NON-LEAGUE FOOTBALL: Temporary team committed to the cause as post-Taylor era begins

Caretaker boss Sean McKay is ready to embrace the challenge of turning Chatteris Town’s fortunes around.

McKay has taken up managerial duties alongside captain Stuart Porter until a permanent replacement can be found after the news of Ashley Taylor’s resignation, which was announced yesterday.

The decision comes after the Lilies lost a five-goal thriller to then second-from-bottom Linton Granta having earned a first-half lead, bringing an end to a four-game unbeaten run.

“The squad and club as a whole was deeply saddened and shocked after Ash’s departure, none more so than myself”, McKay said.

“It was a shock; I didn’t expect to take temporary charge.

“Me and Stuart decided at this moment in time it would be best for the club to do the job until a permanent appointment is made.

“I would like to thank Ash for everything he has done for the club.

“What he has achieved is nothing short of remarkable.”

With a team short on confidence, McKay is optimistic of a turnaround despite what tests may come following the surprise of Taylor’s departure.

Town have dropped points from leading positions in the last two games, which closing out results is one area that draws particular focus.

“Me and Stuart will do our absolute best working on this problem because we know, as well as the players, this should not be happening”, he insisted.

“We just need to have a better understanding of how we manage situations in a game.

“We have always had a great team spirit, so I see no reason why we can’t get the team back on track.

“I think it’s a massive challenge, but one we are committed to doing well in.

“Our main aim is getting the team back playing to its capabilities and getting back to winning ways.”

Life after Taylor begins with arguably the toughest assignment possible when they travel to table-toppers West Wratting on Saturday (September 23, 3pm), who have tasted defeat once in their first eight games.

McKay knows this will be a big hurdle to overcome, as well as next week’s trip to last season’s runners-up in Great Shelford, which he will be making some adaptations for both fixtures.

“I think it will be a huge test.

“They are a good side who have started the season very well.

“We know there are no easy games in this league, none more so than Saturday’s game.

“We will be looking to make a few changes to the team in terms of system as our next two games are extremely tough away games.

“In terms of personnel, we are still a bit short, but with players hopefully returning from injury in the coming weeks, we should be okay.

“I’ve never felt we have had a problem getting up for ‘big’ games and the size of the challenge ahead is something we should embrace.

“If we are to get anything out of the game, we know we will have to be on our game for 90 minutes.”

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NON-LEAGUE FOOTBALL: Taylor vows for consistency as Lilies extend unbeaten run

Chatteris Town must be more consistent if they are to progress.

Manager Ashley Taylor saw his side earn a point at Cambridge City Development last Saturday, extending their unbeaten run to four games thanks to Gary Smith’s 87th-minute equaliser.

But the Lilies boss believes maintaining that winning trend will be his team’s toughest test.

“One of our biggest challenges will be consistency”, he said.

“We can improve all over, but I know as the season goes on, we will improve and get stronger.

“It’s only the start of the season and I definitely won’t be getting carried away.

“We have so much more work to do.”

Town twice came back from behind to avoid a third Kershaw Premier Division defeat of the season, which after two straight losses in the first two games, Taylor is appraising of his side’s reaction.

“It’s very pleasing to see, but the challenge now is to be consistent with what we do.

“After a tough start, I was very pleased with how we reacted, winning three games from three.

“The first two results were affected by player availability and injuries.

“We are now seeing some of these faces return, but we are still missing three very important players in Stuart Porter, Jack Whiting and Lee Barnett.

“We have showed that we have strong character within the group, which is going to be crucial as it won’t always be sunshine and rainbows this season.

“Team-wise, the togetherness has impressed me and the group has a fantastic team spirit right now.”

Before the campaign began, Taylor’s main objective was promotion, which this run of form may prove that Town are worthy contenders for a Step Six place.

However, having already beaten one of the two teams he expects to be in and around the top spots, it does not seem easy to predict who will gather all the plaudits.

“I’m not one to make any bold predictions.

“Yes we want to try and get promoted, but there are some really strong teams in this league and it’s a lot more open than last season.

“I thought the toughest test was Lakenheath at home as after losing our first two games, the pressure was on to get a win.

“We will just continue working hard and see where it takes us.”

Next up for Chatteris, who lie third in the league standings, is a trip to Linton Granta this Saturday (September 16, 3pm), who currently sit second-from-bottom.

