Halstead Town manager Mark Benterman has put his side’s drop from the promotion places down to a ‘lack of experience’ in the squad.
The Humbugs have drawn their last three matches, which has seen their strong promotion aspirations all but over ahead of their trip to Fakenham Town on Saturday (3pm).
Halstead finish their season with a long journey to Norfolk, and would have been expecting a possible shootout for promotion from the Thurlow Nunn League First Division with the Ghosts this weekend.
But after a 2-2 draw at March Town United on Friday (Lewis Cunliffe and Julian Simon-Parson) followed by being held to a goalless draw at Saffron Walden Town on Monday, they needed Ipswich Wanderers to lose at Team Bury last night to still have a mathematical chance to go up.
“We’re out of it now,” said Benterman, speaking ahead of that match. “The last few games we’ve slipped up due to a lack of experience in these key situations.
“The lads haven’t been in those pressure games before and I think that’s why we’ve dropped points.”
Despite their final hurdle stumble, Benterman was quick to congratulate his side and the club for what has been an excellent season at Rosemary Lane.
“It’s been a successful season all-round at the club,” the Halstead boss said. “We finished 11th last year and have comfortably improved that with our league position (fifth) and points tally this season.”
Halstead’s reserves have also achieved promotion to the Thurlow Nunn Reserve League Premier Division (see panel) and are also in the final of the Chell Trophy.
They play Walsham-le-Willows Reserves at Diss Town’s Brewers Green Lane ground on Wednesday (7.30pm).
“We were struggling to field a reserves team at times last year,” said Benterman. “Our veterans team have won their league and it’s down to the hard work by everyone at the club which has helped us progress.”
Benterman’s side will complete their 44-game season this weekend and will be hoping for a positive result to take some momentum into next season.
“We’ve lost just once away from home in the league all season which has been fantastic,” continued the Humbugs’ boss. “We want to go out on a high at Fakenham on Saturday.”
Elsewhere in the First Division, Long Melford (11th) finish their season with a trip to bottom-club March Town United on Saturday (3pm).
The Villagers have won six of their last eight matches to achieve their second-highest league finish in 11 years.
AFC Sudbury Reserves (16th) complete their debut season in the First Division against Downham Town tomorrow at The MEL Group Stadium (7.45pm).
While Cornard United (18th) host Needham Market Reserves tomorrow (7.45pm).
The Ards can avoid a fourth consecutive bottom-placed finish if they match or better March Town United’s result this weekend.