Haywards Heath Town under 'no pressure' as play-off battle hots up

Haywards Heath Town boss Shaun Saunders. Picture by Derek Martin.
Haywards Heath Town boss Shaun Saunders. Picture by Derek Martin.

Shaun Saunders feels Haywards Heath Town are the only side currently in the Bostik South East play-off places that are under no pressure.

Last season’s SCFL Premier Division title-winners sit in fifth, the final play-off position, and are nine-points ahead of sixth-placed Hythe Town.

Just three points separate league debutants Heath and second-placed Horsham, with the Blues having a game in hand, as the battle for promotion tightens with seven games to go.

Saunders said: “We’re probably the only ones in there that are playing with no pressure. It wasn’t in the club’s agenda before the season started.

“For us it’s a case of just going out and enjoying our football and seeing what happens at the end of it.

“It’s different for us because, since I’ve been here, at this stage of the season we’ve been under massive pressure to win every game.

“I said to the players, how far do you want to take it? There’s no pressure on us, the only pressure is the pressure that we put on ourselves.

“I’m hoping that might be the difference. We can play with a bit of freedom and enjoy it.

“If the season ended now it would go down as a fantastic season for the club. We’ve done really well in cup competitions this year and our under-18s won the league on Sunday.

“Everybody’s enjoying being around the club at the moment and being part of another fantastic season.

“I said to the players to embrace it and not be fearful of it and see if we can win as many games as we can and see what happens at the end of it.”

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The Blues had a free weekend last week, meaning Saunders’ side would have to wait to see if they could extend their seven-game unbeaten run in the league.

Due to Heath’s recent involvement in the latter stages of cup competitions, the Hanbury Park-outfit have had to contend with playing twice in a week.

The exertions of this were beginning to take its toll on the squad, and Saunders was thankful for the timing of the break.

He added: “Games have been coming thick and fast in the lead-up to the Hastings game. In the Hastings game we were running on empty.

“Bearing in mind we didn’t have a game the following Saturday, I said to them that it gives us a chance to recover and get a couple back from injury. It was a well-earned break for all of us.

"It’s been perfect for us. We’re hopeful that Nathan Cooper and Kieran Rowe will return and the three or four that played through knocks are good now and raring to go.

“They’ve all been through physio and they’ve had that time out to get themselves recharged.”

Haywards Heath host seventh-placed Whyteleafe on Saturday. The Blues’ opponents have suffered four consecutive defeats seeing their own play-off charge falter.

Despite Leafe’s results taking a nose-dive, Saunders feels his side will ‘have to be on it to a man’ if they are to claim three points.

He said: “It should be a really good game. I think they’re under real pressure so it’s a must-win for them but for us if we can take anything out of the game it’ll be a massive stride forward.

“They’ve got some really good players and pace about them. For us to take the points on Saturday we’re going to have to be on it to a man.

"We’ll be going into it in good shape so there will certainly be no excuses our end. It can’t come soon enough and we’re really looking forward to it, especially after the free Saturday we’re all busting to get back on it.”"