OPINION: Lilies’ search for supremacy back on track

Before the season began, Ashley Taylor stated that promotion was the standout objective come April.

And judging by how his Chatteris Town side have started, it seems their true capabilities are beginning to shine through, not just to their opponents, but to the rest of the competition.

Close calls, defensive mishaps and attacking prowess have already been in abundance in the first five games of the new Kershaw Premier Division campaign, albeit during a somewhat mixed run of form.

Nine points from a maximum 15 is not a disappointing feat, but one that could have been bettered if it wasn’t for back-line errors or failing to grab a game by the scruff of the neck.

Some may have been questioning where the vibrant Lilies of last season were at after a deserved defeat at newly-promoted Cambridge University Press, their second successive loss and blank having lost by the odd goal to promotion rivals Eaton Socon just four days earlier.

Was it a lack of gile or threat in the attacking third, minimum concentration at the back or do they just need more time to finally return to their best? Although it could be any of these after such a terrific pre-season, I believe it was mainly the last option, not solely based on results, but on Taylor’s faith in the youth.

On average, Town’s squad may be aged around the low to mid-twenties, which can bring both its benefits and its disadvantages for understandable reasons. It takes time for new players to gel together and build partnerships, particularly for youngsters who may not breed enough confidence to prove their potential thus far. However, things are developing very nicely indeed.

In the space of two and a half weeks, morale has improved, goals haven’t been hard to come by (seven in the last three games) and happiness is restored, with the bonus of a decent signing to add to the ranks, a move that can only be good for a side previously desperate for extra midfield nous.

Successful road trips could come at a canter if Chatteris keep performing to their strengths, with an unusual four consecutive league away days to come. Despite not feeling total August adulation, they look on course to find September supremacy and possibly beyond.

But if superiority is the key, they will have to transfer success on their travels back to Fenland. The first two home games have seen a contrast in fortune, one victory and a single defeat, with two goals from those fixtures.

It was goals galore in the Lilies’ promotion-winning season of 2015-16 at West Street, and I’m sure Taylor will look to return to that exciting style of play in front of their own supporters, even without the talismatic Craig Gillies.

I know it’s very early for end-of-season predictions, but I can’t see a group of young, hungry players with a realistic target to succeed not competing in the upper echelons of the table and certainly not outside of the top five.

Progression has been long on the agenda at Chatteris Town, and from how the current crop are playing at the moment, I suspect the rest of the league will be left to fear a side ready to go places, once again.

NON-LEAGUE FOOTBALL: New chairman, new ideas as brand new era comes to West Street

On the field, progress has been evident at Chatteris Town, and with a new chairman at the helm, leaps and strides look to be made off it too.

Adam Elliott took over the reigns at West Street from Julian Young this summer, with the intentions of building a reputation like perhaps never seen before.

An avid supporter of the Lilies, Elliott has set out his aims for a club who look to prepare for further development, particularly in the local community as a fresh image seeks to be painted.

With full commitment and focus on what could be achieved, the young chairman is hoping to make an imprint on a club, and a town, that he believes has the potential to gain increased recognition in the public eye.

Here’s what he had to say in terms of why he took over as chairman, his vision for the club, current off-field progress, involvement within the community and possible 2020 centenary year preparations.

Impact: Elliott vows to help the club become a fan’s favourite with the local public during his tenure (Credit: Adam Elliott).

REASONS FOR TAKING CHARGE

“It was only five months ago that I got involved with the committee.

“I have been going home and away with the First Team for most weeks for the last couple of years anyway.

“There are certain things I can bring to the committee that I have learnt from my short working life in terms of making money, events and ideas of how to grow socially.

“It was a shame that Julian had to step down because he did a fantastic job and I think some people forget what a good job he did do when three, four years ago when he took over, this club was struggling. He has done a magnificent job along with a lot of the committee members.

“I have got a vision and I am one of these people that want to act and want to get things done.

“I do not want this club to sit still because we are a sleeping lion and we can definitely wake up and crack on soon.”

VISION

“Primarily, we are looking to get as high through the leagues as we can.

“The first team (target) is promotion. If I am honest, they should be looking towards the title this year in a tough league, but it is a tougher job this year because we are going to have to finish top three because of how many teams are interested in going up compared to last year.

“We cannot forget about the Reserves and A Team and I think by looking to try and press our Reserves and A Team as high as possible, it will mean we can get a better quality of player here, which will automatically improve not only our First Team but also the other two teams.

