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.”

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.”

 

 

 

 

 

Confidence all-round ahead of a testing week of fixtures

A weekend of potentially challenging fixtures are ahead for Chatteris Town. The 1st Team, Reserve Team and the ‘A’ Team are all in action tomorrow, but each are not guaranteed an easy ride for what could be a testing time for Ashley Taylor’s, Benji Brittin’s and Roger Manchett’s sides.

Speaking on the Lilies’ visit to eighth-placed Hardwick, Taylor, however, feels there is not much to be nervous about for his squad.

“We are looking forward to the game. We want to be challenged and this is definitely a tough challenge as Hardwick have been blowing away teams so far this season. The game plan will be slightly different as I know Hardwick play a different system, but I don’t think about the opposition too much. The main thing for us is to concentrate on what we are best at and we go into the game full of confidence.”

Consistency has also worked in the Lilies’ favour, having extended their unbeaten start to the campaign with a 3-1 victory away to fellow Kershaw Premier League side Brampton in the League Cup a fortnight ago, followed by a 5-0 demolition of Sawston United. Due to this, there is a growing sense of belief that a run of solid performances can be put together, not just on home turf.

“We proved we can go to tough away grounds and get results”, Taylor added. “No disrespect to Brampton as they are a good team, but this is a tougher test against a team that finished second last season, so let’s be challenged and see what we’ve got.”

The second string face one of their pre-season opponents in AFC Barley Mow in the Creake Charity Shield. Also on an unbeaten run after two straight draws, although not at their strongest, manager Benji Brittin is still optimistic for his players against the Mead Plant & Grab 2B outfit.

“We have, again, a weak squad with a lot of players carrying injuries and who are away”, Brittin said. “New players will be used so I can look at them for later selection, but I have faith in the lads. The mood is strong and positive. We have a quality squad, and once we settle into our campaign, we’ll be okay.”

But even without a fully-fit side, Brittin remains upbeat in terms of squad selection, which could prove to be the catalyst for an upturn in form in both league and cup competitions.

“The balance for my starting eleven is proving difficult, but it’s a nice headache to have. Rotating players will also improve our chances. I’ll pick a starting eleven I think that have worked and proved to me they can do the job I ask. As things stand, I’m happy.

“Cups and trophies are always good for the club and the players. It’s down to the lads if they want it bad enough, and if they do, their football will shine through and win them.”

Two consecutive wins have seen Roger Manchett’s ‘A’ Team climb to second in the Mead Plant & Grab 4B table, but face stiff opponents in Hemingfords United ‘A’ in their third successive league match at West Street.

“The ‘A’ Team have been in good form as the results show”, Manchett said. “We’ve got a good bunch of lads who listen and always try to play football, so the signs are very encouraging.

“Hemingfords won 7-2 last week, so they will be no pushovers, but we will carry on playing the same as the last two weeks as we are creating a lot of chances.”

Things up-front may be running smoothly, but according to Manchett, things may also need to be worked on defensively.

“We will need to be tighter at the back as we are without Matthijs, who has been our captain, and a couple of our key defenders, but hopefully we will get another three points.”

All games kick-off tomorrow afternoon at 3pm.