Following a season of ups and downs, Ryhope CW finished the 2017-18 Northern League Division One season in 11th.

The pre-season target was a top half finish and that’s exactly what Colliery Welfare achieved by a margin of one point over Ashington in 12th.

Ryhope will be pleased with the progress shown this season overall, building on last season’s 17th placed finish and achieving 17 more points.

Manager Gary Pearson spoke positively of the season, saying: “Every time you hit a pre-season target, you’ve got to say it’s a successful season.

“We didn’t set the bar too low, a top half finish is a good achievement for the club. We have come a long way since I took over and progressed every season.”

However, the season promised so much more early doors with Ryhope winning five of their first six league games.

Pearson echoed this, adding: “We massively feel we could have finished even higher.

“We squandered a lot of points, some down to players and some admittedly down to mismanagement. I think we could have finished three or four places higher.”

Throughout September form started to become mixed, Colliery Welfare went from losing to Dunston and Seaham to drawing with one of the league’s strongest sides in Consett and beating Penrith.

‘Inconsistent’ became the word repeated by manager Gary Pearson in interviews, demonstrated by Ryhope going from an embarrassing 7-0 defeat at Whitley Bay to an impressive 3-1 away win at Bishop Auckland.

Struggling to find consistency, Ryhope looked settled into a mid-table position.

But they did find consistency from November, unfortunately this wasn’t a positive consistency.

Following a brilliant 5-2 away win in West Auckland, Colliery Welfare went on a run of 11 league games with only one victory which dragged them into a potential relegation batle.

During this run of games they picked up only four points, beating Newcastle Benfield at home and drawing with Seaham away.

They were unlucky in a lot of the nine defeats, often losing games by fine margins.

Losses to Washington and Penrith during this run will have disappointed Colliery Welfare, and they allowed Ryhope rivals Sunderland RCA to do the double over them.

Meanwhile, in the cup competitions it was a mixed bag for Colliery Welfare.

They exited the FA Cup in the exra-preliminary round, as well as going straight out of the Durham Challenge Cup with a defeat to second division Chester-Le-Street.

But in the Northern League Cup, Ryhope had a run to the quarter-final beating Hebburn and Durham City, before an unlucky defeat to Newcastle Benfield.

In the FA Vase, Colliery Welfare equaled their best run of a second round appearance, beating Guisborough and Northallerton in the qualifying rounds before a spectacular 10-1 win over Harrogate Railway in the first round.

Their reward was a home draw against the well-supported and well-funded City of Liverpool, losing narrowly in an exciting game in front of a big crowd.

Pearson felt there was some missed opportunity in cup competitions: “I feel like we could’ve gone further in some cups, looking at Stockton, they beat the team that knocked us out of the Vase.

“After that they smashed teams by three or four goals until the semi-finals. If we got through that City of Liverpool game, who knows what could have happened.”

However, despite the feeling of missed opportunity, he was happy with the run in the Vase: “How far we got was another step forward for the club, getting to a stage we haven’t made it to before.”

He had similar feeling towards the Northern League Cup, adding: “The loss to Benfield and how it came about with us having a weakened squad and losing in the final minute was disappointing. We feel like we could’ve been in a cup final this season.”

In the last couple of months of the season, Ryhope got their league form back together.

After ending their poor run with a 3-2 win over Aycliffe, they went on to win their next four games including beating Consett 6-1 and Washington 9-1 away from home.

They ended the season by taking 16 points from their last 30 games, securing a top half finish by beating Dunston 4-2 away.

James Ellis finished top scorer and will be a player of the season contender, other possible contenders include consistent performers such as Ben Riding, Corey Nicholson, Nathaniel Skidmore and Jonny Ball.

Michael Ray may even be in with a shout for his form over the second half of the season.

A positive end to what was, all in all, a positive season for Ryhope CW.

However, there may be some regret as to what could have been had they not had a major dip in form mid-season.

On the target for next season, Pearson said: “Going back four seasons when I first joined, I had a plan with the chairman I would be here for five years and after that we’d have a sit down and see which direction the club’s going in.

“I said I would get the club into the top 10 in the Northern League, and next season is going to be the telling one. I’ve hit or exceeded my targets every season.

“After that we can sit down again and discuss how to get into the top 5 and after that challenging for leagues.

“I stand by the fact we’ve grown on the pitch quicker than we have off it and it’s now the time to develop both.”