Last season, FC Clacton Reserves found themselves 7th after 18-games before the season was brought to an abrupt end. They had a record of 11 wins, 1 draw and 6 losses and although they sat 13-points behind 2nd-placed Tiptree Jobserve, the Seasiders had 2-4 games in-hand on all the teams above whilst the sides below them had also played at least one game more.
“Expectations at the club are always to finish as high as possible” said manager Lionel Toms. “Although the reserves had always been around, we was a new management team that needed to build a squad very quickly around the 5-6 players from the previous season. Our thoughts along with the chairman was that we could finish in the top 3 and give ourselves a chance at promotion.”
The games in-hand did not add comfort to the Reserves boss. Like many coaches, it was on thing to have the games to play but it was another to have the points on the board. He certainly preferred the latter. “Even though we had games in-hand, you would always prefer the points. If we had picked up maximum points from those games, I think that would have see us go 3rd or 4th. The rest of the season would have seen us play teams from the lower end of the table so we could have had a shot at promotion for sure.”
The quick decision of the FA meant attentions would turn to the 2020/21 season sooner than anyone thought. They had a chance at promotion but ahead of the new season, Toms wanted to ensure he had the best side for the job and would be closer to top of the table after the same amount of games. “Personnel change always happens at this level but I feel this year, we have gone and been aggressive with the recruitment and brought in players that will buy into our style of play and are able to adapt to what we’re looking to do as a management team this year. It’s still very early on in the season but if we now keep this core of players we have together, we will definitely be in and around the mix”
The recruitment had paid off as after half the games from last season, FC Clacton Reserves found themselves 2nd, a point behind leaders Belle Vue, but having played two-games more. Lionel knew the changes he had made to the squad would warrant a top-3 finish and knew if the they had done things right, they would be in that position early. “We’ve good enough to be up there although we have dropped some silly points this year. Our expectation is to get promoted so every single point and game is vital.”
The first 9-games of the season had seen FC Clacton Reserve collect 20-points, having won 6, drew 2 and lost 1. The season had began with two-wins on the bounce against Hedinghams United and Cressing United before defeat to Dunmow Town. The Dunmow game was awarded as a home walkover for the Reserves continuing their unbeaten run to the season with the addition of draws against Colne Rangers Reserves and Stanway Rovers Reserves before they tasted defeat to Belle Vue, the only team to have the perfect record. The loss was their only one of the season as they last three games saw them beat Stanway Pegasus reserves, Mersea Island and Holland A. “we let ourselves down against Belle Vue” explained Lionel. “Credit where credits due, they’re are well drilled and an organised outfit but it’s a game we have to be winning to get ourselves a shot [at promotion]. Our start has put us in a position where we are not able to kick on and show others how good we really are.”
The enforced break due to the ongoing pandemic could not have come at a worse time for the Seasiders who were starting to build momentum. Although they were already in a good league position, they were hoping the break would not slow them down. “We was just starting to build momentum going into the break. 3 wins on the spin and the last of them coming against our local neighbours who fielded 7 first teamers, but we showed our worth. We then looked at our next 3/4 league fixtures which we knew if we had got it right come match day we would have put ourselves in a position where we would have been looking over our shoulders instead of looking up at the table. Time will tell but I know our boys will be more then ready come the first game back.”
The season’s goal for the club was promotion, without a doubt as they seek to reach the Essex & Suffolk Border League Premier Division with their young team. “We have to get promotion this year. It will be tough but we have a group of players that are willing to leave everything out on that pitch for us. We’re a really young side this year which we get questioned for but these boys are hungry to prove people wrong. If we’re able to keep this core together I think we would become a very good Border Premier side in the next couple of seasons.”