Realistic Pinchbeck United boss Lewis Thorogood insists that nobody at the club has anything to celebrate following confirmation of their relegation reprieve.
The Knights finished second-from-bottom in the Uhlsport UCL Premier Division North last season, but are one of a number of teams to have been let off relegation due to restructuring within the non-league pyramid.
Indeed, the Football Association’s official guidance, published back in November regarding restructuring, said that only 20 of the 32 teams across the 16 Step Five leagues would be relegated this season.
Pinchbeck fall into that category and, subject to any appeals which are scheduled for weeks commencing June 6 and 13, will play in the UCL Premier Division North again next season.
“This is the news we’d been expecting,” said Thorogood. “The guidance was there from November and the FA have stuck to their word.
“Look, we know this isn’t something to celebrate. Other teams, players, managers and fans will look at us and think we should have been relegated.
“We’re not elated or excited, but we have – by hook or by crook – achieved our goal for the season, which was to stay up.
“It’s not so much an achievement as a bit of a lifeline for us.
“I think everyone can see that we improved last season and it wasn’t like we were cut adrift at the bottom.
“Things went to the final day and, despite not staying up in the traditional way, our end-of-season form at least helped get us this reprieve.
“We want to play at Step Five and are looking forward to doing that again next season.”
Thorogood does think that the UCL Premier Division North will be as competitive as ever next season, given the new make-up of the division.
While he’s pleased that big-hitters Long Eaton United (champions) and Gresley Rovers (runners-up) have both been promoted, the introduction of relegated Wisbech Town and promoted AFC Mansfield and Sherwood Colliery offer three more difficult rivals.
Likewise, both Belper United and Kimberley MW have been promoted from a very tough UCL Division One, taking the total of new sides for next season up to five.
The Pinchbeck boss admits that he’ll look to add a bit more experience to his squad over the summer as they bid to be more competitive next time around.
“It’s a bit of a relief to have seen the back of Long Eaton and Gresley,” added Thorogood. “They were clearly too strong for the division.
“But the league, as announced last week, looks pretty strong still. AFC Mansfield and Sherwood are strong sides to have moved sideways, while you’d expect that Wisbech will want to go straight back up.
“You can’t underestimate the two promoted sides, either. UCL Division One looked a very tough league last season so they must be good teams.
“From our point of view, it’s no easier. Our aim will to be as competitive as we can be.
“It’s up to me to recruit well and try to hang on to our players. I think we all agree that we need a little more experience within the squad.
“The younger lads gained valuable experience of their own last season and will naturally improve next season.
“But it’s clear that having a few older heads benefits them on the field.”
Pinchbeck currently have six pre-season friendlies arranged, with all falling in July. They are: Heacham (away, July 2); Spalding United (home, July 5); Lincoln United (home, July 9); Lincoln Moorlands Railway (away, July 12); Barrow Town (home, July 16) and Huntingdon Town (home, July 23).
2022/23 Uhlsport UCL Premier Division North line-up: AFC Mansfield, Anstey Nomads, Belper United, Boston Town, Deeping Rangers, Eastwood, Heanor Town, Heather SJ, Kimberley MW, Leicester Nirvana, Loughborough Students, Melton Town, Newark, Pinchbeck United, Quorn, Selston, Sherwood Colliery, Skegness Town, Sleaford Town and Wisbech Town.