MATCH REPORT: Second-string put to the sword by the champions

This final may have been judged as an easy victory for the Mead Plant & Grab 1B champions, and the predictors weren’t wrong.

A first-half that the Lilies’ second-string could have prospered in if it wasn’t for too many instances of dispossession and missed opportunities in the final third, not just conceding two goals in two minutes against a well-drilled Huntingdon United outfit.

Lilies front-man James Harness perhaps should have given the underdogs an early lead, but his first touch was uncontrolled.

It may well have been a different story if it wasn’t for Reserves’ goalkeeper Ryan Rayner clutching with ease on the line, a sign of things to come.

Lively winger Jermaine Watson had his low effort saved well by competent goalkeeper Jamie Crook, but the deadlock was swiftly broken as the Lilies’ back-line failed to stop a Carl Foreman dribble from the left that was tapped in underneath the diving Rayner on 24 minutes.

The advantage was soon doubled as Joe Bennett tapped in at the back-post a couple of minutes later as the Lilies were carved apart once more, this time on the right before a back-post cross to the unmarked forward.

A flurry of near-miss chances was displayed, particularly for Harness, who was unlucky to not receive better service in and around the opposition penalty box from those around him.

Reserves head-coach Benji Brittin would and possibly should have installed some belief into his players at the interval, but that seemed to have been a bygone.

Striker Dom Everett enhanced the champions’ lead soon after the restart with a well-taken finish past Rayner to some of the crowd’s delirium, after winning a one-on-one encounter with the unfortunate Lilies ‘keeper.

Any hopes of a comeback were finally dashed via a deflected free-kick from distance on 79 minutes, leaving Rayner helpless at his top-left corner to make it two for Foreman and four for Huntingdon.

The league winners showed their superiority, not just in attack, but at the back, thwarting any possible chance their opponents might conger up.

Brittin’s men searched for an opening with sparks of forward-thinking play and midfield surges from the likes of substitutes Mason and Goodger, but to no avail.

Substitute Scott Lindsay then added a fifth at the death to put the cherry on top of the champions’ cake to make it a perfect evening for his team and an even more dire night for the Lilies.

But they can hold their heads high after a determined effort, the difference in class finally paying off. For the winners, it’s a league and cup double, but for the losers, it’s back to the drawing board on Saturday.

 

Chatteris Town Reserves head-coach Benji Brittin said:

“I’m totally devastated with the result. I think 0-5 was a justified result. We gave it away sloppily at the back and we weren’t drilled enough. We were beaten by a lot better side and quite rightly so, they’re the league champions.

“They all believed they were still in it at half-time, we were still in it and the next goal was crucial and unfortunately, they took it. We didn’t give up, we kept battling, but they were a quality team and they were up for it on the day.

“The heads are down so we’ve got to pick them up and we’ll go from there. We’ve got Houghton & Wyton at home this weekend so hopefully we’ll take this into it.

“There’s a couple of things we need to work on, but it’s a very down team at the moment and we’ll move on and learn from this. This is a good learning curve.”

Chatteris Town Reserves: Ryan Rayner, Jacob Butler, Matthew Eggleton (sub Dodman, 70’), Tony Brown, Dean Saunders (sub Richard Salisbury, 70’), Jermaine Watson (sub Brittin, 83’), Liam Birch (sub Scott Goodger, 53’), Paul Rowell © (sub Will Mason, 20′), James Harness (sub Craig Gillies, 53’), Josh Dodman (sub Brandon Ransome, 53’), Josh Brittin.

Ratings: Chatteris Town Reserves – Rayner 5, Butler 5, Eggleton 5, Brown 6, Saunders 5, Watson 6, Birch 5, Rowell 5, Harness 4, Dodman 5, Brittin 5. Subs: Mason 6, Goodger 5, Ransome 5, Gillies 5, Salisbury 4.

Referee: Jordan Marin – 7

PREVIEW: “The pressure is on them” ahead of second-string’s tough cup test

If Chatteris Town Reserves do reign victorious, they could become an opponent’s worst nightmare.

That’s the view of head coach Benji Brittin as his side prepare for their eagerly anticipated Creake Charity Shield final against unbeaten opponents in newly-crowned Mead Plant & Grab 1B champions Huntingdon United tomorrow evening (7.30pm at March Town FC).

And although the Lilies’ second-string may be judged as the firm underdog in this contest, Brittin believes there is a strong sense of optimism in and around his players.

