AFC St Austell manager Mark Smith feels his side are yet to show their true potential despite their flying start to their South West Peninsula League campaign, writes Matt Friday.
Town have won all three of their matches in the SWPL Premier West thus far, with a 2-0 win at home to Dobwalls on the opening day being followed by a 1-0 victory at Camelford last Wednesday.
Another 1-0 win, this time at home to Callington Town, made it three from three on Saturday with the Lillywhites recording their best start to a campaign since 2019.
Their fine start has been matched only by local rivals St Blazey, who sit ahead of Town by virtue of goal difference, but Smith, rather excitingly for those of a St Austell persuasion, knows there is much more to come from his team yet.
“We’re not near what I feel we’re capable of at the moment in the first three games,” Smith told Cornwall Sports Media, “but I suppose that’s a good sign in that we haven’t played to our best and we’ve still got three wins and three clean sheets against three of last year’s top eight.
“We’re ahead of our points target from those first three games. We could be performing a little better, particularly in the final third, but I can’t really complain to be honest. I’d be very much picking holes if I was to be in any way disappointed about what we’d done so far.”
Their most recent victory saw them defeat Callington Town by the odd goal amid searing heat at their Poltair Park home on Saturday.
Rory Jarvis scored the only goal of the game in the 54th minute, with the former St Blazey and Wendron United man tucking away Neil Slateford’s inch-perfect cross for what ultimately proved to be the winning goal.
But it was the job at the other end that drew praise from Smith as the hosts stood firm to shut out their opponents to record their successive win and third successive clean sheet.
“Obviously, as everyone else in the county and the country had to deal with, it was not really conditions for football at all and credit to both sets of players, officials, supporters and management for being there and dealing with that level of heat,” Smith said.
“It’s not anything anyone is conditioned for really, we’re not continental footballers so it’s definitely conditions most of them haven’t played in before. Physically, we put in a really good shift, we moved the ball well on a sticky, dry surface and actually created a lot of opportunities, we just weren’t clinical or decisive enough in the final third, which was pretty much the theme throughout our first three games.
“In each game we’ve relied on our defence and goalkeeper who have been excellent, and actually our personnel has changed quite a bit in all those roles in the three games due to availability and injuries, so to have that consistent performance from our defenders has been excellent.
“They say that good teams and good campaigns are built on solid defences so we’ve certainly got that a minute, and in a minute when our forwards start being more clinical we can give someone a fair old hiding hopefully.”
Smith has also been pleased with the instant impact his new and returning signings have made, with goalkeeper Jason Chapman, defender Ed Timmons and midfielder Neil Slateford all arriving at Poltair Park in the summer.
The Lillywhites chief was keen to bring the trio to the club to add some much-needed experience to his youthful squad, and he has been thrilled with how quickly his recruits have taken to the task.
“They’ve been immense and I honestly don’t think we’d have got all three of these results if we hadn’t added the experience of those three,” Smith said.
“Ed’s played in all three and been eight out of ten in all three and that’s kind of why we signed him, we knew what we were getting with Ed. He’s a very solid, consistent performer and he’s a coach as well so he brings that to the team whilst he’s on the pitch. He’s great in the changing rooms, he’s a very technically sound footballer and he’s a very tenacious defender as well which has really helped.
“Chappy has played in the last two with Brett Allen away and has again been excellent and made some great saves. He actually got a broken nose on Saturday from claiming a cross but he still wants to train this week so we’ve clearly got his juices flowing again.
“That was Slates’ first competitive game, he was away for the first two. It’s even more of a good start that we got these first two results without Slates in the team, but Saturday he really brought composure and experience, and when we needed to dig in his decision-making on what to do with the ball was crucial, especially in that heat.”
[Featured image: Matt Friday / Cornwall Sports Media]