Battle boss hails ‘best year ever’

Battle Baptists celebrate with their supporters after winning the National Christian Cup at The Valley in May. Picture by Simon Newstead
Battle Baptists celebrate with their supporters after winning the National Christian Cup at The Valley in May. Picture by Simon Newstead

Battle Baptists manager Gary Walsh hailed 2017 as ‘the best year ever’ for the football club.

The Baptists won their first two trophies at the end of last season and secured a second successive runners-up finish in the Macron East Sussex Football League.

This season they are again riding high in the league, trailing leaders Hollington United by just a solitary point at the festive break.

Walsh said: “It’s been a fantastic year, the best year ever for the club. Two cups and an absolutely terrific bunch of lads.”

Battle lifted the ESFL Premier Travel Challenge Cup in April after defeating Hollington in the final and the following month they clinched the National Christian Cup at The Valley, home of League One club Charlton Athletic.

Asked if the national cup triumph still feels as special now as it did at the time, Walsh said: “Yes it does. It’s a day that we will remember for the rest of our lives. It was great just to take part in it, but to actually win it was something special.

“At one stage last season we were in with a shout of winning three trophies. When the league fell away, we still had those two cups to aim for.

“When we won the first one, it was such a massive relief because whatever happened with the National Christian Cup, we had actually won something.

“That was the first cup we had won in a footballing sense in the history of our club. We had won some sportsmanship trophies, but never anything on the footballing side.

“It was a massive relief to win the league cup and that was a brilliant evening to beat Hollington at Eastbourne Town’s ground. That set us up for the National Christian Cup.”

Battle won the national cup after a combination of clinical finishing and resolute defending gave them a 3-1 victory over accomplished Liverpool-based outfit Bridge Chapel in the final.

“I think there were four weeks in between the two finals,” Walsh went on. “It was wonderful in one respect because we had four weeks to shake off any niggles, but at the same time it was four weeks after the end of the season when we didn’t have any games.

“To play at Charlton, a league ground, in front of a wonderful set of supporters that had come from Battle to cheer us on was such a great day.

“Our opponents were really, really strong. We scored two early goals and then we were really under the cosh for quite a long time, but the performance of the team was just fabulous.

“We played such a great game from a defensive point of view. We were put under an awful lot of pressure and we just defended so well. Although Bridge had a lot of possession, they weren’t able to penetrate us and create any chances.

“It was more to do with the defending than the attacking that we won it. I remember the two chances that we scored from were pretty much the only two chances we created.”

Moving on to this season and Battle have picked up 22 points from a possible 27 in the league so far, losing only to Hollington, who also ended their hopes of a successful Premier Travel Challenge Cup defence. The Baptists are also through to round three of the National Christian Cup.

Battle took a break from training this week, but will get back to business next week in preparation for their next game, away to Sidley United on Saturday January 6.