Fine Civil form could lead to Taylor rethink
EXETER Civil Service manager Mark Taylor says he is reconsidering his aims for the season in the wake of his side's superb start to the season.
Civil went into their Boxing Day fixture at Alphington sitting in sixth spot in the table, with Taylor having identified a top-eight finish as his aim at the start of the season.
This could have appeared overly optimistic given Taylor's side finished fifth from bottom last season.
But with seven wins and three draws from 15 games, Taylor is considering challenging his players to secure a top-six spot instead, although he admits that would be no mean feat.
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"At the beginning of this season I would have been very happy with top eight. The way things are going I would love a top-six finish," said Taylor, whose side go to Sidmouth Town on Saturday.
"Having said that, everyone wants a top-six finish so it will be tough, but we are heading in the right direction.
"Considering where we are in the league and that our target at the start of the season was a top-eight finish, we are well on target.
"In fact, we are probably a little bit ahead of where I hoped we would be, so overall I'm really happy."
Analysing why his team had enjoyed so much success this season – they only need three more wins to equal last season's tally – Taylor believes the added experience has made all the difference.
"We are still improving and making new signings to make us even better, but I am well pleased with where the club is heading," Taylor added.
"When I came in we had a very young squad and I had to sign a lot of Devon & Exeter players, so we did lack a bit of experience.
"We now have the experience of an extra season and a few extra players so that has made a real difference.
"We are looking to sign more players but I have a nice little squad now and I am very happy with what I have got at the moment.
"Most of the squad is players from last season and with that extra year's experience we are a much better side."
John Moore's Alphas entertain Newton Abbot Spurs on Saturday having not played last weekend, with all the division's matches being washed out.
Axminster Town chairman Ray Self feels the trials and tribulations of a turbulent couple of seasons has united his side.
The Tigers won just two matches last term on their way to finishing second from bottom.
But it is a very different story this season, with Axminster leading the standings ahead of their scheduled Boxing Day clash at Sidmouth Town.
And Self feels the difficulties of the past couple of seasons has united the squad and led to an upturn in results.
"We have had a few off-field issues which affected us a bit over the last couple of seasons and led to a number of players leaving," said Self, whose side go to Galmpton United on Saturday.
"That all meant last season was just about surviving and we managed to struggle through. It was very important that we survived and I think we are seeing the benefits of that now.
"Things are looking very promising. There is still a lot of hard work going on off the field but we are making progress.
"Being top of the table it would be great to finish top but I don't think we are ready for the step up yet. I think top three or four would represent a really good finish for us."
Self also revealed that plans were afoot to expand the club's youth section.
The Tigers have traditionally placed an emphasis on local youth players, and Self hopes that ethos can continue.
"With a lot of hard work we have started rebuilding the youth side of things and that is also very important for a club like Axminster because our players have to come from somewhere," Self explained.
"We used to have a rule of just four players from outside areas but we have relaxed that quite a bit for this season, but it would be good to be able to bring that in again.
"We have an under-16 team with four or five lads who are going to be too old at the end of this season.
"We are now looking at creating a third team to help that step up between boys' football and men's football to help them with that extra bit of development."
In other matches, Exmouth Town manager Richard Pears takes his side to Appledore, while Crediton United entertain Stoke Gabriel. Okehampton Argyle host Totnes & Dartington, while Teignmouth go to Plymstock United.