The Peacocks' run of ten successive home draws in the Emirates FA Cup finally came to an end today (21st August) when they were drawn away to Tavistock in the 1st Qualifying Round which will take place on Saturday 2nd September. It's a very tricky tie for Town as Tavistock are the current Peninsula League Premier Division champions and have started this season with a bang, scoring 18 goals in winning their opening two league fixtures plus progress over two games in the FA Cup including Saturday's 2-1 victory over Shaftesbury. Town have visited Langsford Park previously, winning 2-1 in a Preliminary Round tie seven years ago.
Town kicked off their Emirates FA Cup campaign with a 3-0 Preliminary Round victory over Larkhall Athletic at the Viridor Stadium yesterday afternoon (19th August). Although the scoreline was convincing, the Peacocks' performance was not against their Evo-Stik League rivals. A scrappy opening saw Ryan Brett fire wide for Town before a decent move down the right saw Matt Wright head home from a Shane White cross after 17 minutes for the opening goal. Larkhall had Josh Egan sent off for a challenge on Wright minutes later but Town struggled to stamp any authority against the ten men. The game went flat for long spells until Pierce Mitchell made it 2-0 on 69 minutes when he connected with White's drive into the box to tuck past Shaun Semmens. The visitors rarely looked likely to mount a comeback and Ben Adelsbury rounded off a poor quality game by curling home a free kick two minutes from time from just outside the box. The win secures Town £1,925 prize money and puts them into the draw for the 1st Round Qualifying which will be available from around 1pm on Monday 21st August. Match report can be viewed HERE and match photos from club photographers Tim Norbury and Colin Andrews can be viewed HERE and HERE.
Reaction - manager Leigh Robinson observed:" Through to the next round and prize money in the bank which is the main thing but we were all very disappointed in our display today on the ball. We gave it away far too often, wanted far too much time on it and generally executed badly. In hindsight the sending off probably didn't help us as we looked better against eleven men and perhaps took our foot off the gas against ten which wasn't good to see. On the positive side we defended our box well and Lloyd didn't have a save to make. We've won two home games this week without playing well but winiing is a habit and being able to win whilst not playing well is a good sign moving forwards."
Reaction - Man of the Match and final goalscorer Ben Adelsbury commented:" A win in the FA Cup is always sweet as it keeps the dream alive for another round. The game today wasn't easy, especially when they went down to ten men as they worked hard, and at times we found it difficult to use our extra man advantage. However to score three goals and keep a clean sheet was a great result for us and keeps our winning momentum rolling into next week's league game."
It’s home advantage again for the Peacocks who are in Emirates FA Cup action against divisional rivals Larkhall Athletic at the Viridor Stadium tomorrow afternoon (19th August), kick-off 3.00pm. Town were last drawn away in the FA Cup in September 2014 when they lost at Paulton Rovers and since then they have enjoyed nine successive home ties including six in their fantastic run to the First Round Proper last season. Tomorrow’s Preliminary Round game will make it ten as they look to embark on another run in the famous competition but it is shaping up to be a difficult afternoon with Larkhall unbeaten in their opening two league fixtures. They were two goals up on Evesham United in their opening game last weekend before being pegged back to a 2-2 draw and then registered a convincing 3-0 victory at Barnstaple Town on Tuesday night whilst Town were grinding out a win over Mangotsfield United. The Larks will also have an added incentive to banish the memories from their visits to the Viridor last season when they shipped 16 goals, losing 6-2 in an FA Trophy tie and then 10-2 in the League game. The winners of tomorrow's tie will earn £1,925 in prize money.
The Peacocks will take confidence after winning both their opening matches, especially on Tuesday when they were far from their best, and again name an unchanged squad from midweek. Manager Leigh Robinson remarked:” It’s FA cup day and this will undoubtedly generate increased excitement after last year’s exploits. Tomorrow will be tough though as Larkhall have started the season well and will be confident so we need to be fully prepared for a battle against a side with plenty of experience at our level.”