“It is about continuity throughout the club on pushing through the leagues.

“As well as that, we need to become more of a community club.

“Chatteris is a small place; there are few surrounding towns. The only way we are going to make this club grow into what we want it to do is by getting the people of the town here, watching the games, getting interested and I hope that we can do that and get more of the support of the local community as much as possible.”

CURRENT OFF-FIELD PROGRESS

“Financially, we are in a great place.

“I am not sure if I can say too much about them (grants) at the moment; I think that (details) will all come out in the near future.

“With things like player sponsorship, the lads have done brilliantly. We would like to also thank the community and everybody that has sponsored players because we have raised £1600 through that, which is more than we could have ever hoped for.

“We have got the bar, now open properly. We have got BT Sport running in there all the time, so it is just about trying to get this place used as much as possible.

“It is the best beer garden in Chatteris is what we like to say! We are in a good place to push on.”

COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT

“The easiest way is to get more involved with a lot of other clubs around town.

“We have had a big summer especially with the cricket club, so a big thanks to Grant Osbourn and Max Kelly for a lot of the work they have put in with the cricket club and the football club.

“We have done things with the cycling club. We have had preliminary talks with the netball club. Walking Football is a big one. We want people to have kids parties here. We want to grow within the community.

“We did a study where we found out a stupid amount of people did not even know there was a football club down West Street and that is scary for us.

“We are nearly up to our hundredth year and so it is important for us to make sure that we are part of the community.

“We are trying to throw as many events as possible and grow within the community like that.”

CENTENARY PREPARATIONS

“With promotion this year, that would give us one year to get into the Thurlow Nunn League and settle. I do not think we have any plans to change on that (Step Six league) at the minute.

“There is so much going to happen here, even in the next two, three months. We are getting new furniture in the clubhouse; we are getting a new car park done.

“There is loads of stuff going on, so over the next two years, it is all about making people aware that we are here and just becoming a family club.”

NON-LEAGUE FOOTBALL: Lilies skipper in high spirits as dawn to new season approaches

Chatteris Town can book their Step Six place whenever they want.

That is the view of Lilies captain Stuart Porter, who believes his fellow teammates are more than capable of playing at a higher level.

Town begin their campaign in the Cambridgeshire Kershaw Premier Division by facing Eaton Socon tomorrow at West Street (August 15, 7.45pm), a team they failed to beat in the league last term.

But Porter, one of the more experienced heads in the squad, thinks the team is ready for the challenge ahead as they hope to achieve manager Ashley Taylor’s promotion ambitions.

“I think the team is well-prepared and ready for Tuesday night”, Porter said.

“Pre-season has been as good as possible, going unbeaten and playing some good stuff.

“Ash has done superb in keeping the majority of the players at West Street.

“He has also added a few, which from what I can see, means there is cover in all areas of the pitch.

“Last year, we were flying in the league when we virtually lost our whole midfield through injury and had very little cover.

“This year will be different, which can only bode well.”

The Lilies finished their pre-season programme without defeat, picking up five victories including three against higher opposition, which the skipper feels has been beneficial to the players.

“Results do not mean anything, but momentum is gained in winning so we should be okay”, he said.

“As long as we take the good habits into the season, we will do okay; the club, players and management want trophies, so we shall see.

“We have been tight at the back with the new inclusion, Dean Grogan, showing he is a strong defender and a leader.

“We have been creating a lot of chances from midfield and Ben (Matthews) has fitted in well up top, so all areas of the pitch look strong.

“The players are having to prove their worth right up to the final whistle.”

With high hopes and a strong belief in what he has seen already, Porter is confident the ultimate prize is there and waiting to be grasped.

“Chatteris can get promoted whenever we want I believe.

“Every higher team we have played has commended and said we should be at that standard.

“We know it and they (the players) know it is all about points in the league now.

“Our side is young but experienced enough and the fact they love playing for Town helps, something I do not see in many clubs.

“The important thing is the club is going in the right direction.”

BOXING: Smith oozing with confidence as he claims maiden professional success

Jack Smith believes his first win as a professional has relieved some of the pressure from his shoulders.

Smith earned a 40-36 points victory over Gary Reeve at the Epic Studios in Norwich on Saturday, his first bout since suffering defeat at the hands of Craig Derbyshire in quite controversial circumstances in April.

