Relegated St Neots set sights on immediate return while surviving St Ives aim to boost availability to avoid another near miss
- Credit: Archant
This time last year St Neots Saints were celebrating the most spectacular of title successes in possession of a sparkling 100 per cent record.
Now, 12 months on, the same club are reflecting on relegation after being condemned to a bottom-of-the-table finish in Midlands Division Three East (South) with one game still to play.
A 59-12 defeat at Dunstablians last Saturday sealed their fate but chairman Colin Arber was quick to issue the immediate target of another promotion challenge next term.
Arber also pointed to a lengthy injury list and the mid-season withdrawal of then-bottom side Old Newtonians – who they had already picked up 10 points against - as big factors in Saints’ demise.
Arber said: “We’re obviously very disappointed to be relegated after the title-winning exploits of last season.
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“We came up in great style, but we have found it tougher than we expected at this level.
“It is not through any lack of effort. Everyone has worked tirelessly for the cause, but we’ve had a lot of injuries - which have deprived us of some key players for much of the season - and also lost 10 points when Old Newtonians folded.
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“We’re going to have to lick our wounds before regrouping and mounting another challenge for promotion. It’s important to ensure we are in a better position to stay in Division Three if we are able to come back up again.”
The latest loss left Saints six points adrift of fellow Huntingdonshire side St Ives, who survive at this level for the second successive season despite failing to score in a 53-0 defeat at Long Buckby last Saturday.
The Bulls were only able to name two players in the same positions as their previous game, while Will Atkinson lined up for the club for the final time before moving to London.
Their squad did feature four under 17s with Tom Evans, Will Nelson, Ben Fleming and Sam Tuckwood all getting minutes on the pitch.
St Ives coach Phil Brown said: “Of course we are pleased to stay up, but we’re sorry it is at the expense of our near neighbours and rivals.
“This is a tough league but we have been a match for anyone when able to name our best squad.
“We can only look to climb the table if we have consistent availability and train regularly together. Those are things we will be looking to address at a players’ meeting next week.”
Both teams finish their seasons with home fixtures this Saturday.
St Ives host Northampton BBOB at Somersham Road while St Neots entertain Long Buckby at The Common.