MARK Ashford is warning his Witham Town players against complacency as they put a successful December behind them and head into the opening month of 2019.
At the end of November, few could have predicted where Witham – who were then rock bottom of Bostik League division north and cut adrift of the sides above them – would be a month later.
However, a six game unbeaten run that has included four wins with clean sheets, including an impressive 1-0 victory at second-placed Maldon & Tiptree last weekend, has propelled them up to 16th
So they head into their opening game in January, a home date against Brentwood Town on Saturday (kick-off 3pm) in a positive frame of mind.
Their run has brought Town on to the coat-tails of a mid-table group just above his side, but Ashford knows the hard work is only just starting.He said: “We are now three points behind the next team above us so we’re not far away from that group just ahead of us now.
“The target now is to be right in that mix by the end of January.
“I want us to pick up enough points by the end of the month for us to be right in the mix because if you look at the table, the gap between 15th and eighth is not much more than seven or eight points.“We want to get up there, but anyone who has been in football knows it can change so quickly and just when you think you have cracked it, it bites you on the backside.
“So we can’t get too carried away and be looking at the end of January and thinking ‘right, we need this or that’.
“We just need to focus on the next game, which is Brentwood, concentrate on getting the best performance we can there and then move on.
“If we keep that philosophy, I’m sure we’ll be where we want to be at the end of the month.”
Ashford knows that, after his sides’ upturn in form and recent results against sides like high-flying Maldon and Coggeshall Town, opponents will be viewing them with caution and he said his players must no adapt to a new set of demands.“The real test for the players now is, as we go up and teams don’t underestimate us, how do we deal with that,” he added.
“I’m not saying teams have underestimated us, but there may be some who have looked at us as a side bottom of the table and that’s going to change now.“We will start playing teams who are near the bottom now and we have to ask ourselves if we can go there with the right mentality.
“That’s the test we now have heading into January.
“We’re playing teams above us who have had good seasons so far, but also a few below us and we should be looking at them all now as winnable games.
“But they will only be winnable of we have the mentality that we did at Maldon.
“The moment that you drop your standards in this league, you are going to struggle because the difference between the teams at the top and bottom is not massive.
“But we’re just learning as a group and add into that that these are good young players and I know we can move up.”
By Simon Spurgeon
Updated 19:02 - 4 Jan 2019 by swifty