Lock concedes Holyport 'weren't ready' for their elevation to step five football

Holyport's assistant boss Sam Lock acknowledges the club weren’t ready for their elevation into the Combined Counties Premier Division North last season but, against the odds, they've found a way to survive at step 5.

Port had been pushing for promotion from Hellenic League Division 1 East over two curtailed campaigns heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Their results over that second season were enough to see them promoted on points-per-game from step 6 to a newly created league at step 5 that would also feature local rivals Winds, Burnham and Ascot United.

However, initially they struggled to bridge that gap in quality, losing 5-0 to eventual champions Hanworth Villa, 3-0 to Edgware Town, 4-1 to Egham Town and St Panteleimon and, crushingly, 4-3 at home to CB Hounslow United.

At the same time, Sam Lock and Derek Sweetman were busily rebuilding the team, adding exciting young players and quality where they could and the team at the end of November was almost unrecognisable from the one which kicked off the campaign.

Results improved, they nicked a couple of wins on the spin against Wokingham & Emmbrook and Spelthorne Sports, both away from home, and, while wins remained elusive, they were a much tougher nut to crack heading into the new year.

Crucial victories followed against the likes of Virginia Water, St Panteleimon, Ascot United and Edgware Town, while 1-1 draws against Reading City and Wokingham & Emmbrook saw them squeeze above CB Hounslow United on goal difference going into the final day. That's how it remained with Port losing 1-0 to Southall and Hounslow capitulating to a 4-0 defeat late on at North Greenford United.

Reflecting on the season, Lock said: “I think we should have had 15 more points over the course of the season, and that would have put us in a much safer position. But the experience of playing step 5 for this club is massive.

“They were at step 6, played two COVID seasons and then went up to step 5 without really being ready for it.

“Young players are not consistent, and they were inconsistent, but we seemed to finish with a good mix this season. We've got some exciting players and we brought in a few young ones from Maidenhead who have done really well.

“There may be changes here, I don't know what will happen, but it's a time for reflection. But it's time for us to switch off from all this madness and have a stress-free few weeks.”

Lock was aware of what was happening in CB Hounslow's game at North Greenford and, like many fans feared they'd cling on for a result despite going down to 10 men in the first few minutes. However, North Greenford's pressure finally told in the final 10 minutes, and they ran out 4-0 winners.

“I was aware, I had updates from the game,” said Lock. “I know they went down to 10 men after four minutes.

“I saw 0-0 all over that game, and I was telling our boys we needed to push to try and get back in the game. But the problem was I knew we couldn't go toe-to-toe with Southall for 45 minutes.

“We just aren't good enough. It's completely different levels. The idea was to have a real go towards the end, which we did. we huffed and puffed and the keeper's held the ball about a yard outside of the box. That could have been the chance we needed.

“But we deserved to finish above CB Hounslow because of our results over the second half of the season, but I never want to live through another season like it again.”

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