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Newark FC chairman Gary Clarke reflects season so far — including FA Cup run, Midlands Football League progression and FA Vase draw

The chairman of Newark Football Club has praised his side’s start to the season as lockdown offered time to reflect on the Highwaymen’s early achievements.

Chairman Gary Clarke said the pause in non-elite football came as no surprise as the country entered a second national lockdown at the start of the month.

THE management team of Stephen Kirkham, Craig Roche and Francois Zoko at Lowfields.
THE management team of Stephen Kirkham, Craig Roche and Francois Zoko at Lowfields.

Newark sit fourth in the table, four points off the Midland Football League Premier Division leaders Sporting Khalsa.

“To have lost one game in the league, even then by one goal, is remarkable,” he said.

“Realistically, we are less than a third of the way through the season, so it bodes really well for us.”

KEVIN BASTOS draws a foul in Newark’s FA Cup win over Deeping Rangers.
KEVIN BASTOS draws a foul in Newark’s FA Cup win over Deeping Rangers.

Newark dipped in form in the weeks leading up to the break, after what was a 100% start to the season following six straight wins.

“A lot of (recent) performances were a direct knock-on effect of starting late, but certainly from the week before the Rushden and Diamond game in the FA Cup (September 22). Until now, we had matches on a Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday, Tuesday basis.

“The players are very fit and they are always focused, but the fixtures impacted on how they recovered and, of course, there was then training sessions on Thursdays, which made it difficult for the management.

“They couldn’t do the high intensity sessions that they would normally do.

“I don’t think it was the only reason (for the drop in form) but I think it was a contributing factor.”

Overall though, Clarke was pleased with Newark’s progress in what is their second season of step five football.

NEWARK'S Tom Potts.
NEWARK'S Tom Potts.

“If somebody had said games ten into the league you’ll have games in hand over the team above you, have had an FA Cup run, and be in a position where you have safely sold out home games, I would have said ‘yeah, alright’.”

What was most pleasing for Clarke was the strength in depth, which he credited to early business.

“We made all of our signings in what would have been the close of play for the previous season, which was very early,” he said.

“As it turned out, it was two to three months before the season even started.

“But we wanted to get a top quality of player throughout the squad.

“You can talk about starting elevens but you need players who can come on and be interchangeable.

“Brad Wells is a perfect example. One week he will start and then the next he will come off the bench and make a difference, like he did against Coventry United.

“Brad made the run which won the penalty and put us 3-1 up.

“Again, Elliot King is one who starts some, but can come off the bench as a different style of player who can make tired centre half’s think ‘oh, here we go’.

“Romello Nangle hasn’t always started this season so far, but for example he came off the bench against Lye Town and won the penalty, and against Coventry he came on and scored.

“We have a really good squad, and it goes beyond the usual suspects that a lot of lower league football sides tend to rely on.

“Some tend to have 11 good players, and then its your Sunday morning players, but we have 16 to 17 good players — and it is great.”

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