St Ives striker Conor Washington ‘could sign for Cambridge United within weeks’

CONOR Washington’s talks with Cambridge United continue but it may be weeks before the St Ives Town striker finally signs for the Blue Square Bet Premier club.

The 20-year-old is almost certain to put pen to paper before the end of June, but with Jez Hall – his joint manager and confidant – jetting off on holiday for two weeks on Monday morning, the clubs are likely to now take their time over the deal.

“Conor is continuing to speak to Cambridge,” said the St Ives secretary Simon Clark. “But there’s no rush. It’s going to be a couple of weeks at least.”

Meanwhile, the Saints got an unexpected boost on Thursday when it was announced that King’s Lynn Town had been promoted to Step 4, despite finishing their United Counties League Premier Division season in second behind Long Buckby.

St Ives came third and will now start the new season as one of the favourites for promotion.

“It’s good news from our point of view,” said Clark. “We are quietly becoming one of the favourites for the UCL Prem next season. King’s Lynn going up is a good thing for us. It takes away that extra bit of competition.”

After beating St Ives twice in the league, the Linnets had a terrible end to their season and were runners-up for the second season on the trot when they were pipped at the post by Buckby. Then, in the final of the UCL Cup at Yaxley, St Ives destroyed them 4-1 with Washington scoring a brilliant hat-trick.

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But because some of the other Step 5 title winning teams’ grounds weren’t up to scratch – or because they simply hadn’t applied for promotion – King’s Lynn will now start next season in Division One South of the Northern League.

In a parting shot to the UCL, the Linnet’s manager Gary Setchell said: “There’s a lot of big clubs in the league – Northwich Victoria are ex-Conference, Halesowen and Sutton Coldfield are well-known too, and there’ll be no easy games.

“No disrespect to the UCL – but it was localish football and this is a real football league. It’s a man’s league. You travel 100-odd plus miles to some big grounds and that’s what higher-level football is about.”

Setchell immediately began to make preparations for next season, telling four of his players – including Linnets legend Jack Defty – that they were no longer needed.

The popular striker, who scored 161 goals in 405 appearances during two spells at The Walks, is now a free agent – and the Linnets boss admitted it was a tough decision to tell the 30-year-old he was on his way.

He said: “I explained my reasons to Jack as a number of little key factors had made my decision. He was disappointed but we shook hands, there was no animosity, and we parted company.”

Former St Neots Town loanee right-back Ashley Deeney was also released, along with midfielders Kieron Davies and Luke Thurlbourne.

Meanwhile, Clark is confident that managers Hall and Warren Everdell will keep “95 per cent” of last season’s St Ives squad together.

Confirming midfielder Ozzie Fosters’ retirement, Clark said: “We will be without Ozzie, and obviously Conor – and Scott Everdell is off to university – but Jez is talking to a couple of players about joining us.”

Friendly wise, the club have announced games against Chatteris Town (away, Saturday July 21 – 12noon), Cambridge United (home, Saturday July 28 – 3pm), Mildenhall Town (away, Tuesday July 31 – 7.45pm) and Daventry Town (home, Saturday August 4 – 3pm). The UCL Premier Division will kick off on Saturday August 11.