Berkshire side Holyport face a crunch final game of the season on Saturday away to Combined Counties League Premier Division North Southall on Saturday with their future in the division hanging in the balance.
Port need to better of match the result of relegation rivals CB Hounslow United to finish second bottom in the division – a position that almost certainly will see the club retain step 5 status on Points Per Game (PPG). Whoever finished bottom will be relegated to step 6 of the English Football Pyramid.
A trip to Southall is a daunting one for Derek Sweetman’s side – Hounslow themselves are off to North Greenford United – but the manager was up beat when in spoke to Football in Berkshire.
“I couldn’t ask any more of my players this season. Those that have been with us a few years and those new lads that have come in. We’ve effectively built two sides this season which is never easy. Its hard enough in pre-season but we’ve had to do it while playing each week,” he said.
“Fingers crossed we stay up!”
Sweetman had some words of praise for his assistant Sam Lock, the former Maidenhead United Reserves and Bracknell Town manager: “Sam Lock with his little black book of players has been a huge help. Calling on some of those players we’ve been able to means we’re still fighting.”
On Hounslow, Sweetman credited the West London side – who have reportedly been through five managers this season – with the efforts they’ve put in to stay in the division themselves: “Hounslow have signed players and they’ve had an effect. They had a decent run and they beat us during that. They’ve changed a lot this season but they’ve got themselves, like us, in with a shout of staying up on the final day.”
Asked about whether he thought the season would be as tough for Holyport as it had been, Sweetman simply said: “Yes!”
“It was always going to be tough for us. But in a weird way, I’ve enjoyed it but that’s down to the boys and the club. Nine times out of ten you can’t be angry with them. They leave everything out there,” he added.
“I absolutely thought this season would be hard. I’ve been around in football a few years and I know some of the names in the other sides, so I knew. I did think we would cope a little better than we have with the step up but the last eight to ten games we’ve changed things on the pitch, tactically and thankfully its worked for us and we still have a chance. You never know what a league will be like until you get started.”
He added: “It’s like having a baby, you can’t force them or rush them into growing up. You can’t do it too fast. We have a lot of young lads and they’re all learning. This season we’ve matched most teams, we’ve been competitive in general and that’s all I can ask.”
Holyport face Southall at 3pm on Saturday at Ashford Town (Middlesex) FC.
Listen to the Berkshire Football Stories podcast team discuss Holyport and plenty more on this week’s podcast.