TT Opposition Q&A – Boreham Wood by Steven Pye

TT OPPOSITION Q&A

Chairman Danny Hunter has been a calming influence through the pandemic

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Steve Pye discusses his team Boreham Wood

Hi Steve so what were your expectations for Boreham Wood heading into the season?

After a poor 2018/19 season – the Wood finished one place above the relegation zone – I didn’t hold out much hope for 2019/20. But I was pleasantly surprised when the team recovered after a slow start and comfortably made the play-offs. With a good squad and the success of the previous campaign, I was cautiously optimistic that we could once again compete for a play-off spot at the start of this season. This represents a bit of a shift in attitude for me. Usually I’m thinking about getting enough points to stay up, but why not aim a bit higher for once.

How have the owners dealt with this tough year?

Chairman Danny Hunter has been a calming influence through the pandemic, speaking very intelligently about the issues involved and communicating well with fans. You may have read reports that he had to re-mortgage his house to help the club financially, which just goes to show how seriously this has impacted him and Boreham Wood. But he said in his programme notes for the Southend FA Cup match that he still has a full workforce, and that is a huge boost for everyone at the club.

The club offered season ticket holders their money back due to the fact that fans cannot attend matches. We decided to keep ours; although it was only a relatively small amount, we felt the club needed all the help they could get. Plus, we also get access to live streams for home games, which at least means we can watch the matches.

How’s your form been heading into Saturday’s match?

It has been a strange start to the season. We played well at Wrexham and lost, won 3-0 at King’s Lynn (who had a player sent off at 2-0), but lost 1-0 away to ten man Solihull in a match that made me want to throw my laptop out of the window. Again we started well against Solihull, but as soon as they went down to ten the match changed completely, and it was an afternoon of frustration.

A 0-0 draw against Halifax – thanks to a world class save from Nathan Ashmore – and a hard-earned win over Woking continued the good home form shown over the last year, but the 1-0 defeat against Dagenham and Redbridge on Tuesday was infuriating. In truth we didn’t create loads of chances, and a draw would have been a fair result. But we gave a stupid goal away and missed a penalty, which continued the inconsistent start to the season.

What’s been your highlights so far this season?

The undoubted highlight was the FA Cup win against League Two strugglers Southend. I really fancied us going into the match, and when we took a 2-0 lead it looked as if I would be right for once. Yet we don’t like to do things the easy way, and two Southend goals in three minutes flipped the game completely. We then took the lead early in extra-time before conceding another equaliser, and after missing our first penalty in the shootout I started to fear it wouldn’t be our day.

Fortunately, Nathan Ashmore saved their third spot kick and when they missed their final effort we could finally celebrate. It was a draining afternoon, but ultimately the win ensured that it was an enjoyable experience. Unlike your rollercoaster against Crawley, which must have left you exhausted.

We have drawn Canvey Island away in the second round. The Wood have never reached the FA Cup third round, and this represents a great chance to create history. But in my short time following the club I have seen us lose to lower league opposition in various cup competitions – Northwich Victoria, Southport, Blyth, Royston – so I’m taking nothing for granted. I’m just gutted we can’t go to the match.

Who are your key players and why?

Signing keeper Nathan Ashmore in the summer was a crucial bit of business. Since he arrived at the club last October he has been superb, a big presence and a player who obviously gives confidence to the defence in front of him. Upfront our main threat is Kabs Tshimanga who scored 18 goals in the National League last season, and Matt Rhead provides us with an aerial threat and a physical edge to our game.

The player you will have to try and keep quiet on Saturday is Sorba Thomas. He is a product of Boreham Wood’s PASE academy, and has really started to flourish in the last year or so. Sorba has mainly played wide on the left as a wing back, and he loves to run at defenders. I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point he switches to playing in the hole behind the front two. His progress has certainly attracted the attention of the bigger clubs. Charlton tabled a bid in the transfer window for him that the club turned down, and it’s inevitable that he will depart in the near future. We will have to enjoy him while we can.

