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.
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.”
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.
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.
“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.”
Seventh and fourth in their respective leagues, silverware for either Chatteris Town Reserves and Whittlesey Athletic Reserves could propel chances of finishing the season on a high.
A battling effort from both sides, with keeping the ball somewhat a prized possession as play seemed to resort to testing each other’s aerial abilities, cup nerves perhaps playing a part.
But the first sign of attacking intent came early on in the fifth minute when Whittlesey striker Jack Carter seemed to find a path into the Lilies’ box early on in the first period, an attack soon fizzled out, but a sign of attacking intent.
Aerial battles were apparent, the Peterborough League outfit more prone to this when trying to venture forward.
But as possession increased, so did the number of Lilies men perched near their 18-yard box, as further pressure mounted and wasted attempts rose.
Overall control switched, however, in favour of the Lilies, and it paid off as James Harness was taken down by goalkeeper Charlie Bradshaw on 35 minutes, but he blazed his spot-kick over.
Not too much to differentiate between the two after the break, Benji Brittin’s men again required to seize any potential openings their opponents tried to fashion.
Contentious decisions prolonged as referee Paul Norman tried to avoid any crowd influence, as well as player frustration that looked to become the norm in this contest.
If luck was on James Harness’ side, his flicked header near the 18-yard mark may have avoided the last man, alongside his fearsome effort from distance as his side’s opponents had to endure a Lilies’ revival.
It could have been all so different had pinball in the Whittlesey six-yard box had been converted, if it wasn’t for Bradshaw’s fine reactions.
Cursed by their lack of fortune, the Lilies were indeed fortunate to make it to extra-time after substitute Rob Hambidge’s close-range header agonisingly looped over Rayner’s crossbar in a game of close calls.
A breakthrough in open play never looked likely, but a moment of mishandling was the turning point, as Rayner spilt an easy-looking claim in his area to Hambidge who put his side in front with a slick back-heel, 102 minutes into a lively encounter.
Rejuvenated and full of belief, the game was still alive as Matt Walshe was the man to eventually find a way to goal after good work from the hard-working Harness.
But ten men behind the ball proved to not be enough as Rik Hailstone sealed a last-gasp cup win and last-minute heartache for what was a committed and determined Lilies side.
Two cup finals lost, but the second-string can still hold their head high after a performance full of courage and fightback.
Chatteris Town Reserves head-coach Benji Brittin said:
“The lads battled their hearts out and showed character towards the end. We missed an opportunity, they capitalised on it and it’s just one of those things. That’s the way it goes and football is cruel.
“Both teams definitely turned up tonight. I’m so proud of the boys. They gave it their all and they couldn’t do anymore. We’ll move on from this, they showed character for the club and they did everything I asked.
“They still want to prove themselves as quality players, and they are. It doesn’t matter who you play in a cup final, you need a run of luck and they just wanted it that bit more. We’ll push on in the league now and show what we’re made of.”
After their heavy cup defeat last week, Chatteris Town Reserves are doubly prepared for a second final in quick succession.
The Lilies’ second-string face Peterborough League outfit Whittlesey Athletic Reserves in the North Cambs Junior Cup showpiece, six days after losing to Huntingdon United in the Creake Charity Shield, and head coach Benji Brittin feels renewed belief has been installed after their recent comeback win.
“We needed a response against Houghton & Wyton, who are second, and we certainly got that”, Brittin said following Saturday’s 5-2 victory, their first in four games.
“The team certainly needed picking up and now, heads are being held high and our confidence is restored.”
And with optimism looming large, Brittin knows exactly how to approach their opponents.
He said: “We were able to go and have a look at Whittlesey a few weeks ago, so we have a game plan set and we know their strengths and weaknesses.
“The final is important to the team; they have worked hard and deserve something for sure.”
The all-Fenland clash takes place on Wednesday (5th April), 7.30pm kick-off at The Elgood’s Fenland Stadium, the home of Wisbech Town FC.
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.”
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.”