Cirencester Town Development Team coming good
CIRENCESTER TOWN boss Brian Hughes believes that forming a Development Team at the Corinium Stadium is ‘the best decision the club has made in recent years’.
Three and a half seasons into the experiment, Hughes is now reaping the benefits of having a youthful reserve side which bridges the gap between the club’s Academy and the first XI, allowing youngsters to take their first steps into adult football in the Hellenic Div 2 West rather than the more rarefied atmosphere of the Southern League.
It was predominantly the club’s Development Team which drew 1-1 with the full-time youngsters of Cheltenham Town in the Gloucester Senior Trophy last week, before going out on penalties.
“Our lads were every bit as good as Cheltenham – and also a shade younger,” said Hughes, whose first XI now boasts a number of graduates from the Development side like Ellis Dunton, Aidan Bennett, Brad Hooper and Shane Bumphrey – with a number of other players knocking on the door.
Being able to recruit from within is also a godsend for a manager who has had his budget cut by 40 per cent following relegation from the Evo-Stik Southern Premier last season.
Town lie just two places outside the play-off places in seventh – albeit having played more games than their immediate rivals – following a run of three straight wins.
And, having struggled to get sufficient numbers on the bench, the boss is now faced with that rarity – a selection dilemma ahead of the visit from Clevedon Town.
“I try to manage how I would want to be treated as a player,” said Hughes. “I only see the point in shuffling the pack if we are not doing well – and they lads are doing very well right now.
“Even in December, I was much happier about the way the team was playing – we were just not getting the results we deserved then.
Who gets the left winger spot is one tough call for the boss – with two Development players in the running.
Josh Morse has looked potential star material in the role but while away on English Colleges duty, his replacement Shane Bumphrey proved a game-changing substitute in the 3-2 home win over Sholing.
“Shane came in and did exceptionally well and it would not have been fair to drop him for Saturday’s visit to Tiverton, so we allowed Josh to return to the Development Team.
Morse came up with the sort of response that would hearten any manager – he scored a hat-trick and set up five further goals in the 10-0 thrashing of Old Woodstock Town.
“I’m told he was absolutely brilliant,” said Hughes.
Former club captain Jamie Reid is also not guaranteed an instant return to the starting line-up against Cleveden after completing a three-match ban and for his third red card of the season.
In his absence, the influential and loyal club man Reid has also lost the captain’s armband to recent recruit from Slimbridge, Shane Anson.
Town needed an 88th minute winner from another Development graduate, Sam Packer to confirm their overall superiority at Tiverton.
“It was an awful pitch and Tiverton did well to get the game on at all,” said Hughes.
“But I don’t think the home side can have any complaints about the result. We did most of the attacking in the second half.”
The Tivvy website singled out Ciren midfielder Ben Wells, calling him a ‘little magician of a player for this level’.
“Yeah, Wellsy is already taking some stick about that,” confirmed Hughes. “But he has got fantastic ability and we have been working hard to get him on the ball a bit more.
“I always liked him as a player at Supermarine and we have given him a role with more freedom.
Hughes hopes revenge is in the air on Saturday.
“Clevedon turned us over at their place, but it came two days after Matt Sysum left the club and we were a bit unsettled,” he said.
“Now, I am as comfortable with my team as I have been for ages.”
On Tuesday night, Cirencester Town travel to title-chasing Merthyr for a rearranged game after they had to pull out of the original January date due to their Welsh rivals’ cup commitments.