Little Common Football Club player-manager Russell Eldridge regards avoiding relegation this season as a ‘very similar’ achievement to last term’s league and cup double.
Two wins over the Easter weekend have ensured Common will retain their Southern Combination League Premier Division status after their Division One and Division One Challenge Cup triumph of 2017/18.
Eldridge said: “I think in a way it’s very similar. The target last year was to get promoted and we did very well in winning the double, which is some achievement because it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen this year in the league below.
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“To keep ourselves in the league is huge considering we’ve been playing away from home again (Common have played their home games at Eastbourne United AFC for the second successive campaign as their own ground doesn’t comply with FA ground grading regulations).
“I still believe if we were at The Rec that gives you an extra 10 or 20 percent and we would win a few more games.
“And when I hear the resources that other teams have and use to try to get themselves out of trouble, it’s a massive achievement.
“We’re a small club, a tight-knit group, we all pull together and play for one another. There’s no-one that thinks they’re bigger than anyone else.
“The group that we’ve ended with is probably the group that got us up last year. It’s a massive achievement and I don’t think it’s one that should be frowned upon.
“There’s a gulf between the two leagues. There are some good teams in the league below, like we found last year, but there’s more consistently hard games in this league. You have to be on it every game because if you’re not, you get punished.
“We’ve shown we’re capable of competing if we apply ourselves in the right way. Yes we’re happy because it gives us another chance next year to build and I think it would be very difficult to bounce straight back up (had they been relegated).”
Common have been used to winning in recent years as they frequently featured towards the top end of Division One, but this season has been an altogether different challenge.
“Generally, as a group, we’ve been very successful, winning more games than we’ve lost,” continued Eldridge. “This year we’ve struggled at times, but to a man they’ve stood up and shown that work and desire for themselves and the club.
“I’ve got the utmost respect for the group. It could’ve been easy to chuck it in, but they’ve persevered with me and one another.
“Would we have liked to finish higher? Of course we would’ve done. But the main thing is we kept our place in the premier division for next season.”
Common will end their season with a home fixture against Crawley Down Gatwick this coming Saturday. Kick-off at The Oval is 3pm.
“The last few games we’ve been playing with a lot of pressure, but the boys have thrived on that,” Eldridge added. “It will be nice going into the last game able to relax a bit, but our target will be to end the season with four wins on the bounce.
“We’re not going to go out there and take our foot off the pedal. There’s a real desire to keep on achieving.”
Southern Combination League Premier Division bottom six (played-points): 15 Langney Wanderers 37-37 (-29 goal difference), 16 LITTLE COMMON 37-32 (-31), 17 Loxwood 36-31 (-28), 18 Arundel 37-27 (-48), 19 Shoreham 37-24 (-47), 20 Eastbourne United AFC 37-24 (-52).