12:00PM, Thursday 13 January 2022
It’s not been the easiest of weeks for Flackwell Heath boss Chris Ayres who was laid low by COVID on Friday before following from home as his side conceded two late goals to lose 3-2 at New Salamis.
The Heathens were on the verge of an impressive away win against the promotion chasers, thanks to Aiden Higgs’ well taken brace. But missing the experience of their captain Jamie Essex, as well as Ayres’ presence on the sidelines, the visitors lost their way in the final 10 minutes, conceding a heavily disputed penalty before seeing the Salamis steal a late winner at Bowes Park.
There were still positives to take from the defeat, most notably Higgs’ impressive performance as he continues his return from injury. He volleyed the visitors level with a clinical finish in the first half before deftly chipping the keeper to make it 2-1 midway through the second.
Flackwell remain eighth in the Spartan South Midlands Premier Division table, but they’re hopes of catching up with the top four are looking less and less likely.
“We trained well on Thursday night after Monday’s good win at Harefield but when I came home, I didn’t feel great,” said Ayres.
“I took a test on the Friday, and it was positive. It’s hit me quite hard to be fair but I’m feeling better today (Monday).
“It’s really disappointing to lose on Saturday having been 2-1 up with just over five minutes to go.
“Everyone was fuming with the penalty. Ryan Avery played the ball and there was no appeal from their players, but the referee has still decided to give it. They then nicked it from us and scored again at the end.
“It’s disappointing because we were on a really good run, but that’s football. It’s a 90-minute game plus stoppage time, not 85.”
Ayres, who is already starting to feel much better, hopes to test negative this week and be well enough to be back in the dug out at Wilks Park for Saturday’s visit of Baldock Town.
However, with striker Fabian Driffill having also tested positive for the virus, Ayres knows his plans for the weekend could have to change at short notice.
“I think Monday’s game (the 5-1 win at Harefield United on January 3) took its toll on us,” he said.
“The pitch at Harefield was heavy and we had a few tired legs this weekend. We scored five that day, and were very good, but our captain Jamie Essex got injured and we didn’t want to risk him on Saturday.
“Those are the kind of games where you need your leaders and more experienced players on the pitch to get you over the line.
“Aiden (Higgs) was brilliant though. He scored two and then had to come off because he was absolutely whacked.
“I’m hoping to take training on Thursday and be back for the Baldock game on Saturday. They’re not going to be easy though.
“We hope to have Jamie back, but Fabian Driffill also has COVID and there might be one or two more.”
Ayres added: “We get players to test before matches and training, just for peace of mind, but it’s mad at the moment.
“My two boys play in the team and I’m the only one who has it now, but we’re all in the same house.”