After an excellent campaign last time out that saw them finish second in the South West Peninsula League Premier West, the onus will be on Liskeard Athletic to try and go one better this time around.
If it wasn’t for a rampant Falmouth Town side that dropped just five points on their way to the title last term, Liskeard would be the ones preparing for a return to the Western League this coming season.
The Blues emerged as the Bickland Park outfit’s main challengers last season with Lee Mann and Martin Hodge’s side dropping just four points prior to a crucial defeat at home to Falmouth in December.
Ultimately, toppling the eventual champions proved to be too big a task, but a campaign that saw them win 21 games and score 98 goals on the way to finishing second will surely have still gone down as a good one.
But while finishing as runners-up would have been a bitter pill to swallow, there is little doubt at Lux Park as to what the target is this time around.
“This year I’ve said to the lads, although they’ve got to enjoy it, there is only one target and that is to win the league,” Mann told Cornwall Sports Media. “We’ve signed well, we’ve got a bigger squad this year and that is the only target.
“Although we’ll go into it one game at a time, and it’s not going to be easy with clubs like St Blazey, Bodmin and Callington, there is only one target and that’s to go and win that league this year.”
He continued: “People can think we’re favourites, but game by game it’s 11 versus 11 and you’ve got to still turn up,” Mann said. “You can have all the ability in the world, but if you don’t want it or don’t put the effort in then you’re not going to get the results.
“Yes, it’s different this year because no-one expected it last year, but this year is a little bit different for the lads, but I’m sure people like Jarrad [Woods], [Dan] Jennings and [James] Lorenz will all step up and it’ll be a successful season – but we’ve got to want it, we’ve got to stay disciplined.
“One of the main things I’ve said to the lads this year is that our discipline has got to be a lot better, as well as the commitment levels from everyone, everyone in the squad has got to be better this year. If we get that right then we shouldn’t be far off it.”
Liskeard have added a few new players to their ranks to aid their title challenge, bringing Dobwalls midfielder Sam Hill and young Tavistock man Harry Jeffery to Lux Park, while midfielder Lyle Johnson and forward Tom Cleveland have also returned following spells at Bodmin Town and Saltash United respectively, with both having recovered from serious injuries.
But one signing has caught the eye perhaps more than any other this summer. Not content with having one of the top strikers in the division in James Lorenz, the Blues have gone and grabbed another in former Bodmin Town hitman Dan Jennings.
💙DJ IS A BLUE 💙— Liskeard Athletic (@LiskeardAthlet1) June 21, 2022
The one we’ve been waiting for! @danjennings47 is a proven goal scorer at this level and is very keen to win trophies.
He will be a massive addition to the squad this season as we look to challenge in the league and cups
Welcome Dan 💙 pic.twitter.com/2fC5ibwdnk
Lorenz’s excellent return of 27 goals in 36 games in SWPL competitions last season was enough to see him into fifth spot in the goalscorer charts, and Jennings was one of only four men to finish above him, having netted 31 times in as many games.
Those figures will strike fear into many, if not all SWPL defences, and if the pair can hit the ground running as a partnership then that will only add weight to many people’s predictions of Liskeard as potential title winners.
“Obviously, they’ve played against each other for years so there’s always been that rivalry,” Mann said, “but I had a text off Dan the other day which was quite nice. Basically he said, ‘I was a little bit sceptical at first and thought it was a bit of a gamble, but I’m actually loving it.’
“James and Dan, on and off the pitch, have struck up a good relationship already. I’ve set them a target which only the two of them will know and I’m sure they’ll probably smash that target, if I’m honest.”
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First five matches
Tue, Aug 2: Callington Town (H) 7.30pm – League
Sat, Aug 6: Shepton Mallet (H) 3pm – FA Cup EP
Tue, Aug 9: Launceston (A) 7.30pm – League
Wed, Aug 17: Wadebridge Town (H) 7.30pm – League
Sat, Aug 20: Bodmin Town (H) 3pm – League
Last season at a glance
League: 2nd in South West Peninsula League Premier West (P:32, W:21, D:7, L:4 – F:98, A:48)
Cornwall Senior Cup: Second round – lost 3-2 at Helston Athletic
Walter C Parson League Cup: Quarter-final – lost 3-2 at Torpoint Athletic
FA Vase: Second round proper – lost 3-2 at home to Keynsham Town
FA Cup: Did not enter
Manager: Lee Mann & Martin Hodge
Chairman: Roger Williams
Ground: Lux Park (St Cleer Rd, Liskeard PL14 3HN)