“The squad and I are very confident going into this one”, he said.

“I feel now is the time to shine, step up and show me and the club that Chatteris Town Reserves are a team to fear.

“The players are getting back to full fitness and if we win, I feel confidence will rocket through the team.”

It hasn’t been the greatest run of form, however, picking up just one win in the last three league games, the latest setback coming in a 1-1 home point with mid-table Fenstanton.

But even though Brittin’s men haven’t been as prosperous as hoped lately, he thinks the pressure will all be on the opposition.

“To be fair, the pressure I’m sure is on them”, he insisted.

“They will not want to lose a game all season, so they will be going for it, which could prove to be their downfall.

“We are at full strength unlike when we first played them (in a 1-2 league defeat in December), so I’ll use our fresh legs and strength to give them a battle.

“We gave them a fright that day with an under-strength side and I know their weaknesses this time, so let’s see if our tactics pay off.”

 

 

REACTION: A decision Taylor-made to perfection

It’s been a memorable spell in charge of Chatteris Town for Ashley Taylor.

Two seasons, one promotion, three cups and Step Six ambitions have made an arrival of a young, promising manager turn out to become arguably one of the most successful bosses in the club’s history, in such a short space of time.

His decision to step down from managerial duties may have been a shock at first, considering how far the club has moved on since Taylor took over in 2015, but in his opinion, this was a plan in the making.

“After four years of management, I felt like I needed a break”, he said.

“This was something I have been thinking about for a while and now, I feel the time is right.

“Some people may find my decision to take a step back a little strange, but I am only doing this for the benefit of the football club and I’m confident it will all work out.”

It seems a new resurgence continuing on from the project that Taylor built may well look to carry on into the future, hoping to advance even further into new and improved territory, on and off the field.

Eyes are now firmly in place to search for the successor to Taylor’s throne, trying to build on the status of a football club that is ever-growing and heading in a forward direction, not looking back.

But with this in mind, it seems surprising that the current crop of youthful and able Lilies are unlikely to wilt in light of recent events, let alone due to a top-four spot becoming increasingly out of reach.

Speaking on whether his players could be affected by the news, Taylor stated: “We had a meeting last week, they fully understand my reasons and I will be asking them to finish the season strongly.”

Aspirations to achieve big may be the aim for a club on the up, with Taylor to move into his new role as Director of Football from the 2017-18 campaign as The Lilies plan ahead for their second successive season in the Kershaw Premier Division.

I know what we need to take Chatteris Town to the next level

His expertise from the dugout is set to transfer over to the stands, and one of the main ways of giving something back to the new chief(s) coming into West Street could be useful, as well as futuristic.

“My aim for next year will be to assist the first-team the best way I possibly can, to support the new manager and to make the experience enjoyable for the new management team and players”, Taylor said.

“I know what we need to take Chatteris Town to the next level.

“I feel we need more players, but the players we require I am unable to attract, so we will be looking to find a new manager that can strengthen the squad.

“I will also be looking to make all the teams stronger and I’m very passionate about youth football, which is something we will start on next season.”

So all’s well that ends well for a man that has accomplished something that will be noted in the Lilies’ book of all-time memories.

It’s not often you hear one man achieve so much in the time it has taken Ashley Taylor to fire one team to glorious success, but as they say, anything is possible these days.

 

 

Second-String Semi not to be missed, according to Reserves’ chief

Chatteris Town Reserves boss Benji Brittin believes his side’s cup tie versus local rivals March Town Reserves this Saturday is a game that should not be missed.

The Lilies take on The Hares in their rearranged North Cambs Junior Cup semi-final at West Street (3pm kick-off), and Brittin is optimistic for his team after coming off the back of five wins in the last six games.

“Our confidence is high, along with the desire to win”, he said.

“The team is getting together, they are believing in themselves and the hunger amongst the lads is brilliant.

“The lads are fired up and a semi-final against our greatest rivals is even better for their confidence.”

Brittin’s men have already reached one cup final in the Creake Charity Shield, beating their visitors’ conquerors in the last four, Duxford United, but this won’t act as a major distraction for the game ahead, according to the head-coach.

“Nothing seems to distract the lads”, Brittin said.

“The players believe they can go on a good run in both league and cup, and because our strength and fitness is getting better each game, anything is possible now.

