Steve Pye is back discussing his team Boreham Wood
Hi Steve – so what were your hopes and expectations heading into the season?
Hi Dominic. As ever with the Wood, I try and be realistic at the start of every season. Staying in this division is always the first goal, but I’d like to think that we are established enough now to look a little higher. The only uncertainty for me this year came with the number of players leaving and arriving. You can never be sure how a team will cope with departures and new arrivals, but so far the signs are good.
I’d love another tilt at the play-offs. The whole 2017/18 experience was so exciting – although the Wembley final was a missed opportunity – and the 2019/20 run was a fine achievement. Sadly though, due to you-know-what, we couldn’t go to the play-off matches second time round, so being greedy it would be great to be involved in this again. And a longer run in the FA Trophy would be welcome too.
How’s your recent form been?
The Wood have enjoyed a great start to the season. In fact I’ll be honest and say I have been pleasantly surprised. You can’t really complain with 13 points and four clean sheets in the opening five matches. There have been two draws and a defeat since then, but the last home match saw a hard-earned 2-1 win over ten-man Yeovil, and the Wood are only two points off the top of the table.
What’s been your highlights so far?
Typically I’d say that the 3-2 win at Bromley might be the highlight of the season, and that was a match that we didn’t go to. We chose to go to Solihull instead – a 3-1 loss in our only defeat of the campaign – but the win at Bromley was secured with a last minute winner, and as you know there are not many better feelings than that. The last time my son and I went to Bromley we lost 3-2 in the last minute after leading 2-0, so I’m starting to wonder if we are a jinx?
What would you say are the main strengths and weaknesses of the Boreham squad?
Currently the team has scored the fewest goals in the top eight, so it is the strong defensive foundation that the squad is built on. Losing striker Kabs Tshimanga to Chesterfield prior to the start of the campaign was a big blow, so I don’t think we are going to blow teams away. We’ve also been impressed so far with the set pieces of new signings Josh Rees and Frankie Raymond, so a few extra goals from free-kicks/corners will help during the long season.
I think the main weakness is squad size. The manager has an established starting XI and a couple of subs that he always turns to, but a few more bodies would be welcome (budget providing). It sounds as if the chairman and manager are always on the look out for more players though, and midfielder Gus Mafuta is now back in the squad, so hopefully the squad won’t be stretched too much.
Who are your key players and why?
I’m probably biased, but in Nathan Ashmore I would say we possibly have the best keeper in the league. He has had a couple of wobbly moments away at Solihull and Eastleigh recently, yet some of his saves against Stockport and Yeovil had me out of my seat clapping in appreciation (I used to play in goal in my younger days). The wing backs – Kane Smith and new signing Jacob Mendy Mendy – are key components, providing width and thrust to our attacks. Skipper Mark Ricketts plays a crucial role as a holding midfielder, allowing Rees, Raymond, and possibly Mafuta in the future, the opportunity to drive forward.
Tyrone Marsh and Scott Boden (another recent recruit) are starting to form a partnership up front. To be honest, replacing Tshimanga was never going to be easy, but if the front two and the likes of Rees and Raymond can chip in from midfield, then fingers crossed there are enough goals in the squad to prove competitive. The three centre backs of Femi Ilesanmi, Jamal Fyfield, and Will Evans have so far slotted in well together, so with that strong unit at the back there is every chance of giving most teams a match.
PLAYER PROFILE – Scott Boden
Position – Striker
Date of Birth – 23rd November 1989 – 31 years-old
Birthplace – Sheffield
Height – 1.80m
Previous Clubs – Sheff Utd, IFK Mariehamn, Chesterfield, Macclesfield, Alfreton, Halifax, Newport County, Inverness, Wrexham, Gateshead, Torquay United
NL Stats 21-22 – Played 9, Goals 3, Yellow/Red Cards 0/0
Luke Garrard has been in charge of Wood for a while, what makes him a good manager and how does he like to set the team up?
Coming into management so young, Luke has obviously learned a lot in his six years in charge. There have been a lot of highs – two play-off campaigns, a win over Blackpool in the FA Cup, a run to the FA Cup third round last season – but he will have also gained valuable experience in the relegation escape of 2015/16 and the poor 2018/19 season (the Wood finished 20th).
From his interviews he sounds like he leaves no stone unturned. He often refers to the fact that he has watched recent matches of forthcoming opponents. I’m guessing he’s not unique in this regard, but it shows how much preparation is involved for managers.
Luke sets the team up with three centre backs, two wing backs, a holding midfielder, with two midfielders supporting the two up top. With the superb playing surface at Meadow Park he likes the team to play football where possible, and like most managers he is always barking instructions from the sidelines regarding pressing when not in possession.
Can the Wood challenge for promotion this season?
I may have covered this slightly in question 1, but I’m hoping that the team can maintain a push for the play-offs. However, the two things that concern me are the squad size and the strength of the league. Realistically, how can a team like Boreham Wood compete with the likes of Wrexham, Torquay, Stockport, Notts County and Chesterfield? I take my hat off to chairman Danny Hunter and the manager. To even contemplate competing for a play-off spot is amazing when you look at the size of the clubs in the league. I guess that is why we love football though.
Draws killed the play-off hopes last season. The team threw away a number of leads and drew 16 matches out of the 42 played in the league. If this frustrating habit can be eliminated (even partially) then perhaps the Wood can edge into the play-offs.
Where’s best for the Yellow Army to find pre-match food and drinks?
I don’t actually live in Boreham Wood, so I may not be best qualified to answer this. But in the past I have seen quite a few away fans in the Hart and Spool Wetherspoons pub on the high street. There are loads of fast food chains on the high street too – McDonalds, KFC, Subway, Dominos etc – and fish and chips/curry options, so Torquay fans shouldn’t struggle for food choices.
Which teams and players have impressed you most so far this season?
Chesterfield look strong to me. As well as Tshimanga, I noticed that keeper Scott Loach also joined in the summer, and he is a player I’ve always rated highly. I really don’t think I’m sticking my neck on the block by saying they are my tip to win the league. With my betting skills they are probably doomed now.
I actually thought Yeovil looked good in their recent 2-1 defeat at Meadow Park. They took the lead through Dale Gorman and he impressed me that day. Despite having ten men, they pushed the Wood all the way, and only great saves from Ashmore earned us the three points. Yeovil have a few games in hand, so it will be interesting to see if they can get into the play-off picture too. Stockport looked good too when they drew 0-0 at Meadow Park – again Ashmore proved his worth – so I was a little surprised to see they have lost three games already this season.
The Wood didn’t play well at Solihull, but their keeper Ryan Boot pulled off some fine saves. I was talking to a Solihull fan who said that Joe Sbarra had enjoyed a flying start to the season too, sadly just after the attacking midfielder had put the ball into an empty net to give Solihull the lead.
And finally, what’s your prediction for Tuesday night?
It’s normally a close match between the two clubs in the league at Meadow Park – let’s skip over the FA Trophy last season – and I was a little concerned to see that you scored five at the weekend. I’ll sit on the fence and go for a 1-1 draw. Hopefully it will be an entertaining match. Failing that I’ll be happy with a scrappy performance and a 1-0 win!