It’s difficult to assess Heys 2018-19 season. The immediate conclusion would be to say it was disappointing.
Having won the 1st Division Cup and finished third in the Hallmark Security League Division One North the previous season, hopes were high that Heys would kick on and get promotion this time around.
Wins in the first three League games gave added fuel to those hopes, however, it didn’t quite go according to plan, thereafter.
A seven-match winning run around the turn of the year and a strong finish to the season that saw seven of the last nine games won were an indication of Heys ability but in truth they rarely looked like they would challenge Longridge or AVRO for those promotion places.
Overall, Heys lacked consistency. Long term injuries to key players, contributed to a high turnover of players as did a lack of goals. Heys scored 82 goals over the League season compared to 124 the previous year, a significant drop even allowing for four fewer fixtures.
Only Lee Grimshaw, with twenty goals got into double figures during the season. In the 2017-18 campaign six players did this. In too many games Heys controlled matters but came unstuck.
And yet despite this Heys did finish fifth and had it not been for the FA restructuring programme they would have again claimed a play-off place, a phase of the season they would have entered as one of the form teams.
Indeed, the campaign had many positives. A return to the FA Cup for the first time in over 30 years brought exposure the club could not have dreamt of. A 2-1 Extra Preliminary round win over Abbey Hey set up a home tie with neighbours Radcliffe FC in the next round.
Having already been adopted by Radio Manchester, with Chairman Neil Gilmore on air three weeks in a row, the BBC then chose the Radcliffe game for live streaming giving the club nationwide coverage. A record Adie Moran Park crowd of 513 saw Heys beaten 2-0 but their performance and they way the club staged the match put them firmly on the map.
The FA Vase also provided great excitement. Heys overcame Holker before disposing of Padiham and Garforth, both by 6-2 margins, to set up a tie with Northwich Victoria. After a 0-0 draw at Adie Moran Park, Heys were unfortunate to lose the replay. A late goal gave Vics a 1-0 win and set them on a run to the semi -finals.
The season also the emergence of new young talent at the club. Will Shawcross and Brad Sixsmith, particularly taking the eye to beckon in a new era.
November also saw Jon Lyons mark seven years and 300 games as Manager. It is worth reflecting the position the club was in when he arrived on and off the pitch. Rooted to the bottom of the Manchester League premier Division and with facilities that had seen better days the experiences of this season were but a distant dream.
It’s been forward progression and a succession of trophies in the intervening years. By starting this review in saying the season could be deemed disappointing, it is perhaps more a measure of how expectations have changed.
Updated 19:29 - 5 Jun 2019 by STEPHEN HOWARD