West Didsbury & Chorlton manager Steve Settle is looking for his squad to deliver a strong end to the season, after some inconsistent form in the run up to the Christmas period.
It’s Steve’s second season in charge after taking over from Andy Nelson in the summer of 2015, and in many ways this season has been similar to last, with some inconsistent results in the early months.
However, after last Christmas, West delivered a strong end to the season and bagged a club record points total, and reflecting on both campaigns Steve is hoping that his squad can deliver a repeat performance of last season’s run in.
“Last season we really struggled early on and had a bad October, but from November onwards we ended up with an exceptional record, getting 68 points which was a record for the club”, he said.
“The teams we played at that time would have told you we were one of the strongest teams in the league, so that meant in the close season our expectations were naturally raised.
“I thought we had a group of players who could compete if they could sustain the form they showed from around Christmas to end of last season, and we managed bring in Joe Shaw and Martin Andrews, who had been tremendous in the previous season in the league above.
“We started this season really well, and early on we went away to Irlam who had started their season well, and we won 6-0.
“I said to Brocks (Steve Brockley, West’s Assistant Manager) after that game that we might have the players to do something here, but then we got one or two injuries, one or two things didn’t go our way and it’s tough to remedy that sort of thing”.
Since that promising start, form has been a little more erratic, with a poor run in October being followed by improved results in December, and two defeats in the last two games has left Steve frustrated at missed opportunities.
“The game at Darwen on Saturday was an example, and characteristic of the season – we are conceding too many goals from individual errors that you just can’t account for. It’s costing us momentum at crucial times in games and you can’t legislate for that as a manager.
“The previous week at Atherton Colls was the same. Now obviously they are a really good team, have done well in the Vase and are representing the League well in a national competition. That’s the level we are aspiring to be at.
“But we went there with a game plan and after 44 minutes we were winning 1-0 and frustrating them, and they hadn’t really had a chance and I was thinking ‘it’s all going to plan here’.
“Then we concede a free kick and they score, and by the time we kicked off it was half time. So all of a sudden we went from saying it’s all going to plan to saying that we need to press on again.
“That meant we left ourselves open a bit, Colls scored two goals later on but I felt that the final score wasn’t representative of the game.
“I believe we’ve got a squad that should be in the top five in this league, and if you look at the games we’ve played, no one has really spanked us.
“We’ve just ended up conceding so many points through last minute or last five minutes goals, and it just comes down to concentration, collective or individual errors, and we are just a little bit short at the minute of getting into the top five because of that”.
Alongside his targets for the team to achieve, Steve says both he and the club are also actively committed to giving young players an opportunity to play for the club, and that young players in the ranks will be given a chance to impress in West’s remaining games.
“We are a club that always looks to give young players a chance”, said Steve.
“We had a couple of lads in the squad at Darwen on Saturday who are under 20, and we will look to do that between now and the end of the season.
“We have a talented group of young lads and many of them should be looking to progress and go up a level higher.
“We’ve had Ash Woods with us who has gone to Trafford and is banging the goals in for them, so he is a good example as is Matt Eckersley who was our centre half and player of the year last year, and he is playing for Cefn Druids in the Welsh Premier League and doing really well.
“So that shows that if someone does well for us, we can be a stepping stone for players up to the next level and part of the remit of what I am about is helping to develop players and push them on”.
As far as the rest of the season is concerned, Steve has several objectives in his sights from the remaining games.
“We are aiming to beat 68 points, our total from last season, and we will see where that put us in the league at the time. We certainly won’t pick up that number of points if we defend like we did at Darwen, so we have some short term improvements we need to make.
“We are also looking forward to the FC United game, that is a big game for us (in the Manchester Premier Cup semi-final), so it is up myself and Brocks to make sure we are well prepared for that game and give a good account of ourselves
“So the plan now is from the last 15-16 games to get as many points as we can, be working towards that 68 points total, put in some of these young lads and see what they can do, and then be looking towards next season”.