Shane Wardley has said there is a real belief among his Hadleigh United squad that they can beat the drop, after their first win in 11 matches effectively handed them six points.
In reality the 1-0 success at Kirkley & Pakefield on Saturday only saw three added to their Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division season tally, their first three points since the 3-2 home victory over Haverhill Borough on November 24.
But the Brettsiders’ chances of survival received a second shot in the arm — following on from the recent revelation that a maximum of four teams, instead of seven, will go down — with relegation rivals Borough having had three points deducted.
Anthony Choat’s Haverhill side may still be able to win them back, with their 4-1 success at Walsham-le-Willows on December 9 now set to be replayed.
This is due to Borough’s teenage goalkeeper, Ed Greenall, having played despite already being registered for AFC Sudbury Reserves as far as the Thurlow Nunn League was concerned. But, for now, Hadleigh have suddenly gone from six points from safety to only being kept out of the remaining safe spot on goal difference — in the space of one weekend.
“I noticed it but did not know why,” said manager Wardley. “It is looking even better for us now, though.
“At the moment there is a real buzz around the place, following on from last Saturday’s draw against Stanway (2-2).”
That result required two penalty saves and a late goal from 17-year-old striker Felix Vardon-Barden, to add to Tom Driscoll’s opener.
But on Saturday, a solitary scruffy strike from Driscoll, around the hour mark, proved to be enough to get the result Wardley’s side had craved. “It was a great performance all round,” reflected Wardley.
“They have had a bit of success and, with the conditions we were playing in, we could have gone all that way and got rolled over, but the whole squad, including the subs who came on, really dug in and defended very well.
“I said to the team after the game on Saturday that we are now in a position where we can catch Haverhill Borough.
“We have drawn one and won one now and we just need to get keep doing the same things.
“I think the next three games are very much winnable games and if we get points from them, we will be looking good.”
Hadleigh host 14th place Gorleston on Saturday (3pm) — who have won four of their last six — before a trip to 16th place Haverhill Rovers next Friday night (7.45pm), followed by 11th placed Saffron Walden’s visit a week on Tuesday (7.45pm).
Wardley also praised the impact ex-Felixstowe & Walton United frontman Danny Smy has had since bringing him in at the end of January.
“He is holding the ball up and bringing others into play and given the youngsters advice at half-time and full-time,” he said.