CFL lose out on the chance of silverware in Cheshire derby
The Cheshire Inter-League squad came into their Cooper-Smith Trophy match against country rivals West Cheshire League riding the crest of a wave. Their impressive victory on the Isle of Man in the FA Inter-League Cup got manager Nick Dunn's reign off to the perfect start but after a narrow defeat last week the boss admits there are issues that need to be addressed.
'It could have gone either way, we were under the level and the standards we had set in the Isle of Man game particularly first half. We were chasing the game for 70 minutes in total.
'We were throwing the kitchen sink at them in the end and I think if we had nicked one it might have papered over some cracks. The old adage that you learn more from a defeat than a win is very true.
'They had a game plan and they stuck to it which meant we had to do things that we haven’t done as a group yet in terms of having to chase a game. We’ve never been in that position,' Dunn said.
The West Cheshire League came flying out of the traps and took the lead after 12 minutes. Chris Quirk, replacing Elliot Morris in the only change to the eleven which started against the Isle of Man, equalised after half an hour but the Cheshire League were level for just five minutes as their opponents retook the lead with ten minutes left in the first half.
Despite the disappointment Dunn refuses to panic ahead of his side's Inter-League Cup second round tie against the Yorkshire Amateur League at the end of November.
'It was frustrating, we didn’t really give the best account of ourselves but it certainly isn’t doomsday and it certainly isn’t back to the drawing board but it has shown us a couple of areas we need to change maybe. It just didn’t click like it has before,' he said.
Victory in the Isle of Man came after months of preparation and anticipation and the occasion itself was a hugely rewarding and enjoyable one. I asked the manager whether the fact that last week's match was not as important might have had an impact on the players' motivation levels.
'I didn’t feel like that was the case, that wasn’t the feeling I got in the dressing room, before the game everyone was bang into it. It wasn’t as big an occasion as the Isle of Man but we certainly treated it as being as important and when that trophy got passed across we were devastated.
'The whole experience around the Isle of Man probably meant that the lads’ heads were in a slightly different place. We weren’t under-prepped for the West Cheshire and we certainly didn’t show any lack of respect.
'We knew who would be in their team we knew what they would be about. Everything went how we planned it to go but we just didn’t do it on the day really. They were better when they needed to be, simple as that,' he said.
When the fine-tooth comb comes out post-match Dunn is always willing to forensically analyse his own performance first. After close examination he admits that perhaps things might have gone differently had he tinkered with the system.
'We have to look at ourselves, should we maybe have set up differently? We probably could have been a little bit more positive possibly in set up from a management point of view and taken the game to them more. I felt that Southern was really isolated in the first half,' he admitted
This kind of introspection will continue between now and their meeting with the Yorkshire Amateur League who impressed in their Inter-League Cup first round outing beating last year's champions North Riding 6-0.
A change in system for that game could be possible but the issue of personnel is a more delicate one.
'I could be very reactionary. Yes, things need to be assessed and reviewed and lads put under the microscope a bit, not because of poor performance but because of what we need for the next game in isolation.
'It’s an interesting point in the project really because I could bring in too many. The spirit and the culture has been fantastic, even in defeat and I would be reluctant at this stage to take four or five out,' Dunn explains.
That isn't to say that he hasn't been looking at possible additions. There are a number of talented players in the Cheshire League who have been unfortunate to miss out in recent meet-ups through a combination of injury, unavailability and timing.
'Luke Jones from Blacon who couldn’t be involved last week will be considered for selection. Niall Dawson at Billinge is impressing and we think he would give us something different maybe to what we’ve got.
'There are maybe a couple of others. Jimmy Daniels at Greenalls being one of them who has been around Cheshire football but has been playing in Australia for the past year I believe. I think everyone would rate Jimmy quite highly.
'James Manson was considered for the squad but was injured so maybe we look at him for Yorkshire, Bill Sutton is back in form at Whaley so maybe we look at him. It is like being a kid in a sweetshop,' he said.
Regardless of who gets the call for the match against the the Yorkshire Amateur League the squad will be doing everything they can to ensure that their famous victory over the Isle of Man will not be the high point of the season.
'We can’t not progress. To achieve what we did on the Isle of Man was fantastic but it was just the first round of a cup. We’ll look back on it with massively fond memories for a long, long while but if it ends up being the pinnacle I’ll be disappointed.
'I think the loss last night will probably galvanise us a bit. We’ve got lessons to learn and I’m sure we’ll learn them,' he said.
With the Cooper-Smith Trophy done and dusted for another year Dunn and his staff can throw themselves fully into the preparation for November's Inter-League Cup match but the gaffer is hoping his side won't have to wait a full twelve months to avenge the defeat to their neighbours.
'We want to play them again. I spoke to their manager after the game and we both agreed it was a good game. I said I hope we play each other in the final.
'We would do our best to make sure it was a different result and I’m sure they would do everything they could to make sure it was the same. I don’t like losing, I’m not used to it so I would like the chance to avenge that in this competition,' he said.
CFL Press Officer