One player not featuring tomorrow is Craig Duff who has left the club and signed for Bideford. We thank Craig for his efforts whilst with us and wish him good luck. Robinson continued:”Craig wants to play every single game and we can't promise this whereas Bideford did so we were happy to waive the 7 days, allowing him to go there early. People might say it leaves us light up front but firstly Craig is not a really a striker, more of a forward, and in the summer we made the decision initially to go with Wrighty and Lewis as our out-and-out strikers, knowing that we have a number of players who can play off a striker should one be unavailable such as Ollie, Les, Joe and Ryan Brett. We are looking for another striker to complement Wrighty and Lewis but there are certain attributes in a striker that we are looking for which we couldn’t find in the summer. We won’t go out and sign a player for the sake of it and be left with a player that we don’t want so I prefer to stay patient knowing that we still have many good attacking options at the club already.”
Head Groundsman and Chairman Kevin Sturmey travelled to St George’s Park along with Assistant Groundsman Simon Best for the Groundsman of the Year Awards yesterday (16th August) but despite not winning, he was awarded a very creditable third place in the Evo-Stik League South. It is the fourth successive year that Kevin has been nominated in the awards, having won the overall accolade for the Southern League in 2014 and 2015 as well as winning the national award for Steps 3 and 4 in 2014 and finishing runner-up a year later. Last year he was highly commended (which he also received in 2012) but finished in the top three this time around, the Southern League award being won by Mark Savage of Salisbury with Hereford’s Ben Bowen in second place. Sturmey commented:” To achieve 3rd place has to be seen as a success behind two huge clubs with much more resources and of course pitches laid to Football League standard whereas ours is built on a rubbish tip! All I have ever tried to do is produce the best surface possible based on the weather conditions and while awards are nice, the best prize for me is to see the team win and the club to keep improving on and off the pitch. This award would not have been achieved without the help and support of my assistant Simon Best who has the same high standards I try to achieve and we will both keep trying to produce the best pitch we can for every match."
The Peacocks maintained their winning start to the campaign with a hard-earned 2-1 Evo-Stik League victory over Mangotsfield United at the Viridor Stadium yesterday evening (15th August). Town merited the points on the balance of play, getting off to a positive start with Ryan Brett and Lewis Powell both coming close to opening the scoring. The scoreboard clicked into action after 19 minutes when Shane White's corner from the left was glanced home by skipper Matt Wright to give Town the advantage. However some less than convincing defending led to the visitors' equaliser seven minutes later, Lewis Ellington getting free inside the area to fire a deflected shot past Lloyd Irish. Town lost their flow up to the break following the leveller but after some half chances had not been taken in the second half, Wright flicked the ball past Steve Phillips from White's cross on 71 minutes to notch his brace and the winner. Town stood firm against some Mangotsfield pressure whilst Wright had another goal disallowed and Powell saw a header touched wide at the death as the Peacocks secured victory in their opening home game. Match report can be viewed HERE and match photos from club photographers Tim Norbury and Colin Andrews can be viewed HERE and HERE.
Reaction - manager Leigh Robinson commented: "Very much a case of grinding out a win last night as we were a long way from our best. To be honest I blame myself a bit as I've seen it before so early in the season where you have a good win on the Saturday but physically can't replicate the same intensity on the Tuesday night so I should have made changes but of course it's a hell of a brave man who does that after a 2-0 away win. We were looking good in the first 30 minutes or so and fully in control but then gave away a disgracefully bad goal which swung the momentum and it was hard to wrestle it back. Credit to Mangotsfield though who defended well and made things difficult for us, something which I think we'll see a lot of in home games this year, but we stayed patient, took the chance when it came along and got over the line despite being nowhere near our best."
