As the curtain came down on another regular season at Park Avenue, Town boss Ian Hughes was keen to reflect on the positives of the campaign, writes Matthew Wallace.
“There’s been progression. We finished third from bottom and stayed up by a point when I came in and now we’re a Top Four club. The way the players have changed and the outlook of the club. In two years, we’ve gone from nearly dropping out of the league to nearly qualifying for Europe every season and the players deserve all that credit. They came together and united together and they want to do well for this club, as do I. So disappointing tonight but the outlook of it all is to make sure this Club is a Top 4 Club so they deserve full credit. We’ve got one game to go now. In terms of the season, recently it’s not been great but as a season I’ve been content.”
The disappointment that Hughes was talking about was the 2-1 reverse against current second place Bala Town on Friday night. Top scorer Chris Venables had put the Seasiders in the driving seat but two late goals ensured that there would be no winning finale for Town in their final home soiree in the league.
“It’s a tough one to take today as we played very well in terms of the chances we created and ball possession. We’re playing against the second best team in the league and perhaps we should have won the game which shows that we’re moving in the right direction. We dominated the first hour but we should have got the second goal. We had chances to make it 2-0. But then we got done by a sucker punch. We gave two goals away late on. It’s happened before this season but it’s something we need to address now because its becoming every game now.”
The defeat, coupled with Airbus’ shock victory against the previously unbeaten TNS has confirmed Aber’s fourth place finish, the highest since the inception of the Super 12. Although this is a positive, Hughes is slightly aggrieved that his side couldn’t take the opportunity to finish higher.
“It’s very disappointing. We wanted to take it to the last game of the season to get the third spot, that doesn’t seem likely but we’re definitely a top four side. We need to remember that. We’re currently 10 points ahead of Port Talbot and Newtown so we’re comfortably fourth place which again shows how far we’ve come.”
With just one game left away at 5th place Port Talbot next week, Hughes is relishing the opportunity to create history for the club.
“It was the first time this club has qualified for Europe. I know they did it in the Intertoto cup but last year was the first time they’ve got Coefficient points from Champions League or Europa League. That’s only happened once in over a 100 years of history but to do it twice, back to back, is going to be tough. We’ve given ourselves a great chance and if the players do that, then they deserve great credit. History is against us as traditionally, this club doesn’t qualify for Europe. So to be in this position is a great thing so now we’ve got to take the opportunity“
But even with the potential of a European campaign on the horizon, Hughes maintains that he is already looking to next season and to go one better.
“We want to keep progressing its important that we don’t stand still. It would be criminal to stand still. We want to keep progressing and bringing in better players to make sure we’re challenging near the top of the league again next season.”
Watch Martin Smith's full post match interviews with Ian Hughes via Town's YouTube Channel by clicking on the "Videos" tab here.