“We’ve achieved one of our aims in reaching a cup final, which is what we as a team set out to do at the start of the season.

“Reaching a second final would show how well the players have progressed as a team and as a club, and I’m proud of what we’ve achieved so far.”

The lads take every game like it’s their last

The ‘second-string derby’ has not been too kind to the side from West Street, having only won twice in the last five meetings in all competitions.

Their opponents, meanwhile, have won eight of their 12 away encounters this season and lie second in the Mead Plant & Grab 1B standings, with four wins in their last five league fixtures.

But Brittin still remains confident his team will be unscathed by the opposition.

“The lads take every game like it’s their last, they all want to win and nothing is going to get in their way.”

New Year’s Resolutions: An unbeaten run and cup progress the main Lilies’ aims

Chatteris Town manager Ashley Taylor believes his side will improve further if they can maintain their unbeaten run.

The Lilies have made a solid start to the new year with a derby draw against Outwell Swifts in the Kershaw Premier League, followed by a 7-1 thrashing of Over Sports.

But with the next three games, including against two teams in the top half of the table, Taylor remains optimistic the run can continue.

“We now have back-to-back home games against Brampton and Linton Granta and although these are tough games, our target will be nothing less than six points”, he said.

“Come the end of January, if we can have 10 points from 12, I will be very happy and this will be a clear sign that the team is progressing.

“So far, we have got four points out of six, but really, we should have six points in the bag.

“After the Outwell draw, we were left frustrated, but credit to the lads who reacted perfectly on Saturday.”

I’ve been very happy with the additions of Carl Powell and Karl Anderson who have fitted perfectly into our squad

Injuries to key players in the first half of the campaign may have had potential to disrupt Chatteris’ run of good form, but new additions seemed to have steadied the Lilies’ ship, according to Taylor.

“The squad right now is looking strong, even though we are missing Lee Barnett (knee ligaments) and Alex Ashley (hernia), who is out for the rest of the season.

“I’ve been very happy with the additions of Carl Powell and Karl Anderson who have fitted perfectly into our squad and have been putting in impressive performances.

“The Reserve Team is also looking strong now, which makes things a lot easier for me.”

The second string look to maintain their quest for glory by booking a second cup semi-final spot out of a possible three.

Benji Brittin’s men capitalised on their Cambs Junior Challenge Cup exit to Bassingbourn by securing their place in the last four of the Creake Charity Shield with a 1-0 win at Soham United Reserves the week after.

I still feel a top-four finish is achievable, and the younger players pushing into the team is fantastic for their potential

However, the Reserves head-coach thinks cup progress was never so assured after the long festive break.

“Our departure from the Cambs Junior Challenge Cup hit home to the lads”, Brittin said.

“Take nothing for granted, playing teams like Bassingbourn away was never going to be easy.

“Taking a one-goal lead was never going to be enough and the opposition wanted it more.

“Fitness was always going to be key after coming back from a two-week break, so a response was needed away to Soham United Reserves.

“The lads needed to show me the desire they had during pre-season, and although another scrappy cup game, up stepped 16-year-old Brandon Ransome to grab us the winner.”

Cup involvement may have hindered a possible climb up the Mead Plant & Grab 1B standings, with nine points separating them and the top four.

But having played the fewest games compared to any other side, Brittin is confident a top-four spot is still there for the taking.

“The squad is strong and at full strength, which is why I still feel a top-four finish is achievable”, he said.

“Our progress will be a huge test and will be fantastic for the lads and the club.

“The next few weeks will show me who will be regular starters now our cup run in two competitions has taken us to two semi-finals as we now need to work on our fitness and balance to the team.

“Selection for a starting line-up is proving a good headache for me.

“The younger youth players are pushing into the team, which is fantastic as their potential is looking very promising, which is what is needed for our season.

“Overall, it looks like an exciting cup and league run-in to be.”

The Lilies begin a run of three consecutive home league games against Brampton this Saturday (21st January), 2pm kick-off at West Street.

The Reserve Team are without a fixture this weekend, but return to league action next Saturday (28th January) away at Swavesey Institute.

 

 

 

 

 

 

No Christmas Number One, but progress has been made

It may be argued that Chatteris Town could have improved on their season so far heading into the festive break, but it’s safe to say they have already confirmed their status as a top-flight team.

The Lilies sit fourth in the Cambridgeshire Kershaw Premier League, 11 points adrift of third and 16 off leaders Great Shelford, their first league victims of the campaign back in August.

