STUDLEY boss Keith Draper returned from holiday this week insisting the Bees should be hugely encouraged by their opening ten games of the Midland League Division One campaign despite the disappointment of squandering two points against Heather St John’s on Saturday.
Lewis Clarke’s goal and a stunning Josh Westwood strike put the Bees in command, but the visitors hit back with two goals in the final quarter of an hour to steal a 2-2 draw.
Draper’s men are now second in the table – a point behind title favourites Walsall Wood who also have a game in hand – but the manager says a haul of 23 points from a possible 30 shows just how far the team have come.
“Obviously it was disappointing to lose a 2-0 lead late on at the weekend, especially as the equaliser was a poor defensive mistake. Vaughan (Pearshouse, assistant) tells me we threw it away really, but we need to see the bigger picture.
“This is a club that, despite a big turnaround in the new year, was battling relegation all season last time around and now we’ve lost one game in ten so far this campaign and four since Christmas.
“Those are impressive statistics. I still don’t think we are winning enough home games – there’s too many draws – but I am confident we can improve on that.
“The biggest issue now is managing expectations. There’s a good, strong squad here now and the lads expect to win games. I have 18-20 players who are all very good players at this level and it’s going to be tough keeping everyone happy because we don’t have another midweek game until the end of October.
“There will be people kicking their heels but it does keep everyone on their toes. The boys were devastated we were beaten in the two cup games recently but I had to say ‘look, you’ve narrowly lost to higher ranked sides you wouldn’t be expected to beat’. It’s an impressive attitude.”
Draper and Co now turn their attentions to Saturday’s home clash against Ilkeston Town.
“Ilkeston are an organised team with a good squad of players, including lots of links with Notts County, so we are going to need to play well to win,” said Draper.
“We’re feeling positive though. I’ve brought in Luke English – a big, strong centre back from Highgate who I think will prove to be a really good player for us – and we have Jake Wicketts and Danny Ludlow back from injury too.
“The strikers always get the headlines and we’ve got goals in us, but I’ve got to give credit to the defence and midfield too. We’ve kept five clean sheets and in Ryan Young I think we have the best keeper in the league.”