Review of the season - Corby Town

Steve Kinniburgh restored the feel-good factor to Corby Town but their season ultimately ended in play-off heartbreak. Pictures by Alison Bagley
Steve Kinniburgh restored the feel-good factor to Corby Town but their season ultimately ended in play-off heartbreak. Pictures by Alison Bagley

Corby Town’s campaign may have ended in play-off heartbreak but this season was about a lot more than what happened on the pitch at Steel Park.

The Steelmen board made the right decision in appointing Steve Kinniburgh as their permanent manager after he’d done such a good job in turning last season around while in a temporary role.

Elliot Sandy enjoyed a superb campaign, hitting 34 goals in all competitions

Elliot Sandy enjoyed a superb campaign, hitting 34 goals in all competitions

And his first full season as a boss proved to be an eventful one.

Once he’d finalised his squad, it was fairly clear that Kinniburgh was targeting a promotion push and, with his usual honesty, he said as much before the season had even started.

He added the likes of Elliot Sandy and Gary Mulligan and eventually had a near-perfect mix of youth and experience while the signing of midfielder Joel Carta would prove to be one the best finds of the season as he went on to hit 28 goals in his first campaign with the club.

The early signs were encouraging.

The Steelmen enjoyed a 10-match unbeaten run to kick-off the Evo-Stik League South Division One Central season but, much to the relief of his board, he finally snapped the Steelmen’s dreadful recent record in the FA Cup.

The club’s best run in the competition for a number of years was eventually ended in front of nearly 2,000 fans as they were beaten by Stockport County, who would go on to be crowned Vanarama National League North champions, in the third qualifying round.

But promotion was always the main aim for Kinniburgh and his players and it wasn’t long before a three-horse race developed at the top with Corby battling it out with Peterborough Sports and Bromsgrove Sporting for the sole automatic promotion place.

In the end, Sports’ consistency proved too much for the Steelmen and Bromsgrove with Corby’s hopes effectively being ended when they were beaten at home by the Peterborough side at the beginning of March.

It felt like Kinniburgh and his players had to wait a lifetime for the play-offs to arrive after their place in them had been wrapped up with plenty of time to spare.

Fittingly, it all came down to final showdown with Bromsgrove in front of nearly 3,000 fans at the Victoria Ground.

And, after a pulsating encounter, the Steelmen were left devastated as they were beaten 4-3 after extra-time.

It simply wasn’t meant to be this time and another campaign at Step 4 now awaits.

But, with plenty of lessons learned, Kinniburgh will at least know what he needs to do to go one better once August rolls around.

The key will surely lie in defence. Goals weren’t a problem, the Steelmen hit 106 in a 38-game league season but they conceded 60 - 32 more than the champions. That’s something Kinniburgh will, no doubt, try to address.

But while promotion proved to be just beyond his team, Kinniburgh achieved something crucial.

His positive attitude and his desire to see his players entertain, was vital in restoring a feel-good factor around Steel Park.

And, having done that, the Steelmen faithful will be fully behind him and his squad when they go again in three months time.

Jon Dunham’s unofficial player-of-the-season: Elliot Sandy.

Given that he’s been there, scored the goals and got the t-shirt at a higher level during a fine career in the non-League game, there was an expectation on Elliot Sandy to deliver after he moved down to Step 4 to play for Corby Town.

And he didn’t disappoint.

Having been reunited with the likes of boss Steve Kinniburgh, Gary Mulligan and, later in the season, Steve Diggin, the experienced frontman eventually hit an outstanding 34 goals in all competitions to help the Steelmen in their push towards the top of the table.

The tone was set on the opening day of the season when he fired home a late equaliser in the 1-1 draw at Cambridge City and Sandy didn’t really look back from there.

When Corby were winning, he was scoring but it wasn’t just his exploits in front of goal that made him stand out.

Playing, in the main, as a lone striker, Sandy used his experience and ability to create plenty of chances for others.

And he also brought leadership. Clearly, he and captain Mulligan were Kinniburgh’s lieutenants in the dressing-room, which always looked and sounded like a positive place throughout the season.

Sandy revelled in that responsibility and took it onto the pitch. An impressive campaign.