a long term focus for this club, giving lads a good go in the side and I want the supporters to enjoy watching these lads develop. There are some exciting young lads, along with the older heads in the squad and we all want the same thing – results for the club we love.”
The Ramsbottom United website will be running a full interview with Lee in a couple of weeks following the Widnes home game.