10:35AM, Tuesday 17 May 2022
Alan Devonshire with players’ player, and managers’ player of the season, Josh Kelly. Photo: Darren Woolley
With the season having reached its conclusion just a few minutes previously, Magpies boss Alan Devonshire was already casting his eye to the future and the challenges that await him and his side next season.
United finished the campaign in a creditable 17th place, and an even more creditable 17 points clear of the drop zone. They've known for several weeks their safety was assured yet still managed to equal a National League club of record seven matches unbeaten in the run-in.
It could easily have been eight and possibly should have been if Nathan Blissett had managed to turn home Bradley Keetch's low cross in the final minutes of Sunday's 1-0 defeat to Notts County.
There was little riding on the outcome of the game for the home side, yet they still played well, producing what Devonshire called a pleasing performance, even if the result went County's way.
County meanwhile earned the points they needed to tee up a home tie against Grimsby Town in next Monday's play-off eliminator. Callum Roberts grabbed the game's only goal, converting a 71st minute penalty after being caught by Reece Smith's rash attempted clearance.
Keetch's late cameo in particular impressed Devonshire who now feels he's ready to show what he can do in the Magpies' squad next season.
Afterwards the boss admitted some players will be re-signing and others will be leaving, par for the course for the Magpies boss who'll once again be looking to pool together a squad of players capable of surviving in an increasingly competitive division.
Devonshire said: “I was quite pleased with the performance, we were a little bit rash with the penalty, Reece (Smith) has had a touch when he shouldn’t have had a touch, but it’s a learning curve for him.
“Brad’s (Keetch) come on for 10 minutes and has put a couple of great crosses in so that tells me he’s ready.
We’ve still got a lot out through injury and whatever, but there will be a lot of dealing in the summer.
“We’ve got to, as soon as the season finishes, we’ve got to look to the next one and it’s coming soon. We’ll have six weeks off and then we’ll be back in.
“There will be a few that are re-signing and a few that will be going, that’s the way it works.
“Hopefully next week (can make an announcement), as soon as we know anything concrete, we’ll do it, there’s no point in starting rumours and whatever.
“Things can change but we wait and see.
“Listen, Brad went away because we wanted him to learn and play. I told him, specifically, what I wanted him to work on, and he’s coming back better. He’s ready.
“Reece when he came on, he was lively. He was unfortunate with the penalty. They’re a good side to be fair to them, and they should be with what they’ve got.”
United looked like they'd have their work cut out to survive at Christmas, having been pitched into the bottom three by a poor run of results, however, galvanised by the return of some key players to fitness - and the signing of supporters’ player of the season Dan Gyollai - they turned around their form to finish comfortably clear of the drop zone.
Devonshire added: “It's been a good season from where we were at after a dozen games and the results that we were having then.
“We’ve done ok, we’ll start again next season, there are big clubs coming into the league again who’ll have money, so we’ll have to see where we are. I’ve been happy with it today. You can say we had nothing to play for, but we worked hard. We just lacked that cutting edge. I felt a draw would have been a fair result. It wasn’t to be, but we move on.
“We’re looking to sign someone today hopefully, and we’ll see what happens in the next couple of weeks. It’s hard, but the fans understand it and we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.”
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