Five pre-season fixtures throughout July meant we could begin to prepare for the year ahead. Games against Hucknall Town, Rossington Main, Hyde United, Street FC and South Normanton Athletic ended with mixed results before we were able to embark on what was soon-to-be a fantastic FA Cup run. Beating three opponents ensured we booked our place in the third qualifying round – before we bowed out to Boston United. Attracting a record crowd of 613 at home against the Vanarama National League North side made for a great day for fans and players alike. And amidst all this, our NCEL season had already begun.
It was a great start for Funk’s side. Across the months of August, September and October we had suffered just one defeat at the hands of eventual title-winners, Pontefract Collieries. Conceding only 11 goals whilst scoring 38 in our first 15 games gave us a great platform for the league season ahead.
The aforementioned defeat acted as a catalyst for the Bulls as they went on to register 18 league games without defeat. This high was sandwiched between two cup defeats against Hinckley AFC and Teversal FC in the FA Vase and Notts Senior Cup respectively.
We then went a further six games unbeaten in all competitions. This saw us shoot up the league standings into top-spot and propelled us into the quarter-finals of the NCEL League Cup. From then on, wins, draws and unfortunate defeats ended our season with mixed emotions. We ultimately dropped to third in the league table, but salvaged our season by reaching the League Cup final – which has ultimately been postponed. Missing out on promotion on goal difference was a bitter pill to take after such a great start to the season.
However, to everybody’s surprise, after we finished as one of the best third-placed teams in the country we were handed a golden ticket. Promotion.
After Andover Town left their respective league, we were offered the chance of moving into the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League East division; an opportunity we grasped with both hands. Our topsy-turvy season had ended on a high, much to the delight of everyone associated with AFC Mansfield. As we move into the realms of the Evo-Stik for the first time in the club’s short six year existence, we hope to build upon massive successes even further.