Heyside hopes
Tuesday 7th November 2017 @ 15:47 by Mark Phillip
Football Oldham Sports

Matthew Wheelton is confident of guiding Heyside Football Club to a top three finish in the Manchester Premier League this season.

After taking charge of the first team over summer, the 27-year-old has so far won seven, drawn two and lost four of his opening 13 games, leaving the club in fourth spot ahead of Saturday’s encounter against struggling Bolton County.

What’s more, the squad is also preparing for a clash against Avro in the Manchester Challenge Trophy semi-final in just over two weeks time.

By his own admission, Matthew has inherited a side that needed little adjustment following promotion last season. Speaking to Reporter Sport, he said: “I took over the first team from Geoff Howard, who had run the club for the previous four or five years, but due to work commitments he had to step aside over summer.

“We’ve retained the nucleus of the squad from last year, although there’s four or five new faces who have come in, who are lads that I’ve played with previously, and they’ve brought one or two of their mates with them.”

Heyside are riding the crest of a wave following promotion last season.

Instead of struggling in a higher division, the squad has taken the league by storm and proved the doubters wrong: “We started really well, I think we won five of the first six games and then we had a dip” said Matthew.

“We played Royton Town and had both centre-halves sent off in the same game.

“They were then missing for the next two games, which subsequently threw our shape out of place, and we had to put players in the wrong positions.

“We lost the two games following that but managed to pick up again”.

Given the positive start to the season, does the team harbour title ambitions this season? “We might have a little bit too much distance between us and Avro as things stand” said Matthew.

“We believe that, on our day, we’re a match for any side.

“However, we’re aiming for top three; we would view that as a decent season”.

While the team has performed well as a unit this season, Matthew reserved special praise for two key players, who have scored 16 goals between them so far. “Adam Dale and Mark Hopwood are the leading scorers so far with eight goals” said Matthew.

“They have a great relationship but are majorly competitive in outscoring one another.”

Matthew, who previously ran the Huddersfield University first team, as well as a Sunday team and a couple of junior teams, is signed on this season but has no intention of playing.

He hopes to retain the squad throughout the whole of the season, although he’s under no illusion that things could change as the campaign progresses. “I think things change naturally” said Matthew.

“Four or five players came in at the start of the season, while one or two dropped off, so it does kind of change organically.

“Unfortunately, we lost our reserve team earlier in the season due to a lack of numbers. We are always looking for new players, but you’ve got to find the right balance as well. It’s about keeping everyone happy and giving them enough minutes.”

While Matthew is focused on the league this season, he also wants to progress in the Gilgryst Cup. He said: “We’re involved in two cups this season. The Gilgrsyt Cup is really prestigious – it’s essentially the league cup and you play the final at Hyde United’s Ewen Fields Stadium – so we’d like to do well in that one.

“The other one is the Manchester Challenge Trophy, which is made up of teams from the various Premier Leagues within Manchester and the surrounding areas.

“We’re through to the semi-final of that, and we’re set to play Avro, who are currently second in our league, but they do have four games in hand.”

The squad return to league action this weekend against relegation threatened Bolton County. Like Heyside, Bolton were promoted last season but have failed to find their feet in tougher conditions.

They enter the game having lost nine of their opening 13 games.

IMAGE: http://stevebthegroundhopper.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/heyside-v-holme-valley-academicals.html