Chris Tracey believes Cornard United are no longer the ‘soft touch’ that they used to be after finishing with their best points tally in eight years.
The Ards boss was left reflecting on a disappointing 3-2 defeat to Holland FC in their final game of the season at Blackhouse Lane at the weekend.
But Tracey is still looking forward positively after a campaign which has seen the club continue to make progress, finishing in 15th place in the Thurlow Nunn League First Division, and with their best points haul since 2008/09.
“Other teams locally have had seasons where they have gone backwards,” he said.
“Cornard have gone forward massively.
“We used to be one of the worst teams in Eastern Counties football, a soft touch. We’re not any more. Coming here always meant an easy three points for visiting teams. Not now.”
Jack Marshall and Jake Buckland were both on target for Cornard in their final-day defeat against Holland, goals which took the team’s tally in the First Division to 63 this season, the most The Ards have scored in a league campaign for more than 20 years.
But for his side to make further progress, Tracey knows there is a need to improve on player availability next season.
“If we put out our strongest 14/15 players regularly, I think we could be up in the top six,” the Cornard boss said.
“Even today I had three different people in the back four due to illness and unavailability.
“If you are successful, your players are available. So the key to improving availability is to get a good start to the season.
“We are upbeat, but now it’s a question of what players will stay for next season.
“There’s no money, all we can offer is first-team football. We’ll speak to players who we want to come here, but if they a get a better offer...”
Tracey has overseen steady progress on the pitch at Blackhouse Lane since taking over in September 2015.
The previous five seasons had seen The Ards finish in the bottom two of the First Division table, including two campaigns which saw the club finish with measly single figure points tallies (seven in 2010/11 and four in 2012/13).
But back-to-back 15th-place finishes, under the tutelage of Tracey, has given Cornard supporters hope of better things to come and, perhaps, even a first top-half finish this millennium next season.