Taylor targets top-six spot as Villa build on last season
EXWICK Villa manager Mark Taylor is targeting a top-six finish – but thinks a place in the top four is not out of the question.
Villa – formerly known as Exeter Civil Service – visit Liverton United on Saturday, who took voluntary demotion from the Premier Division.
After exceeding expectations last season, Taylor is hoping for a repeat performance.
"Last season we targeted the top half and we managed to get into the top eight. This season we want the top six and, with a bit of luck, we could challenge for the top four," he explained.
"It's important we make a strong start if we want to finish high up the league.
"I do not know what kind of squad Liverton have now, but they were sort of mid-table last season. Some people say it is a weak squad but I am certainly not taking it for granted."
Taylor will be without new signings Callum Hoare and Richard Lammacraft, plus Ollie Bird.
Curing last season's inconsistency is Teignmouth joint-player manager Geoff Breslan's aim this season.
After an erratic campaign, the Teigns came sixth in the division, despite having led in the early stages.
A dramatic slump in form around Christmas scuppered any title hopes, but Breslan – who now shares managerial duties with Gary Zink – says a top-four finish is possible if they are more consistent.
"This year is all about consistency," he said. "We proved last year that we can beat the best teams but also lose to the weakest ones.
"Taking points off the top teams is obviously good but it's no good doing that and then going to the lesser teams and losing to them.
"Last season we started well and only lost one of our first 12 or so, but then Christmas came and we lost five or six on the bounce.
"Hopefully appointing Gary will help us eradicate some of the mistakes we made from last season."
Breslan has signed the prolific Hayden Roe from Bovey Tracey and former Torquay United youngster Aaron Ibbetson, but Steve Mardell has joined Saturday's opponents Newton Abbot Spurs.
Exeter University boss Dave Evans believes a change off the pitch could pay dividends.
Evans has 28 players to pick from for his starting XI at home to Totnes & Dartington on Saturday after merging the first and second teams' training sessions.
"We are looking to build a football club rather than an isolated first and second team," said Evans. "It also means second team players who play for the seniors will have a better idea of how we play, rather than being called in from the cold and asked to do a job.
"We have had three days of training and I've been impressed. We have quite a few of the first team players still missing but some of the other players that have come in have looked really good."
Paddy Thomas is hoping the start of the season is the best time for his Simouth Town side to play title-favourites Stoke Gabriel.
The Vikings are at home for Saturday's clash, and Thomas admits his side will need all the advantages they can get.
"Stoke Gabriel are certainly going to be difficult – I think they are most of the Liverton team from last year from what I have heard," said Thomas, who has added Dan Norman and Andy Isaacs to the squad without any departures.
"They are bound to be up there but it could be a good time to play them, on the opening day before they have time to settle."
Discussing his hopes for the season, Thomas continued: "After the last couple of seasons I think we would definitely take mid-table if someone offered that to us right now.
"I do not want to be near the bottom again this time around. It is a long, hard season and we don't want another battle at the bottom."
Crediton United joint-manager Matt Trenaman says his batch of new players must adapt to Division One East football.
Kirton start their season on Friday by hosting Alphington, having signed at least four Devon & Exeter League players and promoted a handful from the club's second team.
Trenaman – who is co-boss with Perry Carpenter – believes how quickly the new players adapt will be key.
"We have brought in quite a few new players from the Devon & Exeter League," said Trenaman, who led the reserves to the D&E Division Two title last season with Carpenter.
"Perry and I know they are good enough to play at this level individually. The only concern is throwing them all in at the same time."
Kirton have signed Matt Woodward, Kenny Ord and Wes Toms from Morchard Bishop, and also hope to land Jon Bradford from the same side. Lloyd Copp has arrived from Bow.
Elsewhere, Okehampton Argyle host Budleigh Salterton on Saturday while Axminster Town open at home against Appledore.