Football: AFC Sudbury boss sets play-offs as target

NICKY Smith has set his AFC Sudbury players the target of reaching the play-offs this season.

Sudbury kick-off their Ryman League Division One North campaign away at Redbridge on Saturday, with seven summer signings vyving for a starting place.

And manager Smith believes he now has the strongest squad since he took over at the start of the 2008/9 season, making the top six a realisitic aim.

He said: "Being in the play-offs would be a magnificent season for us. To get into the top five/six would be a fantastic acheivement.

"Attacking-wise we are stronger and have more options as well, more than since I have been here.

"And we have got four good centre-halves as well competing for postions.

"We are far stronger than we have been for the last few years."

The news in the close season that AFC have received a lateral transfer from the Midlands-centred Southern (Zamaretto) League back into the Ryman League after two years, has given a massive boost to Smith's preparations. The allure of less travelling distances has helped capture the signatures of, among others, highly-rated 22-year-old winger Dave Wareham, who started off at Colchester United, along with his brother and fellow wide-man Steve Wareham.

Forwards James Baker, Lee Townrow and Tom Webb have also been among the additions, as Smith looks to add goals for the coming season.

Smith said: "In the summer me and Chris (Tracey, assistant manager) sat down and talked about what we were lacking and decided we needed to work on goals, and hopefully we have now put that right.

"I want us to play quick, high tempo football and get goals, as well as working on our defence and making sure we are a tough nut to crack."

In eight pre-season games AFC scored 23 goals, nearly three a match, as they built up to the new campaign. The haul included outscoring higher league rivals Bury Town 4-3 and almost beating last season's Ryman League Division One North champions Lowestoft Town on Saturday, a game which finished 2-2.

Smith goes into Saturday's game at Redbridge with slight injury concerns over captain Craig Hughes, Sam Clarke and Nathan Clarke, while youngster Liam Whittaker is unavailable. Sudbury then play their first home game of the season on Tuesday against Ware.

Meanwhile, forward Alex Rhodes, who has a wealth of Football League experience, has been training with Hereford United after turning out for AFC in the friendly match with Bury Town. He is due to speak to Smith on the eve of Saturday's match to clarify his availability.