03:52PM, Thursday 10 March 2022
Burnham still have their targets for this season, but new manager Ben Murray is already casting one eye to next season when he thinks they’ll be a much stronger position to challenge for promotion.
Murray is keen for the Blues to finish in the top six of what he calls ‘their own mini league’, but those hopes weren’t helped by conceding a 98th minute goal in a 3-2 home defeat to second placed Abbey Rangers on Saturday.
Burnham are 13th in the table after Saturday’s agonising defeat at the 1878 Stadium, too far away from the bottom to be drawn into a relegation scrap but too far from the action at the top of the table as well.
As such they’re effectively in what Murray calls a ‘glorified’ extended pre-season, where they're working out what systems work best and how they can get the best from the players at their disposal.
However, that doesn't mean they’re not committed to finishing as high as they can in the division this season and the players are all aware of the targets that have been set.
“We’ve set up a little target mini league,” said Murray, who took over from Manny Williams as manager in early January.
“We want to finish in the top six of that. The result on Saturday puts us just outside the top six of that.
“We’ve got our targets as a group, but you’re right, we’re trying different things out and, for us, it’s a bit like a glorified pre-season without disrespecting the division this year.
“We can’t go up and it’s highly unlikely we’ll go down, so we just want to ensure that we play the right way and work out the things that work well and phase out the things that don’t.
“I don’t envisage releasing any players in the summer. The only reason would be if they go off to teams in a higher division which we
always try and promote.
“We’ll try and keep the same squad together if we can and then bring in the players who will help us achieve what we want to achieve.”
The Blues return to league action at second from bottom CB Hounslow on Saturday, looking to bounce back after a couple of disappointing results against Ascot United (4-0) and Abbey Rangers (3-2). Burnham more than played their part in Saturday's entertaining encounter with Rangers, scoring in the 70th and 72nd through Matteo Esposito and Firas Chniba's penalty to make it 2-1 before the visitors battled back for victory, Archy Taylor completing his hat-trick in the 98th minute.
“That 98th minute winner went down really well,” joked Murray.
“Because of the group we've got there's no fear in them. They just want to go out and play our style of football.
“We like to keep the ball moving and play high-tempo stuff. Every team we've played so far has complimented us on how we've been playing, so now it's about implementing a bit of game management.
“We’ve got time for that between now and the end of the season and then we'll prepare them for trying to get promoted next season.
“We’ve already got a nice group together ready for July. We’ve been looking at everyone and giving everyone a chance.
“When we took over the confidence was low but the best way to gain confidence is to do what we're best at, which is the attacking phases and possession play.
Our back line is also getting better. The goals we've been conceding are from our own mistakes and, as much as that is frustrating, I don't mind it because they’re things we can work on. We’ve made a few mistakes playing out from the back, but I don't mind that either because I know what we’re like going forward and, on its day, our midfield is better than most in this division.”
CB Hounslow arrested a run of five straight defeats when they beat Holyport on Saturday to move off the bottom of the table, but they were beaten at home by St Panteleimon on Tuesday and remain just one point and a place above bottom club Port.
“I know them quite well and know the manager quite well,” Murray said.
“It’s quite a physical league and teams with players who know how to get through players and win games. It’s up to us to break that down with a squad that has an average age of 20/21 so every game is a decent challenge.”
A murder investigation has been launched by Thames Valley Police’s Major Crime Unit following an incident in Bourne End.