Lakenheath boss Ben Cowling eyeing up a top six finish in first campaign since promotion
Ben Cowling believes newly-promoted Lakenheath have a squad good enough to break into the top six in the Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division this season.
And ahead of the club’s first ever Step 5 match, at home to Thetford Town on Saturday (3pm), their manager is confident they can quickly prove they can be a real force in their new surroundings.
“This is what we wanted from the moment we came in and we have no intention of going back down again,” he said.
“Hopefully our recruitment has shown that and we have managed to retain players that were attracting interest from higher levels.
“Now we’ve got to shown what we’ve got on the pitch.
“I think we have put together a squad that is capable of a top six finish.”
He added: “We do not think we should be looking anywhere near relegation. We want to at least be in the top half.
“This club has had so much momentum and we want to keep on building on that.
“We are not going into any game this season thinking we cannot win it.
“There is plenty to be optimistic about but now we have to back that up with performances and putting points on the board.”
Former Mildenhall Town defender or striker Tom Debenham is the club’s most eye-catching signing, having been on the books with Step 3 Lowestoft Town last season.
But Sam Peters, Lee Hammond and Craig Nurse, who were all at Walsham-le-Willows, are all seasoned players at their new level. Striker Brandon Morris has also come across from Newmarket Town as well as central midfielder Nick Castellan from Swaffham Town.
Defensive midfielder Scott Callaghan announced his departure this week though to increase his chances of first-team football with First Division North new-boys Parson Drove.
But like some others, Lakenheath’s preparations for the big kick-off have been far from ideal due to the effects of Covid-19.
“It has been challenging. We have had to call our last two friendlies off as we have had a run of Covid cases, so we’ve been trying to break that sequence,” said Cowling.
“It probably does give Thetford an advantage but there is nothing we can do about it.”
He is hoping to have everyone available for Saturday with a Tuesday trip to fellow newly-promoted side March Town United to follow (7.45pm).
Meanwhile, Newmarket Town open up their Premier Division campaign with two home games in the first four days of the season. Kirkley & Pakefield visit The Tristel Stadium on Saturday (3pm) followed by Long Melford on Tuesday (7.45pm).
Player-boss Michael Shinn has made four additions to his Jockeys squad in the hope of sustaining a promotion push, notably recruiting higher-league Histon defenders Max York and James Chivers as well as former Mildenhall striker James Hall.
Mildenhall Town will also have their eyes on the top two, with the runners-up this term going into a play-off game with a side finishing third or fourth from bottom in a league above.
Ricky Cornish has also made some eye-catching additions in bringing back goalkeeper Josh Pope and striker Dan Brown from higher-league Soham and Histon respectively, as well as adding Needham Market promotion-winning left-back Darryl Coakley, who last played at AFC Sudbury.
Hall, who also have full-back Ryan Yallop back in their squad, kick off at newly-promoted Mulbarton Wanderers on Saturday (3pm) before hosting local rivals Ely City on Tuesday (7.45pm).
Before that game, Luke McAvoy and Ben Farmer’s Ely side host Woodbridge Town at the Demcom Stadium on Saturday (3pm).
The Robins had been enjoying a good run putting them up into fifth in the table when Covid-19 halted their 2020/21 season 12 games in.
Elsewhere, Walsham-le-Willows get their campaign under way at home to Wroxham on Saturday (3pm) while Thetford Town, who have lost Max Melanson to Norwich United, follow up Saturday's game at Lakenheath by travelling to Wroxham on Tuesday (7.45pm).