Sweetman confident Holyport have enough quality to get out of trouble

Dan Rapley

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Holyport may have lost their last two matches, to promotion challengers Abbey Rangers and Egham Town, but they’ve played with a level of intensity that suggests they can lift themselves off the bottom of the Combined Counties Premier Division North.

Port have been bottom of the table for pretty much the entire campaign, and a couple of months ago were losing heavily and starting to get cut adrift from the rest.

However, the arrival of new players and hard work on the training pitch has seen them cut that gap significantly in recent weeks, and they’ll go into their game at home to leaders Hanworth Villa on Monday (11.30am) just a point behind Tadley Calleva and Wokingham & Emmbrook and a handful of points behind another clutch of clubs.

It’s not yet known how many, if any, clubs will be relegated from the division this season, but manager Derek Sweetman is confident they can drag themselves above three or four other sides in the battle to beat the drop.

“Over the last three or four games we’ve shown a level of intensity and we’ve been right in the games we’ve played,” he said. “On another day we might have picked up a point against Egham, but we’re getting near to where we need to be to stay in this division.

“We haven’t had enough of the rub of the green yet or got the results our performances have deserved. But we’re heading in the right direction, and it won’t be too long before we’re picking up points on a regular basis.

“When you’re playing against teams at the top you have to be realistic. They’re there for a reason and that reason is they’ve been better than us but we’ve run these sides close over the past few weeks.”

Having lost by a solitary goal to Abbey Rangers and Egham Town, they’ll go into Monday’s game against Villa with nothing to lose, but potentially plenty to gain.

“Look, it’s a free hit for us,” said Sweetman. “The aim is to stay in the division, so the aim is to try and beat the teams that are in and around us. Realistically, we’re in a mini league of five teams and we have some games against those sides in the new year where we’ll hope to pick up results.

“We’ve had no confirmation (on sides being relegated). The FA would like all step 5 leagues to have 20 teams, so if that’s the case, we have 18 in ours so I can’t see anyone being relegated. They may even bring in two teams to make it up to 20, that’s what we’re hoping.”

Sweetman is also hoping the season isn’t suspended or, worst case scenario, ended by the current COVID situation.

He added: “The Eastern Counties League has postponed all Christmas football and that’s a step 5/6 level league.

“Maybe that will make other leagues think it’s a good idea to abandon the season for the time being. We’re hoping not, and we don’t want the season to be null and void again.”

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