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Top-half finish the achievable goal Tom Clark is driving the players towards at Cornard United as AFC Sudbury Reserves end winless run but Halstead Town falter

Having had time to assess the squad since joining as Dave Childs’ assistant at Cornard United in mid-November, Tom Clark is in no doubt they are capable of a top-half finish – something they have not achieved this century.

The Ards currently lie in the upper reaches of the bottom half of the Thurlow Nunn League First Division North table in 12th at the turn of the year – the same position they finished in under Michael Schofield and Matt Grove last season.

But despite Saturday’s 4-1 defeat to hosting Needham Market Reserves, former Tiptree Jobserve player-coach Clark is confident they can improve their league position for a top 10 spot to potentially get them back into the FA Cup next term.

Cornard United v Framlingham - Cornards George Vallentyne and Framlinghams James Mayhew..Pic- Richard Marsham/RGM Photography. (19705358)
Cornard United v Framlingham - Cornards George Vallentyne and Framlinghams James Mayhew..Pic- Richard Marsham/RGM Photography. (19705358)

“One hundred per cent we can get in the top half, that is what we are aiming for,” he said.

“It was not a 4-1 defeat on Saturday as it was just down to fatigue as we were missing a few key personnel and we were not able to make our bench as strong as we wanted to.”

Cornard had led 1-0 at half-time against the side largely made up of Needham Market’s full-time academy players at Bloomfields on Saturday, with George Vallentyne producing a fine run and finish in the second minute.

Cornard United manager - Dave Childs..Pic - Richard Marsham. (11598461)
Cornard United manager - Dave Childs..Pic - Richard Marsham. (11598461)

But their opponents turned the tide in the second half with four unanswered goals to condemn them to a heavy defeat.

“I came in about five or six weeks ago and it has been fun,” said Clark.

“We had a good result against March a few weeks ago (3-2 home win) when they were second or third in the table.

“We are looking strong and definitely competing with every team.

“The weather has not helped recently as we have had a few call-offs and you lose a bit of momentum.

“We have some tough games in the next few weeks but hopefully we can get a few points on the board and creep up the league.”

Cornard, who have not finished higher than 11th since 1999/00 (10th), host seventh-placed Sheringham on Saturday with a number of faces, including forward Jack Durey and left-back Sam Newton, set to return with a sickness bug having done the rounds.

“They have not done too bad,” Clark, a centre-back who is registered to play, said of Sheringham.

“We should be going away with three points in that one though, especially as we are at our place.”

Stalwart centre-half Dave Dowding is out with a knee injury but Clark said he could be back in ‘the next month or two’.

* AFC Sudbury Reserves (15th) ended an 11-game winless run with a 3-1 success at Ipswich Wanderers on Boxing Day. With the first-team not having a game, it was a strong line-up with Freddie King scoring twice and Ethan Mayhew the other.

It saw them bounce back from a 2-1 home reverse to Sheringham on December 21.

The academy side host Norwich CBS on Saturday (3pm).

* In the Thurlow Nunn League First Division South, Halstead Town visit second-from-bottom Newbury Forest on Saturday (3pm) looking to bounce back from a 2-0 defeat at home to Coggeshall United.

In front of a bumper crowd of 242 at the Milbank Stadium on Saturday, Kris Oti put the visitors ahead in the 56th minute.

Halstead’s chances of a result were hindered by the dismissal of goalscorer Jordan Pavett on the hour mark with a straight red card thought to be shown for dissent to the referee.

Goalkeeper Sam Kendle made a fine save to keep the hosts in the game but Coggeshall put the result beyond any doubt with a second goal three minutes from time from Kieran Bailey.

It leaves the Humbugs in fifth place in the table, one point off the top four automatic promotion places and six behind leaders Little Oakley. Their scheduled trip to the latter on December 21 fell victim to a waterlogged pitch.