It’s been a month since a major change was made at Rhyl Football Club, with Niall McGuinness’ resignation and the appointment of club icon Mark Connolly as interim player/manager.
In that time, Connolly has overseen a resurgence from the Lilywhites having guided them to three straight wins, progression to the Huws Gray Cup quarter-finals and made some key additions to a struggling Rhyl squad.
Connolly’s first outing as manager was a tough fixture away to Gresford in the Cymru Alliance only six days after being appointed.
The visitors took the early advantage through a 17thminute Alex Titchiner goal, but as had been the case most of the early season for the Lilywhites, the defence made a mistake and allowed an equaliser which rocked the side. Gresford then won the game with a late goal.
After that game, Connolly sought to make changes to the side and began to bring in players to fit the system he wanted to play, firstly signing striker Phil Marsh from Runcorn, then later in October the double signing of defensive duo Ben Collins and Jason Jeffries from Brickfield and Skelmersdale respectively. Numerous players also left the club and Connolly himself had this to say on his transfers.
“They’ve been a big factor in our form, I sat down and put my plans to Mike Jones to where I think the club can go forward on and off the pitch.
Mike and the chairman from day one have been brilliant they let me do things my way on the pitch which helped me bring in the new faces.
I felt we had a very young squad but no experience to guide the team forward in certain games. I found it tough, letting players go but I knew it was for the better of the club and I think we’re reaping the rewards for this.
The new signings have hit the ground running and bring in experience I am looking for. Every one of them listened to what my plans are and where fully on board as well as the original squad and are fully behind what we are trying to do.”
Up next for the Lilywhites was a potentially tricky away tie in the Huws Gray Cup, as they travelled to Queen’s Park, a Jordan Barrow double was enough for the visitors to take a place in the quarter-final draw, and start a three-game winning run.
The second game of the run was a home clash against top of the table Airbus, Rhyl produced arguably their best performance of the season, taking a 2 goal lead inside 10 minutes before being pegged back early in the second half, but a controlled display from the manager and a late goal from Alex Titchiner sealed a 3-1 win and set the Rhyl fans believing.
Win number three came on Saturday away at Flint Town Utd in dramatic fashion, after going behind twice in a feisty encounter, Rhyl were able to dig deep and come back, first through Tom Walsh in the first half and then Gerwyn Jones in the second, before finding a way to win late on with a composed Tom Walsh finish to send the away fans, coaches and players into delirium. Rhyl won 3-2 and moved 10 points off the lead in the Cymru Alliance.
The run of form Rhyl are on has the supporters believing again, while promotion may be a difficult ask this time around, appointing Connolly full-time and retaining the current squad and staff may be a recipe for success in future. The support is there for the manager after a positive first month, and Connolly himself had this to say on his start at Rhyl, and how the staff have helped in that time.
“My first month hasn’t been too bad. This being my first managerial experience I’ve tried to learn on the job as I go. I’ve spoken to some of my old managers who I played under for a bit of guidance, but I’ve been around long enough now to know what happens on and off the pitch which has made the transition into management a little bit easier for me.
Also, it helps with the staff around me with James Brewerton, Matt Jones, Andy Wilmot and Andy Nelson taking on some of the responsibility with the first team, helping to coach at training and their input for matchday selections.”
(Featured Image: Matthew Wilkinson)