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.

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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: Derby success, regaining fitness and new recruits just some of the ideas on Taylor’s pre-season wish list

Chatteris Town boss Ashley Taylor believes his side can reign victorious on rival territory as they begin their pre-season campaign tomorrow.

The Lilies tackle March Town at The GER on Thursday (7.45pm kick-off) in the annual Bill Salisbury Memorial Cup fixture, their first test of a five-match friendly programme, in which they seek to reclaim the prestigious trophy back from the Hares after losing 1-2 at West Street last summer.

Taylor’s men have only had three training sessions since completing their return season in the Kershaw Premier Division in May, but he feels this is not a major issue against higher opponents.

“I’m optimistic and will always go into a game believing we can win”, Taylor said.

“March are a few weeks ahead of us in terms of preparation, but the lads have kept themselves in good shape.

“It would be nice to win the cup for Bill Salisbury’s family and if we do win, it will be good for our confidence with March being higher-level opposition.”

Activity off the field is in full flow for Town, having lost two star players from last season in Craig Gillies and Aidan Hollis to King’s Lynn Town and Wisbech St Mary respectively in recent weeks.

We are looking at all options right now – Ashley Taylor

And Taylor is committed to looking far and wide to replace them, but also wants to utilise pre-season for other reasons.

He said: ‘The main aim is match fitness, but also cohesion in the team, working on patterns of play and building team spirit.

“It (Gillies’ and Hollis’ presence) impacts how we used to play, but we are looking at changing the way we play this season and if we get things right, we will be fine.

“We will be looking to improve our squad in defence, midfield and attack.

“I would like to bring in three new players, but this is never easy with a lot of competition to sign new players.

“We are looking at all options right now.”

Pre-season training for the Reserve Team has began, while sessions for the A Team get underway tomorrow.

Reserve Team sessions run every Monday and Wednesday from 7pm at West Street, with A Team sessions, from tomorrow, running every Tuesday and Thursday thereafter, same time and venue.

New and current players are all welcome.

Friendly schedules for both sides have yet to be confirmed.

END-OF-SEASON REVIEW: Top-four spots just out of reach, but a solid return to Step Seven football for Taylor’s Lilies

Perhaps not a season to remember compared to last, but it has been a solid return to the Cambridgeshire top flight for Chatteris Town.

The Lilies finished fifth in the Kershaw Premier Division after spending much of the season in the top four spots, having not enjoyed the successes of the 2015-16 promotion-winning campaign.

But one success is for certain and that’s consolidation, the aim which departing manager (at the moment), Ashley Taylor, set out for his side in August, which was exceeded by a long stretch.

Taylor encouraging his players at West Wratting

 

I believe we are a top four team right now – Ashley Taylor

 

 

Even so, a year that has gone above and beyond initial targets could have got even better, potentially once Taylor’s decision to leave his managerial post at the end of the season was made.

“When I made my intentions clear to the team midway through the season, our performance levels dropped and also the injuries we have had”, Taylor, who is set to become the new director of football at the club, said.

“In my opinion, I believe we are a top-four team right now, but this season, we lost very important players at crucial stages of the season.

“I know and the players know we could have done better, but we have to be happy with a fifth-place finish.

“Overall, I think we have had a good first season back in the Kershaw Premier League.”

Town endured a run of one win in six games between February and April, a time where Taylor believes cost his side dearly.

“I think this was a crucial time where we lost ground on the top four.

“I knew at the start of the season, we were going to experience tough times where we would have back-to-back defeats and it’s all about how we dealt with the tough times.

“Generally, I was happy with how we stuck together and tried to find solutions to come through the tough moments.”

Hitting the back of the net wasn’t a cause for concern, converting 86 goals from 38 games in all competitions, 45 of those at West Street.

Craig Gillies (pictured) scored 38 in 38 appearances, nine short of last season’s tally

However, they accounted for very little in terms of victories against any of the teams above them, claiming just one win during the season, which Taylor thinks is down to one reason.

“We relied too much on Craig (Gillies) to score this year and the other teams around us simply had more firepower.

“Since I’ve been manager, nine times out of 10, we have put in excellent attacking performances at home and it’s created excitement within the town.

“Attendances increased because of the way we go about attacking the opposition.”

Striker Gillies was the team’s top goalscorer for the second successive season, with 38 goals in 38 appearances in all competitions, which his predatory instincts in front of goal can help inspire the youth within the squad, according to Taylor.

“Craig’s been a role model this year and any young player that wants to do well in the game should just look at his application and attitude towards the game.

“The lad’s a born winner and he’s not missed a game this season.

“He deserves all the credit coming his way and he’s been very important to our success.

“Craig’s been important, but so has every player that has played for us this season; it’s all about being together as a team.”

The Lilies celebrating with the Cliff Bullen Challenge Cup during their promotion-winning season

Since Taylor’s arrival in 2015, The Lilies have been through arguably their most successful time in the club’s history, winning promotion, three cups and achieving a top five place in the Kershaw Premier.

And in his view, there’s more development on the pitch to come next season as the Fenland outfit’s bid for promotion to the Thurlow Nunn League was cut short in March.

“Our pre-season was spot on last year, hence why we started so well, but this is all down to the new management team.

“This is a team that can only get better.

“Most of the players in our team have not reached their full potential yet with their best years still to come.

“If they stick together, I see very exciting times ahead for this football club.”

With a new manager set to be announced before the start of the new season, it seems Chatteris Town’s hopes of progression look to be enhanced as they try to improve on a strong start to life back at Step Seven.

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.

 

 

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.”