In our first of three Taunton Town season reviews, manager Leigh Robinson looks back on a landmark campaign for the club.
LEIGH Robinson believes disappointment at missing out on promotion should not take away from what has been a “tremendous” season for Taunton Town.
The FA Cup run and all that came with it has strengthened the club, the Peacocks boss says, and bodes well for promotion challenges to come.
“Unquestionably, it has been a tremendous season,” he said.
“The FA Cup run was obviously the highlight and something that comes along once in a blue moon at this level.
“Apart from that we had other great moments like a great run to the playoffs - bearing in mind we were 16th when the cup runs were over - and we also scored over 100 goals, won at Hereford and had an 11-game winning run.
“Unfortunately, the physical toll of the season and 60 games caught up with us in the last three weeks or so and we weren’t able to secure promotion - but we can’t lose sight of all the amazing things that we’ve done this year.
“I wouldn’t swap our season for anyone else’s.
“Teams get promoted and relegated every year but what we did this year in the FA Cup is almost a once-in-a-career moment - I was eight months old when Taunton last did it [in 1982]!”
Their run to the FA Cup first round saw them dispatch Tiverton Town, Cinderford Town, Slimbridge, Hampton & Richmond Borough and Hemel Hempstead Town and, having drawn 2-2 at home to Barrow, they travelled up for the replay, which the hosts edged 2-1.
Robinson said: “At the Barrow away game, it struck us that we were the lowest ranked team in the country remaining in the FA Cup.
“That in itself is incredible.”
And his own highlight of the year?
“Somewhere between the final whistle at Hemel and the joy on our supporters’ faces when they invaded the pitch, and the whole day of Barrow at home.
“To see a full Viridor Stadium, the Match of the Day cameras and the pride that came with it is as good as it gets at this level.
“I turned up at the ground on the day of the Barrow game to find the place swarming with people already two hours before kick-off.
“On a normal day there might be 10 people there at that time!
“We then came out to warm up and the ground was full, which was weird but fantastic at the same time - it was such a proud day.”
AWARD: Manager Leigh Robinson (centre) with chairman Kevin Sturmey (right) as Taunton Town win Southern League Division 1 South & West team of the month for December.
Having had their moment in the sun, efforts turned to the league campaign - and 11 straight wins propelled them up the table as they caught up on their games in hand.
But, with the weight of 60 matches in their legs, the Peacocks ran out of gas in April and were beaten by Tiverton Town (who went on to achieve promotion) in the playoff semi-finals.
Reflecting on that, Robinson said: “We always knew that winning [the league] would be a tough ask with Hereford in the division and so the best we could hope for was the lottery of the playoffs.
“We got the results to finish third which was a really good effort but, unfortunately, the points deduction [for fielding the ineligible Michael Meaker against Shortwood United in August] scuppered that.
“We worked so hard over the summer to rebuild and get a good team together for the opening day, and to have that away win at Shortwood wiped off was hard to take.”
Robinson assembled a fine squad, with Jordan Rogers and Matt Wright leading the line, but the likes of Owen Irish, Ed Palmer and Ross Staley also contributing heavily to their impressive goal tally.
Talking about his players, the manager said: “They’ve been such an honest bunch and have sweated blood for the cause this year.
“We faced a daunting fixture list from December onwards but they embraced it, rolled up their sleeves and got on with it.
“So many teams would have downed tools after the FA Cup euphoria, struggled to find motivation and finished mid-table, but there was no danger of that with this group of players.”
And looking ahead, it promises to be a busy summer for Robinson and the club, with players coming and going as always at non-league level.
“We have already agreed deals with three new players,” Robinson said, adding that they won’t be announced until they can be registered in mid-June.
“There will of course be players who choose to move on, as we have had in each of the last few years.
“This is perfectly normal, as players’ personal circumstances change or they get better offers.
“This has never affected us, though, as the overall pool of players is pretty big and, therefore, replacements are pretty easy to come by.
“So I would urge our supporters not to get caught up on this and focus on the players coming in.”
Having agreed a deal to continue as boss for the next season, Robinson is optimistic for the club’s prospects.
“We are now moving closer to being debt-free, which helps cashflow; we have more and more commercial partners wanting to be involved in the club; and attendances are their highest in a long, long time.
“We have a lovely blend at the moment of a good team on the pitch, brilliant volunteers behind the scenes working their fingers to the bone for the club, and good numbers on the terraces.
“As long as this continues, the club will go from strength to strength.”