Axminster Town launch pre-season with Saturday visit from Willand Rovers

PUBLISHED: 10:04 29 July 2020

Action from the October meeting between Axminster Town and Torridgeside. Picture ANDREW GRAHAM

Action from the October meeting between Axminster Town and Torridgeside. Picture ANDREW GRAHAM

Andrew Graham

Axminster Town entertain Willand Rovers at Tiger Way this Saturday in the first of a run of pre-season fixtures ahead of the September 5 start of a new South West Peninsula League Premier East campaign.

The game with the Southern League Division One South outfit kicks off at 3pm and the Tigers are hoping to be able to accommodate supporters.

Town manager Josh Stunell says: “It is all rather confusing in as much we can have 30 in to watch the game, but then we could also have another 80 people in the bar! Now all would be accommodated while observing the Coronavirus pandemic guidelines but there are certainly mixed messages floating around as to what you can, or cannot do.

“Suffice to say that whatever we do at Tiger Way in terms of pre-season matches will be done in full accordance with the current guidelines and, of course, with the emphasis very much on people’s safety.”

Axminster Town do have the luxury of having four dressing rooms and the Tigers boss says: “We’ll offer Rovers the use of two dressing rooms if they want. The key for us to get some games on. When we set up our pre-season games against quality opposition such as Rovers, Buckland Athletic and Taunton Town it was done, quite naturally with the thought of by bringing such teams to Tiger Way we’d draw healthy crowds and at least get some money into the club.

“Hopefully guidelines and rules will be relaxed to allow us to get folk into the games. Let’s face it, the four sides of a football ground allow for a lot of folk to stand and watch with space between them – far more than 30 anyway!”

The Town boss was left disappointed about the recent departure of striker Tony Pinder to pastures new. Pinder has signed for Cullompton Rangers and Stunell says: “To say I am disappointed is an understatement. The lad lives just five minutes from our ground and yet wants to travel every week up to play for a team playing at the same level as us. I have always said I’d never stand in a player’s way if they want to move on and indeed up, the football pyramid, but I am not so sure this particular step is a huge forward one. That said, we wish him every success – except, of course, when he plays against us!”

As for any replacement for Pinder, Stunell says: “Tony actually only played a handful of times last year as he was looking to try his luck at Bridport. In terms of a replacement, we may already have that in the squad. Opportunity knocks for one or two and I am confident that, before that first league ball is kicked in September, we will have a squad capable of being very competitive at this level.”

Speaking about the congested start to the new league campaign - the Tigers face as many as seven league games and an FA Vase tie, all inside the first 25 days of the new term - the Tigers’ boss says: “It’s a tough one for sure, but the positive of such a busy early season schedule is that it allows you to build momentum and, if all goes well and its the right sort of momentum, then it can set you up for a successful season.

“One thing that is crystal clear is that the players are going to have to be 100 per cent committed to the cause. Indeed, anything but a fully committed player will not be welcome for what we need now, arguably, more than ever before, is players who are prepared to go beyond the ‘extra mile’. As many as eight games in 25 September days means the squad being utilised to the full and it also means that opportunity knocks for the players, all of whom, will get their chance at some stage.”

The Town boss is also delighted with how the new reserve team has taken shape.

He says: “Dan [Prettejohn] has done a brilliant job and put together a very useful side indeed, having two senior teams is going to be of huge benefit to the club going forward and it’s fair to say that I am very excited about the future at this club.”


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