Ashton are on the up – and manager Jody Banim is thrilled
Saturday 5th May 2018 14:22 Football Sports Posted by Mark Phillip

Ashton United manager Jody Banim can now look forward to watching his side go head-to-head with former Football League giants such as Stockport County and York City, after guiding his side to the National League North during his first full season in charge of the club.

The Robins secured their place in step six after beating Grantham Town 2-0 in the Evo-Stik Premier playoff final at Hurst Cross on Saturday.

Liam Tomsett opened the scoring in the 57th minute after capitalising on a goalkeeping mistake and poking home into an empty net, before Nic Evangelinos converted from close range in the dying minutes to wrap things up.

Banim, who initially took the job on an interim basis following Paul Phillips and Steve Halford’s departure in September 2016, described promotion as a great achievement.

And the former Radcliffe Borough legend said he couldn’t have done it without the support of a strong nucleus behind the scenes. He said: “Personally it’s a great achievement, for me and the management team.

“I can’t stress this enough: I Couldn’t have done this without Simon Woodford, Damian Crossley and Kieran Bentley, whether that comes to training, player recruitment or organisising the lads. It isn’t just me; it’s a joint effort between the four of us. They’ve all played their part, and then you’ve got the players who have been wonderful all season.”

Having guided the Robins to a mid-table finish last season with the help of former assistant Will Haining, Banim was given the chance to rebuild over the summer of 2017 and sculpt his own side.

Despite having one of the lower budgets in the division, Banim assembled a squad which subsequently won 23, drew 13 and lost ten games, ending the season in second spot and setting up a playoff semi-final appearance for the fourth time in five years.

But unlike his unfortunate predecessors, who gave Ashton some of the best times in history, Banim has managed the unthinkable and propelled the Robins to the next level on the football hierarchy.

Banim emphasised the importance of those who made it possible, both on and off the pitch. He added: “The players have bought into exactly how we want to play and we play a certain system and a certain brand of football, and every single player that we brought into the football club has been able to fit into that and they’ve bought into that ethos.

“We’ve also got an unbelievable chairman, a great vice-chairman and the committee and board behind them, as well as the tireless volunteers. The two Andy’s have spent hours and hours getting the pitch ready for so that we can play our style of football.

“I’ve said it time and time again, by rights we should be nowhere near the playoffs but we’ve recruited well and done it the right way, and I think it’s fully deserved. Budgets only get you so much; they don’t get you the heart, desire and willingness to win football matches and not get beat. What I’ve got in that dressing room, it takes a certain type of individual.”

Promotion to the National League North has renewed a rivalry with near neighbours Curzon Ashton, who will be competing at step six for a fourth consecutive season after securing their safety with two games of the season remaining.

The Robins will also have dates with Chester FC and Guiseley, who have been relegated from the National League Premier, as well as Altrincham, who have made an instant return to the National league North after two successive relegations.