New-look Town face stiff competition

NEW-LOOK Daventry Town have gradually got their act together during half a dozen pre-season friendlies but will face stiff competition from UCL champions St Neots, Slough Town and possibly Biggleswade Town when the Southern League gets underway on Saturday, writes Mike Tebbitt.

No amount of World Cups, internationals or Premiership matches can have adequately shielded Mark Kinsella from the culture shock of dropping down seven notches to life with the part-time professionals at Communications Park.

The 48-times capped Republic of Ireland midfield man admits to having been on a steep learning curve since replacing Ady Fuller at the Daventry helm little more than a month ago.

“It’s been an enjoyable experience so far and I have tried to introduce an element of professionalism to the training even though I have only really seen the players for the equivalent of days in five weeks,” said Kinsella.

“To a man they have responded well but I have to remember they all have full-time jobs of work to do. Football for them is not a matter of life and death and at the end of the day I want them to enjoy themselves.”

The former World Cup star admitted that promotion would have been “a must” this season had he inherited all of Daventry’s play-offs final players but has conceded that promotion might take a little longer.

On Saturday the pre-season friendlies were wrapped up with an encouraging 1-1 draw at Central Division champions Arlesey. Chris Marsh scored a 65th minute opening for the home team following a string of good saves from the Town’s Dave Bevan but Kinsella’s men came back strongly to equalise through a Casmir Pangne penalty.

The opening 2-0 friendly victory over step three Banbury United had been followed by a shock 5-1 reversal against UCL outfit S and L Corby before Kinsella’s team hit back strongly with 2-0 defeats of Ryman League side Enfield Town and UCL Cogenhoe.

Early indications are though that the Central Division championship will be no easier to win than it was last season following the promotion of big-spending St Neots whose recent 2-1 win over Conference League Chelmsford City included a goal from £15,000 striker Stefan Moore.

Daventry’s weekend opponents Burnham reached the play-offs themselves a couple of years ago and took a point off the Town last season. Recent high-scoring friendly reversals against a Saudi Arabia XI, Chesham United and Maidenhead preceded a 2-0 win over lowly Binfield.

Next up for Kinsella’s men on Tuesday night will be an away trip to Aylesbury.

With goalkeeper Joe Mellings likely to be out of action for up to a couple of months because of knee ligament damage, Kinsella has brought in former Walsall number one Dave Bevan while at the same time conceding that he still needs to bolster the frontrunning options.

Pre-season training has been going well with experienced central defender Aaron Parkinson admitting: “I don’t enjoy training at the best of times but the new manager has been a breath of fresh air in this respect.”

Near-neighbours Woodford United will welcome back centre-forward Glen Hawkins for a third spell at Byfield Road when opening the campaign with a visit to North Greenford on Saturday followed by a tough home game against title-favourites St Neots three days later.