Lots of space for reflection and appreciation today as we finally made sure (irrespective of rumours of other ‘factors’) that at least four teams will finish below us. With only two defeats in twelve games, I don’t see avoiding relegation as a significant achievement (though it is important every season to sort this as quickly as possible) but I do give our players massive credit for holding their nerve across the ten draws that effectively have kept us waiting so long. Even today the draw was never far away!
Zion City certainly were in a relegation scrap and sadly succumbed today. I give them every credit and respect. In their first season in the top division with a young side they have come up only just short and really gave us a game today. Their attacking play is tremendous but they were lacking a regular goalkeeper today and inexperience at the back is so much harder to negotiate. In the early exchanges on a bobbly pitch their defence looked shaky and Craig and Tom both had early chances. Matty Stanton was making great progress down the right and when he pulled the ball back Josh was there to hook it in. When the same player drove a terrific free kick over the wall and wide of the keeper we looked well set despite their forays forward. However within five minutes we were undone. Tom had a one on one to make it 3-0 but the keeper saved point blank and Zion broke with a sweeping move that ended with a good finish. Moments later they took advantage of Matty’s sliced clearance to power in a second. This was deserved as our play was sloppy at times. They hit the bar just before half time to underline our plight
Half time was a spell of uncomfortable silence followed shortly afterwards by changes. Brad had come on for the injured Joe first half and he continued his good form with class and trickery. Mark and Haydon also joined the cause with effect. Barber was excellent, Clive kept driving us forward and Brad thumped in a decent winner. Not that Zion ever gave up and Lee was busy all morning. Craig was awry with his finishing when Mark played him in. we were happy to hear the whistle and keen to get as many points as possible from our remaining fixtures. All the best to Georgina and her lads!
I’d also like to use this moment to reflect on our longevity as a club amid rumours that we may lose a couple at least of well-established clubs this summer. One of the great pleasures of a long stint in this league is making good friends and appreciating valued opponents while also seeing teams develop and ultimately get old together. It is so difficult at this level to renew a club. We reached our ‘brick wall’ in 2009. The team that had won the league in 2002 had gone through as had the team that had brought us back to the first division. We went into that summer with barely eleven players and no certainty we would continue (we’d also just been relegated). We needed something to change and I made the decision to put South in charge of the football to build something again from scratch. He lost eight of his first ten games in charge but eight years on we have a solid squad and a decent mix of youth and experience and we will continue. I’d just like to show my appreciation for the job he continues to do (even on the pitch since his debut in 1992!).