Cornard United boss Tom Clark wary of predictions following lateral transfer to Thurlow Nunn League First Division South
The Thurlow Nunn League season kicks off on Saturday with Cornard United’s Tom Clark not sure what to expect after being handed a lateral transfer to the First Division South.
Ahead of last term The Ards’ manager boldly predicted his side would be in the race for promotion to Step 5, with four automatic spots available to help facilitate a summer FA non-league restructure.
But their target looked to be well out of their reach with just three wins from 12 games leaving them 14th in the First Division North table before Covid-19 saw the campaign abandoned.
This summer has been a much quieter one at Blackhouse Lane than in recent years, with just two players signing while the previous squad has remained in-situ.
But despite one of those being released Colchester United attacking winger or forward Ollie Sims, a move across to the First Division South has left Clark wary of predicting another promotion challenge this time around. And the 2020/21 Step 6 season will include a four team play-off below an automatic promotion spot this time around, allowing more sides to be in the mix for going up.
“It is really a journey into the unknown for us,” he said, ahead of their South debut at Burnham Ramblers on Saturday (3pm) before hosting fellow transferred side Ipswich Wanderers, heavily fancied for the title, on Tuesday (7.45pm).
“Obviously we want to finish as high as we possibly can but it is hard for me to make predictions with the situation we’re in.
“We would be happy to just finish in the top half of the table but we do not know anything really about the teams we are going to be facing, though they also won’t know about us too.
“Everything has also changed with Covid as well, meaning you don’t know what you are going to get.”
An outbreak of the virus in their squad, which also now contains former Long Melford and Debenham LC centre-back Josh Collins, saw their friendlies programme disrupted.
“We missed two weeks when we had a bit of an outbreak in the camp,” Clark said. “We are just one player short at the minute.”
Cornard were able to finish off pre-season with a 3-2 victory with a mixed side in a hastily arranged game at home to lower-league Ransomes on Saturday before beating visiting higher-league FC Clacton by the same scoreline on Tuesday. Jack Graham, Sims and Cory Willings were all on target.
Of the coup in signing Cornard resident Sims, Clark said: “Ollie is clearly a very good player who has fitted in very well with the boys.
“He is too good for this level really but we are lucky to have his services.”
AFC Sudbury Reserves have also been moved across and kick off at Tilbury-based Brimsdown on Saturday (3pm).
Halstead Town, who had been 13th in the division last term after a disappointing start, have a tricky opener at home to the side who had been leading the table, Newbury Forest, on Saturday (3pm). The Milbank Stadium then hosts Wivenhoe Town on Tuesday (7.45pm).
In the Premier Division, Steve Holder’s first competitive game since stepping up to the manager’s role at Hadleigh United is at newly-promoted March Town United on Saturday (3pm).
The Brettsiders, who have had some impressive pre-season results after recruiting four players, including former professional Chris Kiwomya’s son, striker Marcel, return to the Millfield to take on Whitton United on Tuesday (7.45pm).
Long Melford, who have not announced any new signings and were second bottom with one win from eight games when last term was abandoned, are not in action until Tuesday’s trip to Newmarket Town (7.45pm).
Melford’s pre-season campaign has also been hit by Covid-19 cases, with manager Jamie Bradbury one of those who has recently been having to isolate.