Mark Morsley has reiterated that his young AFC side are ‘not ready’ for promotion, as recent results lift them into play-off contention, writes Hannah Dolman.
Their fourth consecutive win in the Bostik League North Division, a 2-0 home victory over Witham Abbey on Saturday, saw them up to ninth in the table and within 10 points of an automatic play-off place.
They are now locked in a battle with promotion-chasing Bury Town, who’s win on Tuesday saw them reclaim ninth spot, although it is a battle Morsley does not yet want.
He said: “We don’t want to go up, we’re not ready.
“Next season I would definitely expect to be in the play-offs but not yet.
“This is a project that’s going to take years and, to be successful, you need to take little steps, not gigantic big ones that you aren’t yet stable enough for.
“And that’s what I’ve been brought here to do, build a team that can handle the pressures and quality of Step 3 and higher, but it takes time.
There’s no room for the errors we have made this season at Step 3.”
Despite the reluctance, Morsley admitted that the team would ‘just go for it’ if their recent run of good form continues and sees them into a top six, possibly seven, league spot.
He said: “Obviously we would have to try, I would never disrespect the competition or the game in that way, to say we wouldn’t try.
“So, in that case, we would just go for it, and see what happens.
“It would be too early for us but young, talented squads tend to do things early anyway.”
He said one of the reasons for the earlier than expected play-off push was the arrival of ‘two or three’ players Morsley had not expected to become available until the summer.
But the arrivals of Darryl Coakley and Ryan Horne, in particular, had added experience to see the team ‘start to develop really quickly’.
Morsley said: “It’s amazing how quickly things can change with a team.
“Darryl has come in and immediately was coaching the players.
“He’s probably played about 250 games for me at Needham over the years, and I signed him from Cambridge United, so he’s well-proven at Step 3 and higher — he was a player I was targeting in the summer but he’s arrived early.
“The same with Ryan, and they’ve already made a big difference — the team is developing really quickly now.”
He also had high praise for the efforts of academy graduate Ollie Peters, a player he classified as ‘exceptional’, alongside the continuing development of central defenders Tyler French and captain Joe Whight.
He said there were a ‘number of his lads in the dressing room now, who have clarity about what they need to do’.
“As a manager, that’s what it’s all about, and that’s all part of the development, to build confidence in what they can do, as well as knowing what I want them to do,” he added.