A 2017 REVIEW AND 2018 PREVIEW FROM GREENS GAFFER LAWRENCE………
2017 HALF SEASON REVIEW –
After a dissapointing 2016/17 campaign the summer was vital to myself and the squad to try and get back to where we wanted to be as a club which was of course challenging on all three fronts in Division 2.
We finished 5th and were eliminated very early in both cup competitions in what was a far cry from the dizzy and unexpected heights we achieved the previous season.
Despite the 5th placed finish we were nearly promoted by default which was something myself was strongly against. A promotion which is not earned well before a young squad were ready would have been a huge mistake.
The top two teams work hard all season to achieve this and should not be joined by two others who haven’t deserved it……but this is just my opinion and one that I know was disagreed with by many.
In truth, even though we finished 3rd in the 15/16 season we wasn’t that close as we finished quite a few points off the top 2 and were outplayed in 90% of our games with them both that season.
Still it was an amazing season after fighting relegation the year before…..
Back onto the summer, and it was clear to all where we needed to improve.
The end of the previous season saw me move Player of the year Daniel Bareham into an attacking role after excelling all year In his favoured defensive role.
The move in positions was for the final 10 games of the season and he ended up being our top goalscorer on 13 goals in 31 games.
Superb return from the lad but showed we lacked real firepower all season.
True goalscorers for this level are very hard to sign, most are lauded by their clubs or are very quickly promoted through the leagues with higher clubs.
In a frustrating summer I missed out on all realistic attacking options except one.
Bringing Callum Bray back from Diss Town FC in the summer was a good move for both us as a club and I believe for Callum himself despite teams in higher divisions showing a serious interest in him.
Callum is still so young and in truth didn’t play a massive amount for Diss but by avoiding offers from similar level clubs as Diss and re-joining us he has given himself the best possible chance to play regularly and learn how to improve his game at a very competitive level.
In midfield I managed to secure long term target Lewis ‘Ginga’ Dolan from rivals Attleborough Town FC. ‘Ginga’ had recently lost his place in the first team following their promotion and even found himself a named substitute in a reserve team cup final so was in desperate need for a fresh start himself.
A real box to box midfielder with bags of enthusiasm and energy that covers every blade of grass on the pitch has certainly added to our squad.
Chris Watling was making a return to the club following a long injury break and last seasons reserve team player of the year Gareth Hobley was making the permanent step up to the first team squad to compete for a place.
Onto the season and after a decent enough pre season we stuttered massively with two away draws at Brandon Town and Horsford United, both clubs that have found points hard to come by in recent weeks and both find themselves in the bottom half.
The Brandon Town draw was a toothless display which didn’t really see us create much but still probably just edged it as the home side had far more of the ball but Woodcock not once made a save in our goal….the goal was a comical one as a free kick was wrongly awarded and then the wall was set up all wrong allowing enough room for truck to get through never mind a football.
Horsford draw is a game that you can say we definitely didn’t deserve any more than a point, a terrible standard of football by both sides saw them score from a short back pass and we were saved by Bray scoring from nearly his own half in a game that neither goalkeeper made a save.
Our only league defeat of the season followed away at an unpredictable Sprowston Athletic, missing many key players the squad was not deep enough that day to put up much of a fight against some very experienced players….
Was great to see 16 year olds Underwood and Saint starting to show the want and will to step up though.
Confidence was low, let’s be honest here it was a struggle to see how we were going to score or create enough to compete. The boys never stopped working but we were disjointed and awkward to watch in truth.
With no disrespect to Acle Utd Reserves but they were in a worse place than they are now when they visited us at Church Road and in many ways it was the perfect game for us at that time.
Then the demolition job away at Long Stratton Reserves in the league cup 1st round where to be fair we actually played some great stuff to win by a 0-7 margin albeit against a side from the division below.
Then came a comfortable home win in the junior cup against a much fancied Longham side…..Three wins on the bounce gave the lads a much needed boost ahead of a visit from top of the league Martham FC.
There was another boost on the morning of the game as I was delighted to name striker Charlie Webb in the starting line-up.
Many people speculate and continue to talk about Charlie’s situation mainly as to why he is playing at a so called ‘lowly level’, which I find distasteful to be honest. I could name several players playing in this league that could easily play higher. For example when you see a George Crowe from Easton FC netting 50 a season in this league and coming up against our skipper ‘Rodders’, it’s a clash that could be happening a couple of leagues above but I know both players believe in a vision of the club.
Back to Webby, a real number 9. Strong, physical and superb in an arial battle but most importantly a genuine guy who was instantly liked by everyone at the club, a player who stepped down in levels but still worked so hard in a game to help the team.
There was never any real agreement in place with Charlie, it happened through mutual friends and in truth he was just coming to watch that day but ended up starting for us and notching 2 in a very comfortable win against the league leaders.
Webby enjoyed himself that day, an instant hit with everybody and he was convinced to play again for the club.
Unfortunately it was in defeat at home in the cup against a decent Poringland Wanderers side despite the big man’s brace. Things just didn’t go for us that day, if I’m honest enough to say when we didn’t deserve anything then I have to honest and not biased when I say we did deserve more.
A missed penalty and an own goal didn’t help as we suffered narrow defeat but altogether we were a different animal, creative and threatening but still so hardworking and solid.
A Webb hattrick saw the side defeat high flying Holt United in the junior cup and the big man followed it up with a double away at Poringland Wanderers as the home side clawed back a 0-2 deficit to snatch a point.
Seven different scorers at home to Wells Town and a tense 0-1 away win in a tight local derby begun to fire the team back up the table.
