After a poor run of form and bad luck with injuries, Newmarket Town boss Kevin Grainger believes his team are close to coming out the other side.
The Jockeys had been one of the pre-season favourites to challenge for promotion from the Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division this term, but a run of just four wins between October 28 and December 30 dashed those ambitions.
Their cause was not helped by a host of injury problems, with a group of players — including last season’s leading goalscorer Lewis Whitehead — sidelined for a number of weeks.
However, having come from behind to beat Hadleigh United 3-1 at home on Saturday, and with his squad now getting up to near full strength, Grainger is seeing some light at the end of the tunnel.
“We played very well against Hadleigh and got stronger as the game went on,” he said.
“They certainly played better than their league position (21st) suggests, but we deserved to win.
“I have not complained about the injuries too much — we have just got on with it.
“There has also been some players leaving, but the young lads have come in and done really well.
“All-round now things are becoming more encouraging.
“We should have most players available by the third week of January, so hopefully we can kick on and have a good second half of the season.”
After falling behind to a header from Hadleigh’s Kris Rose, Newmarket hit back through recent arrival Shaun Avis.
And the comeback was completed in the second half thanks to pacey winger Stephen Spriggs, who helped himself to two goals to keep Newmarket in eighth position.
Grainger’s men head to 10th-placed Saffron Walden Town on Saturday (3pm).
n One place above Newmarket in seventh are Ely City, who were unable to completely bounce back from their Boxing Day humiliation at the hands of Histon.
Brady Stone’s team shipped six goals without reply on that occasion, and while they stopped the rot at home to Great Yarmouth Town on Saturday, they could only record a 2-2 draw at the Ellgia Stadium.
Jonathan Brown hit the crossbar for Ely in the first half, yet it was Yarmouth that took a one-goal lead into the break via a Chris Holmes effort.
The hosts’ experienced midfielder Lee Reed restored parity shortly after the restart, with James Seymour soon firing in from distance to put Ely in the ascendancy.
However, the visitors continued to push and their efforts were rewarded when Ady Ager popped up at the back post to score an equaliser and ensure the spoils would be shared.
The Robins are back in action on Saturday with a lengthy trip to the Norfolk coast to take on 15th-placed Gorleston (3pm).
The reverse fixture between the two sides was an entertaining one, with six goals being shared evenly.
Gorleston head into the encounter having won last time out against FC Clacton, which halted a run of five matches without a victory.