Battle Baptists manager Gary Walsh was hurting but proud after the football club agonisingly missed out on the league title.
The Baptists finished runners-up to Hollington United in the Macron East Sussex Football League Premier Division for the second successive season.
Walsh said: “It was so close. The manner in which it happened really hurts, but you’ve got to stay positive because it’s been such a fantastic season for us. We’ve not won anything, but there’s been an awful lot of pleasure in the way we’ve played and the way we’ve continued to win.
“To lose out by just a point is a really major achievement for us. With the group of players we’ve got, we can build on this next season and hopefully go one better.”
Hollington pipped Battle to the title after coming from 3-2 down after 83 minutes to win 5-3 at home to Sidley United on Saturday. A draw or loss for Hollington and Battle would’ve been champions.
Three days previously, Battle conceded two late goals to draw 2-2 away to Hollington when a victory would’ve secured top spot. Goals from Tom Saunders and Dean Boyd had put Battle two-up.
“It was amazing to get to that last match where had we won, we would’ve been league champions,” continued Walsh. “It’s sad that the bubble burst in the last 10 minutes.
“They scored an absolute worldie for their first goal and everybody felt the corner that was given to them for the second goal came off the head of their striker so it should’ve been a goal kick. It was hard to take.
“We played fantastically well and can hold our heads up high. As per the National Christian Cup final last year, we had to do an awful lot of defending, but we didn’t feel they were troubling us too much. They did have a couple of very good chances, but we defended so well.”
Battle won 17 and drew two of their 20 league matches across the season, and finished a massive 20 points clear of third-placed Sidley United.
“The points we’ve dropped have been against Hollington and that’s ultimately been what’s done for us,” Walsh went on. “But I’m immensely proud of my players, who have been an absolute credit all season in the way they’ve played and the way they’ve conducted themselves.
“We don’t have any big county players to call on, we’ve had the same bunch of players all season and they’ve played so well - massively over-achieved.
“We’ve taken it right to the wire this year, whereas last year we fell apart at the end of the season with half a mind on the National Christian Cup final.”
Dean Boyd has been Battle’s leading scorer with 23 goals this season, but there have been strong performers throughout the side with the likes of Dale Vinall, Ollie Jeffs and Glen Carrick all playing key roles.
“We’ve got to hold together the team,” Walsh added. “Quite a few of the players are smarting at the moment. It hurts when you come that close and you’ve got to start all over again.
“We have a good work ethic and team values, and tactically everybody knows what their job is and what they’re expected to do. As long as we can get that team out week on week we’ve got a great chance of winning games.”
Battle will be without two of this season’s regulars for the 2018/19 campaign. Regular goalkeeper Jake Rudwick will be off to university in Warrington and goalscoring midfielder Trystan Mayhew is off to study in Bristol.
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