‘Onwards and upwards’ for Axminster Town as manager praises team for ‘seamless’ 1-0 win

It was a case of 13th time lucky for Axminster Town manager Dan Prettejohn as his team ended a run of a dozen games without a victory, winning 1-0 at Newton Abbot Spurs on the penultimate Saturday of March, writes Stephen Birley.

Prettejohn admitted that he had taken his team to Newton Abbot with an element of ‘concern’ as the Tigers travelled missing a number of ‘big-hitters’.

The Tigers’ boss explained saying: “We had a number of what I’ll call our ‘big-hitters’ missing and had three players stepping up from the club’s second team, but, and I have every faith in all the players who pull on a Town shirt, the biggest compliment I can pay the team for that shift at Newton Abbot is that the collective performance was seamless.”

He added: “What’s more, given that we had beaten them [Newton Abbot Spurs] 5-0 at our place in the first week of the season, I really felt that we’d have a seriously motivated home side bang up to ‘put us in our place’ – but that really did not materialise and that is all down to the collective performance from our lads.” Prettejohn had high praise for one individual in particle.

He said: “Tom [Edwards] was superb. Testament to his shift was the fact that we barely gave a very good Newton Abbot Spurs team a sight of Jason [Hutchings] and his goal.

“I had Tom with me when I was at Upottery (Prettejohn managed the East Devon village side before switching to Tiger Way in 2020).

“He is a ‘machine’ and his game is not just all about perpetual motion either for he can pass and tackle and his performance in central midfield was a key element of us going home with all three points.”

On the matter of his team having ended a run of 12 games without a win, the Tigers’ boss said: “It’s been such a frustrating time because, and certainly on paper, we have assembled a squad at Tiger Way that ought to be right bang up there amongst the teams battling for honours at this level.”

He continued: “To be fair, during the run, as low as I got as an individual, I tried very hard not to show any of my feelings to the players.”

He said ‘little things’ went against the team.

Prettejohn said: “A mistake here and a mistake there, combining to see us lose when perhaps a draw would have been a fairer outcome and indeed draw when we ought to have come away with a win.

“So, to get the run ended, and with a clean sheet success, at a quality outfit like Newton Abbot Spurs, gives us all a lift and helps with the belief that we are doing things right and are indeed, on the road to where we want to be in terms of the bigger picture for the club.”

Axminster Town have 11 more games to play in the closing stages of the season.

It is going to be a busy run-in for Prettejohn and the Tigers with those last 11 games squeezed into a 34-day period starting with this Saturday’s (March 26) visit to Bovey Tracey.

In terms of the remainder of the season and ‘targets’ for his team, Prettejohn says: “It’s very simple. I want us to win as many of the final 11 games as we can and so finish as high as we can in the table.”

To the question of, has the Tigers’ boss, with just five weeks of the campaign remaining, got an eye on next season? Prettejohn responds saying: “Of course I have, but then, as I first found when at Upottery.

“The bottom line is you can end a season and then five or six of the lads might well go off on a holiday and come back either having made a collective decision to go somewhere else for the next season, or indeed, have other clubs come in for them.

“That said, what I am so chuffed about is that already some of our players, and I mean the ‘bigger hitters’ are already talking in very positive ways about next season and that’s brilliant because one thing that this current season has shown me is that at Axminster Town, we are on a journey and the tag ‘work in progress’ applies to us.

“And most certainly, we have unfinished business to attend to – and that’s ‘football talk’ for, onwards and upwards and the continued development and growth of our club being our number one goal.”

Of more immediate concern for Prettejohn and this Saturday’s visit to Bovey Tracey.

He says: “That win at Newton Abbot is now history and, to be quite frank, the mission this Saturday is to make sure we do not undo all the good we did at Newton Abbot. That clean sheer win there will count for nothing if we don’t know go out and do the business against Bovey.”

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