And the 19-year-old fighter from Chatteris feels his maiden success in the professional ranks has been a real morale-lifter.

“For me to come back as soon as I did and to get the win, it’s boosted my confidence a lot and it’s took a lot of pressure off me”, Smith said.

“I learned that in my first fight, I was at the wrong weight – I was nearly three weight categories higher than what I boxed on Saturday.

“On Saturday, I was at the right weight and I felt fit and strong in there.

“The 32-year-old man came for a good go, but I just boxed clever and kept him at range and did what I had to do to get the win.”

Taking things slow: Smith feels more experience could lead to a promising career ahead

Not much mental preparation was needed ahead of the four-round contest with Reeve, but other targets were firmly in place in order to rectify previous mistakes.

“None mentally really, other than to study him more than my first opponent so I could see his style.

“Physically, I worked more on strength and conditioning and in the gym.

“Also, I did more rounds sparring and I just felt sharp in there.

“I put the time in the gym, on the roads and into my diet and finally the hard work has paid off and it feels amazing, no other feeling like it.”

Amid the setback over three months ago, Smith still had a large following to Norfolk, which the boxer could not have been more appraising.

“My supporters are amazing”, he said.

“What can I say; 115 in the first fight and around 70 in my second at this time of year is really good because everyone is away.

“But it’s not just who comes to my fights, it’s the messages on Facebook wishing me luck and congratulating me whether I win, lose or draw.

“It makes me feel confident with everyone behind me.”

Despite the jubilation of his victory, Smith, who fights out of the St Ives Boxing Academy, is not getting too carried away as he aims for the top of the tree.

“There are always areas inside and outside the ring to improve on, but that’s what I go to the gym and work with Steve Whitwell on.

“There’s no rush into fights that I’m not ready for.

“I just need more to get my experience and see where it goes from there.

As a boxer’s mentality is to win titles as soon as possible, that would be great, but I know my time will come.”

NON-LEAGUE FOOTBALL: New recruits dare to dream big with the Lilies

There seems to be a common factor between two of Chatteris Town’s summer signings so far.

The Lilies signed central defender Dean Grogan from nearby Ely City last week and, more recently, young full-back Adam Parmenter after appearing for St Ives Town’s title-winning under 18 side last season.

Both players made their debuts in the 1-0 Bill Salisbury Memorial Cup triumph at March Town last Thursday, and both have made the switch to West Street for similar reasons.

“Chatteris interested me over other clubs because of the young squad and the welcoming feeling they sent across”, Grogan said.

“They seem like a team with big potential and big plans, which I hope to be a part of.

“Ash has got plans which he and everyone at the club want to achieve, so hopefully, I can be part of a successful strong back four and team.

“The club has plans so hopefully we can achieve them and play some nice football.”

New signing Dean Grogan (right) hopes to add goals from defence this season

Although the former Robins man hopes to personally develop under manager Ashley Taylor’s tutelage, he also looks to succeed with his new set of teammates.

“I hope to bring my heart and passion to the team, along with my fight and ambition, some strong defending and a few goals.

“I hope I can progress obviously myself, but also help the team progress – the team is the main aim for me.”

Parmenter, who committed to the Lilies cause on Tuesday, has previously featured for fellow Kershaw Premier Division outfit Hemingfords United.

However, the 17-year old hopes to achieve bigger and better things at his new club.

“Although having several other offers, I think this team is going places and they have Ashley Taylor who believes in young, promising players to play at senior level, which I think is great”, Parmenter said.

“I had been training with three other clubs during pre-season and I was contacted by Ashley about coming to training and I thought I’d go along.

“I was also introduced to Jimmy Unwin through one of the young coaches at St Ives, Alfie Tate, so I went along to one of his pre pre-season sessions and his coaching was superb.

“I had played against them last season at Chatteris and thought they had a great setup there, and they finished in a good position.

“They are in a competitive league at a good standard of football, the players there have great quality and the club has great ambition.

“I think I can bring energy to the side and a hard-working attitude with a willingness to learn.

“I think the more games I play, I will improve and add to my game.”

One player that is one of Town’s key transfer targets is Jack Saunders, who appeared for United Counties Premier Division side Yaxley last campaign and highlighted in last week’s cup win.

Taylor’s men continue preparations ahead of the new season when they visit Step Five opposition in Haverhill Borough tonight at The New Croft (7.45pm), before playing three home games in seven days.