High hopes for Walsham after strong season finish

TOP SCORER: James Tatham (left) netted 13 times for the Willows this season
TOP SCORER: James Tatham (left) netted 13 times for the Willows this season
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WALSHAM-LE-WILLOWS will hope to pick up where they left off when they begin next season’s campaign, writes Adam Smith.

A strong finish to their season steered them clear of the relegation zone and manager Paul Smith will be aiming for more of the same next term, targeting a top-10 finish.

A weak start to their campaign, which saw them lose six of their first eight games, had left them staring at relegation from the Ridgeons Premier Division. But Smith never lost his faith,

“We knew deep down that we would get out of it, because we were playing so well,” he said. “Once we got a couple of good results we knew that it would snowball from there.”

The good result that most stands out in Smith’s mind is the home defeat of champions Wroxham in early January.

The manager cites this as the club’s best achievement of the season, coupled with their overall run of form since March, when a strong series of results steered them clear of the drop zone.

The high point of the Wroxham defeat came just a week after what Smith reckons to be the club’s biggest disappointment, a Boxing Day defeat away to Diss Town.

“We just didn’t turn up that day, which was frustrating,” said Smith. “I think we had a little too much Christmas pudding.”

The joy of staying up was tempered by a frustrating year in the cup competitions.

Walsham could only manage the preliminary round of the FA Cup and suffered first round exits in the FA trophy, the Suffolk Premier Cup and the Ridgeons League Cup.

The strong finish to the season, which saw them lose just two out of there last 10 games, while winning five, is very encouraging to Smith as he looks ahead to next season.

He has also received a boost from knowing that all of his players will be staying at the club.

All of this leads the boss to believe a finish in the top half of the table next term is a genuine prospect.

“If the season had started in January I think we would have finished fourth,” added Smith. “If we can start as strongly next year then I see no reason why we can’t finish in the top ten.”

“The season starts on August 4, which is early, but we’ll be ready.”

Smith gave his manager’s player-of-the-season award to goalkeeper, Duncan McAnally, while the players’ player and the supporters’ player awards both went to stalwart and club captain Trevor Newman, who has spent much of the season playing at the heart of the defence.

James Tatham finished the campaign as top scorer with 13 goals.