Who’s the gaffer and how does he like to set the team up?

Luke Garrard has been in charge since October 2015. He was only 30 when he succeeded Ian Allinson, and keeping the Wood in the National League in his first season was an unbelievable achievement. Since then he has led the club to their first win over Football League opposition – Blackpool in the FA Cup first round in November 2017 – and taken Wood to Wembley in May 2018. After a difficult 2018/19, he bounced back well and led us to the play-offs in the curtailed 2019/20 season.

We set up with three centre backs, with width provided by two wing backs, skipper Mark Ricketts playing the holding role behind two midfielders, and two up front. A lot of emphasis is placed on Kane Smith and Thomas as our wing backs getting forward, but as I said earlier, we seemed to lack a bit of creativity against Dagenham. Hopefully, the manager will be working on that in training.

How have you found the streams so far and who’s done the best job?

I’ve enjoyed the Boreham Wood streams. As the chairman said, it was never going to be a Sky Sports production, but at least it allows us to watch the matches. Not being able to go to the football is hard enough as it is, so armchair football is better than nothing.

King’s Lynn and Solihull provided decent feeds – the latter was free – but the worst one was undoubtedly Wrexham. At first I wondered if the person operating the camera was drunk when the screen kept showing a section of the pitch with nothing happening on it. But I did a Q and A piece for the Wrexham Way site (@TheWrexhamWay) and they informed me that the camera was automated and that it was meant to follow the ball. It had some teething problems, and maybe they’ve addressed the issue. If not, then perhaps Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney will look into it should they takeover the club?

Which teams do you think will be battling for promotion?

I’m terrible at making predictions. Last season I tipped Chesterfield and Wrexham for promotion and at one point they were both scrapping away towards the relegation zone. I’m not just saying this because you’ve started well, but I think Torquay will be up there. Gary Johnson is a vastly experienced manager, and I was really surprised you didn’t at least make the play-offs last season.

Stockport County appear to be moving in the right direction under their new owner, and I’ve also got a feeling Hartlepool under Dave Challinor will be challenging. My immediate apologies to all those clubs who will now experience a season of mid-table mediocrity!

Just how much have you missed being at games?

This could turn into an essay. I never realised how much I would miss it. Maybe it was because I held out hope that it would only be a few months that we would miss out on, but this virus doesn’t look like it is going away in a hurry. I’m trying not to get my hopes up too much regarding a vaccine, but some light at the end of the tunnel is needed.

It’s moments like the Southend match that hurt the most. I know crowds at Meadow Park are not big, but the place would have been buzzing for an FA Cup first round match against league opposition. Winning was great, yet it is tinged with regret that fans were unable to share that moment with the players.

Even when the FA Cup qualifying round was made, I was hoping for an away match at a non-elite club, so that we might be able to sneak in as “home” fans. So I was actually willing us to get a potentially trickier away match just so we could see it, rather than being happy that we were drawn at home. All very odd.

I think it is the routine we’re missing out the most. Me, my son and my mum all have season tickets, and we visit the bar before the match and really enjoy going to home matches (and some away) as a family. It’s given us so many happy memories and moments that we still talk about. My wife says she can see it is really starting to get me down a bit; I’m trying to count my blessings, as in the grand scheme of things this isn’t the most important thing happening in the world at the moment. But I have to admit, like many others, I am struggling without my weekly fix.

And finally match prediction time, what do you think the score will be?

I wasn’t too confident before the defeat on Tuesday, so you can probably guess how I am feeling now. As much as I hate to do this, I think I’m going to have to go for a 2-0 Torquay win.

But, and this might be clutching at straws…in October last year we went to leaders Halifax and came away with an unexpected 2-0 win. So you never know. I just hope your defence is as generous to us as you were to Crawley on Sunday.

LAST SEASON AT PLAINMOOR

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I simply live and breathe Football and have supported Torquay United since 1989. I am a season ticket holder on Bristows and a Trust member. I set up TorquayTalk in 2017 to give true supporters a voice and honest opinions on their club.

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