NON-LEAGUE FOOTBALL: St Ives Town and Huntingdon Town chiefs react to avoiding relegation as 2019/20 season declared null and void

St Ives Town chairman Gary Clarke (centre) with the club's football and education programme joint ma

St Ives Town chairman Gary Clarke (centre) with the club's football and education programme joint managers Craig Adams (left) and Lloyd Groves (right). Picture: LOUISE THOMPSON - Credit: Archant

Chairman Gary Clarke has spoken of his relief after St Ives Town avoided the drop.

Huntingdon Town chairman Doug McIlwain. Picture: DUNCAN LAMONT

Huntingdon Town chairman Doug McIlwain. Picture: DUNCAN LAMONT - Credit: Archant

Saints were in the Southern League Premier Division Central relegation zone when the campaign was brought to a halt by the Coronavirus pandemic earlier this month.

The Football Association and the National Leagues System then ruled earlier today (Thursday) the campaign was to be terminated with immediate effect and declared null and void from Step 3 to Step 6.

All results have been expunged and no teams will be promoted or relegated, meaning Saints survive.

“I’m happy for the club, the management team, the players and the fans,” said Clarke. “We all stuck together during a season when we were decimated by injuries.

“We would have been gutted to have been relegated with nine games still to go – especially as six of them were against bottom-10 teams.

“We firmly believed that had the season gone the full distance we would have stayed up by earning enough points on the pitch.

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“It goes without saying that some clubs will be very happy and others will be upset, but there is no doubt that making the season null and void is the fairest decision.”

It’s a second fortunate escape from relegation in the space of three seasons for Saints. They also finished third-bottom in 2017/18 but only one team went down in that campaign.

Clarke says they will do all they can to avoid being in a similar position again next term when again having to defy the odds at this level.

He added: “It’s the second close shave in the last three seasons and we will do all we can to try to avoid being in this position again.

“That is easier said than done when you consider the level we play at, the big clubs and the big budgets we face.

“We’ll sit down with the management team when that’s possible and have a look at ways in which we feel we can improve before trying to punch above our weight again.”

Huntingdon Town have also breathed a sigh of relief after the season was scrapped.

They were second-bottom of the United Counties League Division One standings and therefore liable to relegation.

However, after earning four points from two games under new boss Laurence Revell, they were confident of climbing away from danger on the pitch had that been possible.

“It’s obviously not the best way for the season to end, but in my opinion it is the fairest way,” said Town chairman Doug McIlwain.

“I would definitely have liked to see how Laurence and his boys performed over the lasts eight games, but that wasn’t possible.

“At least we can now look forward to next season at the same level and hope that everyone manages to stay safe.”