Improvement remains the target, says Tiverton manager Mark
TIVERTON Town manager Mark Saunders says the club's priority remains bettering last season's ninth-placed finish – despite the Yellows occupying a play-off spot.
The Yellows – who briefly led the standings at the end of last year – are currently fifth, having enjoyed a strong first half to the campaign.
That follows Tivvy having a solid mid-table finish last season and slashing the wage bill over the summer, with a number of players and stuff having to take a pay-cut.
A recent slump in form – which has seen the Yellows go seven games in all competitions without a win – has seen their fifth spot come under threat, but Saunders says an improvement is the aim, with the play-offs representing an added bonus.
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"I would be happy if we could better where we finished off last season," said Saunders, following the postponement of Saturday's match at Yate Town due to the weather.
"It is still a rebuilding process with the whole of the club, because finances are nowhere near what they used to be.
"We have done well to keep hold of the lads that we had last season, and to be fair to the lads, they have all taken pay cuts and they have all stayed so credit to them.
"It would be nice to finish in the play-offs, but as long as we better what we did last season then I'll be happy.
"But play-offs isn't out of the question. We've slipped off a bit, but we are still sitting in fifth and a nice little run of results will get us back in there again.
"We have got some important games coming up. We have got Paulton in a rearranged game and they are right there with us.
"North Leigh are next up (on Saturday), who are a strong, decent side. But they have also had a little dip in form. Hopefully we can come good for that match."
Saunders also called for his players to find their early-season form at home to North Leigh on Saturday.
The Yellows have not won since beating Wimborne 2-0 at home on November 17.
Defeats to promotion-chasing sides like Hungerford Town and Poole Town have been followed up by four successive draws against sides struggling at the wrong end of the table, and it is something Saunders wants to see his players put right.
"Draws aren't good enough and neither have our performance been either," said the Tivvy Town manager.
"We have got to start getting back to winning ways again, because we have gone six (league) games now without getting a win.
"The performances have not been up to scratch or as good as what we were doing in the first half of the season.
"Prior to Christmas, we were excellent, but since the Poole game we have been right off the boil."
North Leigh have also had their own dip in form of late, winning just one out of 11 league games to leave them languishing in mid table.
But Saunders feels the heavy Tiverton pitch – on which the Yellows struggled to adapt during their 1-1 draw with Bishops Cleeve last time out – could suit the visitors, who play a more direct style.
"Any home game you want to be picking up three points," he said.
"But we have got to get back to winning ways, starting on Saturday.
"It won't be easy against them. It will probably suit them with the pitches being heavy again. They have got some big, strong lads in their team.
"The pitch was so bobbly – it's knackered this year. It is ridiculous because of the weather we have had.
"But you have got to be adaptable and that is down to the players.
"They don't mean to make mistakes, but sides come down to us and they just stick balls in behind us and we struggle to get out at times."