UCL: Hard work has been the key to Shopmates’ upturn in fortunes

Ben Watts' Raunds Town stunned UCL Division One leaders Anstey Nomads with a 2-1 away success last weekend
Ben Watts' Raunds Town stunned UCL Division One leaders Anstey Nomads with a 2-1 away success last weekend

Raunds Town produced one of the shock results of the season so far in the Future Lions United Counties League last weekend.

It’s been a season of struggle for the Shopmates at the wrong end of Division One but they have enjoyed a big improvement since the arrival of Ben Watts as the new manager in October.

Having got themselves off the foot of the table, Raunds took things to a new level last Saturday as they claimed a superb 2-1 success at leaders Anstey Nomads, who were sent to just their third league defeat of the season.

Things don’t get any easier for Watts and his players as they take on second-placed Lutterworth Town at Kiln Park this weekend.

And while that result at Anstey would have turned a number of heads, it didn’t come as a huge surprise to the manager.

“It has been a lot of hard work,” Watts said.

“But they are a great group and I think last Saturday was proof of what we knew we had here.

“We had been a bit unlucky in some of our previous matches but the boys have trained really hard over the last three or four weeks.

“We had the 5-1 win over Birstall United but we didn’t get carried away by that and then last Saturday was obviously a step up and we deserved the win.

“We have still got a lot to do because other teams are picking up as well.

“We just needed to get off the bottom to give the players that real belief.

“We have a small squad but it is a close-knit group and I am really enjoying it. The lads are enthusiastic and they work hard, which is what you want.”

Raunds dropped back down to second-from-bottom in the table on Tuesday night after Burton Park Wanderers’ own upturn in form continued.

Daren Young’s team are now unbeaten in their last three matches and made it two wins in a row as they beat fellow strugglers Thrapston Town 1-0 at Latimer Park.

The only goal of the game came in the second half when Wanderers were awarded a penalty.

Leke Shodunke converted from the spot but was ordered to re-take it after the referee spotted some encroachment in the area.

His second attempt was saved by he followed in to score from the rebound.

The defeat leaves Thrapston rock-bottom of the table, four points adrift of Raunds.

This weekend's United Counties League fixtures

Premier Division: Daventry Town v Deeping, Harborough v Boston Town, Holbeach v Desborough, Leicester Nirvana v Eynesbury, Newport Pagnell v Peterborough Northern Star, ON Chenecks v Oadby, Pinchbeck v Wellingborough Town, Rothwell Corinthians v Kirby Muxloe, Sleaford v Cogenhoe, Whitworth v Rugby.

Division One: Anstey Nomads v Rushden & Higham, Aylestone Park v Lutterworth Athletic, Bourne v Thrapston, Bugbrooke v Holwell Sports, Burton Park Wanderers v Long Buckby, Harrowby v Birstall United, Huntingdon v St Andrews, Melton v Blackstones, Raunds v Lutterworth Town, Sileby Rangers v Irchester.