A year ago, Wendron United were nowhere near the title conversation in the South West Peninsula League, but last season’s sensational performance has surely shifted people’s mindsets 12 months on.
Michael O’Neill’s side were the surprise package of the Cornish football season last term, winning 21 of their 32 games and scoring 92 goals to finish third in the SWPL Premier West.
They didn’t stop there, with the west Cornwall side winning two ties in their maiden FA Vase campaign before going on to reach their first-ever Cornwall Senior Cup final.
The question will now be whether the Underlane outfit can back up their stunning 2021/22 campaign with a similar – or perhaps better – one this time around.
“We exceeded our own expectations last year and if you’re not moving forward you end up going backwards, so definitely the target is to improve upon that,” O’Neill told Cornwall Sports Media.
“[We want to] get a little bit more consistency in our defensive record which we started to do at the tail end of last season and I’m really keen to take that forward and create a solid foundation.
“[We have] a slightly disjointed start to the season. We don’t play on the opening day and then with Penryn pulling out we don’t play our first home fixture, so we’ve got a couple of spare weekends which we’ll try to work in our favour, but it’s about having a good, solid and fast start and I think that will set us up for the rest of the year.”
One of the many factors in Wendron’s highly successful season last year was the double capture of Max Roberts and Charlie Young from neighbours Porthleven when the Fishermen resigned from the league a month into the campaign.
This time around it is fellow neighbours Penryn Athletic who have withdrawn from the league, with the Dron providing a new home for Penryn skipper and centre-half Russell May and prolific forward Ryan Reeve.
The duo, as well as fellow signings Cam Quirke and Jacob Cleverly, will provide added quality and depth to the Underlane outfit this season and O’Neill is excited by the prospect of having the quartet on board.
“Obviously it’s an unfortunate situation that’s happened at Penryn and I really hope they get themselves back on their feet quickly,” O’Neill said, “but players like Reevey and Russell need to be playing at the highest level they can for as long as they can because you don’t play football forever. Those guys are relatively experienced and in the areas we’re looking to strengthen, those two fit the bill.
“Cam Quirke is a great re-signing for us, he did sign on for us last year but he didn’t actually play any games because of his work. He’s an exceptional player that can really win a game on his own and I’m looking forward to have him back.
“We’ve had Jacob Cleverly trialling for the first two games of pre-season and he got our man of the match [in the second game against Mousehole] so I think that’s business done for us and we can focus on keeping that squad.”
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First five matches
Wed, Aug 10: Newquay (A) 7.30pm – League
Sat, Aug 13: Wadebridge Town (A) 3pm – League
Sat, Aug 20: St Dennis (A) 3pm – League
Sat, Aug 27: Launceston (H) 3pm – League
Wed, Aug 31: St Blazey (H) 7.30pm – League
Last season at a glance
League: 3rd in South West Peninsula League Premier West (P:32, W:21, D:4, L:7 – F:92, A:54)
Cornwall Senior Cup: Final – lost 1-0 to Falmouth Town
Walter C Parson League Cup: Third round – lost 6-0 at home to Bodmin Town
FA Vase: Second round proper – lost 6-3 at home to New Milton Town
FA Cup: Did not enter
Manager: Michael O’Neill
Chairman: Peter Thorne
Ground: Underlane (Wendron, Carnkie, Helston TR13 0DY)