Axminster Town are preparing to take on table-topping Okehampton Argyle on Saturday (February 12), writes Stephen Birley.
However, the Tigers head into Saturday’s game looking to bring to and end a run of eight games without a win – the most recent of the eight outings being last Saturday’s 1-1 Tiger Way draw with Holsworthy when Town salvaged a point thanks to an 86th minute equaliser from Oscar Lattas.
The current run without a win stretches back to a November 17, 1-0 home win over Honiton Town which was, then, a fifth successive win for the Tigers.
Since then, Town have drawn with Torridgeside, Ivybridge Town and Torrington, lost to Liskeard and Torpoint, Exeter City (in the Devon Bowl) and Crediton United, all prior to Saturdays draw with Holsworthy.
Town boss Dan Prettejohn is unphased by the current run and confirms his confidence in his team by saying: “Saturday’s game was so typical of our recent performances. We were always ‘in’ the contest and we hit the frame of the goal four times before Oscar scored that late goal and a draw was no more than we deserved for our efforts.”
He continued: “At the start of the season when things were going so well (Town won seven, drew one and lost just two of their first 10 games) I was not getting carried away with things and I am certainly not going to get distracted from the objectives we have in place during a poor run of form.
“We have the quality in our dressing room to turn things round and, even though we are eight without a win, we’ve rarely been outplayed, indeed it’s often been a case of very fine margins being the difference between us and opponents.
“One thing I’d like to see us do more is to get shots away on the opposition goal. At the moment we do seem to be looking to make that extra pass rather than have a go, but again, that’s down to a team playing without the sort of confidence that they have shown previously.
“As they say, form is temporary and class is permanent and we have enough class in the ranks to start the goals hitting the back of the net again, though, right now, I’d settle for the scruffiest of finishes rather than a ‘play-station’ goal.”
To the question of: ‘How are the players during this current run, are they feeling the pressure?’, the Town boss said: “As a collective, the spirit remains very high and I have no doubts about the ability in the squad to see us back to the sort of run of results we enjoyed over the first 10 games of the season.”
He continued: “I did recently hear someone suggest that all is fine right now as we look very much like being nowhere near the lowly position the team finished last season, but to that, I responded by saying I am most certainly not interested in what the team did, or did not do, in previous season’s and, not for one second since I pitched up at Tiger Way, have I felt that a season where we simply finished a place above the spot that Town finished last season will represent progress. No way. For me progress is judged on this season and this season alone.
“There is a lot of football still to be played (Town still have 15 matches to play in their South West Peninsula League campaign) and I am looking for the team to finish in as high a spot as possible.”
On Saturday, Prettejohn and his team entertain table-topping Okehampton and, after a run of eight without a win, the Tigers boss might be forgiven for fearing the outcome in such a contest.
However, with last Octobers 2-0 win at Okehampton very much in mind, the Tigers boss said: “I will remind the players in training this week and again before Saturday’s game just how well they performed at Okehampton. That day we really produced the goods and even the most ardent of home fans was telling us post-match just how we had deserved to take the points home with us.”
He continued: “Make no mistake, Saturday’s visitors are not top without good reason, but this is just the sort of contest I’d expect my players to relish the challenge and I am sure we can serve up a performance.”
With regards to the final three months of the season and the remaining 15 league games, the Town boss said: “To be honest, we could do with freshening things up and bringing a couple of new faces into the squad.
“I don’t say that because I have lost any shadow of faith with the current squad, but, with covid having hit one or two and the usual injuries and loss of form, it would help our cause if we could bring in a couple of extra bodies.
“That, though, brings further problems because, in a squad of the sort of quality we have, it’s impossible to give everyone the game time they think they ought to be getting so, invariably, the odd player moves on to try and get better game time elsewhere.”
- Saturday’s game at Tiger Way has a 3pm kick-off.