FC CLACTON boss Kieron Shelley has challenged his players to restore pride and provide some much-needed cheer in their final two fixtures.
Barring a reprieve, the club’s relegation from the Thurlow Nunn League premier division was confirmed on Bank Holiday Monday as they lost 3-2 at home to fellow strugglers Wivenhoe Town.
They cannot now catch the third-from-bottom Dragons - who had only taken eight points since the beginning of November - and slipped back to the foot of the table after previous basement boys Swaffham Town beat Walsham-le-Willows.
Shelley admitted being “absolutely gutted” by Monday’s costly defeat but wants his players to provide some consolation by gleaning points from their final two matches – at home to Godmanchester Rovers on Saturday and then, ironically, away to Swaffham on April 29.
“It really hurts,” said the former Weeley Athletic boss.
“We’re down now, barring a reprieve, and that really hurts.
“Monday’s game needed to be won. Not drawn and certainly not lost.
“I still think we’ve got the better group of players and I still think we were the better side in the first half, but it wasn’t to be.
“I’m certainly not happy about that and am absolutely gutted, to be honest.
“I’m from this town and have lived here all my life.
“I don’t like the position we’re in and feel responsible.
“I’m the one picking the team but I also think the players have to hold their hands up sometimes and ask themselves ‘have I done enough?’ “My thoughts are already on pre-season and, if I’m honest, I’ve been thinking along those lines since the day I came here. Now it’s about going out and restoring pride and making sure we don’t finish bottom of the league.
“That would really upset me and I’d almost feel everything I’ve done here in the last five months has been for nothing.”
The bottom three face relegation, although there is the slim possibility of a reprieve.
However, unless there is an exceptional turn of events higher up the pyramid, Clacton will be playing first division football next season alongside the likes of Holland FC and newly-promoted Little Oakley.
Clacton took the lead in Monday’s derby through Sam Cripps.
However, Billy Latto’s volleyed equaliser made it all-square at the break. Joe McCracken then netted twice to put Wivenhoe in command, before Lee Clowsley headed home a second for the Seasiders.
“It was the story of our season and a bitter pill to swallow,” said Shelley.
“Fair play to Wivenhoe. They came here and didn’t give up, even after going behind.
“A wonder goal got them back in the game and they went on to win it.
“In the second half they looked like the team that wanted it more and it was an individual error that led to their second goal. Then they got their third.
“We tried to press on and changed our shape, to get back in the match and get more players forward.
“We were good in spells but average in others and that’s not good enough. You need consistency.”
n Great Bentley Reserves romped to an 8-1 victory at home to Bradfield Rovers Reserves in Essex and Suffolk Border League division three on Saturday. Charlie Durling and Jake Vaughan scored twice.