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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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.