Youthful Clanfield confident they are ‘heading in the right direction’ after ‘tough’ start to Hampshire Premier League campaign

Clanfield boss Lee Blakely is convinced his youthful side are ‘heading in the right direction’ - despite a ‘frustrating’ start to 2021/22.

By Simon Carter
Thursday, 26th August 2021, 8:33 am
Bayley Whitcombe, in action for Meon Milton (yellow) last season, scored his first Clanfield goal in a 4-4 draw against Liphook. Picture: Chris Moorhouse
Bayley Whitcombe, in action for Meon Milton (yellow) last season, scored his first Clanfield goal in a 4-4 draw against Liphook. Picture: Chris Moorhouse

The club have taken the decision to put their faith in youngsters for this season’s Hampshire Premier League Senior Division season.

After four straight defeats, Clanfield picked up their first point last weekend in a roller-coaster fixture against Liphook which ended 4-4 at Westleigh Park.

Three times the hosts levelled before Adam Smalley fired them into a 67th minute lead, only for Liphook to have the final say.

‘We played really well, we showed real quality,’ said Blakely. ‘We just need to stop giving sloppy goals away.

‘We’re not too far away. We’re an inexperienced team, a new team playing together, and things like that you have to take into account.

‘The average age in the first five games has been 20. I wouldn’t have thought there’s another non-league team with that average age in their first team.

‘We’ve had two 17-year-olds playing - Bradley Yates (striker) and Kieran Dempsey (right back) - and I think our oldest player is 24.

‘It’s been a tough month, but we’re heading in the right direction.

‘We took the decision to go down a certain road, giving the club an identity and playing the way we want to play.

‘We believe the right way for us is to go with the youngsters, those that believe in the system and what we’re trying to do.

‘We have had little frustrating periods - we could do with a couple of older heads to help with the game management, like when we were 2-0 up against Hayling (Clanfield eventually lost 3-2).

‘But the youngsters are learning, we’ve been in every game so far.

‘Liphook had beaten Paulsgrove in their previous game and were third in the table, yet we should have beaten them.’

Former Moneyfields youth teamer Charlie McNally continued his fine start to 2021/22 with his fourth goal in five games against Liphook.

Olly Glover had grabbed Clanfield’s first equaliser while Bayley Whitcombe - top scorer for Mid-Solent League champions Meon Milton last season - netted their third.

Smalley’s goal was also his fourth of the embryonic HPL campaign.

Clanfield host Overton at Westleigh Park on Saturday before travelling to Colden Common on Bank Holiday Monday (3pm).