COLUMN: ‘Law-man’s’ arrival heralded a Buxton FC revival

Double-winning celebrations for Buxton FC, April 1996.
Double-winning celebrations for Buxton FC, April 1996.

Ten years ago this week Buxton had reached the halfway mark in its self-appointed mission to return to the Northern Premier League’s Premier Division.

On the evening of Tuesday, April 25, 2006, the NCEL championship trophy was presented to the victorious Bucks following a 1-0 home success versus runners-up Liversedge, who were to fall short by a massive 15 points at the season’s end, with 440 fans looking on.

Double winners, Darren Brookes and Tim Willis lift the trophies

Double winners, Darren Brookes and Tim Willis lift the trophies

Successive relegations in the late 1990s in the midst of financial crisis had seen the club descend to NCEL level and in 2001/02 only Garforth Town had kept Buxton off the very bottom of that competition.

But then the arrival of joint-managers Kenny Johnson and Ronnie Wright had begun a considerable upsurge.

That had stalled by December 2004 and the managers departed to be replaced by Nicky Law, a late applicant with an outstanding pedigree in management.

He had led Chesterfield to promotion in his first season before taking on the near-impossible task of arresting the decline of Bradford City following its ill-fated spell in the Premiership.

A brief spell in charge of Grimsby Town persuaded Nicky to give up on the Football League to turn instead to the part-time game at the Silverlands.

The new manager’s first half-season showed some if unspectacular improvement in league displays, but when the team won the President’s Cup in a two-legged final versus Sutton Town, a massive four-figure crowd witnessed the Silverlands second leg.

The player undoubtedly to benefit most from the ‘Law-man’s’ arrival was Mark Reed, already in his third season with the club.

He pipped Jonathan Froggatt by one goal to be leading scorer and earned 82 per cent of the fans’ votes to be their player-of-the-season.

The close-season saw the arrival of goalkeeper Scott Hartley, who went on to win four of the next five supporters’ end-of-season awards, midfielder Jordan Hall and striker Stewart Copnell, while in the following months the likes of winger Alvyn Riley, midfielder Anton Foster and striker David Reeves, a veteran of 600-plus Football League games, came in as the Bucks stormed towards the NCEL title.

Only one league match was lost until mid-March when remarkably, in the 25th league fixture, Sutton Town won 6-1 at the Silverlands.

That blip was unique as only one other league game was lost as Law’s team came within two minutes of completing the league season undefeated away from home - a superb strike earning Sheffield FC a 1-0 success.

There were indeed some memorable performances. Mid-table Glapwell suffered a 9-0 Silverlands slaughter, with home debutant Reeves striking a double hat-trick in front of a crowd of 563, while an April visit to Mickleover Sports produced a clinical 6-0 victory.

Buxton achieved 11 ‘doubles’, equalising the achievement of the magnificent 1972/73 side, and scored as many as 145 league and cup goals - just two short of the record 1945/46 season.

Striker Mark Reed’s return for the season was 42 goals, also just two short of Brian Wilson’s post war record, and he was rewarded with the considerable accolade of the Non-League Paper’s Step Five Player of the Season award.

The President’s Cup was retained at the expense of Selby Town and the only major disappointment was the unexpected and highly controversial 0-1 reverse at Nantwich in round five of the FA Vase, just when the faithful were fancying a Wembley final.

So it was back to the NPL, and 12 months later another championship title and promotion took the club up to the Premier Division.