Reaction - captain and two goal match winner Matt Wright said: "Over the moon with the win last night although we did make it hard for ourselves. Last year we would have dropped points so it shows how far we've come to grind out the win. I'm glad to get off the mark with two important goals and now looking forward to the FA Cup game on Saturday"
The Peacocks will be aiming to build on their fine opening day win when they host Mangotsfield United in their first Evo-Stik League home game of the season tomorrow evening (15th August), kick-off 7.45pm. Town’s 2-0 success at Cirencester on Saturday was the result of an excellent team performance and home fans will be looking for more of the same at the Viridor Stadium tomorrow. Whilst Town were securing the points at the Corinium Stadium at the weekend, Mangotsfield had an opening day to forget as they crashed 5-0 at home to Salisbury. Last season’s games both went the Peacocks’ way, a 4-0 win at Cossham Street followed by a 6-1 victory in the return. Goalscorer for the Field that day was Lewis Powell who has now rejoined the Peacocks and marked his return with both goals at Cirencester.
Manager Leigh Robinson names an unchanged squad from Saturday, with Chris McGrath and Ben Palmer still not fit for selection. The Town boss remarked:” It was a good win on Saturday but it now becomes important to follow that up tomorrow night. Everyone has been looking forward to the first home league game so hopefully we’ll get a decent turn out and we can put on a good performance.”
Town got their Evo-Stik League season off to a great start with a 2-0 victory at Cirencester Town yesterday afternoon (12th August). It was an impressive performance by a Peacocks team fielding three debutants in their starting line-up plus Lewis Powell back for a second stint at the club. Early play saw the visitors apply pressure which yielded the opening goal after 12 minutes, Shane White's pass putting Powell through who did well to steeer the bouncing ball past Mateusz Wieczorek. Further opportunities came Town's way but they had to settle for the single goal advantage at the break. Pierce Mitchell was inches away from adding to the tally in the second half but Cirencester were coming more into the game on the 3G pitch and Lloyd Irish kept the lead intact with a superb close range save from Ben Whitehead. The Peacocks finally got their second goal on 76 minutes, Mitchell's blocked shot reaching Powell who turned in the box to fire home via a deflection off Jordan Stoddart who couldn't keep it out. Matt Wright wasn't far off from making it three with a header before the hosts were reduced to ten men seven minutes from time when Aidan Bennett was red carded for a challenge on Ollie Chamberlain, leaving Town to comfortably see out the rest of the game and seal a well deserved three points. Match report can be viewed HERE and match photos from club photographers Tim Norbury and Colin Andrews can be viewed HERE and HERE.
Reaction - manager Leigh Robinson commented:" It was a really good start and pretty much all we could wish for from the first day with a clean sheet, a couple of goals and three away points at a tough place to go. I was really pleased with our intensity and how we coped with the slightly alien pitch. Whilst it was a very solid team performance, Lewis obviously will get all the plaudits for the two goals and rightly so. He did what he does best, two real poachers' goals at important times, but in addition to that I thought he offered us so much on top of that in his overall game which was great to see. No time to dwell on wins though and we need to prepare and focus on Tuesday now.
Reaction - two goal striker Lewis Powell said:" I'm really pleased to have made my second debut for the club and good to get a couple of goals in my first game back. The lads were superb from 1 to 11 on a difficult surface as Cirencester will be one of the stronger teams this year so a great start for us all and we move on to the next."
The wait is over!
The Peacocks will begin their 16th season in the Evo-Stik Southern League tomorrow (12th August) when they travel to Cirencester Town, kick-off 3.00pm. The league has seen a number of different sponsors since Town rejoined in 2002 but one thing has remained constant and that is Taunton’s occupancy of the same division, making them the current longest serving members of what is now the Evo-Stik League South, West. The desire to finally break through into the Premier will therefore be stronger than ever this season, especially after missing out in the Play-Offs for the past three years.
