Leighton Town to field Development Team in the league next season

Manager hoping for great support again as third-placed Hadley visit Bell Close this weekend

By Zoe Ashton
Tuesday, 18th January 2022, 12:02 am
Updated Tuesday, 18th January 2022, 12:04 am
Goalkeeper Connor Coulson ready to make a save

Leighton Town will be fielding a Development Team in the Spartan South Midlands League Division 2 next season.

“This is a further significant step in establishing the high quality pathways our young players need and deserve to support them in making the transition between youth and senior football,” said Town’s Director of Football Sean Downey.

“We have some fantastic young players coming through the youth ranks and five U18 players have already made their debuts for the First Team this season.

Leighton Town players celebrate Kieran Turner's goal against Arlesey Town last weekend PICTURES BY ANDREW PARKER

“This demonstrates the club’s commitment to youth. Playing in a well run, competitive league is important for our young players and we are delighted that the Spartan South Midlands League committee have been supportive of our application to compete at Step 7.

“This is the next, hugely important stage of our Football Development Plan for the club and we look forward to releasing further details regarding trials etc as the season develops”, Downey added.

Applications for Development Team Manager close tomorrow (Wednesday).

Town will be in action tonight (Tuesday) in a Bedfordshire Senior Cup game at Southern League Division One Central side Kempston Rovers.

Then Paul Bonham’s side host third-placed Hadley on Saturday and next Tuesday (25th) visit 13th-placed Milton Keynes Irish, both in the South Midlands Premier Division.

At the weekend Leighton Town slipped to fourth after drawing 1-1 at home to seventh-placed Arlesey Town, playing their first game in over a month.

Kieran Turner put Leighton ahead after just six minutes.

The ball was whipped in by Ross Adams into a dangerous area and Turner was there to tap in from close range.

But the visitors were level just before half-time from a shot 25 yards out which flew into the top corner.

“Not playing for all those weeks was always going to be tough, said Bonham.

“Arlesey have had a change of manager and brought in eight or nine new players - and they’re on a good run at the moment, undefeated in six.

“It was great for us to be back at home in front of the fans, not having played since December 14. We knew it would be tough, mentally and physically , but we will take the point,” said the Leighton manager.

“We had some great chances and I thought we edged it a little bit. If we had executed better we could have won - but they had some really good chances in the second half and Connor Coulson made a fantastic save towards the end to make sure we got a point.

“ Debutant Kieran Turner had a fantastic game, scoring after six minutes and showed some excellent touches. It looks like he’ll be a brilliant signing.”

Bonham knows the cup game at higher level Kempston Rovers will be another hard game.

“We are underdogs so it’s going to be a tough test, but it’s fantastic to be back out on the grass again, it’s been so long!”

And he is hoping for plenty of support back at Bell Close on Saturday hosting Hadley.

“They won at the weekend (beating Holmer Green 4-0) so went ahead of us in the league. They are on a fantastic run, we know what they are about, they have a very good management structure and it’s going to be a very tough game.

“But we are at home so we’re hoping for a big crowd,” Bonham added.

“At the weekend we had 319, which is amazing for this level of football. It makes a massive difference to myself and the players and if we can break that attendance on Saturday we really need that 12th man cheering the lads on.

“On the day we are more than capable of beating teams like Hadley and have nothing to fear. The points are just as important to us as they are to Hadley so it’s going to be a good afternoon of football.”

In a busy week, Leighton then visit Milton Keynes Irish in a rearranged fixture.

“There are no easy games now and this is a local derby, just down the road. Terry Shrieves is an exceptional manager and has got the players well drilled and well organised,” he said.

“They are all games we need to win if we are putting serious thought into getting promoted. After our ‘mini break’ we need to hit the ground running.”

Town now have 45 points from 23 games, nine points off top spot. Leaders Risborough Rangers (whose 52-game unbeaten league run was ended 1-0 on Saturday by Ardley United), New Salamis and Hadley above them all have two games in hand.

And Bonham welcomed the news that the club will be fielding a Development Team next season.

“It’s a massive step for the club, the final part of the puzzle in our pathway to have young players coming through,” he added.

“It shows the club are really keen to keep their progress going,”