AS debut seasons go, Andrew Neal could not have hoped for much better at Taunton Town.

‘Rocky’ Neal – a nickname from a youth football coach, due to his Rottweiler-esque hassling of opponents – joined last summer, treading the well-worn path from Truro City to the Viridor Stadium.

A tireless runner, Neal has a knack of conjuring goals out of thin air; he scored nine in six pre-season games, and went on to score 37 in all competitions over the season.

He has led from the front as Taunton pushed Weymouth all the way in Southern League Premier South this campaign, eventually finishing in second, one point behind, and exiting the play-offs against Poole Town on penalties.

Neal said: “It’s been a brilliant season, and a very good one on a personal note as well.

“At the start of the year not many people would have assumed we’d be up there challenging, but we knew we had a good squad and could challenge the big boys.

“Looking back on it now, we can be proud of what we’ve achieved.”

Familiarity with many of his new team-mates was a big boost for him, as he explained: “It’s never straightforward moving to a new team, but I already knew six or seven lads here.

“It’s a great changing room with no bad eggs in it, so it was easy for me to settle in.”

And Neal praised fellow forwards Dan Sullivan and Matt Wright, for helping him pile up the goals.

“I thought 20 goals would be a good return in my first year, but the team create so many chances,” he said.

“They [Sullivan and Wright] have been brilliant.

“Wrighty is an amazing spearhead for the team, he’s a battering ram, while Sully does so much running and hard work, and he’s technically brilliant.

“So you have someone who can unpick defences and another who wins so many headers – it’s a dream for me, as I can play with freedom.”

Full of respect for Rob Dray and his management team, Neal is one of several players to commit to playing for the club next season; he has clearly been impressed by the way Taunton is run off the pitch.

He said: “Between Truro and Taunton, the difference was unbelievable.

“You wouldn’t assume one was at a lower level, as Taunton is in such a good place.

“Kevin [Sturmey, chairman] has got everything right, he has the backing of the directors, and it’s so professional.

“You see it in the improvement [in the attendances], and I think the club is only going in one direction.

“I think we’ll be one of the favourites to be up there again [next season], as this squad has shown it can compete.

“With a couple of additions, we’re confident we’ll be up there next year, and hopefully we can go one better.”