NORTHWICH will return next season with their resolve strengthened after the agony of Saturday’s play-off defeat, according to their coach.
Sam Naylor told the Guardian that he had struggled to sleep in the nights after his side’s slender 21-18 reverse at Bolton, but vowed to use the experience to motivate the players in the future.
“It was devastating to lose like we did,” he said.
“We need to work out now how we can learn from what happened, and to come back bigger and stronger than before.
“The dressing room was a dark place to be afterwards, but Steve Campbell was a hero with what he said.
“He picked everybody up by telling us how proud he had been to be part of a group that had got itself into a position to be part of a play-off after such as slow start to the season.
“It picked everybody up.”
Naylor said he felt Bolton’s decisive try, scored in the game’s final passage of play by Rick Newman, could have been avoided.
Blacks had led 18-14 entering stoppage time.
He added: “The pressure had been mounting in the five minutes or so before they scored. Before that, we felt we’d done enough.
“We had chances to clear our lines and to put the ball back downfield into their half.
“The lad that scored then ran over me to score, so partly I blame myself.
“Bolton are a good side though; they were probably better than us in the set piece and in the way they were organised.
“We knew about their record and what a difficult job we had, but the lads deserve a lot of credit for running them as close as they did.”
Northwich hopes were hit in the first half when Richard Dale (knee) and Jack Watts (back) suffered injuries, prompting a reshuffle to accommodate replacements Campbell and Joel Barber.
Naylor said: “It was a spanner in the works, particularly as I had played at centre alongside Richard during the winning run we’ve been on.
“We were disrupted by that, no question.”
He saved a final word for Blacks’ travelling support, which numbered more than 200.
“The roar from them when we ran out made us all feel taller – it was an amazing moment,” he said.