Humbugs live to fight another day

Hayling boss Lee Paul
Hayling boss Lee Paul
Theo Widdrington. Picture: Sarah Standing (170841-4476)

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Hayling United live to fight another day in the Wessex League premier division after they were granted a reprieve from relegation at the league’s AGM on Monday.

The Humbugs beat Lymington Town 4-2 on the final day of the season to haul themselves off the bottom of the league and above Brockenhurst.

And it is that win which has saved them.

With Andover remaining in the Southern League, it meant the league only needed to relegate one club – instead of the usual two – which provided the Humbugs with their ‘great escape’.

Lee Paul, who endured a tough baptism in his first year as manager, is thrilled by the news.

And he believes it will allow the club to kick on.

‘I got a phone call from our chairman on Monday night and it was absolutely brilliant news,’ said Paul.

‘It means such a lot to me because when I took the job I didn’t want to let anyone down.

‘I knew it would be a huge challenge and all I cared about was keeping the club in the premier division.

‘To achieve that is magnificent.

‘It was mainly down to the commitment my players showed, sticking to the task to make it happen.

‘They kept fighting against the odds right to the final game of the season, which proved crucial in the end.

‘Beating Blackfield and then Lymington in our final few games got us off the bottom of the league and saved us.’

Paul virtually had to rebuild the United squad when he took over last summer and the opening two months, in particular, were very difficult.

Slowly but surely he began to put things into place that helped them engineer a chance of escape.

It still went down to the wire in the end, with Hayling keeping their nerve in a tense final-day encounter against Lymington. But despite all the problems and pitfalls experienced in his first year as a manager, Paul is in no doubt he is ready to go again when pre-season training begins next month.

‘Football has been a large part of my life – as a player and now a manager – and I can’t wait to get going again,’ said Paul.

‘I like to think I have learned a bit from last year and there are certainly things that can be changed.

‘Now we know what league we are in, 12 of our core players have already signed, showing their loyalty and commitment.

‘It will also help us attract some new faces and it will be nice not having to start from scratch like last season.

‘Fighting relegation again isn’t something I am considering.

‘I am convinced the club will progress from this point and I am targeting a top-half finish next season.

‘I am over the moon about the news and situation. It is fantastic for the club.’