Points in reserve at Ottery

Ashley Smith at Ottery St Mary

Ashley Smith at Ottery St Mary - Credit: Archant

One club approach working wonders

The relationship between first-team, reserves and development at Ottery St Mary is arguably the backbone of their recent success.

After being placed in Division Two of Devon and Exeter League, Ottery Reserves have enjoyed a superb start to the season, losing just once and scoring a hatful of goals in the process.

It is club cohesion that will hopefully be the platform for success at Ottery.

“It was massively frustrating to have a break in football for us because we’d enjoy three very positive results, quite comprehensive results,” said Ottery reserve-team manager Ashley Smith.

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“We were hitting good form and stopping naturally halts that consistency of performance for a while.

“On the other side, we’ve had injuries to three of our main players, captain Darren Carr, vice-captain Curt Winchcombe and centre-back Matty Ayres, so it’s given them time to recover.

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“We’ve also sadly lost Sam Tanner to a cruciate knee ligament injury, which will keep him out for the season.”

Even at this early stage in the season, it looks like a straight fight between the Otters and Axminster Reserves for the Division Two title.

“Based on my knowledge of Axminster, having previously played for them, I would say we were both disappointed to be put in this division,” added Smith.

“From the outset, we felt it would be our two teams pushing for the title and we think that’s how it will unfold.

“Unfortunately, we lost the first match against Axminster, incidentally the game where we lost Winchcombe and Ayres in the first 20 minutes.

“We feel that will be the battle and the return game at their place could potentially decide the title.

“Even with the one loss, goal difference could be crucial, which is why the previous two games before lockdown were important because we won them quite comprehensively.” The emergence of Ottery Reserves came after Cronies disbanded as a club and there was hope within the new enterprise that they would take the place of the former outfit.

”Ottery reserves is essentially a new side but the feeling was that we were taking over from Cronies after they folded,” said Smith.

“The manager Billy Rouse came in to take over Ottery first-team, I came from Cronies as well and the idea was to create a reserve-team.

“The hope was that we would take the place of Cronies in the Premier Division but we understand the restructure had to happen because of Covid, and divisions reduced to give the season a better chance of completion.

“We were disappointed to be placed in Division Two and I think the results from ourselves and Axminster possibly justifies that point.

“It is no disrespect to the other teams but we have just won 13-0 and 8-0 in our last two games.

“It is the situation we are in and we can only beat the teams we come up against.

“We are next playing two teams that we have faced before.

“We beat Cranbrook on the opening day of the season and we managed to beat Axmouth 8-0, so two teams we are familiar with.

“We will approach those games confident, not complacent.

“There has obviously been no opportunity to train, so we’ll go into those games on a playing field to our opponents.”

A key element to future prosperity and success at Ottery is maintaining the fluid relationship between each side based at the club.

In reality, that means developing friendships and a knowledge for each other’s game, so reserves can make the jump up, and first-team players are happy dropping down.

“I’ve known Billy for a long time, played for him as my manager at Cronies and we work together as well, so we’ve got a very good relationship,” said Smith.

“We always knew that the plan for Ottery was not to have a separate first-team, reserve-team and development side.

“I’ve played for teams before where you never even get to meet the reserve players; you train on different nights and there is no real bond between the players.

“We’ve always wanted it to be a one-club feel at Ottery, ensuring there is fluidity between the teams.

“First-team players have been happy to play for me when coming back for injury or in need of game-time.

“Billy has also taken reserve players into the first-team if they have been enjoying some good form. That approach extends to the development side as well.”

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