After losing their first two league matches and getting knocked out of the FAW Amateur Trophy at the first hurdle things did not look set fair for a successful season for Saltney Town.
Added to this, just before the start of the 2021-22 campaign the manager had resigned, player numbers were low and other key figures had left the club.
However, chairman Darren Meredith refused to give up the ghost. He persuaded some important names to rejoin the club and they worked on building up a quality squad.
The results have been amazing.
Saltney are top of the tier 3 Ardal North West table and have reached the quarter-finals of the NEWFA Challenge Cup.
Perhaps best of all, the Bordermen are the only tier 3 northern club still left in the Welsh Cup.
Town reached the third round last weekend with a stunning 5-3 win at tier 2 Cymru North outfit Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant.
One of just four tier 3 clubs across Wales into the last 32, Saltney also have a decent chance for more progression having drawn Cymru North side Penrhyncoch at home in the next stage.
Darren Meredith takes up the story.
“The biggest thing really was that with around two weeks before the season started there weren’t 11 players. The manager had just resigned, Adam Bailey and Craig Hett had also left, and our captain was training with another club.
“I’d just made my first steps to getting involved again whilst recovering from depression, helping out with cutting the pitches. Little did I know what was about to get thrown at us within a week.
“I made the call to (ex-manager) Andy Dutton and (veteran player) Jake Gibbons, an SOS, to see what we could do. As our defender Lee Butterworth put it – the Band are getting back together.
“Dutt and I were to take on the team as joint-managers (which quickly had to be revised as you definitely can’t chair and manage a club, so I’ve reverted back to just chairman).
“We set about signing players, and convincing current ones to stay, and turned around the mood almost immediately.
“Before we arrived back, the club had appointed Rob Thelwell who thankfully also stayed on. He’s been a great addition. His knowledge of local players is fantastic, and he fits the club MO well.
“Craig Hett has also returned to our backroom staff which is a huge boost.
“We’ve always given opportunities to lads who want to work on and move up if that’s their end goal, and we’ve unearthed some gems this season.
“We needed to, as early on in our return we lost Ryan Farrell, himself having only just rejoined after a break from football. Ry has unfortunately injured his ACL, and is likely to not play again.”
Saltney are unbeaten in eight matches in all competitions, with goal-getters like Tommy Booth and Ryan McCleary in especially hot form.
After losing their first two league games to Porthmadog and Brymbo, as well as exiting the FAW Amateur Trophy at Queen’s Park, they are now undefeated since August 7.
They have seen off Ruabon Rovers, Brickfield Rangers, Y Felinheli and Llanrhaeadr YM in a brilliant Welsh Cup run.
Saltney are also leading goalscorers in Ardal North West.
Darren added: “Our lads have been superb, and really brought in once again to showcase their unity and abilities.
“There is no budget here, and to compete at a level where there are serious amounts of money being spent is a huge credit to all.
“We are also starting to pick up some more local support, and hopefully this can keep growing and growing.
“Growing up in Llangefni, I know full well how much a football club can do for its community, and all coming together gives you something to look forward to.
“The play on the pitch certainly warrants a trip to Sandy Lane. Unfortunately, another problem is an ongoing issue of vandalism at our ground. Out of our 100 seats we’ve replaced over 30 in the last 3 years, and there are several to replace again now after recent damage.”
Saltney Town are a club used to battling against adversity, on and off the field. It is that great spirit within the club which is serving them so well now.
Long may it continue.
SALTNEY TOWN – RESULTS 2021-22 SEASON
Sep 8: Mynydd Isa Spartans (h – NEWFA Challenge Cup) 4-1 (Ryan McCleary 3, 1 pen, Harrison Robson)
Sep 4: Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant (a – Welsh Cup R2) 5-3 (Tommy Booth, Ryan McCleary 2, Jordan O’Brien, Steve Chiocchi)
Aug 28: Y Felinheli (h – Ardal North West) 1-1 (Tommy Booth)
Aug 25: Rhydymwyn (a – Ardal North West) 3-2 (Jack Roberts, Ryan McCleary, Jake Johnson)
Aug 21: St Asaph City (h – Ardal North West) 5-1 (Ryan McCleary 2, James Rutter, Tommy Booth 2)
Aug 17: Llay Welfare (h – Ardal North West) 5-0 (James Rutter, Jake Johnson 2, Steve Chiocchi pen, Tommy Booth)
Aug 14: Y Felinheli (h – Welsh Cup R1) 3-2 (Jake Johnson 2, Jordan O’Brien)
Aug 7: Brickfield Rangers (a – Ardal North West) 5-1 (Steve Chiocchi 2, Corey Mason, Rhys Baines, Tommy Booth)
Aug 4: Brymbo (a – Ardal North West) 1-3 (James Rutter)
July 31: Porthmadog (h – Ardal North West) 0-4
July 28: Brickfield Rangers (a – NEWFA Challenge Cup) 4-0 (Addie Callaghan 3, Steve Chiocchi pen)
July 24: Brickfield Rangers (a – Welsh Cup QR2) 3-0 (Tommy Booth 2, Cody Silvester)
July 17: FC Queen’s Park (a – FAW Amateur Trophy) 2-2 (Jake Johnson, Jack Roberts) – lost 4-5 on penalties
July 10: Ruabon Rovers (a – Welsh Cup QR1) 7-2 (Tommy Booth 3, Addie Callaghan 2, Carl Pleavin, Corey Mason)
Tommy Booth 11
Ryan McCleary 8
Jake Johnson 6
Addie Callaghan 5
Steve Chiocchi 5
James Rutter 3
Jack Roberts 2
Jordan O’Brien 2
Corey Mason 2
Rhys Baines 1
Carl Pleavin 1
Cody Silvester 1
Harrison Robson 1