Rye Town Football Club manager Shane Ridgers believes his team is in pole position to clinch the league title.
Rye are top of Macron East Sussex Football League Division One heading into the new year having won 10 and drawn one of their opening 12 matches.
They are six points ahead of second-placed Crowhurst having played an extra fixture and 11 better off than third-placed Bexhill Town, who have four games in hand.
Asked if he would prefer to be in Rye’s position than that of either of their rivals, Ridgers said: “Without question. When we come back in the new year we’ve got Mountfield at home and
Bexhill are in the Sussex Cup so hopefully we can extend our lead further and put a lot more pressure on them to make sure they win their remaining games. They (Bexhill) have still got to play us and Crowhurst again.”
The final weekend of matches in 2016 could turn out to be pivotal. Rye beat Crowhurst 1-0 on Saturday December 17 thanks to another goal from the division’s leading scorer Charlie Stevens, while still unbeaten Bexhill were held to a 1-1 draw by Wadhurst United.
As Ridgers mentioned, Rye will kick-off 2017 - and the final third of their programme - with a home fixture against bottom-of-the-table and still winless Mountfield United on Saturday January 7, while Bexhill will travel to Montpelier Villa II in a Sussex Bluefin Junior Cup last 16 tie. Crowhurst - the only team to beat Rye in the league so far - are away to The JC Tackleway.
Despite their position at the head of affairs, Ridgers says Rye’s main aim remains to clinch one of the two promotion spots and progress to intermediate football in the Premier Division next term.
“There’s still a lot to play for, but I will be very disappointed if we don’t finish in the top two from the position we’re in now,” he continued. “We set out at the start of the season to gain promotion and our objective is still to get promotion and to have a decent cup run.”
On that note, Rye have a home quarter-final against Division Three leaders Bexhill Rovers in the Hastings & District FA Junior Cup, with a potential semi-final against Bexhill Town or Bexhill United II to follow.
Ridgers is pleased with how things have gone so far for a Rye team in its first season after only being formed earlier this year.
“With so many large characters in the side, it’s quite nice everyone being happy and still performing at a decent level,” added Ridgers, who said the club hopes to field a team in the Hastings & District FA Veterans’ Cup next year.
Things are clearly progressing nicely on the field and Ridgers said off-the-field affairs are also running smoothly.
“The help that was promised at the start of the season is still there,” he said. “The support is still there from the guys that have been there from the start. All behind the scenes is running better than expected as well.”
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