Tomorrow’s opponents Cirencester were relegated from the Premier after finishing in 22nd place last season, bringing to an end their three year tenure at that level after winning the South and West Division title in 2014. Manager Charlie Griffin has secured the services of a number of familiar Southern League performers in an attempt to bounce straight back. A new 3G artificial pitch has also been laid at the Corinium Stadium over the summer, meaning the Peacocks will be the first team to play on it competitively. The last meeting between the sides came in Cirencester’s title-winning season when Owen Irish scored a late goal in March 2014 to secure a 1-0 win at the Viridor but six months earlier the Peacocks had gone down 3-1 in Gloucestershire.
Pre-season has been mixed for the Peacocks who have won two and lost four of their seven friendlies but results count for nothing during this period when getting match fit and gelling in new players are far more important requisites. Town have seven new faces on board for 2017-18 and all bar one will be involved in the game tomorrow. Striker Lewis Powell has rejoined from Mangotsfield United while Ben Adelsbury, Les Afful, Ryan Brett and Arran Pugh have all signed from Truro City. Joe Charles has joined as he makes his way back into the game following an injury he suffered whilst with Exeter City and centre half Chris McGrath is another familiar face who has returned for a second spell at the Viridor Stadium. McGrath however will miss the opener due to injury which also keeps Ben Palmer out the squad. Owen Irish and Ollie Chamberlain may also need fitness tests after having niggles during pre-season.
Manager Leigh Robinson said:” The start of a new season and everyone is raring to go. Quite often there comes a point in pre-season when everyone just wants the real games to start and personally I’m pleased to be at that point. It will be a tough opening game tomorrow against a side which has come down from the division above and eager to impress especially on their new 3G surface but we’d much rather be facing that challenge now than in February for example when Ciren will be fully used to the surface. I don’t think either team therefore will have an advantage on the artificial pitch but certainly there will be two good teams going head to head.”
In our final pre-season chat, tauntontown.com spoke to Chairman Kevin Sturmey.
When Kevin Sturmey joined the Taunton Town Board in the summer of 2010, the club were in the doldrums; struggling in the League on a poor pitch with decreasing attendances and the backdrop of some major debt. The transformation over those seven years has been remarkable, prompting the Chairman to comment:” I can honestly say the club is in the best position it has ever been in the seven years since I’ve been on board, both on and off the pitch. Leigh and the management team have recruited very well in the summer and I am really looking forward to the season. On the playing side I believe we are stronger than this time last year but that does not guarantee any success as from game one I'm sure every club wants to do well and winning consistently in sport is very hard. However, I have total confidence in the management and playing squad and feel we have as good a chance as any other club to be competing at the top of the league.“ Sturmey is also positive about developments off the pitch as he added:” We continue to build a structure which is a sustainable business and we now have no external debt which is an incredible achievement from where we were seven years ago. We have three areas of the business, namely football, venue and general which allows us to focus on each area separately as football, unless you are incredibly lucky, will never fund itself on an annual basis. We are also adding more new people at Board level and below but as we grow we will always need even more volunteers as we will never be able to function without the goodwill of individuals who give up their own time for the love of their club.”
The 2016-17 season will go down as one of the most memorable in the Peacocks’ history and Kevin would obviously like more of the same in the upcoming campaign. “I want us to win the League, reach the 2nd round proper of the FA Cup and win the FA Trophy so no pressure Leigh!! Seriously, of course I want us to be competing at the top of the league, having been the most consistent team I guess over the last three seasons. Cup runs are great due to the media exposure and finances it can provide but there are about 200 clubs at Step 4 alone who have the same dream as me. It has to be a dream because we all have to remember we have part time players who all work full time, do their gym work and also find time somehow to play football at a very good level. The commitment and sacrifices made last season show what can be achieved but we always have to remember rest and recuperation is as important as training. If you asked the top players to play football after working all day most would not be able to cope so semi-pro footballers in my opinion are the hardest working players in this country. Last year our squad got some recognition nationally which was fully deserved as everyone loves an underdog and their achievements will go down in history as the best ever, so far! I'm greedy for success and personally I will never be satisfied until I feel we have reached the levels I know we can.”
