By Joshua Peck and Sam Elliott
IT may be their first time back in Step 4 since reforming six years ago, but that hasn’t stopped Ashford United boss Danny Lye aiming for the play-offs.
The Kent side were Southern Counties East champions last time round and will play in Bostik South this season, this coming after a rise through the leagues having reformed from Ashford Town in 2011.
And with the play-offs going down to sixth spot, Lye has set his sights on the top end of the table.
“A lot of my boys have played Ryman Premier and Ryman South before, so we are confident and looking forward to it, he told The NLP. “We want to get a good start and then we’ll be alright.
“Being boring we want to make sure we get points on the board and be safe as soon as possible and then we’ll take it from there, but I want play-offs.
“It’s a good opportunity with that extra play-off place, and just the one going down takes some pressure off.”
Ashford start at home to Carshalton Athletic on Saturday before travelling to South Park the following Tuesday. Lye added: “It’s good to start at home. We’ve got 3G which is huge for the club. It means we’ve got two game plans, one for home and one for away on grass. It’s quite nice to have the different game plans engrained in the players because it means we are very flexible too.”
QUIZ question for you. Name the football manager who won promotion at the end of last season without taking charge of a single match?
Step forward Shoreham’s Sammy Donnelly. So good at his job that he doesn’t even need to step into the dugout and his team end up playing in a higher league.
“I’ve never really looked at it that way but I suppose it would make a good question down your local on quiz night,” laughed the new boss.
“It’s been a very strange time for the club, but although the summer has been full of ups and downs we can’t wait now for the real football to start and for the club to be playing in the Bostik South – however we got there.”
When he arrived at the club, the brilliantly named Mussels had missed out on promotion from the Southern Combination League by some way.
Finishing five points behind champions Haywards Heath Town, they were planning for another go at it this time around.
They would have to do it without their manager Brian O’Toole, though. He resigned before Donnelly answered the call.
Six weeks later, the decision which rocked everyone arrived. Heath had nine points deducted which meant – over a month and half after the final day of the season – Shoreham had won it after all!
Not only league winners, but promoted too. One of those ‘only in Non-League’ situations had unfolded.
Donnelly added: “It’s a bit strange but we’ve thrown ourselves into it. I came here with one aim, to get the club up and now we find ourselves in Step 4.
“It was a good start to my time at the club winning promotion within a few weeks and without taking a game! We’ll take it, that’s for sure. We feel for Haywards Heath, but it’s not the way we wanted to do it either.
“You want football decided on the pitch not in FA boardrooms. We didn’t have anything to do with their points deduction but we’ve got to take what’s been decided and we’re looking forward to the new challenge.”
But with their destiny not known until June, are Shoreham playing catch up?
“We are if I’m being honest,” Donnelly said. “It was a dramatic six weeks or so, and we’re a bit behind still because of it.
“The jump is big, really big. We’re going to be going to teams who pay players well and we need to measure up to that.
“We’re a young side, but we’ll aim as high as we possibly can. There’s no lack of ambition, they’re a good bunch of players who have impressed me with their work ethic in pre-season. We’ve got a squad together that we hope can hold our own. We’re just waiting for next weekend now when we can put that into practice.”