Nasser Ssemuwemba paid tribute to his Horndean side after they clinched National League division two south survival.
The Deans, who had been in a relegation scrap with Malory Eagles II and Arun-VC, staved off the drop with a 3-1 victory at City of Bristol.
The win came under trying circumstances for Horndean, with the visitors learning their hosts had forfeited their game in hand against Malory.
That meant the Deans had to beat Bristol and also rely on Richmond winning against Malory in order to stay afloat.
Both scenarios worked in their favour, though, with Richmond winning their head-to-head.
And Ssemuwemba was quick to laud the character of his team-mates as they responsed in style to the pressure of a potentially win-or-bust game.
‘This has been a season to forget for us,’ he admitted.
‘It’s been a very bad experience for us and there are lessons to be learnt.
‘I want to thank all the players who have managed to offer their time to the team and everybody else who has been supportive in one way or the other.
‘This success of survival would not have been possible without their contribution and commitment.
‘We were shocked to find out Bristol had actually decided to forfeit their match in hand against our relegation rivals, Malory.
‘This destabilised us. But we quickly recovered after a shaky start and were the dominant team thereafter.
‘We deserved the victory which keeps us in the division where we least deserve to be.
‘I’m relieved that despite all the problems we’ve faced this season, we still managed to turn things around at the right time.
‘We can now go off to celebrate and also recharge our batteries for hopefully a better next season.’
With three key players unable to travel to Bristol, victory seemed to be a big ask for the Deans.
But the return of play-maker Leandros Tsikras and Adamantion Xanthoudidis was a welcome boost.
Although the Greek duo could not stop Horndean losing a nervy first set 25-17, they were instrumental in helping them comeback from 21-15 down to snatch the second set 26-24.
With momentum now on their side, the Deans made the home team pay by doubling their advantage 25-23, thanks to Samuel Sawicki and Willard-Hans Shongue’s solid blocks.
The visitors continued with their surge and as their opponents struggled, the Deans became more adventurous in attack, with Tsikras bringing Festus Nfor and man-of-the match Ssemuwemba into the game.
Bristol staged a mini recovery but it was too late to stop the Deans from celebrating a major victory with a 25-20 fourth set triumph.
The Deans’ survival was confirmed after second-placed Richmond defeated Malory 3-1. Arun were automatically relegated, while Malory have a play-off against two second-placed finishers in division three south east and west.