Crowe is in it for the long haul

Paul McKenna and Sean Gregan during their time at Preston

Paul McKenna and Sean Gregan during their time at Preston

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BAMBER Bridge manager Neil Crowe is keen to finish the job he has started at the Sir Tom Finney Stadium.

The Brig boss is in the middle of his fourth season at the helm of the club after taking over from previous incumbent Tony Greenwood.

Chris Marlow on the ball against Lancaster City

Chris Marlow on the ball against Lancaster City

Slowly, but surely, Crowe has built a competitive squad at Irongate and their position in the NPL First Division North has improved year by year.

They have often defied the odds and finished above teams with much, much bigger wage budgets.

Last season, they were just one game away from winning promotion to the Premier Division, but were agonisingly beaten by Ramsbottom United in the play-off final.

Going well again this season – and preparing for tomorrow’s New Year’s Day trip to Radcliffe Borough – Brig have every chance of going one better this season and achieving their goal of promotion.

And Crowe insisted he has no intention of stepping away and is keen to guide the club to success.

He said: “In an ideal world, we would secure promotion here at Bamber Bridge.

“But I don’t see myself leaving for some time.

“Me and Neil Reynolds have put in so much work into building probably the best squad I’ve had and I wouldn’t want that to be wasted.

“I’ve never really thought about stopping as I enjoy it.

“It’s that old saying I suppose, when it becomes a chore, I’ll probably stop.”

Brig’s success of recent years is all the more remarkable considering Crowe had his entire budget cut just a few games into the start of his first season in charge.

“We were all shocked at the time of the news, but we just had to get on with it,” said Crowe.

“The lads who were here at the time showed great commitment, as they all stayed until it became too much for a couple of lads coming from Liverpool and they left.

“But Chris Marlow, Lee Dovey and Ally Waddecar were at the club at the time, and they are still here today.”

Despite this difficult start to his career, Crowe will never forget his first game as boss.

He added: “It was Chester away, and we walked out in front of 3,800 people.

“That was a real eye opener. We lost 2-0 that game but we didn’t play that badly.”

As time passed, the financial situation started to ease.

“Through petrol money, or £10 a week and £20 a week, the club finally started to slowly honour the commitment the players showed in some of the darkest days of the club’s history.”

Meanwhile, Chorley skipper Andy Teague admitted his frustration after Sunday’s Conference North fixture at Stalybridge Celtic was called off due to frost.

The central defender felt his side were more than capable of picking up three points against Celtic. The sides have already met three times this season, with Chorley twice running out the winners.

Chorley were 2-0 winners at Victory Park in a league game before defeating Celtic at Bower Fold at the start of this month in an FA Trophy replay.

Teague said: “All of the lads wanted the game to be on.

“It was a very winnable game and we wanted to build on Friday’s victory.

“But looking at it another way, it does give us extra time to recover and prepare for the New Year’s Day fixture.”

Due to the postponement, Chorley will be facing Bradford Park Avenue in back-to-back fixtures tomorrow.

Chorley ran out 2-1 winners on Boxing Day against their Yorkshire rivals thanks to a brace of goals from
recalled striker Josh Hine.

Hine had been in and out of the side since boss Garry Flitcroft has experimented with several players in the wide right position of a front three.

Teague said: “It will be a weird situation playing the same team six days later but we know we are more than confident of winning. We know we should have won by more on Boxing Day so it gives all the lads plenty of confidence going into the game.

“We know exactly what to expect from them.”

Then this Sunday, Chorley will be in league action once again as they host Oxford City, who are play-off rivals.

Justin Merritt’s side had a Boxing Day to forget, as they were thrashed 4-0 by Leamington.

And Oxford were without a game on Sunday too.

Teague said: “It’s a home game and we are always confident of winning every home game.

“We like to dominate teams at home and that’s what we’ll look to do.

“The crowd against Bradford were excellent and they really helped us push on to turn the game around.

“Hopefully the same atmosphere can be created again this coming Sunday.”

League leaders, AFC Fylde travel to second-placed Barrow tomorrow.

Elsewhere in the First Division North , Lancaster City are in derby action against Clitheroe.

The two teams clash at Shawbridge with just four points spearating them in the table.

Also tomorrow, Burscough welcome Prescot Cables to Victoria Park, with a 1-30pm kick-off.

Kendal Town have it all to do as they host high-flying Darlington 1883 at Parkside Road.