Brackley Town boss Jon Brady feels keeping the club in the Conference North is the biggest achievement in his time at the club.
The odds were stacked against Brady at the start of the season after he lost a number of key players such as Glenn Walker and Steve Diggin due to a reduction in the club’s budget, but following a turbulent campaign, Saints beat the drop following a nail-biting final day full of drama.
And Brady ranks the achievement as the best in his time at Brackley, even greater than reaching the second round of the FA Cup last season.
“I just think it’s huge for everybody involved,” he said speaking after Saturday’s tense 1-0 win over Hednesford.
“For myself and Darren (Collins), we had to accept where were last May when we knew what we had available in terms of funds and losing all of our players, but to do what we’ve done this year, in my opinion it’s the biggest achievement we’ve had.
“With what we’ve had to work with and to get the players in for the amount of I’ve got, fair play to them. How I’ve done it I don’t know. The likes of Frank Sinclair’s experience and Frank doing me a favour for nothing - I just had to pull on all my resources. Thankfully we got there.”
Saints looked dead and buried just three weeks ago when a torrid run of only one win in 12 games had seen the plummet down the table to second from bottom, but Brady’s men found form in the nick of time, winning their final three games to pip Colwyn Bay and avoid relegation.
Brady admitted the overriding emotion at full-time was relief rather than pleasure, saying: “It’s a huge relief. At the start of the season it looked a tough task, we wanted to get to 50 points, we got to 47 but my god did we leave it tight!
“It’s just relief getting across the line.
“I think it had to get to the lowest point for us to galvanise ourselves. We got to 38 games and everyone thought we were dead and buried but I just said to the boys that we’ve got four games left and this is our season now.
“We believed all along. I had to really instill that belief and fair credit to the players, they believed and no one thought we would get 10 points from our last four games, it’s amazing to do to what we’ve done and thankfully we’re in the Conference North again next season.
“There is not one ounce of pleasure in that. I look on it as a huge frustration with what we’ve had to go through - it hasn’t been enjoyable one bit.”
With Colwyn Bay winning at Worcester City, Brady resorted to a 2-4-4 formation against Hednesford as Saints desperately sought the goal that would keep them up, and it duly arrived 15 minutes from time through substitute Ryan Rowe.
“Ryan’s a striker, he scores goals and he’s our top scorer,” added Brady.
“We’ve gone with Stuart Pierpoint recently for a bit of physicality up there but in the end, I went 2-4-4 and I’ve never gone that sort of system before.
“I didn’t go crazy because they only played one up front today and we went two at the back with their one, and we pushed the next four in as midfielders and then went four up top. It wasn’t ridiculous.
“I had some strong but constructive words at half-time and then I sat down and worked out a team and how I can get my best attacking players on the pitch and how we could get that goal and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Thankfully Ryan popped up with an outstanding strike.”