But after a promising start, a run of inconsistent results has left Ashley Taylor’s men a fair distance behind the leading pack, having dropped 19 points so far.

Winning six of the first eight games of the season saw the Lilies leap into the top four, before a dry patch of four wins from the last nine have seen Taylor’s side fall off the pace and into a battle for top-four status.

With our team being so young, we can only get better

Despite this, Town’s boss remains optimistic with the improvements he has witnessed.

“At this stage, I’m satisfied with where we are”, Taylor said.

“The expectation this season was to establish ourselves as a competitive Kershaw Premier team and so far, we have done that.

“Progress has definitely been made and I would say we are the youngest team in the league, but the best thing about this is we are always getting better.

“With our team being so young, we will only get better, but to do this, we need to all have the right attitude and keep working hard.

Looking for more: Taylor (centre) thinks his side can improve further this season (Credit: Steve Snell)
Looking for more: Taylor (centre) thinks his side can improve further this season (Credit: Steve Snell)

“Having no cup games can only be a positive for us as we can solely concentrate on the league.

“The top three are very strong and this is evident with how the league stands at present.

“We are doing well, but we must believe that we can do better as everything can be improved.”

The Reserve Team look to be making progress of their own having recently rose into the top six following three wins in their last six games in Mead Plant & Grab 1B.

It’s not just the league where things are looking up as the second string’s involvement in three cup competitions has raised hopes of silverware.

Our progress so far has probably been expected

However, advances on the pitch have not been easy to come by.

“The job is tougher than I expected”, manager Benji Brittin said.

“The availability of players has been hard to come by due to injuries and progression into the first-team, but that’s what the Reserves are there to do.

“Losing key players hasn’t helped injury-wise and you accept this in football, but losing them to the first-team, however, is great as it means I’m doing my job properly.

“The league is tougher than the lads first thought, but our progress so far has probably been expected.”

Goals, goals, goals: Brittin believes his side should be more clinical in front of goal (Credit: Steve Snell)
Goals, goals, goals: Brittin believes his side should be more clinical in front of goal (Credit: Steve Snell)

Alongside the difficulties of forming a full squad is balancing progress in both league and cup, which Brittin believes is minimal, although having scored the fourth-lowest amount in the league so far.

“Our progress in the cup hasn’t really affected our league performance”, Brittin added.

“We seem to be up for cup matches, we never give up and our desire to win these games is brilliant.

“Our league form could do with improvement, but we’re now aiming for a top-four finish, which I’ll take.

“For us to improve, we need more bonding and fitness. I’ve struggled to start the same team for two games running, but any side I field, I trust and believe they can do the job.

“We know we’ve not been more deadly with our finishing in and around goal, but we are creating chances all the time and if that was not happening, I’d be concerned.”

Eight wins in thirteen matches has seen Roger Manchett’s A Team climb to second in Mead Plant & Grab 4B, something of a major difference compared to last season’s second-from-bottom finish.

And as Manchett says, there have been a few areas that have lead to his side’s development, including only one home league defeat so far.

“The A Team has made a good start to the season”, he said.

“The players have grown since last year and are playing some good football.

“They are playing for each other and we play an attacking style of football, which is good to watch.

“There is a togetherness about the side and we’ve managed to keep a settled side week in week out.

“There is encouragement within the team and we’ve signed a couple of new players.

“We are currently second, which speaks volumes for the effort the players have put in.

“If we can keep the team together, we aim to finish in the top five.”

 

 

 

 

 

Does football in the Fens really have a future?

How do football clubs survive in a sport that is becoming dominated by the amount of money a team has?

For some, it might be easy, but for many, it seems like a constant uphill struggle. Particularly for voluntarily-ran organisations at a considerably lower level, income may always be tougher to come by than expenditure. Ground maintenance bills needing to be paid while most teams have no entrance fee for those interested enough to watch, perhaps just some of the concerns faced on a regular basis. However, there does seem to be light for a future, amidst the ever-existent issue of financial uncertainty.

Based on Sport England’s annual report for 2015-16, the conditions of 1,830 clubs across England have been improved since 2011, with £4m spent on grants towards club development tool ‘Club Matters’. An intent to develop amateur clubs on a national scale is there, but more specifically, for one of Cambridgeshire’s better-known teams.

