From Penistone to Silsden: The Story of Cheadle Town 2016-2017. A play in two parts.
Act One: This Season Can't End Quick Enough
It started in the hills of West Yorkshire...
Our reward for our top-six finish the previous season was a ticket into the FA Cup competition, starting in the Extra Preliminary Round. Due to scheduling this was to be our first competitive match of the season; an odd way to literally kick things off.
After conceding within the first five minutes we came though 3-1 winners and set off on a mini FA Cup run that most clubs at our level would be more-than-happy with.
NPL Division One outfit - and giant-killers of yore - Northwich Victoria were dispatched easily in the Preliminary Round with a trip to Trafford in the 1st Qualifying Round bringing the mini-adventure to an end, but not before Mikey Sherrington had put us into the lead and given the NPL side an almighty scare.
The joy that our FA Cup exploits brought masked the frustration of a disappointing start to our league campaign.
A remarkable point at home to St Helens Town thanks to three goals in stoppage time failed to spark us into any form of consistency. Wins against Ashton Town and Chadderton were the only league victories in an August and September more marked by defeats to the division's new boys - Oswestry, Sandbach and City of Liverpool - and an inexplicable home loss to Eccleshall.
Much - far too much, perhaps - has been made on here about our record at Holker Old Boys. After finally burying the hoodoo last season we went and committed it to never-shall-be-mentioned-again history following a splendid 5-2 win.
The latter half of October would see a mini-revival with wins at Atherton LR, a draw at Litherland REMYCA and an impressive home win over Prestwich Heys but that wasn't before a 1-6 drubbing at Charnock Richard, a defeat that resulted in a lot of soul-searching in the dressing room afterwards.
As October became November we exited three cup competitions in successive matches and suffered a frustrating 2-4 reversal at St Helens Town before Ashton Town were then taken care of at Park Road and two draws claimed at AFC Blackpool and Whitchurch Alport, the latter seeing an impressive, battling performance and Dane Smith saving a penalty right at the death.
Another poor run of losses then took us into December and as we came away from Carlisle City we were languishing in the bottom half of the table with only six league wins to our name.
Act One league stats: Played 26: Won 6, Drew 5, Lost 12.
Act Two: I Don't Want This Season To End
Bacup Borough must be sick of the sight of us.
At the start of last season we snatched a 5-5 draw with a penalty some thirteen minutes into injury time (after being 1-4 down at one point) and repeated the late heroics again this season; Liam Tongue's double in stoppage time meaning we came away with a 3-2 win.
A win that set us off on a decent run right through to the season's conclusion.
Stockport Town - at that point in utter disarray - were easily beaten on Boxing Day at Park Road followed by a thoroughly deserved draw at home to Whitchurch, featuring the goal of the season from Justin Pickering, and then a 5-2 home win over Silsden.
A ill-tempered day - on and off the pitch - at Sandbach United was the only blot from that Bacup match through to mid-February as Daisy Hill, Holker and Carlisle were defeated at Park Road with our now-customary win at Eccleshall the final match in this block.
Oddly enough, what had started versus Bacup was ended versus Bacup.
A 0-1 home defeat to them started a run of four defeats that were all lost by the odd goal: away matches at Alsager, Widnes and Prestwich were all 1-2 and all three were games where we should have come away with something.
Any outside chance of the play-offs were mathematically buried by the time AFC Blackpool came to Park Road and got themselves a 2-2 draw. With five tricky-looking matches remaining, was the season going to peter out into a damp squib?
Absolutely not. Twenty goals were scored and just three conceded as five consecutive victories were notched up.
First up were Stockport Town on Good Friday. To us, just another match. To others, a chance to front-load it with "big local derby" bluster. They were left with egg on their faces as we swept them aside 5-1 in one of the most complete performances of the season.
A trip to promotion-chasing City of Liverpool was next on the Easter Monday and, with what was surely the result of the season for us, we came away with a creditable 2-1 win. Daisy Hill were then hammered 4-1 on the Wednesday to bring three matches in six days to a perfect conclusion.
On a fun afternoon at Park Road, Atherton LR were then hit for six in a match that will be remembered for Dane Smith's contribution with an away trip to Silsden for the final day seeing us round things off with a solid 3-0 win; another match that will always be remembered for Dane Smith's contribution.
Something of a curate's egg of a season. The good parts? Rhys Webb clocking up 26 goals in all competitions; the FA Cup mini-run; the bit at the end; Easter.
...and it ended in the hills of West Yorkshire.
Act Two league stats: Played 19: Won 12, Drew 2 Lost 5