Ashton Athletic’s management trio of Jay Foulds, Ben Kay and Dougie Pitts are looking to shuffle the pack in the second half of the season, in a move to improve their team’s consistency.
The trio are now halfway through their third season in charge, but having previously steered the club to its highest ever finish, they admit that after bringing in new faces over the summer, there is still work to be done to get the squad in shape.
Their thoughts on the current situation at Brocstedes Park are as follows.
The season so far
Dougie: We always start off looking to improve on the previous season, but we were under no illusions that we were going to storm the league or anything like that, because there are a lot of good teams in the league.
But the plan was to improve on last year’s finish and last year’s points total, and at the moment it doesn’t look like we are going to do that.
Jay: In the summer we did deliberately make some changes. We had some lads who had been with us two or three years, but we want to progress and we just felt that we needed to freshen it up and bring some new players in, and look for someone who was going to give us that little bit extra.
Dougie: Jay stepped to one side in the summer, which was a big thing for us as he has been fantastic in the last couple of seasons. Martin Pearson has come in to take his place in goal, and he has done fantastically well. He could potentially have been goalkeeper of the month for the last few months, and he has been a massive plus for us.
Jay: I think we have brought some good lads in but at the moment it just doesn’t seem to working for us, for one reason or another. Take Saturday’s game against Silsden, we were a little bit naive at times and there was a bit of inexperience from some of the young lads.
We are quite a young side, and as some of the lads that left were more experienced, at the moment that is showing.
Ben: We haven’t really decided on our best formation yet, we’ve tried three at the back, 4-4-2 like we did against Silsden on Saturday, but it is just not gelling at the minute.
Dougie: I think, putting it on to the players a bit, I don’t think some people have done enough to keep a shirt, and we have been far too inconsistent. That’s why we have changed things around so much.
When you look at the teams at the top of the league, they are the ones that have settled squads, and have only registered maybe 18 or 19 players, and that’s because the players are doing it week in week out.
Unfortunately our players haven’t done that consistently, we know they are a great bunch but they need to find consistency, and that is perhaps why we have had to change the pack about a little more, and more than we have done in the past.
It is important that we compete for 90 minutes in every game as it is a very competitive league and the lads have to grow up a bit. On Saturday against Silsden, we shouldn’t be conceding last minute goals like that, we should be digging in and saying there is no way they will score.
You can make the excuse that we are a young side, but we as the management team have got a lot to think about.
Ben: Decisions wise during games, it’s always been left to who isn’t on the pitch which has usually been Dougie, because me and Jay have been playing. But I am at the point now where I don’t want to be playing, I want to be bringing lads on from the sidelines along with the other two.
I am only having to play at the minute because we have had players missing, particularly Aaron Cringle and Ian Rowlands. But as Dougie says, some of the lads need to grow up a bit, show some character and get a presence about them.
That is what we have spoken about and what we have lacked. If you take the likes of me and our captain Ian Rowlands out, we need more characters that are going to organise in defence, and so on.
Jay: Another big thing for us, and it has been the case in the three years we have been here, is that we need someone who is going to put the ball in the back of the net. That has let us down time and time again.
We can create chances, but we just don’t seem to take them and that is no disrespect to the lads we have got. We have never had someone who will get us 20 goals a season and when you look at the likes of Runcorn Linnets, Colne, Atherton Colls, who are all up there, they will have two strikers who will probably be up in the 20’s, and to do well and get out of this league you need that.
The previous two seasons our defence has probably got us to where we are. We have leaked a few more goals this season, but if you take chances it takes pressure off the back four or back five, and I think that has something to do with our league position.
The rest of the season
Dougie: If you look back over the last couple of seasons, generally after Christmas we have gone on a run. I think in our first season we went about 15 games unbeaten at one point, winning about 12 of those, and last year was similar. So we do need to put a run like that together.
Jay: We are only half way through the season but now we are already looking at next season. We are going to look at bringing more players in, and look at trying to build for the next campaign. We are not stupid, we know we are not going to get out of the league this season, so it’s now important for us to try and get the players in we want, and they can have a run of games until the end of the season.
We will then have pre-season to work on stuff, and then hopefully hit the ground running come August, because in the previous three seasons we have been here, our form up to Christmas has not been good enough.
So if we can sort that out and hopefully be up there come Christmas time, then when we do get to Christmas and hopefully carry on having a good run, then come the end of April we would have a chance of getting out of this league.