DAN BATEMAN says his Sumas side are getting better every week in what he feels is the strongest Hellenic Division One East he’s been involved in.
Wokingham and Emmbrook sit 10th in the table with just five points, but they are now unbeaten in three matches after goals from Jake White and Connor Holland earned a 2-2 draw with Didcot Town Development at Larges Lane on Saturday.
And Bateman is a big fan of the way the league is shaping up.
“I’ve been involved in Hellenic Division One football for a really long time and I don’t remember a strength in depth like there is now,” the Sumas boss told The Wokingham Paper.
“I’m looking at it now and I can pick probably eight sides that have got a realistic chance of winning the league.
“Burnham are streets ahead of anything that we’ve played so far, however if you look at their results, they are very up and down.
“Consistency is going to be the key. Getting the same squad and being able to cope with injuries and suspensions is going to be what makes the difference.
“It’s a really strong league this year and I’m really enjoying it to be honest.
“In previous years you go and play teams and you know that even if you play rubbish that you’re going to win three or four nil. That’s not the case this year.
“Every side this year has got the ability to beat you if you don’t play well and that’s why it’s a real good challenge.”
Sitting on no points after three matches, Sumas have steadily grown into the campaign. A narrow victory at Chinnor has been followed by a 3-3 draw against Chalvey Sports before Saturday’s stalemate with Didcot.
Wokingham have led in both their last two games before being forced to settle for a point and Bateman believes the scores do not quite reflect the performances.
“We’re playing really well at the moment,” he said.
“We’re creating chances and defensively we’re doing well but I think we’re just struggling a little bit for luck really.
“On Saturday we scored two and we hit the bar once and the post twice. It’s just not quite dropping for us and we’re not quite getting the results.
He added: “I think decision making a little bit and indiscipline has started to cost us a little bit as well.
“We need to be better at that but I’m pleased with the way we’re playing.
“We’re playing with real good energy to our game, we’re playing high tempo football and we’re creating chances and scoring goals.
“I think it’s not too far away from actually giving a side a hiding.”
One negative for the Sumas has been ending each of the last two matches with 10 men.
Ben Broadhurst was given his marching orders for a high foot in the draw against Chalvey while Joe Cummuskey was shown a straight red against Didcot, a decision which angered Bateman.
“It was really bad. The referee has seen something that nobody else has seen,” said the Wokingham manager.
“We tried speaking to him after the game and obviously tempers got lost.
“He was saying he’s adamant and he knows what he saw, but when the other player from the opposing team is saying it didn’t happen, you know that he’s obviously seen something that’s not quite right.
“But we have to take it on the chin. We were really disappointed with it afterwards and I know Joe’s gutted.
“He’s going to miss four games now for something that he didn’t do and it’s unfortunate.”
With Cummuskey and Broadhurst banned, Bateman will have to dip into his squad for upcoming cup games as the league takes a back seat.
Sumas host New College Swindon, who sit bottom of Hellenic One West, in the Challenge Cup on Saturday before making the short trip to neighbours Woodley United on Monday evening in the Subsidiary Cup.
“I don’t know an awful lot about New College Swindon,” admitted Bateman.
“If you look at the league table, it doesn’t make good reading for them. But you never know what’s around the corner in this league.
“You could get a new batch of players that come in and then suddenly what you think is going to be an easier game isn’t.
“So we will treat them as we’d treat any other game. We will be strong.
He continued: “The one bit of luck that we have had is that the two suspensions we’ve got from the last two games means they’re going to miss cup games so it isn’t going to affect our league campaign.
“But it gives others an opportunity. What I said to both Ben and Joe when they got sent off is that you’ve now lost your place in the side for three games, you might not get it back.
“To be honest, I’d like it if I couldn’t give it back to you because it means the lads have come in and done really well.
“It’s an opportunity for others and it is a break from league action but it’s a chance to get back to winning as opposed to drawing and to try and keep that unbeaten run going for a while.”