Eastwood Returning To ‘Good Times’

Sitting sixth in the United Counties League Premier North, and with two games in hand on sides directly above, and with an Isuzu FA Vase Third Round home tie against Stourport Swifts just around the corner, it’s been a relatively enjoyable start to the season for those at Eastwood CFC.

With joint-managers Martin Ball and Daryll Thomas pulling the strings on the side-lines, captain Aaron O’Connor leading the lines on the pitch, and chairman Darryl Claypole ensuring everything goes smooth off-field, the Red Badgers continue to push boundaries in their challenge for promotion through the system.

The current incarnation of the club, that was founded as recently as 2014, less than a decade ago, and they’ve already tasted some success; promotion as Central Midlands Alliance (League) South champions in 2018, then, following a season in the East Midlands Counties League (covid stopped the following two) the club was placed in the United Counties.

It’s taken a little adjusting to the new league run, 14 and 16 place finishes in the last two campaigns are testament to that but, as both Ball and Claypole tell the Nottingham Sport, it’s been a building process to what is hoped to be a brighter future at the football club.

“We (Ball and Thomas) only arrived at the club just after Christmas last year following time at Carlton Town, so this our first managerial post,” explained joint-manager, Martin Ball.

“Although it was a shock losing the first two games of this season (Melton Town at home, Ashby Ivanhoe away), we do only have the lads in training once a week, and have just sixteen squad players whilst dual-signing from the leagues above.

“Therefore, it’s a difficult balancing act trying to keep players happy.

“We have been fortunate though, lucky in the injuries department, although we’ve a great physio here as well, and because everyone here wants to play football.”

Unbeaten in their last seven outings (six wins and a draw in all competitions), the Red Badgers have plundered twenty-two goals, conceding just six, in that period alone, moving into early play-off contention, and seeing them progress in the FA Vase along the way.

Not only is the club seeing success blossom on the football field, but also behind-the-scenes as well, including an exciting partnership with European and Portuguese powerhouses, Benfica (read more here).

“We do have a thriving media department at the club, Red Badgers TV, a new studio, full-time photographer, which is great for our fan-base,” explained Red Badgers chairman, Darryl Claypole.

“I bought 49% of the clubs shares before last Christmas, and completed the full takeover on Coronation Day, (quickly) returning the club to (its former) Coronation Park name.

“We also wanted to make sure we were able to marry the two by reintegrating the old, Eastwood Town fans, with the new supporters; a hark back to the clubs’ history.

Recent months, and defeats to rivals, and early pace-setters Sherwood Colliery, and Easington Sports (in the UCL KO Cup) aside, have been kind for the Nottinghamshire club and its loyal fan-base.

Within touching distance of second place Melton Town, seven points behind and with games in hand there also, the Red Badgers, and their all-firing strike force, continue to beaver (or badger) away in the upper echelons of the division.

Led by goals from Kyle Tomlin (16), Tyler Blake (13) and Aaron O’Connor (11), among others also finding the net, the FA Vase has itself seen the following success played out –

2QR vs. Southwell City (A) W 4-2 (HT 0-0; Tyler Blake 2, Kyle Tomlin, Kamani Wison)

R1 vs. Cogenhoe United (A) W 3-1 (HT 0-1; Kamani Wilson, Aaron O’Connor, Tyler Blake)

R2 vs. Dudley Town (H) W 4-1 (HT 2-0; Kamani Wilson 2, Terry Atem, Tyler Blake)

R3 vs. Stourport Swifts (2 December)

(NB – as Eastwood Town, the club enjoyed a run to the Fifth Round as recently as 2005, finally succumbing to Hereford United in a replay)

Now they just have to contend with the challenge of a Stourport Swifts side sitting seventh in their league, six points off second place – although they’ve ‘only’ netted thirty in all competitions this season themselves (19 games).

“The Vase, it’s a great opportunity and we want to continue progressing through the rounds,” continued Ball.

“Stourport though, that’s a huge game, but we do fancy ourselves against anyone at home, and that’s what we wanted, a home draw.

“It should be a really good game, although tough when you’re at the level we are.

“I will look to speak to Sav (Wayne Savage, Sherwood Colliery) though as they’ve played them this season, and we’ve got a good relationship there.

“Our top scorer is Kyle (Tomlin) but Kamani (Wilson), he’s likened to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at his peak, as well as Tyler Blake, and our captain, Aaron O’Connor, scoring goals.

“We’re not reliant on any one person scoring goals though and we are a threat going forward.

“Against Dudley (in the last round), we weren’t really at our best in the first half but, once we got the ball down on the ground, and started playing football, then the end result wasn’t really in doubt.

“The league though, that’s the bread and butter and which has to be our focus.”

“These cup runs, it’s been brilliant so far,” beamed Claypole.

“I approached Martin and Daryll to join us on this journey though as they are passionate and knowledgeable about the game.

“I’ve known both from our days at Carlton Town so for me they were an obvious choice.

“They’ve brought a whole new level, standard of football to non-league.”

What of the future of the club? Having struggled in the past two seasons, avoiding relegation to UCL Division One which could have proved catastrophic, and, in all honesty, may not even have ushered in that of Ball, Thomas and Claypole.

The Red Badgers chair though, he sold a dream, and one which Ball and Thomas are highly capable of bringing to fruition.

“As well as the five-year partnership we have with Portuguese giants, Benfica (Eastwood have recently been over with their Academy side), which I have to say is world class; we have a clear, defined, long-term plan.

“We also have a ten-year plan in place in which to reach the National League, and also playing in the FA Trophy soon as well.

“What we are doing here though, it’s incredible, but we will continue to take things one game at a time whilst enjoying the journey which we are on.”

Upcoming for the Red Badgers is, on Saturday (25 November), an away trip to local rivals Newark & Sherwood United (UCL Premier North), followed by a home date on Saturday 2 December, when they welcome Stourport Swifts in the FA Vase.

Keep up-to-date with all things Eastwood CFC via their Facebook here and website here.

*Article provided by Peter Mann (Senior Correspondent).

*Main image @EastwoodCFCV2 Hot shot Tyler Blake already has double digits for the season.

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