AMBITIOUS Dinnington Town are upping their game on and off the field as they gear up for a successful 2020.
After years of struggle, Town have been transformed this season under the management of Gary Eades and Tom Hague.
The team are unbeaten in the Central Midlands League — racking up nine straight clean sheets along the way — and tonight, weather permitting, they host Sheffield FC in the quarter-finals of the Sheffield Senior Cup.
Work has been going on at their iCompare Stadium ground (formerly Phoenix Park) to make it fit for a future move back up to the Northern Counties East League.
Dinnington resigned from the NCEL in 2014 after a fine few years under past manager Steve Toyne that saw them win the League Cup and go within two games of an appearance in the first round proper of the FA Cup.
The times since have been testing but now Town, boosted by some good recruitment, are back on the front foot and pushing rivals Newark Town at the top of the table.
“The aim is to get out of the Central Midlands League as quickly as possible,” said Gary. “When me and Tom took over, people laughed a bit when we said that.
“The club has been rock bottom in the Central Midlands for two or three years. Teams have come here and easily taken three points home. They come now and know they are in for a game and people are taking notice. They are starting to recognise Dinnington are a force to be reckoned with.
“We are unbeaten in the league all year and we will be above Newark if we win all our games in hand. Newark's budget is significantly bigger than ours but the gap between the two teams is not that big.”
Action from Dinnington's game at Phoenix earlier this season.
Ideally, Town would love to rejoin near neighbours Maltby Main and Parkgate back in the NCEL this year. A restructure of the league pyramid higher up means more than one team may be promoted.
“We have applied to join the NCEL and we are probably going to have that granted,” said Gary, whose side won 6-0 at Askern on Saturday.
“We are having work done on the ground at the moment. We have a little bit more to do and the pitch is a lot better.
“We are putting everything in place so potentially in the next few seasons we'll be geared up for the Northern Counties East League.”
Sheffield FC will start as favourites tonight but Town aren't daunted.
Added Gary: “It's a great achievement by the club to get this far. We have already taken one NCEL scalp (Hemsworth) and beaten two other decent teams.
“I'll be honest, I won't be surprised if we win the game; Sheffield have had a bit of change in the last few months. It's a great tie for us and we'll be giving it our best shot.”
Swinton Athletic go to Frickley Athletic in one of the other quarter-finals tonight.