Bateman eyes title challenge as Moles kick-off pre-season

Steve Bateman
Steve Bateman
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Steve Bateman is ‘running the rule’ over several players as he looks to further strengthen his Aylesbury FC squad having already brought in three new additions this summer.

Striker Danny Burnell and the versatile Lamar Simpson have both returned to the Moles this summer following spells with the club in 2013, while defender Tom Willment has joined from fellow Division One Central side Godalming.

Bateman is also looking at former West Ham United striker Terry Dixon, who’s been training at the club, plus a number of other players as he looks to reshape his squad ahead of the new campaign.

“I’m quite happy with the way we’re shaping up,” Bateman said. “At this stage we’ve only lost one player who I would have wanted to keep and that’s Bradley Wadkins, who’s stepped up a level and gone to Chesham. He goes with our best wishes because he’s been fantastic for us since I came to the club and he’s destined for good things.

“We have a few new additions plus one or two who we are running the rule over.

“Tom won this division two years ago with Burnham so he knows what it takes; he’s been through that process and he’ll give us solidity at the back.

Terry Dixon is currently training with Aylesbury FC

Terry Dixon is currently training with Aylesbury FC

“Danny is a player very familiar to me. He scored 50 goals last season in the Flackwell Heath side that won the Hellenic Premier Division.

“I know what we’ll get from Danny because he’s consistently scored a lot of goals in this division in the time that I’ve worked with him,

“Terry Dixon has been training with us and we’re looking to give him a run against Dunstable on Tuesday, and we’re still looking at one or two more.”

Bateman has retained the vast majority of the Moles squad that came agonisingly close to promotion last year when his side lost to Bedworth in the play-off semi-finals.

“We were only marginally short last year,” he added. “But we’re over that now and we’re looking forward with optimism for this season.

“We didn’t want to make wholesale changes but we needed to freshen the squad up. I think players like Tom will give us that with his strength and his leadership.

“We need to push on now and see if we can bridge that small gap to get out of this division. Our aim is play-offs as a minimum and then look to get closer to that elusive automatic spot because that’s the only way to take the play-offs out of the equation.”

FC began pre-season on Saturday when they were beaten 1-0 by Southern Premier outfit Chesham United before drawing 4-4 with AFC Dunstable on Tuesday evening.

Bateman added: “We had a good workout. Chesham are a step three club so it was exactly what I had hoped for.

“We were able to use 16 or 17 players. A few were away for various reasons but we used the opportunity to give people as many minutes as we could.

“It’s the first step of a five-week process of getting everybody fit and organised and building on what we managed to achieve last year.

“I was pleased with it despite losing the game to a late goal. It’s all about getting players familiar with each other again and building up fitness and that’s not going to happen in one game. The target for us is to make sure where we want to be come August 8 and the start of the new season.”

This weekend the Moles continue their pre-season campaign away at Amersham Town.