Pre-Match: Corby Town

Seven down, three to go in pre-season friendlies for Notts following Saturday’s 1-1 Meadow Lane draw with Wolves.

Tonight, Martin Allen’s side will travel to Corby Town for the first game to be played at Corby’s new ground. I had a quick word with Town fan Robbie Dunion of the Corby Town Official Website (who i found on the Steelmen forum) for his views!

What have the last 12 months been like for you as a Corby fan?

The last 12 months have been literally like a roller coaster ride (cliché I know) but its been full of ups and downs. The 2010/11 campaign started full of optimism (as always) following a great debut season in the Blue Square North. Having just missed out on the play-offs by a single point the previous season, the gaffer brought in some quality signings like Chris Mackenzie, Andy Hall, Ben Mackey and Richard Lavery. The fans all felt that this was the team to finally get us up to the Blue Square Premier.

Off the pitch things were rosy too, our new £3.5m stadium was starting to take shape and we knew that it wouldn’t be long before we could finally leave the athletics stadium and return to watching our team in a proper football ground for the first time since the mid-80’s when we left Occupation Road.

However not everything went according to plan. Just two months into the season the local firm that was building the stadium went into liquidation and work halted. Not only had the stadium stopped, but many supporters lost their jobs with the company, Weldon Plant. In the mean time results on the pitch were very inconsistent as the new players failed to gel as a side.

One competition the club did excel in however was The FA Cup, reaching the 1st Round Proper for the first time in decades. The club was only 7 minutes away from a mouth-watering tie against Charlton at The Valley, however Luton Town scored a late equaliser at The Rockingham Triangle and eventually beat us 4-2 in a replay at Kenilworth Road.

Fans were once again positive, and shared a huge sigh of relief as a new contractor took over the building of the stadium and continued the project.

Then came one of the darkest days in the club’s history, as our chairman Peter Mallinger lost his long battle with leukaemia at the turn of the year. Mr Mallinger had been instrumental in the building of our new home and was the driving force behind the club’s rise from relegation fodder in the Southern League Eastern Division to Blue Square North contenders. The club mourned his loss, which also hit us hard financially. As the main backer of Corby Town his death marked the end for a number of the current squad due to financial uncertainty around the place.

The big names left and were replaced with youngsters, who struggled towards the end of the season. Added to that was the news that leading scorer Ben Mackey had broken his leg and would miss the rest of the campaign. As the season fizzled out, the team dropped from 8th to the lower half of the table, and the attendances reflected that. The future was looking bleak.

However pre-season seems to have changed all of that, Drury has once again managed to assemble a very good side including Paul Mayo, Matt Rhead, Leon Hibbert and Andy Burgess. There has also been a great re-shuffle off the pitch in the boardroom and the club is in a much better position. The dark cloud has been lifted… not to mention we finally get to play in our new stadium on Monday!!!!!!!!!

How are expectations of the season ahead of you?

As I mentioned above, last season ended in doom and gloom and most people felt that the club “living within its means” and “cutting its cloth accordingly” would automatically mean our new era, in our new stadium, would begin with a relegation dogfight… but following some shrewd business by manager Graham Drury we have a squad that could potentially compete for the play-offs with a bit of luck.

It is a very difficult league, especially now that FC Halifax Town and Altrincham have come into it, plus the likes of Nuneaton and Boston United remaining. But there is a growing confidence around the town now that Corby can do well next season, and I am full of optimism.

Which of your players should Notts be wary of in their friendly game?

The player who has impressed me most during pre-season has to be striker Matt Rhead, who joined from Eastwood Town. Rhead was linked with Mansfield and Chesterfield, but gladly has signed for us. He is a 6ft 4 target man with a great touch and an eye for goal. He is very powerful and clever.

We also signed a youngster called Jordan Smith who scored 65 goals last term, in the East Midland Alliance. He is a very confident and quick player. It will be interesting to see how he takes the step up. He could be the spark that the side needs next season.

And then, who’s the weakest link? Anyone you think might struggle through the evening?

In all honesty I cannot think of one. There have been some terrible performances in our pre-season games so far, however the culprits have now been released as Drury cut his squad down from 23 to 18. And believe me that included a few players we expected to star, the manager has really pulled no punches.

Hopefully it will be one of those games where the Corby players will rise to the challenge of playing against a league side.

Similarly, how much do you know about Notts? Who would you consider the danger men and who are you not too concerned about?

I know that County had a wheelbarrow, but the wheel fell off! So I am very wary of that!

I must admit I do keep an eye on the world’s oldest league club, because one of my mate’s from uni in Leeds was Notts County mad. He goes to most games and was always talking about them. I remember cheering Notts on against Ke**ering in the FA Cup with him on Setanta Sports, but I wont mention how that finished.

Obviously Lee Hughes is still dangerous and knows exactly where the goal is. Also Craig Westcarr used to play for our local rivals Ke**ering Town. I’ve been impressed with how he has risen from the Blue Square Prem and think our defence needs to be wary of him.

I can’t say that there is anyone I am not concerned about, as they are all professional full-time footballers and have an advantage over our lads.

Finally, a prediction for the evening?

I would be more than happy with a good performance from the Steelmen, regardless of the final score, however;

Head says: Corby Town 1-3 Notts County

Heart says: Corby Town 2-0 Notts County

I hope that as many Notts County fans out there will come to this match, it is guaranteed to be a carnival atmosphere and very enjoyable as our first game in our new home.

Robbie

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