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.

Future looks bright for the Lilies ahead of redevelopment

It has been an idea in the making, but after a lengthy wait, Chatteris Town’s plans for a refurbished clubhouse will finally come to light.

The announcement comes after the club received a £75,000 grant from Sport England in May, with discussions for developing the facilities taking place.

Lisa Salisbury, treasurer at Chatteris Town, said: “We have once again sustained financial stability and finally received the go-ahead from Sport England for our improvements.

“It is hoped that this will raise the profile of the club in the town. We can now look at improvements around the ground and the pitch.”

Improving off the pitch is one of the key targets, having seen progression on it in recent times.

Lester Kent, director of football at the club, said: “I would hope the club continues the progress it has made over the last two years.

“The club is going from strength to strength. It will be difficult to match the last two years, but we will certainly try.”

Although developments may improve the club, there is another area that is still a worry.

“The refurbished clubroom could bring more revenue, but the car parking is still problematic”, Kent said.

“Better facilities, more functions, getting more people involved and hiring out the facilities to other groups are all possible.”

Ash Taylor
Aspiring bigger: Taylor wants his side to play higher at the earliest opportunity (Credit: Steve Snell)

In terms of on the field, there is room for optimism after the Lilies’ success last season.

“Our future aspirations are promotion to the Eastern Counties or the United Counties League”, Lilies boss Ashley Taylor said.

“I have told the club that if the opportunity is there, then we want to go up.

“With the improvements to the facilities now ready to happen, this club is a very good place to be at.”

It’s not just the first-team who have future ambitions of their own, however.

“The Reserves are through to the next round of a cup competition and hopefully they can finish near the top of their league”, Salisbury added.

“The A Team are near the top of their league, so let’s hope they can keep that up.”

The possible benefits of a successful club could also assist financially, according to Kent.

“A winning team gets publicity, helps gain sponsors and brings a few more people to watch at West Street, plus increased revenue and new players to the club”, he said.