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Our First Team manager looks back on the season

Our First Team manager looks back on the season

Gerry Lightfoot8 May - 23:25
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As the 2023-24 season is now over, how did our manager Dan ‘Dowie’ Burnett think it went.

What were the best games of the season?

The best game for the team was one I actually was not at - Whitstable Town away in the FA Vase Second Qualifying Round. Ben Caldecourt my assistant took charge and that was the best game for him and for the club. Against a very good Kent side, we knew it was going to be very hard as most Kent sides are. During the week before the match, we prepped the team very well in training and it paid off.

For me personally, it was Newhaven away. We went there with a good squad but with players playing out of position in a new formation that we had never ever trained on or played in. All night we let them have the ball at the back and cut out their threat players. The details I told the players I got spot on and the players took them on board. They must have had thirty crosses in the second half which we allowed them to do due to our height in our three at the back.

The other best game for us both was Eastbourne Town away. A Tuesday night away from home, a 7:30 pm kick off and no kit until 7:10 pm, need I say more. What a shift the boys put in. The space in the areas were the key for this game. Where we got Jay Simpson into was superb and the counter attacks from our wing backs were also good. Again, for this game we had players playing out of position.
Note that Eastbourne Town beat Newhaven in the promotion play off final so two of the best teams in the league.

How do you think the second half of the season went?

Not sure when the second half of the season started with all the postponements but I was absolutely buzzing with our performance through December – we should have won team of the month for our month of wins and clean sheets! Following that it was a bit mixed which is understandable. I am more disappointed with the end of the season as for the last two seasons we have really tailed off, only picking up a few wins in the last ten games which has been synonymous with Lingfield recently. We are not able to put our finger on why this happens. It might be due to being safely in mid table which is actually a credit to us as safety at Step 5 should never be underestimated for a small village like ours.

There were more interruptions due to pitch problems - did this affect our performances?
Looking at the last three seasons we were 12th with 46pts in 2022, 14th last season with 34pts and now 11th with 47pts but what has improved is our defence as this season we conceded the fewest goals of the three seasons giving us our best goal difference. We converted more defeats into draws although won a game less - do you see this as giving us a good base to build on for next season?

Pitch problems at The Lair were frustrating but a big Thank You to our Chairman Laurence Jones for hiring another pitch and to Horley Town for putting up with us throughout the season. We only had three or four games called off whereas at Lingfield we would still be trying to catch up now on home games I reckon. Hopefully, next season sees us back at The Lair on a fantastic playing field and playing lovely football for all the locals. I do not think it affected our performances as we knew we were playing at Horley. We were unbeaten at ‘home’ until we played Midhurst & Easebourne.

We have improved every season under my management and bringing Ben in has also improved us as tactically he is very good at getting a message across to the players. Conceding less goals this season was down to the mentality of the team and from December changing formations. However, the defence starts from the strikers and their roles in the team are just as important as the defence.

Goals for us this season should have been higher. Honestly, I believe that if Conor Wilford had not been injured for three to four months, he would have been up there with the top goalscorers in the league - he was a big miss for those months. We have a good base for next season - I think we just need to be fitter for the whole season and to concentrate for 90 plus minutes. If we can add some more flair to the side and compete like we did, I would hope to see us in and around the 60-70 point mark - causing more upsets.

What was the thinking behind your choice of Luke Richardson as your player of the season?
Of the choice of Josh McArthur Nolan as most improved player?
And of George Branton as best newcomer?

Firstly Luke Richardson, what a pleasure to manage this season just like all the boys. Conor Wilford managed to get him down pre-season and we succeeded in making him enjoy it enough to stay and bring him to the club from Horley Town. Luke was one of four or five players up for this award but he added goals from centre half and was very solid at the back. He is a no nonsense solid centre back. Yes, he got sent off and missed a few games through injury and holiday but honestly when he was in the team at the back, he was our Rolls Royce. If he stays injury free, no suspensions and no holidays he will easily be on the radar of teams at higher levels.

Josh McArthur Nolan was the most improved player last season and it is an award I really like as it means he has improved over the course of the season. He left us in pre-season to go to another club but I kept on ringing him when I saw him on their bench as I knew what talent he has and I knew what he could bring to our team. He eventually gave up on that team and came back to us which I was excited about. Unfortunately, he was cup tied for the FA Vase so it was hard for him to get in to the squad or a starting position. He messaged me and said I could have of stayed at Corinthians sitting on the bench but I explained the situation and he understood. Once our run in the FA Vase was over, he was in the squad and never looked back. He was always our number one name on the team sheet and with confidence he got better and better game by game. He also scooped the players player award for the season. If he adds goals to his performances next season, he will be one of the league’s best players.

George Branton - best newcomer. Well, say no more. What a legend we have down at Lingfield. He settled almost straight away with the boys and is a character on and off the field. In the changing rooms he was a voice and that came with experience. He was also up for managers player of the year. He came as a midfielder and we have converted him into a centre half. He gives 110% every game and that is all we ask for.

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