Season preview: Newquay AFC

Pre-season performances aren’t always a precursor for successful seasons but, for an as yet unbeaten Newquay side, the development of a new found consistency could be key.

The Peppermints, placed 6th and 8th in the respective null and void seasons of 2019-20 and 2020-21, were denied a third consecutive top ten finish after taking just ten of a possible 36 points on offer from January to April.

Manager Craig Ainslie and his assistant Ashley Bradshaw remain in the ‘challenging’ market for a new frontman, with the addition of firepower to a side that failed to score in five of their final 12 fixtures high on the agenda.

Any acquisition would boost what is becoming altogether healthier Mount Wise squad, with the experience of former Penryn Athletic pair Nick Boase and Jake Shaw adding stability in defence, alongside the eagerness of a number of hungry young talent who are keeping some of the club’s more established names honest.

“I have been pleased in general,” said Ainslie when quizzed on the off-season. “We have had different objectives in each of the games we have had up until now. The game against Saltash Borough [a 2-0 win] saw basically two different sides on show. There were lots of young lads who we gave a chance and a couple of players who came into the squad for us to have a look at.

“It was the same against Torrington [1-1 draw] and Bovey Tracey [1-0 win] for that matter. We had a pretty much untried and untested midfield in the second-half against Bovey and had to defend a lot. We saw the game out with a clean sheet. Moving on to St Day [2-1 win], we told the lads we had this game and the next [at home to Lydney Town on 30/07] to get ready for Bude Town away.

“We want high standards, not only winning the game but winning well, with a clean sheet and doing that playing our way. For the first 45 minutes against St Day I thought we did that. Hopefully they raise the standards shown in the second 45 though because, in training, everything has been excellent.

“We have had great turnouts, strength and conditioning is going really well and we have started developing some tactical stuff. We are really pleased. The players that we have brought in have really added to the consistency that we want to have this season.”

Ainslie, who had to cope with the loss of Jack Bray-Evans, Tom Moxham (both Falmouth Town), Louis Price (Mousehole) and Orlando Anker (Helston Athletic) last term, has worked hard to boost a depleted squad and continued by saying: “Confirmed signings are Nick Boase and Jake Shaw [Penryn Athletic] and Harry Lampier [Penzance]. We’ve also signed Isaac Varga [Sticker] and Harrie Tilston [St Mawgan], however with a limited pre-season we’re still getting those two up to speed physically and tactically.

“We are delighted to have signed both Rhys Hooper, a 17-year-old from St Agnes, and Tom Dolan, a 19-year-old from Truro City reserves. Both have demonstrated potential and capability at St Piran level and we’ve been delighted with their performances this pre-season.

“We’ve been very pleased again with the accelerated development of Connor Wharton [16] and Noah Teagle [16] – both continue to impact our starting XI and we’re also very excited to add young goalkeeper Harry Salmon [15] to the group. We rate him very highly and look forward to his progression under Harry Ashton once he turns 16 next month.

“We’ve got another group of three or four 16-year-olds who will all continue to be involved and who we will now try and develop with a blended approach with the Academy side. Regular mens football is key for all of them now for the 2022-23 season.”

The upcoming campaign will be the second for Ainslie in the Mount Wise hot seat after taking over from the long-standing Tony Mackellar in March of 2021, so how does the former Newquay defender assess his transition into management?

“I was very fortunate to inherit the nucleus of a good side from Tony. The work he did over his tenure cannot be understated. Over the last 18 months I’ve been putting my stamp on the team. We have established a style of play and a philosophy that’s taken some time to bed in but I’m pleased with where we are. The players have had to adjust to the way I want things done both on and off the pitch and by and large, they’ve risen to that challenge.

“The culture we’ve created is absolutely non-negotiable. We were disappointed to lose one or two of the players who moved on last season but regardless of individual quality, I will only accept team-oriented players who want to be here and want to be part of the environment, values and standards I’ve established. It’s been a steep learning curve for me as well. I’m comfortable managing and coaching but the recruitment and retention side of the role has been a baptism of fire for sure.

“We were disappointed with our finish to the season. We showed in spells we can compete comfortably with the best in the division and I expect more from the group this year. We’ve identified easy wins where we can improve from last season and we’ve addressed many of those already.

“Despite a tough recruitment environment we continue to try and add players who meet our character, quality and tactical suitability criteria to the group. The players are better, I’m better, the club is better, I’m delighted no ones really talking about us and we’re hoping to be a surprise package in what should be an exciting season.”

First five matches

Sat, Aug 6: Bude Town (A) 3pm – League

Wed, Aug 10: Wendron United (H) 7.30pm – League

Wed, Aug 24: Penzance (H) 7.30pm – League

Sat, Aug 27: Bovey Tracey (A) 3pm – FA Vase 1Q

Wed, Aug 31: St Dennis (A) 7.30pm – League

Last season at a glance

League: 11th in South West Peninsula League Premier West (P:32, W:13, D:3, L:16 – F:61, A:67)

Cornwall Senior Cup: Quarter-final – lost 4-0 at home to Falmouth Town

Walter C Parson League Cup: Second round – lost 6-2 at Torpoint Athletic

FA Vase: First round proper – lost 3-2 at home to Keynsham Town

Club information

Manager: Craig Ainslie

Chairman: Barry Yelland

Ground: Mount Wise (Clevedon Road, Newquay, TR7 2BU)

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