05:00PM, Thursday 18 November 2021
Chris Ayres’ start to life as Flackwell Heath boss could not have gone much better, with the side winning six of his first seven matches in charge to launch themselves up the Spartan South Midlands Premier Division table, however, he’s canny enough to know there will be ‘ups and downs’ ahead.
The Heathens were toiling in lower mid-table when Ayres, and assistant Paul Shone, took over from Marcus Richardson last month and their form since then has even left Ayres a little ‘speechless’.
On Saturday they overwhelmed Holmer Green at Wilks Park, with Fabian Driffill firing them in front in the first half and Adam Thomas reacting well to poach a crucial second with 15 minutes to play. It was the side’s seventh win in eight in all competitions – there only defeat coming to current leaders Risborough Rangers – and that sustained run of form has lifted the side to seventh in the table.
They’ll do well to catch the likes of Risborough, and Leighton Town, who’ve been given one hell of a head start, but Ayres and Shone will be leaving no stone unturned in their bid to close the gap.
“Yeah, I’m a bit speechless,” Ayres said.
“The boys have been amazing, really great, and they’ve really bought into what we’re trying to do.
“We’ve hit a crest of a wave, and everyone is getting behind us. We had 290 at the game on Saturday which is a big crowd for some of these boys.
“We know there will be ups and downs to come but right now it’s beyond what we thought we could achieve when we took over.”
The acquisition of Fabian Driffill has given the Heathens some much-needed firepower in attack, while hard-work on the training ground, and buy-in to their philosophy, from the players has led to the side’s improved run of form.
“We’ve brought in Fabian Driffill so we’ve now got a proven goalscorer, but we’ve also just spent time coaching and trying to get our philosophy across.
“We’ve got Keith Ryan who’s come in from Wycombe and has worked with QPR’s u23s, coaching the team and we’ve just shown them a bit of love. They’re all great players and I said when I arrived the team was in a false position. We’ve spent a lot of time on the coaching pitch putting on sessions, trying to improve the players and, touch wood, we’re getting the results in matches.
“Paul’s (Shone) has also been great with his man-management, and he’s got a great network with other coaches and managers, so we know a little bit more about who we’re coming up against.
“Little bits like that help, and we’re analysing our games, but we don’t get as much time to do that as we’d like.
“We’ve also brought in a couple from Northwood, who were at the club as youth players, and they’ve given us some more youthful energy.
“We like to play a high tempo game and get around the pitch and at the minute everything is great, but we know how quickly things can change in football.”
The Heathens run to the quarter finals of the FA Vase last season was the highlight of the campaign, and they kick off this year’s challenge at home to Guildford City on Saturday. Ayres knows it will be tough against their Combined Counties Premier Division South visitors and a couple of his players are cup-tied for the match, but he’s confident supporters will get behind the players and they’ll respond to get ‘the right result’.