Ahead of a stern test at Haverhill Rovers this evening, we take the time to reflect on the U18’s season thus far.

The Youth Team have enjoyed for the most part a successful start to their campaign under the stewardship of Alfie Oakman and his assistants Andrew Garner and Stuart Berriman. At the time of writing the side are currently occupying top spot in the Thurlow Nunn Eastern Counties Youth League’s Cambridge Division.

We caught up with Manager Alfie Oakman to gauge his views on his sides start to the season.

“September and October have been a fairly good couple of months, with lots of exciting football and positive results.

Unfortunately, in September we exited the FA Youth Cup at the hands of Letchworth Garden City whom we have to credit. Their defensive display from start to finish was something that we can learn from as a team. Many may question the lack of forward movement, however their desire not to concede was shown throughout their hard work all game and they got the result they wanted. Although we dominated the ball for around 80% of the game, we didn’t create clear shooting opportunities, something we worked upon for the following few weeks on the training ground.

We then kicked off the league campaign at Walsham le-Willows, where it took a while to get going, yet we came away 3-1 winners, having had other clear chances to extend the score line. This was then followed by a 9-0 win at Bridge Road against Thetford Town and a 4-0 victory over Saffron Walden Town. It was great to see the lads bounce back from the Youth Cup disappointment with three wins from three in September.

October kicked off with a trip to Bury Town, who are a great side and will be challenging for the title this season. They ran out 2-1 winners at Ram Meadow, where it was agreed that we were not at our best and Bury deserved the win. A lapse in concentration lead to the first goal, before a screamer gave the hosts a two goal lead. Mar-Lee Fisher brought it back to 2-1 with 15 minutes to go. Our second half performance was much better, as we moved the ball into better positions. I think with an extra five minutes we would have nicked a draw as we came close as the game progressed, however it wasn’t to be.

Next up we travelled to Thetford Town where we picked up a comfortable 9-1 victory. Thetford are in a period of transition and their coaching staff are working really hard to turn their fortunes around. Although the score line was large, our hosts matched us for parts of the game whilst defending well in periods. I am sure that they will improve as the season progresses and wish them well for the rest of the season. I hope they can get some wins on the board for all of the endeavours.

We then had an enforced short break before we began November in a positive manner with a 2-0 win at home over Ely City. Although we had some key chances save and put just wide, it was another deserved win and pleasing to see the side defend well against a lot of direct play, something we have not faced a great deal of so far.

We now enter a run of five fixtures in the build up to Christmas.

11/11/22 Haverhill Rovers (A)

22/11/22 Saffron Walden Town (A)

Haverhill are in transition having had a second year heavy side last year (subsequently winning the division), whilst this year they have many hungry U16’s in their team which will be a different challenge to those we have faced so far. The following week we go to Saffron Walden, which is a difficult ground to go to. A lovely surface to play on, but usually a strong vocal home crowd who make for an interesting atmosphere. We will need to show a lot of composure and resilience to get a positive result at Catons Lance.

1/12/22 Mildenhall Town (H)

8/12/22 Royston Town (A)

15/12/22 Bury Town (H)

Mildenhall are improving as the season develops, so I am sure they will come to Bridge Road and make it tough for us. Following that we have two fixtures against sides who are tipped for the title. The first of those, Royston are a well coached possession based team with lots of quality, so it should be a great game for the neutral. Bury will then come to Bridge Road, as we will have to sure we are at our best to improve from the last outing and get a positive result.

Our squad has now really started to gel and you can see that the moment they arrive at training and on matchday that the spirit and togetherness is really starting to show. Youngster Dylan Ashman has come in to begin his pathway into U18 football and throughout the season he will be getting some minutes, along with second year Finley Scott who has re-joined us after leaving last season to concentrate on senior and college football.

It has been fantastic to see 12 of the U18’s feature for the Reserve Team with Matt, with 6 of these lads then going on to feature with the First Team. A huge thank you to Matt and Lance for trusting the youth and using them with the senior sides. Captain Harry Berriman continues his dual registration with Cambs Premier League side Witchford 96 and is gaining valuable experience at Step 7.

Unfortunately Robert Mizon departed us in October to join Saffron Walden Town, whilst more recently Jacob Cullum has left top join Ely City. I’d like to wish them well and thank them for their efforts over pre-season and the beginning of the campaign.

Lastly, a massive thank you from myself and the club to everyone that has sponsored the Youth Team or an individual player. Your support is appreciated and we are glad to have you as official sponsors at our club. Also, thank you to everyone that has been along and supported the side this season, some games we have had over 100 people at Bridge Road which is superb.

I hope to see many Stutes fans over the coming weeks supporting the Youth Team as we head into a busy schedule before Christmas.”