‘We’ve gone from being saved by Covid to back on the map again’ – Locks Heath all set for cup final appearance
Locks Heath can take great pride from their efforts this season - no matter how they fare in the L4 Teamwear Challenge Cup final on Saturday.
That's the verdict of assistant manager Jon Whitfield after Locks set up a supplementary cup showpiece showdown with Hampshire Premier League big-hitters Bush Hill at Westleigh Park.
Locks ran out 3-2 victors over lower division Silchester at Tadley Calleva’s Barlows Park to continue what has been a superb season for them - even with the Covid-19 interruptions.
Just a year ago, the club were handed a relegation reprieve - they were bottom of the HPL Senior Division when the campaign was declared 'null and void' because of the pandemic.
Fast forward a year and, under the stewardship of former boss Dave Fuge, Locks were sitting second in the table when the current season was curtailed - and now have a cup final to look forward to.
And it's progression which Whitfield believes everyone associated with Locks should take great pride from.
He said: 'Really, the difference in a year is incredible. We’ve gone from being saved by Covid to having a great league season then getting to the final of this cup competition.
‘Irrelevant to what happens on Saturday, we’re going to be very proud of the lads and what we’ve done this year.
‘It’s put us back on the map again and we look forward to next season.
‘With success comes many other things; already next year we’re growing, we’ve got a reserve team who are going to be added to the league and a new under-18s team coming in from Gosport Borough.'
Connor Johnson's quickfire double and Jordan Whiteley's spot kick - all in the space of 14 first-half minutes - put Locks 3-0 ahead inside 40 minutes.
Silchester pulled goals back late in each half - through Cameron George and substitute Stephen Burgess respectively.
George was also shown a straight red card for a lunge on Jake Ball as Silchester finished with 10 men.
Locks have now set up a fitting finale against Southampton-based Bush Hill, who are heading up to the Wessex League after the final as part of the FA's non-league restructure, this coming Saturday.
Whitfield says there would be no better way to end the season than lifting the subsidiary cup - and getting one over on Bush before their promotion.
He said: 'We know how good of a team Bush Hill are. They’re the only team this year who we’ve been outplayed and outfought by. We know what to expect.
‘They had a fantastic result on Saturday (7-0 against Paulsgrove) - no-one really saw that coming.
‘It’s a one-off game, it’s a final, and our lads will be up for it.
‘We know we’re going to have to perform to our very best to get something out of the game.
‘We also know that when we do perform to our very best we’ve got a very good chance of winning.
‘We’re going to have to turn up and perform - I think the lads will be able to do that.
‘Bush Hill have deservedly been promoted. As far as we’re concerned they’re the best team in the league and have been for many years.
‘We look forward to playing them for what could be the last time in a while and wish them success for their future.'