We took the time to sit down with Stutes First Team Manager, Lance Key to hear his views on how his side has fared during the opening months of their United Counties League campaign.
Having had the opportunity to experience the first half of this United Counties League season, how do you compare the division to that of our previous tenure at Step 5, The Eastern Counties League?
“The League personally seems to be very much more footballing based, whereas in the Eastern Counties League I feel that at times we were up against more physical sides which were more aggressive. The Eastern Counties gave you a different hurdle in that there were many more local derbies and the players knew each other which would make it harder with local bragging rights etc. at stake. In my opinion The United Counties is probably somewhat easier given the fact that anyone can beat anyone, apart from the top 3 or 4 sides.”
Currently sitting in 8th place, do you believe that this is a position from which to build upon moving into the New Year?
“I think we have solidified our position after a slow start. Whilst we are still adjusting and getting to know teams, I believe we are in an ideal position to push for a top 6 birth.”
How pleasing is it to see the impact that the less experienced and Youth Team players have had on the side?
“The Youth coming through has been very pleasing as I have always worked on a thread bare squad, which means if injuries hurt you then we tend to give these young men a go. In that though brings consistency from their part, they have to learn and understand that the level of performance required are much higher than those of the U18’s, but all in all we are very pleased with them, with potential very high. Also, the new players will understandably take time to adapt, especially when coming from Youth football or making a step up from lower divisions. This probably showed in our early form, but these players are finding their feet and right now we are competitive thanks to them.”
Have you any further areas within the side that you wish to develop and strengthen?
“I think the balance of the team is ok, however when you lose players through injury like we have, you cannot just rely on the youngsters. In an ideal world we would like to add another midfielder/striker to help us through, but like all good players these cost money and in the league we are in, travelling North and West sometimes this can be hard to achieve with the local pool of players.”
On the injury front, how long is it likely to be before we see Dan Brown, Luke Lindsay and Luke Crisp back on the pitch?
“Injuries have not been too kind to us, as I write this we still have two strikers out due to long term injuries. Dan Brown (ankle) is still probably a couple of weeks away and Luke Lindsay (hamstring) is unlikely to feature until February. Two key players with goalscoring ability out, however Luke Crisp (hamstring) may well be back in the frame come Boxing Day or early January.”
Are there any particular results or incidents that you reflect upon as key moments thus far?
“I think that the Godmanchester game sticks out, in showing that we are a team and that togetherness is key. Being down to 9 men for a period and 10 for around an hour to go on and win the game 3-1 was extremely pleasing and probably showed the team that we can compete even when things are seemingly going against you.”
Finally, have you a message for those who have supported the side so well, both at Bridge Road and on our travels?
“It goes without saying that your support, both home and away is very much appreciated as I know it can help especially at home when we need you as our 12th man! I hope you have been entertained, especially at Bridge Road where we have scored plenty of goals in recent weeks. For those of you who travel away, thank you again! We all know that it is a passion that sometimes doesn’t fulfil what you want to see. We certainly do recognise your support and are so very grateful for it, hopefully we can give you plenty more to smile about as we move into 2023.
Happy Christmas and a fruitful New Year from all of the players and staff,