Attendances at the Viridor Stadium have been steadily rising over the past few years as the club have competed at the top end of the league plus the FA Cup success of last season. Sturmey believes interest in the town is definitely on the up, remarking:”The FA Cup run added to our fan base and the number of goals last season highlighted the quality of football we played. At the end of the day, even at our level, we are in the entertainment business and people walking out of the Viridor Stadium excited about what they saw sells it further in to the community. I have never seen so many people wearing claret and blue and Tony Pryce Sports, our retail Partner, sold out of stock on several occasions last season. A personal aim for me is to see more people wearing a Taunton Town shirt than Premier League teams which they may also support as their second team! One thing that will stay with me forever was looking back to the home end from the Barrow end in the FA Cup match to see a packed terrace with a wide range of people loving every minute of the build up to such a great day and I would love to see that more often. We have increased crowd averages each season and in pre-season to have over 2200 people at the Viridor already is a massive achievement.”
The Chairman also enthused about the introduction of the youth development programme. “Starting the JPL teams under the guidance of Paul West and current player Ben Palmer at U12, U13 and U15 level and partnering with Bridgwater and Taunton College will enhance our stature in the community and already the excitement shown at the registration evenings shows the potential in the town which sadly was dormant for too many years. Winning is a big factor at 1st team level as winning consistently increases awareness but at JPL level it will be all about development through to College and University level football and hopefully a pathway to Taunton Town 1st team. Sponsorship also continues to grow with large and small companies and I am already working on season 2018-19 in certain areas as we have agreements in place that companies are very keen to renew. Some companies also wish to invest more in to the club because the Taunton Town brand is now seen as a great place to advertise due to the growth we have seen in all areas.”
Looking at the long-term picture, Sturmey will never rest on his laurels as he strives to push the club forward.” We are now seen as a leader in non-league football “, he observed, “often being asked for advice as we have built a sustainable business through adversity and whatever level we reach we will be able to sustain it by not over stretching ourselves. I have always wanted people to respect the work a handful of people do to keep the club moving forward and want people to look forward to their visit to the Viridor Stadium. We treat everyone with respect and expect standards of behaviour to reflect that on and off the pitch as I think our fans in general are some of the most gracious in victory and defeat (usually!) and will always applaud teams off the pitch, win or lose. I want everyone who visits to feel comfortable and one of my aims is to see more families attend matches as we are still very male dominated although it is improving. If we can add more ladies to the number of Under 14's who are now coming it will create a great atmosphere which showed when we hosted three Yeovil Ladies games earlier this year. The JPL squads will also add more families with two more teams starting at U14 and U16 next season.”
He concluded by summarising his ambitions for the club. “Personally I ultimately want us to achieve promotions to the level I know is achievable, develop the stadium over the next 5 - 10 years (we are currently compiling a vision document and also an audio visual of how the Stadium could look) and build something unique - "a football club that is sustainable based on not spending money you haven't got on unsustainable budgets". All this can be achieved if you build something the community and local Council wants to support. Somerset CCC has been a flagship for the town but it is a county club surrounded by Minor Counties so we need to show the Taunton and surrounding public we are serious about going higher but to do that we will need their support to grow each year and to be seen as a valuable community asset.”
In our latest pre-season discussion, tauntontown.com caught up with manager Leigh Robinson.
