STM Sports manager Gardiner not letting side get carried away
STM Sports sit four points clear of Division Two at the moment but manager Dale Gardiner isn’t getting carried away just yet.
With ten games remaining for the Llanrumney based side, STM Sports are in a strong position to gain a second consecutive promotion, which would complete a remarkable decade for the club.
“It feels great to be in the position we are in, especially with this being our first season in Division 2 having recently been promoted. However, we are not getting carried away with it yet.”
Sports finished second to Llantwit Major who are also in contention of promotion. After taking over from Gareth Morgan, Gardiner has solidified their team, in being hard to beat.
“We would be foolish to think we are anywhere near favourites with the teams behind us having games in hand.
If you would have asked us if we would have taken this position we are currently in at the start of the season, then of course we would have.
We’ve had a kind first half of the season in my opinion with our run of games and the hardest part is definitely yet to come. We still have to play everyone in and around us.”
Teams around STM though will be waiting for a potential slip-up from Gardiner’s men, whilst his side will also be following the league closely, for any opportunity to further their lead at the top.
Away games away from Llanrumney Uni Fields may prove to be a tricky test for STM though. They still have to travel to Aberbargoed Buds, Llantwit Major and Ammanford, who all have their added qualities.
“The back end of the season also brings us some massive away games which I have made the boys aware of. I’m sure the guys are looking forward to the tough run we have.
It’s on our mind obviously, but we have to approach Wednesday sensibly. We went to Risca United on a Friday night a few weeks back with the intention of winning and got beat on the 3G, a surface where we are known for performing well on.
We have to forget about the table and just concentrate on what will be a very tough game. Saturdays result have pushed our confidence to another level so I hope that we can sustain our performance level and take this into Wednesday. Seven points clear sounds a lot better than four points but as a club we are still aware the title race is out of our hands. All we can do is keep pushing in the hope others drop points around us.”
As well as taking over as manager, Gardiner has continued to play for the club, where he is juggling both management and playing. However, the STM Sports captain is thankful for the work behind the scenes, which has allowed former manager Nathan Cadette to rejoin the coaching staff.
“It’s a different kind of toughness to playing, even though I’m trying to juggle both at the moment. It’s a mental toughness that I haven’t been used to and trying to keep 23 talented players happy have definitely been the biggest challenge so far.
I’m just lucky I’ve got not only a talented team to work with on the pitch, but also a fantastic team in Geza and Nigel off the pitch who support me 100%.
As people know, I played under Nathan Cadette as captain of the club and I’ve recently brought him on to assist and coach. It was an easy decision based on his history with the club and I think he always knew the direction I wanted to take the club just from talking to me during his previous spell at the club whilst managing me.
His transition back into the club was easy and has taken a lot of weight off my shoulders. He’s bought into what I’m trying to achieve already so it’s worked well up until now.”
However, during his time as manager, Gardiner is pushing for more. A 4-0 loss against West End was a tough result to take for the manager and his players, and whilst losses are few and far between for the club, he has lamented the side’s work rate in the few they have been on the wrong end of a result. But, Gardiner now has targeted creating a hardworking culture as something he is prioritising, starting with the fixture against Risca United this weekend.
“In terms of results I do think they could have gone better if I’m being fussy. I think the West End result was my worst day at the club as a player and manager and lost count of the amount of things we did wrong that day. Taking nothing away from West End who were absolutely superb on the day also. Their work rate was incredible and they won every battle on the pitch through hard work alone. We just didn’t turn up and it was hard to watch at times.
“I think they beat us last time due to working harder. Most teams that beat us usually do it through hard work and desire, something we desperately need to work on I feel. I find myself constantly drumming this into the players since I’ve been in the management role and I will not stop. It goes such a long way in Welsh League Football. In this division you quickly realise teams don’t roll over regardless of the score. They run and chase you until the 90th minute. Garden Village were a perfect example of that Saturday. At one point we were winning 6-1 with 5 minutes to go and they chased everything down. Risca did the same in the first fixture. We’ve been working on fitness a little more in training since then so I’m hoping to match them in our work rate this time around. I genuinely feel with hard work added into this team we have enough talent to beat anyone on our day.”
The league leaders have amassed the league’s fifth best defence, conceding just 24 goals in 20 outings. Yet surprisingly, it is one of the things others criticise the club for, and Gardiner has highlighted the club’s on the field success and their league position as evidence of the successful defensive foundations the club has created, and he will be hoping for a strong defensive showing this weekend to take one step closer to the league title.
“In the past people have taken quite the negative approach when discussing our defence I’ve noticed, but I can’t always agree. I think the club has been around for about 10 years and we currently sit top of division 2 in the Welsh League…. You don’t get to this position with a bad defence surely! I think this game could potentially be who defends better because we are quite well known for our attacking threat also. Risca’s last few results including a win over us have been very impressive and they only seem to be getting better and better as the season goes on. Of course it’s pleasing watching your team score goals but I would be happy with a repeat scoreline of our first fixture with Risca….. but in our favour of course!”