Gayton United we were so unlucky as a 94th minute equaliser punished us for missed chances at Lime Kiln Road while the side battled through Caister Res in the junior cup to reach the last 16.
Ollie Tarft had just rejoined the club from Wroxham and was great to see the young man on the score sheet.
‘Tarfty’ is a very talented young lad with good potential but in my opinion, like Callum he needs to play regularly and more importantly with a smile on his face. He is still so young but also has been played in in a number of positions by different managers already so will be interesting to watch him develop.
Woodcock was the hero as we somehow hung on at home to AFC Lynn to win on penalties after Bareham was sent off on the hour mark.
Webb then scored all 4 as Caister were well beaten at Church Road and then a superb 0-2 win at Kelling Road to defeat 2nd placed Holt saw the club finish the year in 3rd place and in the last 8 of the Norfolk Junior Cup.
Also to mention what a tight defence we have kept all season……….’Rodders’ is playing better than he ever has done, been my skipper and Mr reliable since the day I took over……has to be my best signing and he will soon be 100 games as my captain which is superb for someone at the age of only 24.
Ryan Laws is a young central defender who is improving every game with bags of pace and always looks comfortable next to ‘Rodders’. Ryan suffered an injury a few weeks back but will be back competing for a spot soon.
Bareham has looked much more at home in central defence since replacing Ryan and the two will provide me with big headaches going forward I’m sure.
Matty Allin at right back is a lad with good ability in both defence and attack and Hobley and Watling both provide very different but equally as good options at left back and already enjoy a good and healthy battle to get the shirt.
Behind them is ‘Woody’, a fantastic young goalkeeper on his day. Superb technique and already has 100 first team games under his belt after I made him my number 1 when he was 16. In all honesty, we have had our ups and downs in our relationship but fact is I’m all huge admirer of the lad and when he is on it, there is simply nobody better at this level.
Been an interesting half of the season in midfield with ‘Ginga’ and Andrew ‘Cedgey’ Morris being the only regular players for different reasons. ‘Cedgey’ has been there and done it at this level and his experience is vital for us. To be fair at 37 he has had to adapt his game from what he used to be but in my opinion he is playing some of his best stuff at the moment, certainly with some of his range of passing.
Next to them two, Barnett’s season never really got going due to injury, set piece maestro Jordi Scent then suffered an injury and only returned in the very last game of the year.
Whilst there was returns to the squad for Tarft, Dunkinson and impressive performances from reserve team player Robbie Smith.
Out wide having already talked about Callum, We still have Kamren Senior.
Kam was a player I so wanted in any team I was behind, great to watch, quick and direct winger that scared the life out of full backs.
A top first year was followed by an average second year but the signs are good this year from him, a smile seems to be back and he was MOM in our last game at Holt in my opinion.
So to summarise I’m happy at the half way point. We are an honest, hardworking and very tough to beat side.
Losing just once in the league at the turn of the year takes us into the new year full of confidence.
A LOOK AHEAD…….
With our final game of the year away at Martham being postponed, it has perhaps given us a little longer of a break than we would have wanted but this is also the case for much of our division.
January is the only month where the fixtures have all been released for us due to cup runs with most of division 2 etc…
We start with a tough local derby at home to Thetford Rovers on the 6th January. Rovers are a very hardworking side and battle for everything. Skipper Aaron Joseph leads by example whilst a good mix of youngsters with experienced players some of which used to play for me make them a solid outfit.
Clipbush Park awaits after that with a trip to high flying Fakenham Town Reserves in what some people will say is a promotion battle.
Good, good players in the ghosts 2nd string many of which I’m well aware of from previous seasons as many are ex Wells Town players.
Junior Cup quarter final away at Freethorpe will prove a very tough game for us. I’m sure many people have us down as favourites but we have to be very wary of a side that has knocked out Gayton United in the previous round.
Brandon Town then visit us to round off January where I know we will want to show a huge improvement from the first game of the season against them.
Big few months ahead for our lads…..Easton may well look out of reach but we still have to play them twice as well as them having to play Fakenham twice too.
There are some tough teams in this division and as I said earlier some top local players which make most games you play a little tricky or give players a learning curve.
Going to be a very interesting end to the season that’s for sure. If we play and work to the best of our abilities and we continue to carry out the instructions given we are going to be right in the mix for sure.
With players like Laws, Barnett and Dunkinson fresh again after minor injuries and Jordi Scent back again after a 3 month layoff coupled with big Webby turning down countless offers to stay with the club things are looking for us.
Off the pitch long standing chairman and comittee member Andy ‘Debbsy’ Debenham is still heavily involved and deserves an awful lot of praise, without him and his generosity who knows where the club maybe now.
Darren Iles has moved upstairs to the role of secretary & treasurer from being my assistant manager but still works so hard for the club in every aspect along with his lovely wife Sam. Between Darren and Sam they cover everything from fundraising right through to kit washing and marking the pitches out.
My backroom guys Tim Hayes and James Alexander help massively on match days and travel home and away and play a huge part in keeping a happy camp. Malcolm Blades travels in all weathers home and away taking photos and videos which the lads love and makes our page that bit more special as well as being our loudest supporter.
This club hasn’t been higher than we are since the eighties and after having to reform it’s taken along time indeed to get back to this point.
We just have to go one further…..
PLEASE FEEL FREE TO LEAVE ANY COMMENTS YOU WISH…..
TRY NOT TO INSULT AS THIS IS MAINLY DONE FOR PEOPLE WHO HAVE A GENUINE INTEREST IN THE CLUB.
SORRY I WENT ON A BIT……….