Ryman Division One North

NEW manager Rob Burton is leaving no stone, or pitch for that matter, unturned as he tries to make a success of his first major manager's job.

The PE teacher has arguably the toughest task of any of the borough's senior managers, after finding himself having to form a new squad almost from scratch.

He also has a hard act to follow after Steve Ringrose quit in June and he is quite literally building from the bottom upwards - starting with the pitch which he has had narrowed to restrict the freedom visiting sides may enjoy at the Middlesex Stadium.

Meanwhile, he has been thumbing through his book of contacts to fill in the sizeable gaps left by the number of bodies leaving the club, with only four players remaining from last year.

"I'm hoping to stabilise us in the league, to get us in a position where we're not worried about relegation," said Burton. "First of all we've got to make ourselves hard to beat.

"I've brought the pitch in by four metres to help make us compact and strong and we'll look to hit teams on the break."

The spine of the team may be somewhat familiar with Michael Murray and Nick Turner returning to play in front of goalkeeer Matt Davis, while Jonathan Mengeli is also back for another season.

New faces include strikers Dan Campbell (from Wealdstone), midfielder Andy Glynne (Wingate), John Powell (Fulham), Daryl King (Uxbridge), Timo Christie (St Albans), Ali Harris, Jay Silva (both Brunel University) and defenders Aaron Kiely (Fulham) and Dave Kennedy (Brunel).

Boro have already had a slice of competitive action, playing Kings Lynn in the Southern League Championship and they took on Enfield Town in the Middlesex Charity Cup Final, held over from last year, at Church Road last night (Tuesday).

The league campaign, with Boro having been switched to the Ryman League, begins with another stiff test at home to last year's third-placed club Redbridge, followed by a trip to Cheshunt on Tuesday.

Burton, who believes his midfield trio of King, Harris and Powell will have a key role to play, has seen enough to think his hastily-assembled team can pose a few problems.

"The Kings Lynn (lost 4-0) and Yeovil (lost 3-0) games were fantastic to get our team shape," he said. "I've been really pleased with the way they've responded to going behind.

"To be three or four down at half-time and then not concede again was a good effort.

"We were so organised they had to move the ball around to find space and in the end it took some fantastic shooting from outside the box to score.

"They had that extra bit of quality but teams in our own league won't be able to move it that quick because they won't have the same quality."

Manchester-born Burton will call in whatever favours he can, including from the north-west where Manchester United scout Dave Hobson could prove a valuable ally, especially if a London-based club suits his purposes with regard to up and coming young players. That might be one Hobson's choice Burton is happy to have as he takes his first steps in senior football management.


COLIN Payne is optimistic his North-wood side can mount a promotion challenge after assembling what he described as his best squad to date.

The Woods boss lost only striker Jerome Hall from last season's squad and after bringing in seven players he is looking to start this campaign how he finished the last one.

Northwood enjoyed a fine second half to the season as they climbed to 10th spot despite losing Elliott Buchanan to Stevenage and Payne believes things can only get better.

"It's the best squad I've had since I've been at the club and I think it's the best since the club actually won something," commented Payne. "We want to finish in the top five and if we can keep the play-ers we're confident that we can do really well.

"We picked up 42 points in the second half of the season and if we had done that the first half we would have finished second, although obviously it's not as easy as that."

Payne has strengthened all over the pitch by bringing in experienced former Woods midfielder Andre Delisser from Wealdstone as well as ex-Ruislip Manor defender Matthew Plaskett and midfielder Anthony Page, both of whom new Woods assistant manager Jason Shaw knew from their time at Leverstock Green.

Joe Cowen (Harefield) and Richard Orlu (Staines) have arrived to bolster the defence in front of new keeper Robert Pearce (Hillingdon Borough), who will hope to oust Mitch Swain.

Liam Watson continues to struggle with injuries.

At the other end goals will be down to Terry Davies (Slough), who struck twice in Saturday's 3-0 defeat of Burnham, with strike partner Sean Sonner getting the other.

The manager is also looking to bring some youth players through in the shape of Jack Bennett and Aryan Tajbakhsh, although Taj could yet bypass the first team on his way to the Football League.

The 17-year-old scored his first senior goal for the club at Arlesey Town last Tuesday and he has been training full-time with Coca-Cola League Two side Barnet, who have since signed him on a dual registration, non-contract basis.

"He was our next Buchanan but unfortunately we could lose him before we kick a ball!" said Payne.

The manager named centre half Bradley Hewitt as being pivotal to the team's fortunes and he admitted he will have a much better idea of those prospects after the opening four games.

After Saturday's trip to Waltham Forest the Woods play Enfield Town, Aveley and Ware - three sides that Payne tipped to among the top five come May.

"Hewitt is outstanding," Payne added. "He's our one contracted player and the reason he is, is that he's one of the best centre halves in our league and the league above.

"Everything that comes into either box seems to fall on his head and if he stays fit we'll be fine."

Lee Holland (ankle) is out for six weeks but otherwise Payne has a fully fit squad.