Red Hot Tangerines

Impetus partner club Ashford Town Middlesex have started the Tier Five London & South-East Premier with six wins from six – averaging over six goals a game in the process. Assistant Head coach Matthew Aumeeruddy, captain Liss Down and striker Ashley Cheatley, sponsored by Impetus all spoke to Ben Gilby about their campaign so far.

Above: Ashford Town (Middx) in the huddle at AFC Wimbledon in a pre-season friendly. Photo: Ben Gilby.

In this first of a two part feature, we discuss pre-season focuses, aspirations and a critical examination of their start to the campaign.

BEN GILBY: (BG) Let’s first start in pre-season. After the frustration of your promotion application being turned down, was it hard to lift the players at all or was it all a sense of channelling the frustration into making sure you did it on the pitch this time round?

MATTHEW AUMEERUDDY: Not really, we recognised that there was always a chance that it would not happen, so was prepared for either event happening. In terms of lifting the players, that was far from the case. There was a natural frustration, which happens when things do not go your way. However, they recognised that this process was out of their hands so to speak, and that we couldn’t have done anymore. There is certainly a determination to do well this season but that’s more of an intrinsic motivation for us to be the best we can be rather than as a reaction to events which have happened.

BG: From a captain’s perspective, Liss?

LISS DOWN (LD): Everyone was disappointed that our application to be promoted to the FAWNL wasn’t successful but our aim has stayed the same from last season and every season, to gain promotion to the league above. The club as a whole is very ambitious and everyone is fighting towards the same thing, which is trophies and success.

BG: How did the pre-season recruitment process go? Who came in and what was it about them that made you keen to bring them on board?

MA: I look at recruitment from a couple of points, which are retaining and bring in news players. Retaining and looking after the players who have served Ashford well, is what we first look at and then at ways in which we can strengthen the squad. The pleasing thing is that the majority of the first team are still with us and believe in the longer-term vision at Ashford. We also managed to add players a couple of players in Frances Cotter and Megan McGarvey. who have settled in well and have demonstrated great potential which will see them get stronger as the season progresses.

For us, the recruitment process is still ongoing as we are always looking to recruit the right players in order to give our squad a different dimension. We welcome hearing from any potential newcomers so please do get in touch!

Above: Matthew Aumeeruddy, Ashford Town (Middx) Assistant coach.
Photo supplied by: Matthew Aumeeruddy

LD: Matt’s right. Our squad is very similar from the last campaign. We were lucky that everyone re-signed. Only Phoebe Head and Holly Symons left but they played a key role in getting us off to a good start before going to university. 

BG: How do you assess the pre-season friendly program in terms of outcomes?

MA: Our pre-season programme saw a lot of changes from what was originally set out at the beginning, which was due to covid related issues with opposition. Whilst it was frustrating, we fully support the clubs’ decision as it is always better to be safe than sorry in these matters.  Overall, we were pleased with the different tests that we had ranging from tier four to tier six teams. The main aims were to build match fitness and continue to implement our principles of play which were largely achieved.

LD: Pre-season as a whole was positive, we played some very good teams who gave us different challenges and that has given us a positive mentality going in to the season. Looking back at the game against AFC Wimbledon from the league above (FAWNL Division One South-East) where the result didn’t go our way, what we learnt about ourselves in that game was more valuable than the overall result. 

ASHLEY CHEATLEY (AC): During pre-season the conversations centred around winning, gaining promotion and having success.

We want to play good football, become fluid in different formations and win trophies. In order for us to do that we need to treat every game like a cup final whether that be a friendly, cup, or league fixture.

In terms of the pre-season fixtures that we had, I thought we did OK. We prepared well, away to Luton Town (of the Eastern Region Premier – parallel tier five to Ashford’s own level) we didn’t have a great result and AFC Wimbledon, who play in the division above in the FA Women’s National League is always a challenge, but overall I think we did OK and it prepared us for the season we have ahead.

Above: Ashley Cheatley, pictured in action for Ashford Town (Middx) on the opening day of the London & SE Premier at home to Millwall Lionesses.
Photo: Ben Gilby.

BG: Ashford Town have started the league season with six wins from six. How do you assess the opening matches and what aspects do you feel the team still need to improve in?

MA: We are of course pleased with our start to the season. Each game has provided different challenges to overcome and so far we have found a way to overcome them. I think the pleasing aspect has been the style of play and to see the patterns of play that we worked on happen in the game. But we realise that this is only the beginning, with a lot of football still to be played. We always look for ways to improve our performances.

LD: We couldn’t have got off to a better start, everyone is buzzing but we are definitely taking each game as it comes. Every game so far has provided us different challenges which we have overcome and managed to get a positive result in. I feel that going forward we play with freedom and we score a lot of goals. Our main target as a team is to stop conceding as many goals and hopefully keep some more clean sheets.

AC: We’ve really started well, we couldn’t have asked for a better start to the league, but we know we still need to continue to work hard for the rest of the season and every week we look to improve on all aspects of the pitch.

I think you can always improve all areas, so I wouldn’t necessarily pick a specific area for this.

BG: Liss, tell us a bit specifically about your role as captain how the team ethos is continuing to build ever stronger.

LD: Being appointed as captain of this team this season is such an honour, the girls are fantastic and so easy to captain. Our group is close which makes things a lot easier, we enjoy having banter at training and match days but when it comes to 2pm we are focused on the game. We are all only focusing on each game as it comes, obviously we look at the other results after our game on a Sunday, who doesn’t? We know what we want to achieve but we are only a quarter of the way through the league campaign and nothing is won now, the important thing is to remain focused.

Above: Liss Down (left of the referee) leads out Ashford Town (Middx) against Millwall Lionesses. Photo: Ben Gilby.

BG: Ash, you’re having another red hot season in front of goal already. How do you assess your form so far and what are the particular attributes that make you such an incredible goal scorer?

AC: I’m slowly starting to find my form, I had a slower start to the season than I would have liked, but ten goals in the last three games has given me a bit of life, I’m hoping to just keep scoring every week. 

I do actually set myself targets, I tend to look at the previous season and try and top it. I have a target to be the highest goal scorer in the league as well.

I think I’m quite quick and agile, with the ability to run at players and keep the ball close by which is hard to defend. It helps too with making runs to get to the right places! I do have confidence in my own ability to take players on and to score goals consistently, but I have confidence in the players around me to be able to assist me.

Next Thursday, Matthew, Liss and Ashley discuss the London & SE Premier so far, the progress of Ashford’s other teams and their role models growing up.

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