Skipper admits improvements are needed after Mildenhall Town exit the FA Vase at Stansted
Captain Luke Butcher has insisted that the Mildenhall Town players must shoulder the responsibility for their inconsistent start to the season – the nadir of which came on Saturday when they exited the Buildbase FA Vase at the hands of hosting Stansted.
During the summer manager Ricky Cornish put together an exciting squad of which much was expected, given that it contained plenty of Step 4 experience, a number of Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division title winners and highly-rated youngsters.
And yet, for all of the proven talent, stringing together positive results – particularly in recent weeks – has been beyond them with just four wins from their last 13 outings in all competitions.
The weekend’s 1-0 defeat at a sodden Hargrave Park was an all-too-familiar story, one in which Mildenhall dominated possession but struggled to carve out anything resembling a clear-cut opportunity.
“We are all gutted. The pitch was a leveller and so was the weather but they have done a job on us and we have not dealt with it,” said skipper Butcher.
“We have dominated the game in terms of possession but have only had a couple of half chances and that is not good enough.
“That is not digging out the strikers, it is a whole team thing. We need to be better from back to front, out wide and centrally.
“If we had made and missed a lot of chances then you just hold your hands up and put it down to being one of those days but that is not the case.
“It is down to fine margins. I think we are defending well and are not conceding many chances, but teams seem to be scoring the chances they are getting against us whereas at the other end the ball does not feel like it is dropping for us. At the same time, you have to make those fine margins go for you.
“Ricky and Colin (Vowden, assistant) cannot do any more for us. We are prepared properly so we have to hold our hands up and put it right.”
With Mildenhall out of the Vase and occupying l3th in the Premier Division standings, the danger could be that the season could now drift away.
However, Butcher is adamant that there is still plenty left to play for between now and the term’s conclusion in late April.
“You look around that dressing room and there are five or six of us that have won our league – that shows what we have got,” he added.
“Good teams do not become bad teams over night and good players do not all of a sudden become bad players.
“We are a new side that has been put together and we are a really good side as well.
“We have had a long chat (in the dressing room) and nobody is digging anyone out. The squad is pulling in the same direction and I am sure things will turn around because the squad is a very good one.
“It is still only November – there is a long way to go and if we can get a run together it can still be a very good season.”
A poor first half in Essex ended in the fourth minute of stoppage time with the tie’s only goal.
After riding a couple of challenges just inside the Mildenhall half, Stansted’s attacking midfielder Ryan Ramsey found himself in the clear and after advancing into the box he showed good composure to beat visiting goalkeeper Jake Hayhoe.
Mildenhall’s best chance to draw level fell to substitute Jack Brame in the 69th minute when Ben Nolan’s cross picked him out, but the unmarked forward curled his shot off target.
Nolan himself went close seven minutes later with a looping header that beat Stansted’s back-peddling goalkeeper George Marsh, but unfortunately for the away side the ball also cleared the crossbar.
As time ticked away Brame’s strike from distance was well saved by Marsh, while a number of corners and crosses came to nothing as Mildenhall came up short in their bid to reach the third round of the competition for the first time since 2007/08.
Mildenhall: Hayhoe, Green, Asensi, Butcher, Weavers, Nolan, Yallop (Lawal 82), Steed, Canfer, Manels, Castro (Brame 46)
* Mildenhall return to action in the league at Thetford Town tomorrow night (7.45pm).
The Brecklanders endured a tough start to the season but the appointment of Matt Morton as player-manager has coincided with an upturn in results.