DOUBLE DELIGHT: Kingsteignton Athletic won at Buckland Reserves to complete an early season double over the defending Premier champions. (c) MiraclePR.com
Kingsteignton Athletic currently sit in the top three of the Premier Division with just one defeat in their opening six league games wins out of the last seven. What is particularly promising for the Rams is that this opening spell includes a league double over defending champions Buckland Athletic Reserves. They are the first team to achieve that feat since Watcombe Wanderers in 2015.
Even before the season kicked off, Kingsteignton had been among a handful of clubs suggested as potential title-winners and their positive start will only have enhanced their title credentials.
“We’re not going to get ahead of ourselves,” said manager Matt Hooper. “But whilst there are teams in our league we need to respect – obviously Ashburton are still unbeaten – I don’t think there’s anyone we need necessarily fear. We can match anyone at the top and I think we will be up there.
The only SDFL loss for Hooper’s side so far came at Waldon in their season opener. “In that game, it was 3-3 with two minutes to go,” he revealed. “We nearly scored at one end and then they went down the other and actually scored with the last kick of the game so there was nothing in the game; it was just that they ended up with the points.
“Apart from that, we’ve been quite comfortable in all the games we’ve played and that includes playing Buckland twice. Hopefully we will be in the top position come the end of the season but there are two or three good teams in the league so we’re under no illusion that a few good games means we’re going to run away with it.”
Another positive sign for Kingsteignton comes from their miserly defensive statistics. Prior to last Saturday’s 2-2 draw at Upton, Kingsteignton had only let in one goal in the previous five – and that one came at the hands of Peninsula side Holsworthy in the Throgmorton Devon Premier Cup.
“Our ‘keeper is as good as anyone in the league and our defence is solid. But our defence – and team – hasn’t changed an awful lot from last season,” revealed Hooper. “Last season our defence was one of the tightest and as a unit we have got tighter so we won’t concede many goals. But you don’t win games by keeping clean sheets. You give yourself a chance but you’ve got to put the ball in the net.
“The difference this season is we’ve changed formation slightly, added a few new faces and added goals to our team. Last season we dominated games but came away with nothing with the odd 1-0 loss and draws that we couldn’t turn into wins. This season, we’re hoping to turn around those tight games and we are scoring goals.
“We’re more progressive as a team this season,” continued Hooper. “We like to get the ball forward into the final third and play football in our opponents’ half.
“We’re good going forward. We’ve got pace in the team and we’ve also got a centre-forward in the team who’s big and physical.”
The strike pairing of Toby Pullman and Tom Reeves was already becoming productive towards the end of last season and has been bolstered this campaign with the acquisition of Ollie Kewell from Upton Athletic.
“Ollie’s come in and the three across the front have made a very good partnership,” said Hooper. “Either a couple of them are scoring and someone else is assisting or vice versa. Between the three of them they really are giving us a threat going forward.
“We’re always looking to bring new players in but we’re not a club that likes to go out and pull players from here, there and everywhere. We try and get local players who want to come in and play for the team, players that will hopefully come in, be of the right standard and then be with Kingsteignton for a long time.
“Our squad is very young and we’ve probably only got four or five who are over the age of 25 so to be doing so well shows how mature those players are and how far they have come. We have got a good youth set-up and we’ve got quite a few players who came into our reserves as 16 year-olds and, even at the age of 20 or 21, are now key players for our first team. That’s what we’re about as a team.”
The Rams are also hoping to make it into the third round of the Herald Cup but will have to get past local rivals Newton Abbot Spurs Reserves to do so. That game, at The Rec, is scheduled for tomorrow.
“I was very excited to see that that was the draw,” admitted Hooper. “It is always nice to play Spurs. They are managed by Matt Joy who played for Kingsteignton only a couple of seasons ago and I have been in communication with him about the game.
“We are in a league above so I think there will be some pressure on us and an expectation to win but a derby game is going to be physical with some tackles going in.
“They always get a good crowd and I’m sure a lot of Kingsteignton people will go down there. We’ve had some good games against them over the last couple of seasons and we even hosted them in pre-season for a friendly. Although we are rivals there is a lot of mutual respect there.
“Being a cup game they can really go at it and we’ve got to be really careful of that. But we are going well at the moment and we’re quite comfortable with what we’re doing so we won’t change too much. If we play to our potential we have the ability to come out on top.”
As well as being a competitive football team, Kingsteignton have always made it clear that they are a family-orientated club.
“We try to be inclusive and get involved with the community when we can,” said Hooper. “We get involved with the ram roast and we put on a fireworks display which is coming up soon. Whilst it’s a fundraiser for the club it also brings a lot of people from the community together.”