(ON FIRE: Brandon Goodship netted 38 times for the Terras last season and below, manager Mark Molesley in his playing days for Bournemouth. PICTURE: Garry Griffiths)
By John Lyons
Weymouth manager Mark Molesley is convinced his young troops can handle the pressure of being one of the favourites in Evo-Stik Southern League South in the coming season.
It’s their performance in the Evo-Stik Southern Premier last term that has earmarked the Terras as ones to watch. They earned a whopping 97 points – but still only finished fifth!
The top five – Hereford (113), King’s Lynn (100), Slough (99), Kettering (97) and the Terras – were a cut above the rest last season. Weymouth finished 19 points ahead of sixth-placed Tiverton.
And the good news for the Dorset club is that they don’t have to face any other members of the ‘Famous Five’ this term. For starters, champions Hereford have moved up to National League North and play-off winners Slough will compete in National League South.
The departure of runners-up King’s Lynn – who beat Weymouth 3-0 in the play-off semi-finals – and Kettering is due to the Non-League restructuring that has taken place at Steps 3 and 4 this summer.
The Evo-Stik Southern League are now running two divisions at Step 3 instead of one. While Weymouth are in Evo-Stik Southern League South, the Linnets and Poppies have been placed in Evo-Stik Southern League Central.
That all makes it easier for the Terras, doesn’t it? But Molesley doesn’t buy it.
The former Bournemouth and Aldershot midfielder said: “We can’t hide from the fact we got 97 points last year. We have probably added a bit of pressure, but that’s part and parcel of football. We have to bear that weight. We have to look game to game and try to improve week by week.
“That’s the beauty of Non-League football – sometimes you can’t tell. You don’t know what other clubs are doing or how they’re shaping up. We were a surprise package last year, people weren’t shouting our name.
“I’m sure there are other teams who are quite confident. Salisbury have gone up and made a few signings, Gosport have appointed Craig McAllister and Matt Tubbs – they are good, experienced lads with a big contacts lists – Poole Town have kept the lion’s share of their squad who have previously won this league, Taunton won their league at a canter.
“We won’t take anything for granted. It will be as difficult as last year and the derbies will add to that. We’ve got a big challenge ahead.”
Weymouth hit 103 league goals last season and you can expect them to be free-scoring again this term. Added to the strikepower of Brandon Goodship, top scorer in the league last year with 38 goals, Harry Baker and Ben Thomson, the Terras boss has added Warren Bentley (Poole) and Tony Lee (AFC Totton).
“You can never have enough goals in the team,” said Molesley. “We’ve lost Calvin Brooks to the Army – we couldn’t fight them – but a few of the players can play other positions as well.
“The make-up of our squad is very young – last year the average age was under 23. This year they are a year older and hopefully wiser. My best signings have been to keep the group together. They deserve a chance to build on last year.”
With last term now well in the back-view mirror, Molesley can reflect on his first season in the managerial hotseat.
“Ninety-seven points was quite a good return, I don’t think anyone expected us to get that many,” he said. “But it didn’t get us anything. We were bitterly disappointed at the end.
“A lot of credit goes to the teams around us – they were real quality. We kept up with the pace and that’s true credit to the boys. We laid some good foundations.”
As for the make-up of their new division due to restructuring, Molesley is positive.
“I think geographically it’s going to be great for us,” he said. “It makes perfect sense.
“It’s very difficult for clubs to survive. We were travelling all over the country last year. We were up in Birmingham every other week.
“Resources-wise, the new set-up makes perfect sense. Getting out of the division with the new play-off system (only two of the four play-off winners will ultimately go up alongside the respective champions) will be difficult, but I think it’s great for the fans. Hopefully we’ll have a few more fans at Weymouth and a few more away. We’ve got some derbies and new clubs to look forward to playing.”
It promises to be another hectic season for Molesley. His day job is as assistant coach of the U23s at Premier League outfit Bournemouth and he manages the Terras part-time.
“It’s been a massive learning curve at Bournemouth,” he added. “They have helped develop me as a coach.
“People who come to watch Weymouth would probably say that, like Bournemouth, we like to get the ball down and play.
“However, we’re not tippy-tappy. We are aiming to win games – not just please the purists.
“The first thing I did when I was appointed manager was surround myself with fantastic staff. We have the same work ethic and share the workload.
“It’s a demanding job being manager of such a great club, but I enjoy it. It helps when you’ve got great staff and a great set of lads.”
*This article originally featured in The @NonLeaguePaper which is available every Sunday and Monday
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