END-OF-SEASON REVIEW: Improvements still to be made, but A Team can look back with great fondness

Having not reached the heights of what many may class as a successful 2016/17 season, Chatteris Town A have still achieved progress.

The A Team won 11 from 24 league games this campaign, six more than the previous year, and finishing one place higher in eighth, with an increased number of fixtures played compared to last season’s 18 matches.

Just over two goals a game were scored in all competitions on average, which adds to the impressive record the A side had at West Street, losing just four games on home turf, including an unbeaten run lasting over four months.

And with such a good-looking set of statistics, manager Roger Manchett is proud of what his players have accomplished one year after narrowly avoiding relegation.

“The A Team has had the best season in years”, he said.

“(Home form) was very important and we had a lot of support this year.

“We have improved our goal rate on previous seasons and as a team, created many chances with good attacking football.”

Manchett’s men were front runners during the first period of the season, but slowly fell away into mid-table, which he believes was down to one main reason.

It’s very hard when players get taken and none come back down – Roger Manchett

“We lost players at crucial times”, he added.

“Before Christmas, we were top of the league and then we lost two players – my goalkeeper and right-back/goalkeeper to our Under 18 manager who left the club – which was a big blow for us.

“I then found another goalkeeper only to lose him to the Reserves due to their ‘keeper being injured.

“Sadly for us, this happened when we were playing the top teams in the league.”

Despite losing key squad members, young forward Matthew Walshe was one of the most influential players for the A Team, netting 16 times in 23 games in all competitions, finishing as the team’s top goalscorer.

With Walshe’s impact on the side, Manchett feels fortunate to have kept him for as long as he did, but also thinks other areas of the team, particularly in defence, should be optimised for improvement.

“Matt Walshe is a player that always has a goal in him.

“We were very lucky to keep him this season as I believe he should have been with the Reserves, and when he did get the chance, he progressed to the first-team.

“He is a bright young talent.

“The loss of the ‘keeper didn’t help with goals being leaked and we are always looking to improve on this home and away.

“I want to improve on fitness, start training a lot earlier and want to train the A Team and develop them as a team.

“It would be nice to have a good cup run as it creates that winning mentality, which is always a good thing.”

Even higher expectations are set ahead of the new season as Manchett wants to develop the A Team further, but being able to even field a line-up could prove to be a major stumbling block.

“My ultimate aim would be to gain promotion, but as the A Team are the third team (in line), it’s very hard to when players get taken on a Friday or Saturday and none come back down”, he said.

“As a club, this needs to improve or the A Team will just get further away from the Reserves and then it’s too big a step up or down for players.”

For next year to be an even greater success, it seems the ever-present player shortage issue that looms over Chatteris Town A has to be minimised if development is to become a realistic possibility.

 

 

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END-OF-SEASON REVIEW: So close to silverware, but top-three finish caps off a season of progress

From cup agony to a possible promotion, it’s been a season of near misses for Chatteris Town Reserves.

Losing two cup finals and finishing nine points behind second spot may make head-coach Benji Brittin reminisce on what could have been.

Compared to the 2015/16 season, the second-string were five places better off in Mead Plant & Grab 1B after finishing eighth, perhaps showing signs of progress.

However, Brittin believes more can be achieved in the next campaign, with the added bonus of first-team assistant manager Sean McKay, who will step in as joint-manager at the start of the 2017/18 season.

“On the whole, I’m pleased with the season”, Brittin said.

“A cup final and a top four finish was our aim.

“I think we’ve surprised ourselves with what was achieved; two finals, a quarter-final and third place, wow! I want to better that next season.

“We won’t stop at just one possible trophy; we want all three, along with promotion.

“Bringing in Sean as joint-manager will be brilliant and we both can’t wait to get started.

“We have great expectations with what Sean and I have planned next season already.”

It hasn’t always been plain-sailing, with players having to switch teams, plus the regular worry of injuries and other absences.

Losing both finals in seven days was soul-destroying – Benji Brittin

Despite potential problems with inconsistency and misbalance within the team, these haven’t caused any major downfall to the Reserves’ trend of results, according to Brittin.

“Players stepping up or even down at times caused a problem balance-wise in setting the team up, but with that said, all involved have done brilliantly.

“We are what it says on the tin: Reserves.

“We support the first-team as and when and those who have done did the job well.

“Our squad was strong enough to cope with what was thrown at us.

“In all, I’m very pleased and would like to thank everyone who played for me when asked.”

Even though there wasn’t a damaging plummet in form or possibly performances, there was one time that Brittin thinks could have changed the end-of-season outcome for his side, particularly in the league.

“Up to the finals, we were buzzing, but losing both in seven days was soul-destroying”, Brittin added.

“Sitting them down and getting them believing in themselves again was the key.

“Once we did that, our run spoke for itself and I’m very proud of them.”

93 goals were scored in 35 games in all competitions, James Harness (pictured) netting 26 of those

The Reserve Team were red-hot in front of goal, averaging over two a game in all competitions, scoring four or more in a single match on 13 occasions.

Defensively, it’s been a different story, having kept just seven clean sheets all season, but this hasn’t dampened the head-coach’s praise for his numerous goalkeepers.

“Goalkeepers have been a problem this season.

“We’ve used a total of five ‘keepers this season, all have been fantastic.

“Jordan, Matthijs, Ryan, Ben and Ed have all done brilliantly.

“Goals came from everywhere, which is good.

“We are planning working with individuals and improving their game and we are lucky to have great coaches at the club now, willing to help and progress players.”

Progress has been there to admire, particularly at West Street, which acted like a fortress having lost just once there all season, and on the road, only six defeats in 16 fixtures were accumulated.

The celebrations begin as the Reserves snatch a dramatic late winner at Wimblington

 

There are great times ahead and silverware is a must – Benji Brittin

 

 

Even so, there still could have been further improvement from Brittin’s men.

“West Street has been a great place to be this season”, Brittin said.

“To be honest, our away performances could and should have been better.

“Vital points were dropped and we made sure we learned from those losses and put the results right in the return leg.

“Injuries and a lack of players in certain games didn’t help, but we learnt from these issues.”

With high hopes for success and targets to overcome missed chances at glory, Chatteris Town Reserves’ search for supremacy looks to begin early.

Plans to build on eight months of promise and heartbreak are already in the making as Benji Brittin looks to make the second-string’s quest for stardom a reality come next year.

Brittin insists his Reserve Team will claim success next season. Pictured is Tony Brown (middle) surrounded by teammates after scoring against rivals March Town Reserves

“A huge learning curve has been taken on board by myself”, he said.

“I’ve learned a lot and will use this to take the team forward.”

“Our aims for next season are keeping the team together and bringing in a couple more players to strengthen the squad and push for promotion.

“Having Sean as joint-manager will make this happen.

“A good pre-season is planned and there’s always room for improvement on and off the field with the players.

“The league is important next year and finishing third must make us favourites.

“There are great times ahead and silverware is a must.

“The 2017/18 season is going to be the Reserves’ season to remember.”

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.

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

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.”