Written by Scott W [Twitter: @ScottMHC14]
Hello and welcome to the latest of my ‘Club In-Focus’ blog series, where we ask Clubs how they felt their 2019-20 season went. This time around, it’s the turn of EOFL Division Two side Old Southendian Reserves, who play on the 3G at Garon Park, which opened this season. I caught up with Manager Ben Manley (BM), his assistant (and brother) David Manley (DM) and last season’s captain Olly Tatton-Bennett (OTB), representing the players’ viewpoint.
My thanks to all for their time and thanks for reading. You can find the team on Twitter: @OSFCReserves
Going into the Essex Olympian League season at Division Two level after winning Division Three the previous season, how did you feel the side would cope with the opposition?
BM: To be honest a lot of teams came up with us from Division 3 which we had won the previous season so our aim was to secure a 3rd consecutive promotion.
DM: We’ve also played teams in leagues above us in cup games over the last couple of years and generally faired pretty well against them. We also have a lot of quality and depth in the squad so another promotion was always the goal.
What was the favourite match of the season and why?
BM: I would probably say Corinthians away which you yourself attended Scott. I thought we played some great football that day coupled with a lot of grit and determination which is what our side is all about and we also scored some great goals. I also really enjoyed Barnston away. It was our first game in the Essex Premier Cup having won the Essex Junior Cup the previous season. We had several players out that day and I even had to start in goal! We came from behind a couple of times and were really up against it but ended up winning on penalties with some heroics from our goalkeeper George Dugdale after drawing 3 – 3 aet.
DM: I’d agree with the cup game Ben mentions as that was an epic battle of two teams going for it. I wasn’t at the Corinthians win but the home game against them where we scored an equaliser in the last minute was great and we actually had a chance in the last seconds to win the game which would have topped everything else!
What was your best performance away from Garon Park this season?
BM: Along with the game at Corinthians, probably Epping away although we did end up drawing. We were unfortunate to play them twice towards the beginning of the season when they were very strong. They had already turned us over at our place and had won all their games up until playing them away. We played them off the park that day, squandered a lot of chances and as always happens when you can’t put a team to bed, we conceded a last minute equaliser!
DM: Yep, this was by far the best football we played on a nice big pitch.
What was your best performance at Garon Park this season?
BM: I would have to say our home game against Beacon Hill Rovers. Up until that point, I think they’d only lost once and we really needed to win to keep us fighting at the top end of the table. It was a real battle but we fight hard and scored some fantastic goals including a worldy from top scorer Molsy (Greg Molford), a free kick from Tatts (Oliver Tatton-Bennett) and 18 year old Lewis Telling scoring with his first touch for the club!
On or off-the-pitch, what was your most memorable moment from this season?
DM: I actually think one of the great memories personally was when the final whistle went in our first game of the season against Wakering Sports. We’d put a lot of effort into our pre season and knew it was so important to get off to a good start. It was a really tough game but getting that first win as new managers was a great feeling!
OTB: Personally a moment that sticks out for me is actually Andy Cable hammering home right near the end of the game to bring us back to 3-3 against May & Baker Reserves. It was raining heavily at Garons and I think we had been behind three times in the game before pulling it back again to level up. Typical gritty performance but really showed our commitment!
Were there any low points of the campaign for you?
BM: Losing at home to Epping 5-1 was a horrible day for me. I think we got our tactics wrong that day and didn’t really turn up but I learned a hell of a lot from that defeat and I think it really helped me improve for the rest of the season. Tatts breaking his collarbone was also a particular low point for me as he’d been having such a fantastic season, grabbing games by the scruff of the neck and I know the rest of the team really fed off him throughout.
DM: Agree with the Epping result…I was away at the time but hearing we’d lost did put a huge downer on the weekend!
OTB: Definitely breaking my collarbone!
Besides yourselves, which team do you believe played the best Football in your division this season?
BM: I think our division was extremely strong and a lot of teams wouldn’t be out of place in the Essex Olympian Premier division as can be seen by some of the results in the Essex Premier Cup. Epping were strong both times we played them as were Chris Stoneham’s Corinthians. I thought Laindon Orient were also very good when we played them and we were very fortunate to get a point from that game and of course Leigh Town had a fantastic season and are great at finding a way at getting a result. We always seem to have cracking games against them.
DM: I agree, Corinthians and Leigh Town are very similar to us in terms of their playing styles, and like us they play with a bit of bite about them so it always makes for a great game against us.
How important is it that the EOFL matches are covered by amateur media, particularly with focus elsewhere on other divisions higher up the Non-League pyramid?
BM: The job you do along with others is so important. We play at a really good standard with players and management having to travel quite far at times and most of us paying for the privilege! There is also so much hard work and volunteering that goes on behind the scenes that people don’t always see, so I think it’s great that we get the kind of recognition and coverage that you give. I know everyone at the club really appreciates it as well.
Ben, you’ve indicated you’ll be stepping aside as Old Southendian Reserves boss in the summer, what are your favourite moments from your tenure as manager of this team?
BM: I think generally watching the lads buy into and implement the subtle changes we’d made to the system was great to see. Some of the team goals we scored as a direct result were superb. Generally speaking as well, seeing some of the youngsters come through and improve in confidence week in week out, particularly Lewis Caplin and Nick Skinner, was one of the most rewarding parts of managing last season.
Finally, any other exciting news for the future you’d like to share?
BM: We’ve made our links with Southendian Youth more official which is an exciting time for the club and it gives their players a real path into men’s football as we’ve already seen some of their guys such as Lewis Caplin make the step up. Aside from that, we have Olly (Tatts) and David along with Josh Bambury taking the team forward next season and I know they have very ambitious plans for next season! I’m very much looking forward to supporting them and seeing how far they can go.
If your club (at Essex Olympian, Essex Senior or Eastern Senior League South levels) would be interested in sharing your thoughts on your 2019/20 season then please DM me on Twitter. Thank you