"We've finished the season extremely strongly" - Positive end to a frustrating campaign for Shaymen forward Warburton

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The end of the season is coming at just the wrong time for Matty Warburton and his team.

After a superb debut campaign last season, Warburton has found things more of a struggle this term, hampered by spells out of the team through injury.

But he and The Shaymen have found form and are producing some strong performances to end the season on a high.

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"Frustration is the word I'd use," reflected the Town forward.

Matty WarburtonMatty Warburton
Matty Warburton

"Purely injury based, I picked up an injury three days before the start of the season which ruled me out for four to five weeks.

"I then got a knee injury, again, six weeks.

"Then got back in the groove, felt like I was getting back, scored at Altrincham, and then did my calf again at the start of January, which was a longer one, about six or seven weeks.

"So I've never really had a season of injuries before but I'm just happy now, touch wood, that I'm at the back end of them now, looking after myself a bit better.

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"I'm over the age of 30 now so I'm managing my body a bit better and hoping I'm at the end of them."

A fully fit and firing Warburton could have made a vital difference to Town's promotion chances this season, although the attacker says he has tried to exert an influence even when he's not been playing.

"You learn how to be a better team-mate when you're out of the team because of injury and you can't affect the result," he said.

"You try and do everything you can to install belief in other lads or have chats with players about how they an improve, doing everything I possibly can to try and help the boys on a Saturday.

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"I've taken quite a lot of learnings out of this year that I'll take into future seasons.

"More than anything I've probably learned how to manage my body a bit better."

It's a case of what might have been for Halifax as the league season draws to a close, with The Shaymen having picked up 17 points from the last 21 available.

"On the way home from Woking, me and Jamie Stott were looking at form in the last 10, 15, 20, 30 games and we're right up there," Warburton said.

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"It proves we obviously didn't start very well but we've finished the season extremely strongly, keeping clean sheets on a regular basis, and that's from Sam all the way up.

"You can see the lads right at the top of the pitch working hard to keep those clean sheets and I think that's one of the main reasons why the form's improved dramatically.

"It is finishing at the wrong time and had we had another couple of months, we'd really be pushing for those play-off spots."

In a season of extremes, the only consistent thing has been Town's inconsistency.

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"There hasn't really been a consistent feeling throughout the season, it's either been extreme lows or extreme highs," Warburton said.

"What's pleasing is we seem to be coming out of the extreme lows, we've managed to climb into the top-half of the table.

"We're a bit shy of the play-offs but if you'd told the fans where we were going to be at the end of the season compared to where we were in those extreme lows, I think they'd have bitten your hand off, and us as players as well.

"You had the Altrincham performance in the Trophy which was extreme low into extreme high in the space of five, ten minutes.

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"It's been that kind of season. Last year we were consistent in terms of results and our position in the table, whereas this year we seem to have been at the wrong end and we've come out of it pretty well."

After a magnificent fourth-placed finish in Warburton's first season at the club, this campaign has proved much more testing on and off the pitch.

"It's been challenging at times and there's been some long conversations in changing rooms and in meetings, honest conversations that have needed to happen," Warburton said.

"The older lads have tried to drive that, the leadership group has tried to keep everybody on board and make sure everyone's still got the same thought-process and still pulling in the same direction, and it seems to have happened.

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"When you go through seasons like this, you probably do rely on your older players, not necessarily on the pitch but more off the pitch, to unify a group.

"To be fair, a lot of the young lads have stepped up and take responsibility.

"Last year was a breeze in terms of happiness and morale and this year it has been testing at times, different games where you're thinking 'wow, difficult moments' but on the flip side of that we've also had some really positive performances and ones where we've really shown our true selves."

Warburton feels there are positives to take from how Halifax have ended the campaign, with a win over Eastleigh on Saturday looking like it will ensure a top-ten finish.

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"The first thing you do when the season finishes is look at the league table and to see Halifax in tenth, as players we're probably going to look at that and unpick results where we could have picked up more points, where we could have done better in games and there'll be a belief there that there's no reason why we can't go one step better next year," Warburton said.

"Looking at the way we started to the way we've finished, we could be, what, six points out of the play-offs, that's two games.

"If you think about where we've come from to where we are now, that'll install a hell of a lot of belief within us as players for next year."

Will Warburton be part of that Town squad next season?

"I don't see why not, I think those conversations will probably happen within the next few weeks, after Wembley," he said.

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"It's a conversation I'll have with the gaffer and see what his thoughts are, ultimately it's down to him.

"If there's a deal on the table and it's right, then I don't see why not.

"The only thing I'm focused on at the moment is Eastleigh and then Wembley and trying to get a second FA Trophy for the club.

"Next season will always be at the back of people's minds but I'm trying to push it even further back because there's still a job to do."

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After Eastleigh, and a three week gap, comes the FA Trophy final at Wembley against Gateshead, which, understandably, is already a hot topic of conversation among the Halifax squad.

"There's obviously little chats here and there around the group about what it'll be like, about the plan for it, how many fans we're taking, all these conversations.

"It just all builds the excitement.

"The one thing we have done is focused on the league games and you can see that we've been fully invested in the last few games, no-one's saving themselves, no-one's holding anything back, you could see that at Woking, the work-rate was excellent.

"We put bodies on the line all over the place, so no-one's saving themselves for Wembley at all, it's one of them we're really excited for as players and really looking forward to."

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Warburton has watched his beloved Manchester City at Wembley as a fan and was part of the Northampton squad that beat Exeter 4-0 there as an unused substitute in the 2020 League Two play-off final.

"It's an unbelievable venue," Warburton said. "When you stand in the middle of the pitch and you look round it, it seems bigger than what it actually us.

"It's some place and I'm looking forward to revisiting it."

On current form, Warburton appears to have a strong chance of starting for The Shaymen against Gateshead.

"I hope so, I played more of a holding role on Saturday at Dagenham and I thought I did OK," he said.

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"Out of possession I worked as hard as I possibly could at Woking on Tuesday and tried to make things happen when I got on it.

"I'm trying to do everything I possibly can to make sure we get positive results, but I want to play, I want to start the game, I want to play as much of a part as I can and help us win it."

And Warburton hopes team-mate Mani Dieseruvwe will be alongside him in the Town squad on the day, after his sending-off at Woking on Tuesday.

"I spoke to Mani on Tuesday night on the coach on the way back, he's alright, I thought he'd be a bit more down than he was.

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"We got the video on the coach on the way back and watched it, he asked me for my honest opinion and I think there's grounds for an appeal so we worked on that.

"I'm just hoping for him that it can get overturned and he gets chance to play.

"He's been excellent at times this season, he's done really well for us, scored some really good and important goals.

"You don't want anyone to miss out but not a key player like Mani."

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When asked how he rates Town's chances in the final, Warburton said: "I don't see why we can't win it, simple as that.

"Gateshead are a great team but so are we, they have a slightly different style of football to us so it might be a bit of a clash of styles.

"But I don't see why we can't go there and win."

After the season Town have had, a top ten finish in the league and a Wembley cup win wouldn't be a bad outcome.

And Warburton said it could help build a foundation for the club to take into next season.

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"I think it would give the group a huge amount of belief, I think it would give us belief that things are achievable whether it's the Trophy this year, the play-offs or promotion next year," he said.

"It'll just give that sense of confidence that we can get there, pick up a trophy and then you carry that forward and anything's possible after that.

"It's one of things you can look back on at the end of your career and think 'wow, we got to Wembley, we had however many away games, however many won on penalties and we won it'.

"That would be a great story to tell, but in terms of players and the management, it'd give a great sense of belief for the group we've got."