Melton Town target FA Cup qualification as season set for kick-off

Tom Manship has been pleased with their high-calibre pre-season tests EMN-180108-093408002
Tom Manship has been pleased with their high-calibre pre-season tests EMN-180108-093408002
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Co-manager Tom Manship is refusing to get carried away with lofty expectations as Melton Town kick off their campaign on Saturday.

Town finished 16th in Division One of the United Counties League last season, after a few brief worries about relegation.

But the squad has been transformed over the summer by their new management team of Manship and Jon Stevenson.

The pair have brought in several players from a couple of steps up the non-league ladder, to blend with a nucleus of Melton-based players.

But Manship, from Waltham, is determined to show the league respect by keeping the lid on talk of instant titles and promotions.

The division offers just one promotion place up to the step five Premier, and Melton are not alone in having significantly bolstered their squad.

Saturday’s opponents Irchester United come to Sign Right Park (ko 3pm) after a similar close season of recruitment and an impressive 4-0 win at Raunds Town last weekend, while Harrowby United have also done likewise.

“Irchester are very similar to us and they will be ones to watch this year,” Manship said.

“We are beginning the season with a difficult test which suits me.”

He added: “There is no pressure this year. The minimum target we have is qualification for the FA Cup next season.

“We’ll just take each game as it comes and let’s see where it takes us as a group. That’s all I can ask.”

While pre-season results come a distant second to performance, Manship is pleased with the club’s results and believes the calibre of opposition they have faced has honed their sharpness for the new challenge.

“We beat Grantham and Hinckley quite comfortably which was very pleasing,” he said.

“Every game I have played our strongest XI in the first half and at half-time we were ahead against Loughborough and had been the stronger side against Stamford.

“The only team to have dominated us were Rushden and Diamonds which you would expect from a team at their level.

“We haven’t taken an easy route against Sunday teams or lower league; every team we have played has been from a higher level so we couldn’t get more prepared.”

Most of the recruitment was completed early in the window, but they have most recently added forward Sam Thorpe and former Derby County academy defender Tom Rigby to their Melton contingent which also includes Rob Peet, James Hollis, Kyle Reek and Alex Horobin.

Manship and Stevenson are making their managerial bows with Melton and the learning curve has begun before the season has even kicked off.

“The biggest thing I have learned from the job so far is about people’s characters,” Manship added.

“I’ve been more than impressed with 90 per cent of the group; their character has been fantastic,

“There have been a few that have let me down and wanted to take the easy route, but it’s better to find that out now.

“It’s left us with a very mentally strong group who are there for the duration.”