The Peacocks began their pre-season friendlies with an entertaining 2-2 draw against a Bristol Rovers XI at the Viridor Stadium yesterday evening (18th July). Chances were scarce until Matt Wright headed a Shane White cross against the post for the hosts but with the half seemingly destined to end goalless Rovers grabbed the lead four minutes before the break with a cracking 25 yarder from Conor Jones. Town drew level on 71 minutes when White's free kick was met by Arran Pugh's header and although keeper Liam Armstrong blocked, Pugh was on hand to tap in the rebound. The visitors looked to have clinched the win one minute from time when Dylan McGlade cut in from the right and saw his deflected shot beat Lloyd Irish. However Ross Staley ensured a draw for Town when he swept home an equaliser two minutes into stoppage time after being set up by trialist Joe Charles. 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:" On the whole I'm pretty happy with what I saw tonight. The lads looked fit and hungry and seemed to have a good understanding at this early stage. Naturally we were a bit rusty on the ball which is perfectly normal for the first outing but I can only compare everything to this time last year and we are miles further along. There were some good individual performances too, I thought Lewis was excellent and it was good to see Les come on and excite people as he's seriously talented and different to anything else we have. Overall a good start and we hope to get stronger, fitter and better from here."
Football returns to the Viridor Stadium when the Peacocks begin their pre-season schedule of friendlies with a game against a Bristol Rovers XI tomorrow evening (18th July), kick-off 7.45pm. The meeting with Rovers is Town’s first of seven planned warm-up matches in readiness for their big kick-off away to Cirencester Town on 12th August and will give home fans their first opportunity of seeing several new summer signings in action. Striker Lewis Powell and centre half Chris McGrath have both returned to the fold while quartet Arran Pugh, Ryan Brett, Les Afful and Ben Adelsbury have all joined from Truro City. There are also likely to be a couple of trialists involved in the game against a Rovers side which is likely to be based around their Academy squad and any players who have not travelled to Portugal this week for their training camp. Not all of Town’s squad will be on show, with former captain Brett Trowbridge on holiday and Owen Irish missing out due to a broken toe which he picked up in the final league fixture of last season at North Leigh. Craig Duff is also highly doubtful as his partner is due to give birth.
Manager Leigh Robinson, embarking on his sixth campaign in the hot seat, commented:” Everyone is raring to go tomorrow and start the first of a really good pre-season set of games that we have this year. This week will be particularly tough with two pro sides straight off the bat but no doubt it will be really good preparation. We’ve a few new lads to bed in and a few trialists to look at too so there will probably be a fair amount of experimentation for the first four friendlies.”
Admission to the game is free for Taunton Town season ticket holders and Under 14’s while prices are £5 for adults, £3 concessions and £1 for Under 19’s.
The Peacocks will begin their defence of the Somerset Premier Cup with a home game against Western League Division One side Ashton & Backwell. The tie is scheduled for week commencing 9th October.
The common notion that the summer months give staff and volunteers at a non-league club a long break could not be further from the truth at the Viridor Stadium. Ground maintenance, sourcing and renewing sponsorship, football administration for the new season, kit to organise, the day to day financial management of the club.... just some of the tasks that carry on between May and July.
One of the main areas of focus is pitch maintenance, with a lot of work crammed in since the final game played on 17th May. Chairman and Head Groundsman Kevin Sturmey outlines the challenges faced, commenting:”It doesn't seem long since we hosted Yeovil Ladies v Reading Ladies, in fact it's only two months and less than two months since we re-seeded and scarified the pitch on 19th May. We really should have 12 weeks to compensate for the weird weather we now experience and this summer has been no exception as it's been windy, very hot, a little wet but never how you want it. While we have some great equipment (Irrigator, quadraplay and good mowers), everything here is very labour intensive and I am indebted to Simon (Best), my Assistant Groundsman who puts in so many extra hours as like me he is a perfectionist. Neither of us will be happy with the pitch until it's as we want it”
Despite the work put in so far, the Chairman wants to see further improvement, remarking:”It's probably two weeks away from what I want to see as unless you have the resources of a full time club we end up trying to force nature which never works. It will be ok for the next week or so when we have three games but my target realistically is 15th August for our first home league game. We have watered virtually every day in the last month but you can't beat rain and some seed still needs to come through as where we scarified heavily the sand top dressing is still fairly thick so after the Exeter game we will put the germination sheets on to force the seed up quicker than normal. It looks like we have put in sand bands or drainage but we haven't, it's just the sand used for levelling has not allowed germination as quickly as I would like. Still, we have to get on with it and it will be the best we can produce for the next week and then some more work before the Bristol City game and more work leading up to the first League game.”
