Shaun Saunders could not hide his pride at the achievements of his Haywards Heath Town players after the Blues’ debut Bostik South East campaign reached its conclusion on Monday evening.
Last season’s SCFL Premier Division champions were tipped to struggle in their maiden season at Step 4, but the Hanbury Park-outfit silenced the doubters by finishing fifth and securing a place in the play-offs.
However the Blues fairytale campaign didn’t have a dream ending. The twin disappointments of a 3-0 loss to Horsham in the play-off semi-finals at Lancing on Monday, and Heath unfortunately boasting one of the lowest points-per-game totals across Step 4 put pay to any chances of promotion into the Bostik Premier.
Despite this, Saunders was full of praise for his team and hailed the Blues’ first season in the Bostik League as ‘right up there with his other achievements’.
He said: “I sat with the club last summer and their aspirations were to stay in the league and get a base to be stronger next season.
“The fact that we made the play-offs makes me proud. It really does.
“There’s been some ups-and-downs, but looking back and reflecting it’s been a great journey.
“The players need to give themselves a massive pat on the back because nobody would’ve tipped us to make the play-offs this year.
“When you think of where the club has come from in the four years I’ve been here, what we’ve achieved fills me with pride.
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“I’ve been lucky enough to do well managing but I rate it right up there with my other achievements.
"I’m proud of every single person and player at our football club.”
Not only have Haywards Heath tasted success in the league, they’ve also enjoyed fruitful runs in county cup competitions.
Saunders’ side reached the semi-finals of the Sussex Senior Cup, memorably dumping League Two side Crawley Town out in the first round, and now have a chance of picking up a trophy on Bank Holiday Monday.
Heath will once again make the trip to Lancing, this time to take on SCFL Premier Division-outfit Peacehaven & Telscombe in the Sussex RUR Cup final (3pm kick-off).
Saunders added: “We know if we win it we know we’re going to get a cup. We’re over the moon with that.
“The players all said after the Horsham game that their season hadn’t finished.
“We’ll train Wednesday night and prepare for one last push on Monday.
“If we can wrap the season up with a bit of silverware then it’ll be some season.”