Chatteris Town Football Club received a £75,000 grant from Sport England in May to revamp club facilities, which is due to be completed next year. However, the Fenland-based side could still do with more financial help as more improvements look to take shape.

Lisa Salisbury, treasurer at Chatteris Town, said: “At the moment, we are quite stable, but we could always do with more. When the upgrade is finished, there are things that we would like to buy, such as glass washers, new tables and chairs, which we have to raise the money for ourselves. It is hard getting in subs, fines and signing-on money, but we usually get it all in eventually.”

Whiting goal vs Great Shelford
Taste of glory: Taylor’s men have made a solid return since last year’s league and cup success (Credit: Cambridge Evening News)

Success off the pitch has been in tandem with success on it too, with the Lilies now plying their trade in the Kershaw Premier League, Cambridgeshire football’s top tier, after securing promotion last season. And as chairman Julian Young admits, it is not only the grant that has made an impact.

“Obviously the grant of £75,000 has and will make a huge difference”, he said. “It is apparent that the success on the pitch of the first team had a positive effect on numbers of people through the gate. The dedication of the committee and hard work has ensured regular sponsorship, fundraising and improvement to weekly income, such as through club membership and bar takings.”

Upgrading facilities has not been the aim for just one organisation, as £63.7m was invested into this by Sport England with an extra 127 improvement projects being listed, according to their most recent report. But in comparison to their previous financial status with discussions before the grant being announced taking place, Town may well be on the rise.

“Compared to where we were three years ago, we are in a pretty healthy position”, Young said. “Not that we are resting on our morals, nor do we think the job is done. We have already turned losses into small surpluses and at each point, those surpluses are used to improve facilities, grounds, maintenance and pitches. Once the refurbished clubhouse is open, this will encourage endless opportunities for additional fundraising and more regular and improved income.”

Plans for development are not always achievable for local organisations, and the Lilies seem to be defying this trend. As well as help from Sport England, the club have also worked with Living Sport, a charity that aims to improve the health and wellbeing of people in Cambridgeshire through physical activity. Because of this partnership, financial progress seems to be within touching distance, plus high expectations on the field of play.

“It would be nice to think that, in the future, we could develop a junior team and get a ladies team back”, Salisbury said. “Pitch upkeep is paramount. Keeping them in good condition now means that when the weather changes for the worse, we can keep playing on them so money does not have to be found for 3G hire.”

Lester Kent, director of football at Chatteris Town, thinks the chances of moving up the non-league pyramid are possible. “The opportunity to progress would be hard to turn down”, Kent said. “For the first-team, progression to the Thurlow Nunn (Eastern Counties) League or the United Counties League is a possibility, but this would mean more cost. There would have to be an in-depth discussion with everyone at the club involved.”

julian-young
Optimistic: Young (right) believes the Lilies can keep improving off the field with the new grant (Credit: Steve Snell)

And even though the thought that one team may not be financially assured to earn another promotion, there is still a sense of optimism the club can move forward. “I am positively sure that having seen what we (the club) have achieved, we can make new steps at each stage to improve and keep up with the demands”, Young added.

In contrast, not all local teams have a bright future waiting in the near distance. Doddington United, a village football club also from Cambridgeshire, find difficulty in searching for financial stability, which for a small organisation may be a tough act to follow on an annual basis.

Sponsorship is also a major issue, which is one of a few methods of funding. “Sponsorship is very difficult to come by in this area”, manager Dan Smethurst said. “Last season, we contacted several local businesses for sponsors, but we didn’t have any joy. We are lucky that Betts Haulage have continued to support us over the last few years.”

Funding may also be a growing problem for other amateur clubs, perhaps due to the little knowledge that other teams covering a smaller area actually exist. However, since 2011, Sport England’s £22m investment into the protection of 455 playing fields has accounted for 1,119 pitches immune from planning applications, according to their 2015-16 annual report.

Even with this investment supposedly being advantageous in terms of maintaining an existence for village football, not everyone is reaping the reward. “The current financial state is not great”, Smethurst said. “The only way to increase funds into the club is to either increase the players’ subs or to find a local investor, which is very unlikely. It’s very hard to find funding to support local sports clubs and I can’t see how this is going to get any better in the future.”

For most, running a local football club can be challenging; from receiving player subs to trying to field a team of eleven each week. For some, these difficulties have eased slightly. But one thing that remains the same is that the passion to play will still outclass a financial strain that will not stop aching for some time.