AFTER steadying a seemingly sinking ship, Long Melford’s managerial change halfway through the campaign proved something of a masterstroke.
Geoff Cleal’s departure, in his first full season at Stoneylands, came at a time when the club had endured a run of six straight league defeats, with the final nail in the coffin proving to be a hugely embarrassing 3-2 reverse at home to bottom side and locals rivals Cornard United.
The elevation of reserve team manager Ady Perry to work alongside first team coach Jason Maher in a caretaker double act in Janaury saw an improvement in form and a place in the semi final of the First Division Knockout Cup.
The appointment was then made permanent and the double guided the club to a respectable 12th place finish – including home wins over promotion hopefuls Stowmarket Town and Saffron Walden – having finished 16th the season before.
Maher, who will be in charge of the first team next season with Danny Shipton as a player/coach, with Perry moving back to the reserves, said: “The remit when we took over was to try to bring a bit of stability, which we did.
“The board were targeting a finish as high as possible and we thought it was plausible to get into the top 10. We finished 12th and it was the club’s most successful season in 7-8 years in the Ridgeons League.”
Inexperience among a young side was what Maher attributed to the problem which saw a nosedive in form following four wins from five at the start of the campaign. And he is ready to bring in a few wiser heads to help along a promising squad ahead of next season, with Melford having returned to pre-season training this week.
But what 2010/11 may prove most memorable for was a bizzare incident where Saffron Walden officials carried out a post-match measuring of the goal posts to find they were under the stipulated size in some places.
The crossbar incident, which subsequently made national news on the airwaves of TalkSport among others, was reported to the league who have not penalised the club but instructed them to carry out work on the ground to have them meeting correct measurements.
The club had also suffered further drama during the big freeze over Christmas, when frozen water pipes burst and ruined their changing rooms and clubhouse, forcing them to change their fixtures around while it was sorted.