Barring Haywards Heath Town from promotion 'makes a mockery of the non-league pyramid system'

Kenny Pogue chases down a Horsham players in Haywards Heath Town's Bostik South East play-off semi-final on Monday evening. Picture by Grahame Lehkyj
Kenny Pogue chases down a Horsham players in Haywards Heath Town's Bostik South East play-off semi-final on Monday evening. Picture by Grahame Lehkyj

Shaun Saunders revealed that Haywards Heath Town being unable to gain promotion via the Bostik South East play-offs 'makes a mockery of the non-league pyramid system'.

The Hanbury Park-outfit netted a hugely impressive fifth-placed finish in their debut season at Step 4, securing a play-off place and a crack at promotion to the Bostik Premier.

But restructuring across the non-league pyramid meant only five play-off winners could go up out of seven.

This meant, even if they went on to win their play-off final, Heath were unable to contemplate life at Step 3 due to the Blues having the third-lowest points-per-game tally at Step 4.

However Haywards Heath's dream of reaching the play-off final came to an end on Monday evening as the Blues succumbed to a 3-0 defeat at second-placed Horsham.

Saunders slammed the decision not to allow Heath to go up, regardless of results. The Heath boss admitted that some of his players only became aware of the Blues' plight two days before Monday's semi-final, such was their confusion over the matter, and branded the Horsham game a 'massive anti-climax'.

Saunders said: "The facts is we finished in the play-offs and regardless of the outcome we weren't going up.

"I just think it makes a mockery of the pyramid system that you can finish in the play-offs and can't go up.

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"I'm told it's changing next year but that doesn't do us any favours.

"It was a massive anti-climax going into the game against Horsham because we were made aware at the weekend we weren't going up and the league said even if we won we weren't going up.

"A lot of our players, up until Saturday, were unaware that we couldn't go up even if we won.

"I had message after message before the Horsham game from the lads asking, 'if we win can we not go up?'

"My chat in the changing room before our semi-final was a difficult one.

"It was a nothing game for us. Total respect to Horsham for how they applied themselves, but even if we won it was going to be in vain.

"I don't want it to sound like I'm taking anything away from Horsham because they played very, very well and were worthy winners.

"But without a shadow of a doubt it didn't do us any favours and I think it's terrible that it could happen to any club."