Saturday August 5th. Remember it? Seems a long time ago now, doesn’t it? But that’s when our First Team kicked off the current season with a short trip to fellow UCL side Peterborough Northern Star in an FA Cup Extra Preliminary round tie.
Since then, a lot of football has been played, and there have been some off-field changes at the Club. So, as the festive season approaches and our UCL campaign reaches the half way point at local rivals Holbeach United on December 23rd, we thought we’d cast an eye back at what’s happened during the 2017/18 season so far with the help of Manager, Michael Goode along with Coaches Martin Bond and Dan Bircham.
Although we’re still in 2017, there have been many high points in the season so far, including a pre-season visit from League One Peterborough United, but Mike, Martin and Dan were all in agreement that this year’s FA Cup run has been the undoubted highlight.
The four-game run saw the Clarets travel to play PNS, then head south to Bedfordshire to take on higher level Barton Rovers before heading north to Staffordshire to tackle Brocton. Before the draw for the 2nd Qualifying round, we had hoped for a home draw first and foremost and, if we were lucky, one of the bigger teams in the competition. Our luck was most definitely in, when we were drawn at home to former Football League, and current National League North side, Kidderminster Harriers.
Despite our FA Cup run coming to an end at this stage, the game will live long in the memories of everyone connected with the Club and the town itself; a new record attendance of 693 - eclipsing the previous record of 635, a visit from the FA Cup itself and the game being streamed live on the BBC website ensured that everyone with an interest in the FA Cup knew who Deeping Rangers were. If only Scott Coupland had put that chance away near the end…….
Other highlights have included handing UCL League leaders, Newport Pagnell Town, their first League defeat of the season after being behind twice in the game as well as another comeback win when we turned a 3-1 deficit at half time into an injury time 4-3 win away to Godmanchester Rovers in front of a hostile crowd in the FA Vase. Coach Bond has also been pleased by the commitment of the squad and the consistently high numbers at training each week.
When quizzed about the best teams we have faced so far, this season, Kidderminster were, unsurprisingly, named by all 3 wise men. Additionally, Bondy also opted for pre-season opponents Peterborough United while Birch, having played in a few games this season, was impressed with Wisbech Town – even if they were fortunate to beat us.
This season’s UCL looks to be wide open with many teams vying with us for the title and the automatic promotion to Step 4 that goes with it. Despite Newport Pagnell having a relatively healthy advantage over the chasing pack as we approach the New Year, Birch doesn’t believe that they, or any other team will run away with the title and "Anyone in the League can beat anyone on their day". Bondy echoes Dan’s sentiments naming Pagnell, Wisbech, Leicester Nirvana, Holbeach and possibly Eynesbury as his pick for the challengers. Manager Goode, maybe pragmatically, offers Pagnell as favourites due to their points on the board already gained.
One of the more noticeable things about Deeping Rangers this season has been the increase in our home crowds. We now average 120 for our home League games and Michael Goode is thrilled, stating “It’s great to see more supporters coming through the turnstiles and the number of our junior teams wanting to get involved on match days. We look at the crowd increase and see it as a just reward for the quality brand of football that we’re playing. It would be great to be getting closer to 150 by the season’s end and to be able to take that number forward to next season.” Dan Bircham backs up Mike’s comments adding; “Our supporters are always fantastic. They always provide a good backing to the team and it is nice to see attendances rising. As a team, we are always grateful to the 15 or so regular supporters who come to support us away from home, no matter where we are playing.”
Martin Bond also pointed out some of the off-field changes at the Club that have kicked in this season, saying “The new hospitality suite, The Clarets Lounge, is a great asset and has given the Club a more professional look while the long awaited new kitchen and tea bar is helping to transform the match day experience for home and away supporters.” The new features in the match day programme, such as the Player Profiles, have also gone down well with supporters and I’m sure Martin’s tongue was firmly in his cheek when he suggested that his ‘Bondy From the Bench’ article is the highlight for our programme readers!
Michael, Martin and Dan would like to thank everyone for their continued support and would also like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year while reminding you all that we have a busy few days coming up – we travel to Holbeach on Saturday 23rd, followed by a visit from Peterborough Northern Star on Wednesday 27th (7.45pm kick off). Our final game of 2017 is at home to Daventry Town on Saturday 30th (3.00pm kick off).
The outlook both on and off the pitch is nothing but positive at Deeping Rangers and we look forward to bringing you our end of season review in May. As Birch puts it “Success should only ever be measured in terms of happiness”. Let’s hope that everyone at the Club is extremely happy come the end of the season!
Updated 09:40 - 14 Jan 2018 by Match Scribe