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Boosted Cornard United squad aiming for a minimum top-half finish, says manager Tom Clark



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Cornard United manager Tom Clark believes a deeper squad – boosted by six higher-level experienced players – can ensure they meet his minimum requirement of a top-half finish this term.

The Ards were one of a number of sides relocated back to the Thurlow Nunn League’s First Division North, having ended last season third-from-bottom in the First Division South.

While that was a position that the FA had said was ‘liable to relegation’ there were not enough teams stepping up the pyramid to put their Step 6 status in danger.

Cornard United boss Tom Clark Picture: D&G Photography
Cornard United boss Tom Clark Picture: D&G Photography

But after recruiting players who have mainly been playing a league higher, Clark is confident this season they will not be left worrying about the wrong end of the table.

Ahead of hosting last season’s third-placed side Downham Town in their season opener this afternoon (3pm), he said:

“Pre-season has been good and we've tried out a lot of new players in different positions.

George Day scored eight goals for a Long Melford side that finished second from bottom in last season's Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division Picture: Stewart Ambrose Photography
George Day scored eight goals for a Long Melford side that finished second from bottom in last season's Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division Picture: Stewart Ambrose Photography

"We have got a really good squad depth now which is really important for us as that was one of the problems with last season.

“We have managed to retain everyone we wanted to, released a couple, and we have definitely improved the general overall quality of the squad.

"Moving back into the North league is going to help with travelling and the level of football, as I think it is slightly better quality of football.

"We are looking forward to playing against those teams and going to some nicer grounds, seeing some of the old clubs we've been used to playing over the years.

Wide player Kyle Hurley (right) has also come across from Long Melford, having previously played at Cornard in 2018 Picture: Richard Marsham
Wide player Kyle Hurley (right) has also come across from Long Melford, having previously played at Cornard in 2018 Picture: Richard Marsham

“We are aiming as far up the league as we can possibly go this season, we are not going to settle for finishing in the bottom half, we want to finish in the top half.

"With the team we've got now and the last few years of building that, we feel we can really push on.

"The top half is definitely achieveable and that is what we'll be aiming for."

Ex-AFC Sudbury captain Craig Hughes has joined after ending a long spell at Brantham Athletic while George Day, top scorer (8) with second-bottom Long Melford last term, has also dropped down a league.

Ben Stannard, who played 21 times as Ipswich Wanderers won Cornard's Division One South last term, has also joined to bolster the heart of the midfield along with Jake Phillips, who made five appearances at Essex Senior League Premier Division Stanway Rovers.

Former AFC Sudbury and more recently, Stanway Rovers and Wivenhoe Town, full-back Pete Maina and departed Long Melford wide midfielder Kyle Hurley complete the six new additions.

"Craig Hughes is definitely going to add and a lot of experience to the back-line and he is a brilliant leader. Him coming in as a centre-half is a massive boost," said Clark.

"Ben Stannard, who we got from Ipswich Wanderers who was previously at Leiston and Bury Town, he is our playmaker in the middle with Jake Phillips from Stanway. Those boys coming in are really going to help.

"We've also brought George Day in from Melford which brings in a bit more firepower in behind Scott Sloots."

Of this afternoon's opponents Downham, he said: "It's definitely going to be a test. I know they beat a Step 4 side the other night so they'll definitely be up for it.

"We've had a pretty good pre-season ourselves so we'll go into it strong but it's all over in 90 minutes so you never know what's going to happen. But we'll give it a good go as we will in every game this season."