Glos County We’ve made mas­sive steps for­ward, says Barker

Bristol Post - - SPORT - Si­mon PARKIN­SON post­

We had 16 play­ers avail­able for the Boco game at the week­end and that sort of num­ber hasn’t been heard of at Han­ham for a match for a long time

HAN­HAM Ath­letic boss John Barker pointed to two re­cent ac­qui­si­tions as ev­i­dence his team are fi­nally head­ing in the right di­rec­tion.

Peren­nial strug­glers Han­ham, who hit new depths last term when they fin­ished bot­tom of the Mar­cliff Glouces­ter­shire County League lad­der, are a rein­vig­o­rated force this sea­son hav­ing won three and drawn two of their ten league fix­tures ahead of to­mor­row’s trip to face a ten­th­placed Broad­well Am­a­teurs out­fit they can leapfrog with vic­tory.

While Han­ham’s 2018-19 record to date might ap­pear mod­est by com­par­i­son to many of their ri­vals, it nev­er­the­less re­flects sig­nif­i­cant pro­gres­sion and the club’s im­por­tant sum­mer sign­ing Barker cer­tainly be­lieves that.

The 52-year-old Vicarage Road man­ager said: “We’ve made mas­sive steps for­ward, al­though we’re not where we want to be yet. But we are im­prov­ing all the time.

“We’ve lost three of our last nine games (in­clud­ing a tight GFA Tro­phy shootout de­feat by AEK Boco) and done re­ally well in that time.

“A bit more luck and we could be even higher than we are at the mo­ment (11th). Against Ruardean Hill last month we were 2-1 up only for them to equalise with the last kick of the game to take a point.

“And in our derby with Boco at the week­end we were one-up be­fore they tied it up in the dy­ing stages.

“We’d also played re­ally well in our pre­vi­ous game with Framp­ton United who are right up there chal­leng­ing hard at the top. Again we were 1-0 up at half­time be­fore they scored around the hour-mark and got a sec­ond not long af­ter.

“Still we came back and put them un­der a lot of pres­sure. In the end, we were un­lucky not to get some­thing out of it.”

Asked what he con­sid­ers has sparked the turn­around in for­tunes, Barker said: “There’s a com­plete dif­fer­ence in thought pro­cesses.

“There’s a full-on fo­cus on the first team be­ing the best it can be and that ap­proach has car­ried right through the club.

“We’ve also worked re­ally hard on fit­ness and shape and that’s pay­ing off.

“Hav­ing a cou­ple of new faces on board has lifted things, too. Ma­son Hawkins, an 18-year-old goal­keeper who had pre­vi­ously been with Boco, plays for Yate Town in the Som­er­set Youth Flood­lit League and he has a very pos­i­tive fu­ture ahead of him.

“He’s a con­fi­dent lad and big for his age and, while he has a lot to learn still, of course, he is a good talker and set­tles the back four down well.

“Jack Camm also came in re­cently, an at­tack­ing mid­fielder who scored on Satur­day and has played at the higher level of the non-League game with the likes of Cin­der­ford Town, Larkhall Ath­letic, We­ston-su­per-Mare and Yate Town, hav­ing be­gun his ca­reer on a pro con­tract at Bris­tol Rovers.

“Jack is a Han­ham lad and he’s al­ready given us a dif­fer­ent di­men­sion. Hav­ing play­ers like th­ese in our ranks shows how far we’ve come, that we’re worth them in­vest­ing their time and ef­fort in us.

“We had 16 play­ers avail­able for the Boco game at the week­end and that sort of num­ber hasn’t been heard of at Han­ham for a match for a long time.”

Barker, who for­merly op­er­ated as a coach at Bris­tol Rovers Sup­port­ers Ju­niors, Bris­tol City Acad­emy and Bris­tol In­ner City Acad­emy, has only cen­tre-half Jack Baber miss­ing from to­mor­row’s Broad­well-bound squad.

He said: “We have no tar­gets set as to where we want to be this sea­son. That said I do feel a midtable fin­ish wouldn’t do us jus­tice as I firmly be­lieve we can be bet­ter than that.”

Mean­while, Boco en­ter­tain Rock­leaze Rangers hav­ing now gone 11 league games since the start of the cam­paign with­out vic­tory, while Henbury, who have drawn their last three fix­tures, host a Patch­way Town team who re­turned to win­ning ways at the week­end with a 1-0 home de­feat of Hard­wicke.

Lit­tle Stoke seek the spark to reignite their sea­son and hope the trip to Hard­wicke will pro­vide it.

All games kick off at 2pm.

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