Former Ipswich Town pro Jamie Griffiths can make the difference at boosted Long Melford
With a fine pre-season behind them and ex-Ipswich Town professional Jamie Griffiths back in their ranks, Steve Chisholm believes Long Melford can make mid-table their first target of 2019/20.
The Villagers have flirted with relegation in the Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division in the two previous campaigns, only securing survival as fourth-from-bottom (17th) on the final day of last season.
But former player and now first-team coach Chisholm, who is part of the team left in charge in manager Jamie Bradbury’s absence over the first three games, believes it will be a very different narrative this time around.
“We finished strongly last season and we would like to build on that and aim for mid-table to start,” he said. “And we would like to have a go at defending the cup we were lucky enough to win last year.”
Their first ever Thurlow Nunn League Challenge Cup final proved a memorable occasion as captain Steve Adams’ header saw off Fakenham Town in a 1-0 victory at Diss Town.
Although Chisholm feels the Premier Division looks as strong as it has ever been, he is confident their summer recruitment – with the initial three-month loan addition of local lad Griffiths from Step 3 Needham Market topping seven incomings – can comfortably keep them away from danger.
“Pre-season has gone well,” he said. “Results have been good but more so in pre-season it is about performances and they have been really good so far.
“We have played some good sides in Needham, Bury, Brightlingsea and got good results with all of them.
“Jamie is obviously a very good signing for us, not just on the pitch but off it as well. He is professional from the minute he arrives to when he leaves and he sets good standards for us.
“It is not just about him though. We have got some very good players that will complement him.
“A lot of our games were lost by fine margins last year and by adding Jamie we are hoping it might just make the difference.”
Melford are hoping to have international clearance for two new players who have come over from Spain via the same scheme which had brought Pablo Chaves, who moved on to higher-league Felixstowe & Walton United. Goalkeeper Cristian Prada will compete with Ashley Hayhoe, who is stepping up from Suffolk & Ipswich League side Bedricks Worth, and the returning Darren Moyes, who also has a coaching role, for the jersey. Moha Benzoura, meanwhile, will offer another option on the wing alongside Hassan Ally, who has returned having announced his exit at the end of last season.
“We are delighted to have him back as he can make something happen out of nothing and we have lots of good options now,” said Chisholm, who added the return from injuries of Ashley Sloots and Dan Swain has been like having two new signings.
Melford begin their campaign on Saturday at home to a Woodbridge Town side (3pm) who won their last seven games to finish as runners-up.
And Chisholm fancies them to win the league, ahead of Stowmarket Town and relegated Mildenhall Town.
“To be honest we felt they were the best team we played last season and it will be a good game.”
Ross Waugh and Ben Judge (holiday) are both unavailable for Saturday but will be back in contention for Tuesday’s trip to Newmarket Town (7.45pm).
Melford signings: Jamie Griffiths (Needham - loan); Darren Moyes (GK unattached); Ashley Hayhoe (GK Bedricks Worth); Kyle Hurley (Cornard United); Jack Ryaner (Halstead Town).