After describing 2017 as ‘the best year ever’, Battle Baptist Football Club manager Gary Walsh is hoping for more success in 2018.
The Baptists won their first two trophies at the end of the 2016/17 season - the Macron East Sussex Football League’s Premier Travel Challenge Cup and the National Christian Cup - and finished runners-up in the league.
This season Battle are again in contention at the top of the league and are through to round three of the National Christian Cup.
Walsh said: “I don’t really feel as though we’ve got into any kind of rhythm, yet we’ve kept winning. We’ve never been as convincing as we were last season, but we’re still up there with Hollington (United) and Rye (Town).”
Battle start the new year in third place - a point adrift of leaders Hollington and behind second-placed Rye, who have played an extra game, on goal difference.
“I think we’ve got a chance of winning the league,” continued Walsh. “The results we’ve seen from other clubs give us optimism that Hollington and Rye might drop points.
“We may drop points too, but it seems there are pretty competitive middle of the table teams who could easily cause an upset and we’ve not really seen that in previous seasons. There’s no kind of whipping boys, all the teams are really competitive.
“I’m as optimistic as anybody could be at Christmas time because you just don’t know what’s going to happen in the second half of the season. We’ve put ourselves in a really strong position It’s much nice to be at the top of the table than the bottom.”
Battle are due to resume their campaign tomorrow (Saturday) with a tricky-looking away fixture against Sussex Intermediate Cup quarter-finalists Sidley United.
While all teams in the league have been on a festive break over the last couple of weekends, Battle’s period of inactivity is far longer than most.
A series of postponements mean the Baptists haven’t played since the 2-1 defeat away to Hollington in the Premier Travel Challenge Cup way back on November 18.
“It’s going to feel like there’s two distinct parts to the season,” Walsh went on. “It has been frustrating these last few weeks not being able to play.
“It feels as though the whole season has ground to a halt. After Christmas it will be a whole new challenge to get everything up off the ground again.”
The Baptists are scheduled to play league matches for the next three weekends before heading to Hertfordshire to face St Albans Romans in the National Christian Cup on Saturday January 27.
“We’re really looking forward to those (National Christian Cup) games again,” said Walsh. “We’ve got a really tough ask, though, this year because all the remaining games are away.
“Anything can happen in the national cup when you’re playing away. If we end up winning it this year, it will be even better than last year.”
Battle have brought in a couple of players to add to their squad this season, although Yordan Yordanov, the talented attacking player who was such a big part of Battle’s success last term, has returned to his native Bulgaria.
“I feel as though we’ve got the same number of good players; I think we perhaps haven’t got that commitment from those players that we need to really challenge strongly,” added Walsh.
“But you never know what’s going to happen in the next few months. Because we’re in a position where we can win things, the players suddenly get on board and I think that’s what happened last year. After Christmas the players started to believe we could really win something and really pulled together.”