NON-LEAGUE FOOTBALL: Boss backing new-look Wisbech St Mary to improve on last season following a summer of change

Joint Wisbech St Mary boss Arran Duke. Picture: IAN CARTER

Joint Wisbech St Mary boss Arran Duke. Picture: IAN CARTER - Credit: Archant

Arran Duke hopes a 10th season in the Wisbech St Mary hotseat will be one of improvement.

Saints endured a difficult 2017/18 campaign in which they finished 18th – or fourth-bottom – of the Thurlow Nunn League First Division.

That section has been split for the new season with Saints playing alongside fellow locals March Town in First Division North.

And they go into battle for the first time this Saturday when welcoming Needham Market Reserves to the ABC Quality Meats Stadium before making the short Tuesday trip to Swaffham.

Duke, who appointed former professional player Mark Warren as joint boss this summer, said: “Last season was very tough at times and it is important we start moving forward as a club again.

“To do that I feel we need to freshen things up and making Mark joint manager has had a very positive impact.

“We lost a few players, but we’ve made a lot of signings during the summer and I believe we are capable of improving on what we did last season.

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“We wish all the lads who chose to move on the very best for the future, but our focus is now on a new group of players and I’m excited about what is to come.”

It’s certainly been a busy summer of player movement with five departures and eight arrivals.

Saints have lost James McManus, Dale Parnell and Nick Davey to Parson Drove while Dean Miller has returned to former club Swaffham. Lewis Gibson has gone to King’s Lynn Town Reserves.

Frontman Ben Coe, who has joined from Mundford, has been appointed as captain for the new campaign.

Defenders Dan Short (formerly Wisbech Acorns) and Joe Woodhouse (Redgate Rangers) are other new faces along with midfielder Sol Goodby (Chatteris), right winger Ryan Alexander (Parson Drove), left winger Curtis Knight (Sileby Rangers).

Saints have also drafted in two other strikers – Dean Wilburn and Sam Garforth – who have recently moved to the area for work reasons. They have previously played in Yorkshire.

Saints have contested only two pre-season friendlies this summer. They were beaten 3-1 by Peterborough & District League outfit Moulton Harrox a fortnight ago and then drew 3-3 with United Counties League Division One champions Pinchbeck on Tuesday night.

Prolific striker Jack Friend hit a hat-trick for Saints in that game.

They did have another friendly lined up against Cambs League side Great Shelford last Friday, but it was postponed due to the ferocious storms which swept through the area.

Duke added: “We made a conscious decision to arrange fewer games this summer and spend more time working on the training ground.

“It’s something different that we felt it was worth trying and we’re happy with where we are going into the season.”

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