The outlook for the season ahead looked very different when Petersfield Town officials were enjoying a summer’s evening on the English Riviera back in July.
They were attending the Southern League’s annual presentation evening at a Torquay hotel when the small talk with their table guests from Hanwell Town turned to the season ahead.
Hanwell officials said their only aim was to stay in the division and try to keep away from the relegation places as much as possible.
Petersfield officials – who still had manager Ian Saunders in place at that stage and their full squad of players with some key summer additions on board – felt their ambitions for 2016-17 were much loftier with the play-off places a possible aim.
However, as Jimmy Greaves used to say to Ian St John, ‘football’s a funny old game Saint’ – and it certainly has proved to be for both clubs in the months which have followed that awards night.
Petersfield lost Saunders to Winchester City a week or so after the Torquay trip and then most of their first team squad within a month of the Devon jaunt.
They have failed to recover from those major setbacks and found themselves at the opposite end of the division one central table to where they had hoped to be.
Hanwell, though, have surprised many so far this season as they currently sit in ninth place in the league table and will have no relegation worries going into the second half of the campaign.
‘When I saw we had Hanwell Town this weekend my mind went back to the awards night we spent in the company of their club officials back in July,’ said Petersfield Town chairman Graeme Moir.
‘We were really relaxed and looking forward to the season – the signings we made we felt would really help to push us on in the table.
‘The play-offs was our aim at the time and we were confident of a top-five finish.
‘The lads from Hanwell were far more cautious and hoping to keep out of trouble.
‘When you see how things have panned out under six months later, it just goes to show you how things can change in football.’
Time is running out for the Rams to turn their situation around – they are now rock bottom of the table, six points below Histon.
In terms of player availability for the visit of Hanwell to Love Lane tomorrow (kick-off 3pm), striker Zach Nicholson-Pibworth is still out with a shoulder injury, Nick Awford is suspended and Harry Medway’s loan spell from the Hawks has been terminated.