New Bodmin boss Bunney aiming to restore past glories to Priory Park

New Bodmin Town manager Dane Bunney was delighted with how his first match went after his side fought from a goal down to draw 1-1 at Wendron United on Saturday, writes Matt Friday.

Following a slow start to the season, Bodmin parted ways with previous manager Matt Hayden at the start of last week, with the club looking to Bunney, who has been without a club since leaving Saltash United at the end of last term, to steer the team out of troubled waters.

His first match in charge on Saturday was to be a baptism of fire for the new Bodmin chief, with then fourth-placed Wendron enjoying a four-game winning run, but a spirited and organised display saw Bunney’s charges claim a deserved draw.

TJ Walter nodded Michael O’Neill’s side in front after 20 minutes at Underlane when he met Joe Souch’s cross and steered it past Ethan Elwell, but Bodmin skipper Ruben Kane was on hand to nod in from Owusu Fidelis’ delivery midway through the second half to give his new manager a point on his debut.

“I’m really delighted with it, the work rate they’ve put in for the 90 minutes was incredible,” Bunney told Cornwall Sports Media after the game. “They really dug deep and fully deserved the point and probably had a chance to win it but I think I would have taken a point beforehand as it gives us a solid foundation going forward.”

He continued: “Our keeper didn’t have a save to make, I don’t think he had a save to make all game and we were organised, we were structured, we limited them to potshots and crosses into the box.

“The only time they did get into the box with a header was the time they scored, but other than that I don’t remember them having a clear-cut chance in the box. 

“We defended excellently, the three boys at the back and the wing-backs that combined with them were superb.”

Bodmin Town are one of the biggest names in Cornish football and were the dominant force in the county game throughout the early 2010s, with the Black and Ambers winning the old South West Peninsula League Premier five times between 2008 and 2016 while also lifting the Cornwall Senior Cup four years in a row between 2010 and 2013.

Much of their success was down to legendary former manager Darren Gilbert, who finally stepped down at the end of the 2021/22 season. Hayden, who initially joined Gilbert’s coaching team during last season, became the new man at the helm but his tenure lasted just 11 matches before he and the club parted ways last week.

The club wasted little time in finding their replacement, with Bunney confirmed as the new manager two days later, and the former Saltash United chief is keen on bringing the good times back to Priory Park.

“It’s just a big club, isn’t it?” he said. “It’s a big club in Cornish circles. You walk into their clubhouse and you see the amount of winners’ pennants up on the wall and I quite fancy the challenge of turning them around from their current position and seeing if I can return them to those past glories. 

“It’s a bit of a blank canvas here at the minute. I was a little bit nervous [on Saturday] because I didn’t really know what I was walking into. I had only seen them play once so I didn’t know how we’d compete against one of the better sides, so I’m delighted and I know now that I’ve got a foundation we can build on.”

That point has lifted Bodmin up one place to 13th in the 17-team SWPL Premier West, but the Black and Ambers are still some 15 points off the top four, which brings with it promotion to the brand-new Step 5 division next year, meaning another season at Step 6 is looking likely even at this early stage.

A slow start of two wins – 2-0 at Callington Town and 2-1 at home to Godolphin Atlantic – in their first five games was followed by a five-match winless run in which only one point was scored, earned in a 3-3 draw at bottom side Launceston.

That left Bodmin with just seven points from their first ten outings – with just 11 goals scored and a whopping 31 conceded in those games – a record that saw the Bodmin hierarchy feel fit to start their search for a new manager.

A feature of Bodmin’s struggles has been the high turnaround of players, with Town having already fielded a league-high 39 players this season – five more than the next highest side Launceston, and one of Bunney’s immediate aims is to build a settled squad.

“They’ve had such a revolving door of players I think we just need to have that regular group here,” he said. “We need to make sure everybody’s fit, I did think we died off a little bit [against Wendron] so I don’t think the fitness levels are necessarily where they need to be so we can work on that over the winter. 

“It’s just going to be a gradual process of improvement. [We’ve had] a great start and we’re going to have some bad days, there’s no doubt about it, we’re going to have some tough days, but I couldn’t have asked any more from them [against Wendron].”

As for a long-term vision, Bunney has one goal in mind: promotion.

“We need to make sure they get into Step 5,” he said. “If it doesn’t happen this season then next season, but at some point we need to get the club into Step 5 because that’s going to be the place to be over the next few years, so we need to get them there.

“That’s the target, but first of all the target is to not let in so many goals and start picking up points and we’ve started that.”

[Featured image: Matt Friday / Cornwall Sports Media]

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