Promotion ambitions for the Dragons!

Last season, Wivenhoe Town had found themselves 12th after 25-games before the season was abruptly ended. They sat a point behind 10th with a couple of games in-hand whilst the season was far from over with 27-points still to play for and the Dragons only sitting 13-points off the promotion places.

“We were 12th last season and to be totally honest, we massively under performed in my opinion,” said manager Gary Monti. “We suffered greatly with long term injuries and a lot of them but I still felt we had a good enough squad to cope with that. We lacked the bite and stomach for a fight last season and we lost games we shouldn’t have lost because of that. We had also played most of the so called ‘harder games’ when the season stopped so I do think 12th was a little bit of a false position.”

Wivenhoe would have looked to change their fortunes if the season had continued but instead no further football was played of the 2019/20 season. As a result attention turned to the new season and their second attempt at achieving promotion to Step-5. “Firstly, I recruited a first class fitness coach to get the whole squad 100% fit before the season started because I felt we were losing games in the last 10-minutes last season. I also changed the squad a bit. Nothing major but strengthened where it was needed. Team spirit at the moment is fantastic and that is helping massively.”

Town find themselves level on points with White Ensign after 11-games but have played a couple of games more. After a difficult start to the season, Wivenhoe found their form and battled their way into the promotion places and into the title-race. “Yes, we are level with White Ensign at the top but they’ve had a couple of extra games. If I’m honest, I think we’ve got a squad good enough to finish in the top four. Our start hasn’t helped us but all we can do is take each game at a time and try to win them all. There isn’t a team in this league that I’m scared of. Don’t get me wrong, there are some very good teams and some very good managers/coaches but if we are on our game, we can give a good account of ourselves against any of them.”

The start to the season had seen Wivenhoe go 4-games without a win as they were beaten by White Ensign on the opening day before losing to Newbury Forest, Halstead Town and Coggeshall United. Despite facing defeat in the opening 4-games, Gary had seen a change in his squad as they picked up 6-wins against Wormley Rovers, Brimsdown, May & Baker, Benfleet, Harwich and Hackney Wick and a draw against Frenford. “The season for us started terribly! We had a great pre-season going unbeaten and I was really upbeat and raring to go. Our first four-games were a mixture of poor displays and poor luck at times as well as individual errors that cost us goals and some really good football. Again, we lost games that we shouldn’t have lost.”

“We have seemed to turn a corner now by going back to basics and that seems to be working for us. Defenders defending properly as we were making too many mistakes that led to conceding goals. I have also brought Swanny (Karl Swanborough) into the squad and he has given us a focal point. Karl is a proven goalscorer and he makes a difference. As a team we have always created loads of chances but we have been guilty of poor finishing at times. Connor Smith has also made a big difference to us at the back and we look a lot stronger. The whole team believes in itself now as well and that helps a lot.  Being able to consistently put the same starting 11 out as well really helps. It’s been a long time since we’ve been able to do that.”

Before their unbeaten run in the league, Wivenhoe had also been eliminated from the FA Vase by Spartan South Midland’s side Colney Heath, losing 4-2 on penalties following a 0-0 draw. Gary felt the club could have won the game but there was still a positive feeling within the camp. “Yes, we got knocked out of the FA vase against Colney Heath in the first round but that was our kick start to our league form. We went to Colney with a scratch team, so many were unavailable but the lads that played were magnificent and we didn’t deserve to lose. We lost the game on penalties but it felt like a win to be honest because after 4 defeats, we played so well. We have just got to concentrate on the league now as there doesn’t seem to be any more Cups to play for this season.”

With the team flying on the pitch, the enforced break to non-league football couldn’t have come at a worse time. Once the period of lockdown was over, the team would have to refind their form, ahead of the remained of the season. “The break mid-season hasn’t really come at a good time for us as we were ‘on a roll’ but what can we do? It’s the same for everyone and we just have to get on with it. We just have to make sure we come back strongly and continue our run.”

What are your aspirations for the season?

“Our aspirations for this season are definitely promotion. We have the squad but we just need to keep injury free and keep consistently putting a strong starting 11 out. We are due to lose a couple of big players soon and I have recruited a couple of quality players to replace them. Hopefully they can hit the ground running. Club captain Dean Merrett is going back to his native Wales in December and Ben Timson is going back to University. We also have the likes of Matt Tapley, George Hart, David Lopez, Tom Lakin and Alex Holder returning from long term injuries so the strength in depth will be there.  We need a good run of results as soon as we get back and lets see where it takes us. Ideally promotion and built on that next season.”


Photo: Don Blandford (@Snapperchap)