CHELMSFORD City can now channel all their collective energy into a promotion push to the Blue Square Bet Premier in 2013/14, with manager Glenn Pennyfather spelling out the reasons to be positive as he proclaimed: “The season starts here!”
The Clarets have received plaudits for extending their participation in knockout cup competitions into mid January and, despite their exit from the FA Trophy at the last 16 stage at Halifax Town last weekend, Pennyfather was able to take stock and recharge his squad for the challenges ahead between now and April.
He said: “We’re in one of the most successful seasons in our club’s history. “There haven’t been many better campaigns for us in the FA Cup, beating our local Football League neighbours Colchester United.
“It was a bit disappointing to go out of the Trophy in the manner we did, but we still got to rub shoulders with some of the clubs we’d like to be playing every week, beating Hereford United 3-0 away.
“When we can show a bit more consistency, those cup runs will be a taste of what we’ll enjoy if we reach our ultimate goal of promotion.
“We’re proud of what we’ve achieved in the cups, and now it’s time to draw a line under them. We’ve had a good time, but now we have to really concentrate on our priorities.”
Chelmsford have a four-game run to the end of January which sees them host mid-table AFC Hornchurch and Eastbourne Borough, as well as meeting strugglers Truro City and Dorchester Town away and at Melbourne respectively.
Glenn continued: “Three of the four games are at home and, without disrespect, we should be aiming for victory in all of those.
“I think playing our home games on a Wednesday makes common sense, as it allows extra time for players to recover from Saturday matches.
“You have to assess the logistics. We’re travelling to Truro on Saturday week and staying overnight, but we’ll be travelling back late. Tiredness then doesn’t often kick-in until a day later, then we’ll be meeting Dorchester at home.
“If you’ve got a big budget and loads of players then you can afford to rotate, but if you’ve got a relatively small squad you might have to ask a player who’s having a bad patch to keep playing through it.
“It’s a massive task to play so many games in such a short period of time, and I’m proud of what we’ve done so far.”
City are playing catch-up after weather and cup games put paid to several scheduled league matches in 2012.
They currently find themselves with the daunting challenge of clawing back 16 points on leaders Salisbury City, albeit with three games in hand. They’ve also played between two and five matches less than other contenders.
Glenn acknowledged this, observing: “Now it’s ‘game on’ in the league and the next ten games will be a test before the home straight when all the contenders launch a charge. Some will drop points, and others will appear from nowhere.
“Salisbury and Welling United look like they’re running away with it, and they’re on great form, but at the backs of their minds they’ll know that it has to come to an end at some point. We have to be in a position to capitalise.”
On the 3-0 Trophy reverse, he added: “We were so disappointed that we couldn’t secure a result for all our fans. Halifax were effective on the day and we weren’t – sometimes you get games like that.
"When we beat Hereford 3-0 it was the other way around, and they were probably feeling the same.”
The average age of the City team was low, and Glenn acknowledged: “We’ve got some excellent young players who’ve come to the forefront as well – many of them who are under 19 – and they’ll build foundations for our club for years to come.
“I don’t know if it’s connected, but I’ve noticed that we’ve picked up a lot more younger supporters as well, and they’re always vocal and positive – they sang their hearts out at Halifax!
"That’s fantastic, and they can be part of a new era and a new generation.”