Boro half-season review: Hughes and Foot haul Boro back on track

New management duo Bryan Hughes and Paul Foot have transformed the club's fortunes
New management duo Bryan Hughes and Paul Foot have transformed the club's fortunes

New joint-managers Bryan Hughes and Paul Foot have dragged Scarborough Athletic up by their boot laces after their season looked dead and buried.

When former boss Rudy Funk tendered his resignation after the 3-0 battering at Harrogate Railway on November 3, things looked bleak.

Boro had looked like a misfiring car in the early part of the season. When they looked like they were up and running, they soon stalled.

That was the case from the word go, as they recovered from the 4-1 opening day defeat at Salford to win four league games in a row.

But that was followed by a dismal performance on the road at an Ossett Albion side, managed by Funk’s former coach John Reed.

There was more of the same in the FA Cup, as Boro battled their way through two rounds, including two replays, before being edged out by Curzon Ashton, who were flying high in the division above.

Boro continued to pick up points, but when they faced up to potential play-off rivals Spennymoor, they were soundly beaten.

Two wins and a draw followed, before the wheels fell off after Darlington took Boro apart in their first and last FA Trophy outing of the season.

A Tuesday night at Harrogate proved to be the final straw for Funk, who called time on his time at Boro and immediately dropped down two divisions to take charge of AFC Mansfield.

Hughes and Foot were appointed in a caretaker capacity and they swiftly tried to install some backbone into the side, something that had been sadly lacking.

The pair moved swiftly to bring in Alex Peterson on loan from Doncaster Rovers and centre-back Dean Lisles, who had been at North Ferriby.

Peterson’s signing handed freedom to fellow strikers Ryan Blott and Gary Bradshaw, who quickly started playing with renewed confidence.

Meanwhile, Lisles quickly formed a solid partnership at the heart of the defence with Ben Middleton.

That was demonstrated in his first outing at Radcliffe Borough on November 15, when Boro kept their first clean-sheet in over a month.

After the high of that victory, Boro were brought crashing back down to earth in horrible fashion a week later when they hosted Bamber Bridge.

During the first half of the game midfielder Chris Bolder went down unchallenged with an awful knee injury that caused the abandonment of the fixture and also ended the former Grimby Town man’s season.

That game also proved to be the final game in Boro colours for keeper Jason White, who opted to join former manager Funk at Mansfield.

Hughes and Foot moved swiftly to bring young keeper Joe Cracknell back to the club on loan from Hull City.

Cracknell made his debut in the North Riding FA Senior Cup win against derby rivals Pickering Town, which was decided by a penalty shoot-out.

This result became the second of what would be six successive wins in all competitions.

Boro disposed of Padiham on the road in the next game, Peterson bagging his first for the club, while Jimmy Beadle took his tally to 10 in the league from midfield.

That win was followed by a home battle at Kendal that Boro won 2-1 and the displays of grit and determination followed over the next fortnight, as six more points were bagged.

Firstly, Ryan Williams nipped in for a late winner at Lancaster and then Matty Plummer rose highest in the last minute to give Boro a 2-1 win at home against Mossley.

The Mossley game was Williams’ last for the club as he elected to follow keeper White and Funk down to AFC Mansfield, taking up a role as player-coach.

As things go the second half of the season looks promising as Boro head into the festive period occupying one of the four play-off places.

The game at Darlington on Boxing Day will be a key encounter though because it will set the tone for a busy Christmas period.

If Boro show the guile that they have demonstrated in recent weeks then they have a chance of dragging high-flying Darlo into a battle.

But if they bottle things like they did the last time the teams met in the FA Trophy then it could get messy.

No doubt Hughes and Foot will have highlighted the importance of this game, wouldn’t it be a huge Christmas present to the fans if Boro can grab an away win in Darlington?