Clubs at all levels face the annual summer reshuffle of their playing staff and it has been no exception at the Viridor Stadium where some players have moved on to pastures new while others have come on board in the quest to further improve the winning formula. There are seven new additions to the squad and Town boss Leigh Robinson, beginning his sixth season in charge, is satisfied. “I’m pretty pleased”, he commented.” There were improvements that we wanted to make which we have done and with the exception of Matt Buse, we haven't lost anyone that we were really keen to keep. Some of the new signings have looked really good in pre-season, Ryan Brett and Ben Adelsbury in particular, and many of the others have shown real glimpses of quality whilst still finding their way to full match sharpness.“
Whilst the departure of some players over recent seasons has caused initial disappointment amongst fans, the replacements have always proved more than capable of filling the gaps and Robinson believes his current crop is a further improvement on last term. He continued:” The squad is without question stronger than 12 months ago. This time last year the squad was very much about taking a punt on a number of players, some made it and some didn't whereas this year we are that bit more sure about what we have got both on and off the pitch. The squad last year got much stronger as the season went on as we had to reinforce due to having to play so many games and no doubt things will evolve this year too.”
It’s been an eventful five years or so since Robinson took over the Viridor Stadium hot seat in June 2012. Three appearances in the Southern League Play-Offs, three Somerset Premier Cup Final triumphs and that never to be forgotten FA Cup journey last season are among the successes the Peacocks have achieved under his leadership. Many supporters would naturally love a repeat of the FA Cup heroics of 2016-17 but the manager remains guarded. “Anything is possible I guess but we have to look at last year’s cup exploits as a bit of a one off. In reality, maybe only three or four clubs from this level in the whole country reach the FA Cup First Round every season and last year was our year. Whilst it was a wonderful time for everyone involved in the club, created some unforgettable memories and moved the club on leaps and bounds both on and off the pitch, the amount of effort we had to put into the games against Hemel and Barrow (both twice), Hampton and Richmond, and Chelmsford (in the FA Trophy) certainly took its toll on our energy levels come the end of the season. You could see in April that we had an extra 10-12 games in our legs and of course those weren't 10-12 ordinary games with the amount of effort that was put in to keep up with such good sides. I think in reality the league has to be our focus this year so if we could win perhaps two FA Cup and FA Trophy ties that would keep the money coming in whilst allowing us to keep energy levels throughout the season which would be perfect.”
Robinson has never been one to make rash predictions and his hopes for the new campaign are eminently sensible. “They’re the same as every year, to win as many games as possible and see where it takes us. As a manager you can make yourself look really foolish at this time of year if you start banding about massive promises as you literally never know what is around the corner. You never quite know the strength of the other sides at this time of year, whether they'll get stronger or weaker during the season, how many injuries you’ll get or any other number of factors so it really is about taking a month to month view. The only other big hope that I have is that our attendances either grow or stay at the same level as this was the most noticeable thing after the cup run last year that we were getting 500 people to league games which is tremendous at this level. Our support was great last year in terms of numbers and this is a big part of growing the club.”
Success on the pitch has to be mirrored by progress off it and Leigh feels the club are in great shape on both fronts. “Things are going really well. Of course we'd liked to have been promoted in any of the last three years that we've been in the play-offs but the margins are so small when your season comes down to one or two games. In the first year when we lost at Stratford, we did amazingly well to even reach the play-offs as that squad wasn't ready for promotion. We lost to the better team on the day and across the season at Banbury and last year we were dead on our feet. That said, I know Kevin would have taken FA Cup First Round over promotion if offered it as it’s literally the Holy Grail in non-league terms and the long term benefits are there for all to see.”
Robinson is fully aware that the necessary infrastructure off the pitch is also vital for the club to develop. He concluded:” Off the pitch things are going fantastically too. When I became manager here five years ago the struggle to get commercial partners and sponsors on board was massive. Nowadays we have local businesses falling over themselves to partner with us, the attendances have doubled, new people like Zeppi have come on board to take social media to the next level, we have the new partnership with Bridgwater and Taunton College and financially we are a whole lot more less 'hand to mouth' than even two years ago. We now have a club that the people of Taunton want to support and get involved in, and this in turn attracts players which is a great combination for future growth.”
Our final pre-season interview will be online very soon.