Clubs aim to kick off new season with morale-boosting piece of silverware

Torbay Weekly

Totnes and Dartington FC will be hosting this season’s TCS South Devon Football League Charity Shield competition tomorrow night.

The shield, with kick-off at 6.30pm, is a South Hams derby between Premier Division sides East Allington United and Meadowbrook Athletic.

This season’s charity will be the league’s benevolent fund, which provides financial support to players injured during the season.

Traditionally, the shield is contested by the previous season’s league and Herald Cup winners but with neither competition concluded due to the pandemic, this season’s competing sides were invited based on overall team performance and player availability.

Both sides reached the semi-finals of last season’s Manor Building Company Premier Division Cup and East Allington had also missed out on the chance of a third Herald Cup in 2020 when that season’s competition also had to be curtailed at the semi-final stage.

East Allington United manager Tom Harvey, whose first season in charge of the Pirates was disrupted by the virus, will be looking to kick off the new season with a morale-boosting piece of silverware.

“It sets you up with a positive note to the start of the season. It almost sends a message of what we’re aiming to do this season, which is to win things.

"We’ve got some new players coming in so for them to win something straight off the bat and go into the new season in a confident mood would be fantastic.

"I want to see a good manner of performance with a lot of effort and a lot of fight."

Long-standing Meadowbrook manager Phil Collings said: “It would be great for the players to have a trophy to play for after the past two seasons.

“The club and the players are looking forward to it and I think it’s a great idea by the league.

“We’re looking forward to it being a team from the South Hams that we’re playing too.

“It makes it into a bit of a local derby. East Allington are a good side and we’ve had some good games with them in the past. I hope it will be a good game for everybody watching - it will be very competitive, I’m sure.”

Brook were riding high in the Premier Division before the league was expunged in January and both sides will be hoping to build on impressive pre-season results and performances.

“We’ve won every pre-season friendly we’ve played and we’re looking quite good,” said Collings. “We played a side from Bournemouth, of an equivalent standard, and managed to beat them 3-1.”

“Pre-season has been pretty good. I’ve been quite impressed with the lads,” said Harvey. “We beat Liverton, who play at Step Seven, 3-1 which I was very impressed with, the manner of the display more than anything. Generally, it’s just been getting fitness back and fine-tuning things ready for the season.

“We’ve got some new additions to the squad and Josh Pascoe, having been away with Dartmouth, has decided to come back to us. He’s a great addition, a real ball-playing midfielder who complements the other midfielders. It’s given us a different dynamic.

“We’ve got a good front three with good forward options from the bench. Any additions to the team are always welcome though.”

“All the players from last season have stayed and we’ve had a few players come down from Totnes and Dartington to join us,” said Collings. “That will be good for strength in depth next season.”

On the flip side, both sides will have to adapt to the loss of stalwart goalkeepers.

“Dan Woods has retired,” revealed Collings. “He’s still involved with the club and helps us out but he’s decided his body can’t take it any more. He’s been a great asset to the club for the past three years.”

“Sadly, Richard Teague has had to step away from football for a little bit,” said Harvey. “He’s a huge character but we’ve got a 16 year old ‘keeper called Sam Perry coming through who is a very promising young player.”

The first league game of the season takes place this Saturday, a Premier Division clash between Ivybridge Town Reserves and Buckfastleigh Rangers at Erme Park. The rest of the teams kick off the following Saturday (September 4), with East Allington drawn away to Barton Athletic and Meadowbrook hosting Buckfastleigh.

“It is a good competitive league so there are no easy teams now,” said Harvey. “Barton will be no different to any other team so we will show the same attitude that we go into every game. We’re looking to win and play well and do the best we can against every team. Hopefully, come the end of the season we will be right up there.

“There are a lot of good teams in the league. The Windmill are no slouches and WBB are a good, well-drilled outfit. If we can win it, that would be outstanding and that’s what we will aim to do but I would be happy with anything in the top three.”

“Buckfastleigh will be a tough team,” said Collings. “We had them in our tournament group last season and we drew them both. They were both competitive games.

We’ve always got a target for the season and that is to finish top of the league. I believe, with the squad that we’ve got, that we will be up there or thereabouts. I’m not going to say that we’re going to win it because I know there are some quality teams in the Premier League but we hope to be in the mix at the end of the season.”

“We have some big characters,” said Harvey. “Dan Bowles, Finley Bullen, Josh Pascoe, Josef Sita; they’re all experienced footballers, help the younger ones and bring a good vibe and fun side to things in the dressing room. The social side of our club is like no other I’ve ever been at. It’s a positive changing room which bodes well for the future.

“You ask anybody involved with the club, it’s like a family. The reserve team root for the first team, the first team root for the reserves and help out when they can. The fans are all local people, love the club and have been around for years. Geraldine, Martin and Andy Weeks, what they’ve done for the running of the club is second to none. We wouldn’t be the club we are without what they do.”