Tony Bugby talks to Curzon Ashton manager Adam Lakeland about his side’s prospects for its 2023/24 National League North campaign which kicks off at Darlington on Saturday (Aug 5).
Adam Lakeland is confident Curzon Ashton can again be over achievers in National League North providing they can find a route to goal.
“The biggest challenge is replacing the goals we have lost, from Tom Peers in particular,” he explained.
“We have lads who we believe will score goals and if we score a similar amount or more than last season the chances are we will have another successful season.
Peers, who has moved to Macclesfield FC, was the seventh leading scorer in NLN with 17 and was well into the twenties in all competitions.
The Nash also lost goals from Hayden Campbell and Josh Hancock who have also moved on along with Chris Renshaw who was arguably the division’s leading goalkeeper.
“We have lost players, but that’s football and history. They have seen pound signs and moved on which was disappointing,” Lakeland added.
“I am confident we have more than capable replacements who can do even better. We have replaced them with lads who want to be at Curzon, and they are proven and have added quality to the squad.”
Lakeland signed forwards Miles Storey from Hereford FC and Jessop who started his career at Sheffield Wednesday and played in the EFL for Scunthorpe while goals are also expected from new midfielders Stefan Mols and the returning Isaac Sinclair.
Curzon’s cutting edge has been blunted further, however, by injuries to Jessop, out for the whole season with an ACL injury, and the experienced Jimmy Spencer who will miss the start with a shoulder injury.
Lakeland admitted pre-season had been challenging, especially through injuries.
“The last thing you need is long-term injuries which we have had as well as niggles. We are getting bodies back and still have a strong and competitive team,” he said.
Lakeland is not anticipating any late transfer activity as he explained: “You always have an eye on recruitment, though I am pleased with the group we have.
“Unless the chairman feels generous, I do not expect much else to happen.”
Lakeland added pre-season results have been patchy as they finished with three straight losses to Macclesfield FC, Oldham Athletic and FC Halifax Town, the final two opponents from National League.
“They have been challenging games, but you learn more about yourself in tough ones, and I am hoping it will pay dividends when the season starts,” he continued.
Lakeland will be looking to replicate last season when they finished 13th and only three points shy of the play-off places in which they were in contention until the last week of the season. They also took League One Cambridge United to a replay in the first round of the Emirates FA Cup, losing eventually on penalties.
That was achieved with a playing budget which is in the bottom three in the division.
“When you look at the size of our club and the competitive division in which we play, every year we stay up is a massive achievement. You have to have ambition, though, which we have.
“Year-on-year we overachieve, and last season was very good. To still be in with a chance of the play-off until the last week created positivity and excitement.”
Lakeland believes the full-time teams in the division have an advantage as they have extra time to prepare for game, carry out video analysis, recover after games and travel.
“That is bound to have an effect when our lads have been working during the day. The full-time players don’t work and simply prepare for the game,” he said.
Lakeland believes there is little to choose between a lot of teams and it is about striking a run of consistent form.
As for promotion favourites, Lakeland expects Scunthorpe, an EFL club until May 2022, to be challenging as they have been splashing out heavily while King’s Lynn are usually up at the top end.
The Nash head to the North East to play Darlington, themselves a former EFL club, on the opening day.
“Darlington will have a big budget and support, but with that comes expectations,” said Lakeland.
“They started last season well but tailed off. I expect them to have a decent and capable side.
“We will be underdogs and the pressure will be firmly on them. We will be trying to win while respecting they will be a good team and very hard to play against.”