After a disappointing few seasons Ossett Town Ladies have turned it all around this year by confounding the critics to finish third in the West Riding County Premier Division – just four points behind champions Harrogate Railway Athletic.
It has been a whirlwind season for boss Dan Robinson, who said: “We’ve been really unlucky in the end. When I came in the summer the girls had had a rough time, having finished close to bottom of the league for the past few seasons.
“So my main focus was to improve their confidence and, as I got to know them and they got to know me, we created a positive environment and that has ultimately paid dividends.”
A good start to the season saw Ossett record three wins on the bounce, but they then went on to lose five in a row. Robinson added: “We started the season so well and then we lost a few games and ended up on a horrific run of form when we lost games that we really should have won.”
This ultimately came back to haunt them despite a late title charge, admits Robinson: “In terms of winning the title that’s what came back to bite us. But we still managed to push everyone all the way. All-in-all, it was a great first season.”
And a title challenge is definitely next year’s target.
Ossett are in a terrific position to build on this season’s campaign, and Robinson is confident that Ossett can push Harrogate off top spot: “They were the team that finished top and they pushed us all the way.
“It showed us that we can compete with them along with Hemsworth, who are also up there as they finished second.
“We have to have that as a goal because with this group of players and maybe recruiting a few more then there is certainly nothing stopping us.”
Ossett finished the season level on points with Hemsworth in second but due to Hemsworth’s greater goal difference it was their rivals who secured a runners-up finish.
With a new manager comes new visions and plans for success, but Robinson has always favoured hard work, individual goals and most importantly a positive attitude.
“We brought in a few new players but the biggest thing for me is ensuring that everyone has a positive outlook in their game,” Robinson said.
“Everyone has an individual goal before team goals of how we want to play and we aim to make these achievable throughout the season.”
A 3-3 draw with eventual champions Harrogate was the catalyst to Ossett’s upturn in form.
Robinson had to make some drastic changes to his side in order to turn their season around – and it worked.
Robinson added: “We went to Harrogate and I tried something radical by trying a different formation despite not knowing how the players would react.
But they were phenomenal and it was as if they had been playing in that formation all season.
“It completely changed our season, that moment just before Christmas.”
So successful was this year’s campaign that, as of next season, Ossett Town will now have not one but two ladies teams in action. Their ‘Grow The Game Grant’ from the Football Foundation was recently accepted allowing them to go ahead with their ambitions.
Robinson revealed: “We hope it will be sustainable, with one team fighting for promotion and another just starting out, there’s something for everybody!”
As is the close bond between the men’s and ladies’ teams which, as a result of Robinson’s arrival in the summer, has gone from strength to strength.
“We’ve played at the men’s ground a few times and hope to play there more next season,” he added.
“Everyone works together from the men’s teams to the boys’ to the women’s. All for the good of Ossett Town.”
But it’s not long before Robinson once again stresses his earlier point of creating a positive environment for the girls to play football in and enjoy themselves.
Robinson said: “At the end of the day, as long as we have a fun and there’s a positive environment for girls to come and enjoy the game, improve their game and meet new people, then we can only go from strength to strength.”
The only thing missing from this season’s terrific campaign was a good cup run.
Preliminary round exits from cup competitions have been extremely disappointing for Robinson’s side and they also recently failed to make it past the group stages of the Chairman’s Supplementary Cup. This could be down to the manager’s high league aspirations but he would certainly love to see his players achieve cup glory.
“My main focus is more on the league rather than the cups but the players are eager and hungry for success and we would love to go on a cup run,” admits Robinson.
“The girls had been going through a run where they would reach a final of a cup competition every other year but they’ve never won it.
“However, this year our cup performances haven’t been good enough but that has allowed us to concentrate more on our league campaign.”
Overall it has been a terrific first season in charge for Robinson and who is already raring to go again with the aim of bettering this season’s exploits.
Robinson added: “We are already looking forward to getting the girls back for pre-season when we can talk about how we can move forward next year.”
Ossett are a team on the up and one that will certainly be up there challenging for the title next season.