What a difference a few months can make in the game of football.
Scarborough Athletic’s play-off hopes looked to be hanging in tatters in November, following a sad spurt of results, including the most humiliating of hammerings at Spennymoor Town.
Boro’s up-turn in form since Bryan Hughes and Paul Foot took control has lifted the mood, but even the most ardent of supporters will have been looking at Saturday’s return clash against the Durham outfit with a degree of trepidation.
The input of Hughes and Foot clearly runs deeper though, as an understength Athletic highlighted strength, depth and grit, the qualities required to hold on for an excellent 1-0 home victory.
The team-sheet may not have made pretty reading ahead of kick-off, with Ryan Blott, Matty Plummer both missing out through suspension, Alex Peterson having returned to parent club Doncaster Rovers.
That meant a shuffle of the pack, with Hughes, Paul Robson and young Jamie Stewart coming into the side.
These alterations meant little, as Boro continued where they left off from the 4-0 crushing of Brighouse on New Year’s Day.
Despite their early pressing, Boro still had to rely on the brilliance of keeper Joe Cracknell, as with five minutes on the clock he stretched magnificently to tip Kallum Griffiths’ precise strike round the post.
At the other end of the park, Jimmy Beadle was playing in an unaccustomed role alongside the lively Gary Bradshaw. And it took him little or no time to settle into his new berth.
In fact Beadle showed a clinical touch just after the half-hour to hand Boro the key advantage.
After some neat approach play the ball was worked into Beadle, who cleverly flicked it up and drilled into the back of the net.
Boro deserved nothing more for their endeavor in a game that soon began to heat up before the break.
The main protagonist of this aggravation was Spennymoor winger Gavin Cogden, who took a liking to the theatrical histrionics.
It was surprising that Spennymoor looked a tepid memory of the side that had battered Boro so handsomely earlier in the season.
They offered little in attack, with Boro’s central defensive pairing of Dean Lisles and Ben Middleton putting bodies on the line to frustrate the visitors.
The only notable chance fell to skipper Chris Mason, whose glanced a header past the post maybe gave Cracknell a worrying split second.
It would have been no shock if Spennymoor had come out for the second half with a rocket up their backsides, but instead it was Boro who made the flying start.
Hughes took advantage of Bradshaw’s willing running, but his volley was blocked. Then Robson had an acrobatic effort forced away by Adam McHugh.
Spennymoor finally had the order to throw everything forward, but this was met by superb pressing from Boro, which delighted the home crowd.
And although Spennymoor moved four of their biggest players into attack, they never really troubled a confident-looking home defence.
Much of this belief was instilled by another assured performance by Cracknell, who came and collected everything Spennymoor tossed into his area.
The on-loan keeper will have a big part to play if Athletic are to continue their progress into the key months of the campaign.
A result certainly doesn’t make a season, but Boro and their fans will take great heart from a display that kept Hughes and Foot’s men firmly planted in the race for the play-offs.