IT has been another solid season of progress for Taunton Town, and chairman Kevin Sturmey is full of praise for those who helped make it happen.

The 2018/19 campaign saw the Peacocks reach the fourth qualifying round of the FA Cup – taking Billericay Town, who were top of National League South at the time, to a replay – and finishing second in their first season in Evo-Stik Southern League Premier Division South, just a point behind champions Weymouth.

Taunton lost a penalty shoot-out against Poole Town in the play-offs, but Sturmey is still pleased with how the team performed.

He said: “Did we over-achieve? Probably not, but given that this time last year we didn't know a lot of the teams and the facilities, I think it was a fantastic season.

“We've achieved a huge amount in four seasons, and in the end play-offs are a lottery – they're great if you go up, horrendous if you don't.

“This year, I think the target is hopefully to go one better [and win the league], and the second round proper of the FA Cup would be nice!”

Much of last season’s success must be credited to head of football Rob Dray, who stepped up from his role as coach under Leigh Robinson in September (when Robinson and Michael Meaker moved to take charge at Truro City), and formed a potent management team with Matt Villis (assistant) and Steve Perkins (coach).

"I think they were fantastic,” said Sturmey.

“If you go back to September, a lot of people said 'we need to get someone in, we need to do this and that', but they don't really know what goes on behind the scenes.

"Even when Leigh and Meaks were here, Rob was kind of the fulcrum, who kept everything together.

"I don't think there's anyone in the South West with a bigger contacts book than Rob, he's just always speaking to people and he works so hard.

"Rob having his own business helps, but even before he was doing a lot of the leg work, and then Leigh would often top and tail deals, and Meaks was the coach.

"Steve Perkins came in, he wanted to work with Rob, and I think he gave us a different dimension as well.

"He's very respected, very calm and astute.

“The three complement each other in the management team, as they're all different characters.

"Perks is the coach, Rob is head of football and keeps it all together, and Matt assists both of them.

"When you've played really recently, you can still see things along the same lines as the players, and over the season I think Matt grew into his role and complemented Rob.”

There was steady progress in the stands as well, with the average match attendance up to around 700, and over 700 on Saturdays.

Not that Sturmey sees that as the high water mark.

“We know it’s achievable to reach 1,000, and that’s always been my target,” he said.

“We’ve doubled our numbers in the last two seasons. Having said that, I think winning – and consistently winning at home – makes a massive difference.

“While we take big numbers away from home, the numbers at home are good and that’s down to doing very well on the pitch.

“No matter how good everything else is, winning consistently in any sport means more people will want to come down and see you – and your profile is higher.”

See next Thursday's County Gazette for part two of the interview, looking at Taunton’s ambitious plans for the future.