Although the pitch is in very good nick, it is no secret that the surface is far from flat. Sturmey continued:” I guess some people may wonder why we can't just level it all up perfectly in one go - believe me if I had a magic wand I would! There are two reasons why not; firstly the pitch moves each season and has undulations caused by being built on a landfill site. We haven't top dressed the goalmouths, it's the land that drops each side of the six yard box which makes it look higher than it actually is. Secondly we don't have at least £100,000 to bring a contractor in to level the whole pitch. So over the next five years or so we aim to lower the top part (Clubhouse side) by scarifying as deep as practicable and raise the lower side (Tom Harris Stand) by small amounts each season. Over the next three seasons we hope to lower the six yard boxes using either a Koro machine or deep scarifying or both!”
Sturmey is again among the nominations for the Groundsman of the Year awards next month and concluded:”My aim is always to produce the best surface possible with the resources and personnel we have and I am always looking at little ways to improve everything. If I ever watch a Premier League game (the one in the different universe, not Southern!) I generally look at the pitches to get ideas and the football is always the secondary bit I watch. Simon and I have been invited to Spurs Training Ground in September by Darren Baldwin, their Head of Playing Surfaces, which will be a great experience and we hope he may have some equipment he doesn't need! We will both be very envious of the number of staff and the resources available but we can but dream and keep doing the lottery! Buying tickets in the Somerset West lottery and supporting Taunton Town will help as at least we get 50% of that going to the club!”
The Peacocks will begin their 2017-18 Evo-Stik League season with an away game at Cirencester Town following the release of the League fixtures today (13th July). The Centurions who arrive after relegation from the Southern Premier will host Town on 12th August which will be followed by a home game for the Peacocks against Mangotsfield United on Tuesday 15th August. The FA Cup tie at home to Larkhall Athletic on 19th August is then followed by two more league fixtures away to Shortwood United and home to Paulton Rovers on August Bank Holiday Monday to end the month.
Festive opposition is provided by Paulton again on Boxing Day whilst Bideford visit the Viridor Stadium on New Year's Day, with the return game at Bideford taking place on Easter Monday. The league campaign ends with a trip to Cinderford Town on Saturday 28th April. The full fixture list is now available HERE.
The Peacocks were handed home ties in both national cup competitions after the draws for the early rounds were released by the FA today (7 July). In the Preliminary Round of the Emirates FA Cup, Evo-Stik League divisional rivals Larkhall Athletic will visit the Viridor Stadium on Saturday 19 August. The draw for the 1st Round Qualifying has not yet been issued. Meanwhile another of Town's league opponents AFC Totton provide the travelling opposition in the Preliminary Round of the Buildbase FA Trophy on Saturday 7 October, with the winners of this tie hosting Southern Premier Merthyr Town in the 1st Round Qualifying on Saturday 28 October.
Launching later this month is the Somerset West Lottery which gives all Peacock fans the chance to help their club whilst also being in with a chance of winning a top prize of £25,000! The new lottery has been introduced to benefit community projects and services and with ground improvements and youth development high on our agenda, we hope our supporters will become involved as 60% of the £1 ticket price will go to the club. The first lottery draw is on 29th July and every ticket sold has a 1 in 50 chance of winning a prize. For more information on the lottery and how to buy tickets, please click HERE.
We are again inviting entries from local companies to our annual Sponsors' Draw which this year is being held during the interval of the home friendly with Weymouth on Tuesday 25th July. As per normal, the first name out the hat will have their company logo on the front of the first team home shirt, with four further prizes on offer. Each entrant will also receive a free transferable season ticket. Further details on this great promotional opportunity and how to enter can be found HERE. The Sponsors' Draw is just one of a number of sponsorship opportunities available at the club, more of which can be viewed HERE.
Two more friendlies have been arranged to complete Town’s pre-season schedule. The Peacocks will visit neighbours Bridgwater Town on Tuesday 1st August and will then host Bristol City three days later at the Viridor Stadium on Friday 4th August. Both matches kick off at 7.45pm. Bridgwater will begin life in the Western League next season after being relegated from the Southern League. City meanwhile begin their Championship campaign on 5th August so will field a side consisting of Under 23’s and squad players not involved the following day.
Our Head Groundsman and Chairman Kevin Sturmey has again been nominated in the Groundsman of the Year awards for 2017. It is the fourth successive year that he has been a finalist in the national awards, having won the Southern League Groundsman accolade two years running in 2014 and 2015 while also picking up the national award for Steps 3 and 4 in 2014 and being named runner-up a year later. This year’s award ceremony will be held at St George’s Park in August.