Jamie Griffiths stays with Long Melford as they look to repeat impressive form
For Long Melford boss Jamie Bradbury last season’s upturn in results must set the benchmark for their 2020/21 campaign as they look to prove it was no flash in the pan.
Having spent a long time in the top six, The Villagers were eighth in the Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division when the coronavirus pandemic saw the campaign abandoned in March.
And after making former Ipswich Town professional Jamie Griffiths’ loan spell from Needham Market into a permanent arrangement, Bradbury is hopeful of continuing to reside in the top half of the table.
Ahead of their return to competitive action in the FA Cup extra preliminary round at Northampton On Chenecks on Tuesday (7.45pm), he said: “We are pleased with how things are going.
“Our target is always to try and improve on last year and we were on course for a top eight finish.
“If we can just carry on from there and do something similar that would be our aim.
“Obviously we have got to have a bit of luck along the way, not just in terms of winning games but also with injuries. We have a smallish squad; it is competitive but with two or three injuries to key players it starts to thin out and that is what we have got to try and avoid.”
Griffiths’ commitment for the upcoming campaign, with the forward having scored 17 goals in 36 appearances last term, is a big boost to the side with the former AFC Sudbury player not short of suitors.
“I speak to Griff all the time and this was the plan for him all along,” said Bradbury.
“It was never really a question. I have no doubt he had a number of phone calls which I am aware of; why would they not want Jamie Griffiths in their team as he is a very good player, but a number of our other players have been approached and are staying with us.”
Aside from Griffiths, there are two new signings at Stoneylands this season. Centre-back Sam Mills was previously with Haverhill Rovers and the versatile wide player Ethan Culmer is returning from a break playing, with Wivenhoe Town among his previous clubs.
Elliot Walker, working his way back from a serious knee injury, and livewire Hassan Ally are also back training with the club.
But centre-back Anthony Waugh, who helped them win promotion to the Premier Division and the Thurlow Nunn League Challenge Cup in 2018/19, has decided to drop down to the Essex & Suffolk Border League with Kelvedon.
Following their FA Cup start, it will be a tough start to their league campaign with having to face the sides who occupied the top four places before the season was halted in their first four games.
The tricky run begins with Norwich United visiting Stoneylands on Saturday, September 5 before an away trip to Stanway Rovers the following Wednesday, ahead of facing Stowmarket Town and Newmarket Town.
“Literally you could not ask for four tougher games to start the season but we are not a team that looks at individual games and months on the calendar and says we have got to do this by this time,” said Bradbury.
“Who knows we might catch them a little bit cold as they may not be as ready as they would be later in the season.
“If we can pick up some points in those games we will be doing okay.”
Their latest pre-season friendly saw them record a 2-1 win at Old Newton United on Saturday with Ben Tait and Jacob Brown scoring in each half.
This Saturday sees fans able to return to Stoneylands in a final friendly, against Athletic Newham (previously known as Lopes Tavares). The club are offering under-18s and their parents free admission.