Paul Murray’s Wendron United go into 2014 trailing Illogan RBL by five points with the title race poised to go right to the wire.
Murray’s side have been in scintillating form, beating title rivals St Day and Ludgvan in the run up to Christmas before coming through a tricky Boxing Day derby against Mullion with all three points.
And despite Murray’s insistence that Illogan remain the team to beat, a poll on the Packet’s website at the beginning of December saw Wendron emerge as clear favourites to win promotion to division one west.
Murray, however, remains typically coy about his side’s chances.
Speaking to the Packet this week he said: “We had a decent run up to Christmas, playing two teams at the top of the league and winning both matches. From that point of view December was a really good month for us. the Christmas period has certainly been kind.
“But I still think Illogan have to be the favourites. They know the way home, so to speak, having won it before, and they just keep winning games - I think they were 2-0 down against Redruth recently and came back to win 3-2.
“That said I still think teams like St Day and Redruth will have a say in things, and you can’t count them out.”
With only two defeats all season - against St Just and Perranwell - it’s easy to see why Wendron’s chances are being talked up.
Pre-season favourites St Day spent the summer assembling a squad filled with talent, but the recent incident involving their players’ misuse of social networking sites seems a symptom of a deeper malaise at Vogue Park.
After a blistering start to the season St Day’s form has dropped off, and the former league leaders have slipped to fourth in the table.
Wendron’s recent 3-2 victory over them at Under Lane did much to cement the ‘dron’s title credentials, but it also highlighted how quickly fortunes can change in such a competitive league. Murray knows Wendron need to keep going if they’re to mount a serious title challenge in the second half of the season.
If they can do that, Murray says, it’s just a case of waiting for Illogan to slip up.
“That’s the thing,” he said. “I keep hoping they slip up every single week, and they just seem to march on and on. They’re a good side, organised, and they’re playing well.
“I’m sure they will between now and the end of the season - and we’ve got to play them yet - but if we want to be in there with a shout we’ve got to go on a real run now. The league is in their hands. If they keep doing what they’re doing they win it. If our players keep doing what they’re asked to do, then that’s all we can ask of them.”
Former Penryn Athletic defender Kirk Davies has added some much-needed steel to the Wendron back line
Steve Winnan’s arrival from Falmouth Town is the latest in a long list of players from higher leagues to have taken a step down in order to play at Under Lane.
Kirk Davies’s arrival from Penryn helped inject pace and a certain amount of steel into the Wendron defence - something Murray felt they previously lacked.
“At times we were too nice,” he explained. “I think Kirk’s a real leader, and he’s given us that bit of pace, a bit of aggression where we’ve needed it, but he’s disciplined with it. He leads by example.
“Then you’ve got people like Ryan Tressider who’s playing so well at left back even though he’s a midfielder. I’ve been really pleased with the way we’ve been defending. We’ve just got to keep it going now.”
Wendron play Troon this week looking to build on their impressive string of results towards the end of last year.
And should they win promotion, Murray says the club has already informed both the Jolly’s Combination League, and Peninsula League secretary Phil Hiscox of their intention to step up.
“We’ve already served notice that if we’re lucky enough to finish top we want to play in division one west.
“But Illogan want it, and St Day want it. We’re going to have to win it if we want to go up.”
No one at Under Lane would have it any other way.