07:30PM, Thursday 19 May 2022
Flackwell Heath have been one of the most exciting and consistent sides in the Spartan South Midlands Premier Division this season but, for whatever reason, they simply didn't show up in their league cup final against Tring Athletic on Thursday evening.
In front of a healthy following of supporters at Leverstock Green's ground, they froze like rabbits in the headlights before deservedly going down to a 3-0 defeat to Tring Athletic. Tring looked to have the edge from the opening exchanges and Heathens boss Chris Ayres admitted afterwards his side had been dominated and deservedly beaten.
Goals from Ronan Hutchins in the first half and Charlie Miller and Leo Farruch in the second, settled this Premier Division cup final in Tring's favour and left Ayres with more questions he’ll hope to find the answer to over the summer.
Heath have hauled themselves up the division this season, having underwhelmed under previous boss Marcus Richardson in the early weeks of the season, however, for some reason, they've struggled to perform in the big games, the ones that matter, and that's something Ayres is desperate to address next season.
“From the beginning we weren’t at the races, for whatever reason, I’m not sure,” he said.
“It’s hard to tell. In finals players must turn up and most of our players didn’t turn up today which reflected in the score and the domination by them.
That’s football. I just spoke to the boys and said we’ve won games we should win, but in those games where we’ve had to roll our sleeves up and show a bit of character, we’ve come up a little short.
“That’s something we’ll have to rectify next season without fail.
We’ve got to win games like this if we’re going to get somewhere, but we’ve just fell short in some of those games this year. We’ve not won the games we’ve needed to win to push us to that next level.
“Saying that the boys have been great this year since we came in. It’s probably not helped that five boys from that good run didn’t play today through injury (and unavailability) and that’s reflected in our results at the end of the season a little bit. That’s five good starters, but no excuses, Tring were excellent tonight.”
Tring boss Ryan Stuges has also overseen a dramatic improvement from his side having taken on the role quite late in the season. They're a very different outfit from the team who lost 2-1 to Flackwell back in early October, however, last month's goalless draw at Wilks Park should have served notice of what they were capable of. They also overcame a Hadley side who finished third in the league in their semi-final, yet it still appeared Flackwell were caught off guard or underestimated their opponents. It was also a week and a half since their last competitive game, the 2-1 win over Ardley United in the semi-finals, so perhaps a little post-season fatigue had crept into their legs. Whatever the reason, they were comprehensively beaten by the better side on the night.
Flackwell won't have to face them next season as they're set for a sideways switch back into the Combined Counties Premier Division North, a move that's being welcomed by the club, even if Ayres has enjoyed their one-season foray in the Spartan League.
Ayres added: “They've improved as the season has gone on, fair play to them, we have no qualms about the result.
“Hopefully we’ll learn from it and come back stronger next year.
We’ll be bringing in two or three players to help us do that (gain some experience).
“We’ve already spoken to two or three players who will definitely help take us from being fifth or sixth to hopefully one or two, that’s the plan.”
It’s been good this season, and we’ve just got used to the division this season, but I think for the club it’s beneficial to be in the Combined Counties league with the local games and the gates, there’s less travelling and we’ve been able to attract some more players because of that.
“We’ll find out next season if it’s a good move. It’s a tough league, we know that, but we’ll be well prepared for it.”
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