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Hartley Wintney turn to rookie manager Ben Dillon
HARTLEY Wintney FC have reacted to a poor start to the season by sacking their manager and replacing him with a 23-year-old rookie.
The village side have found life tough in the Combined Counties League Premier Division after being promoted at the end of last season, losing seven of their first eight matches to sit bottom of the table.
Their plight was not helped by the departure of last year’s manager Neville Roach and many of last season’s squad over the course of the summer – meaning new boss, former Tottenham defender Dave Tuttle, was forced to completely rebuild the side.
A slow start was to be expected but a series of heavy defeats have forced the club’s committee to take drastic action, replacing Tuttle with Ben Dillon, a young striker who played for the club last season.
The two men could not be more different. Tuttle is a former top flight defender with experience of managing in the Football League, while Dillon has played for a number of non-league sides in the local area but has not previously managed.
Hartley chairman Luke Mullen said: “We have not had a great start to the season and there was no sign of things improving so we had to make some sort of decision.
“Ben is young but he knows a lot of good players and is very keen to do the job. We are hoping that he might get some of the other players from last season back and steady the ship.”
Dillon is confident that he can keep the village side in the Combined Counties League Premier Division - but he admits that he has a tough task on his hands.
“I did not expect to be a manager this young but it is a challenge I am looking forward to,” he said. “I am very pleased to have been given a chance and it’s a good opportunity for me.
“I was here last year so I know the club and it is not nice to see them bottom of the league.
“It’s going to be tough but hopefully with us coming in it can be a fresh start for the club and I’m still confident that we can stay up.”
Dillon took charge of his first match on Tuesday night, watching his side go down to a 5-0 defeat away at Hanworth Villa in the League Cup.
“It was good to get my first game under my belt and there were a lot of positives to take from the game,” he said. “I had to use a couple of youth team players because a lot of players have left.”
The defeat make it three losses in the space of a week for Hartley, who lost 6-3 to Totton and Eling in the Hampshire Cup last Wednesday and suffered a 2-1 reverse away at Croydon in the league last Saturday.
Next up is a home game against Raynes Park Vale today (kick-off 3pm). Dillon is hoping that a raft of new signings, including former Basingstoke Town players Ryan Stephens, Tom Walsh and Joe Harris, will help him mark it with a victory.