Broadbridge Heath manager Steve Painter was happy with his team’s progress this season but admits he is looking to trim his squad down to a more manageable size going forwards.
The Bears finished eighth with their highest-ever points’ tally in what was only their second season in the top division of the County League, renamed the Southern Combination League Premier Division.
They amassed an impressive tally of 63 points, 11 more than their maiden season.
At times they were able to beat the best in the division, with outstanding wins gained during the campaign against top-six sides including champions Horsham, Newhaven (away), Eastbourne Town and Loxwood.
Painter said: “On the surface it looks like we are not up for the lesser games.
“Like Worthing United, who we beat at home we ended up losing heavily to midweek when we played them away.
“Potentially, we are a top-six side if we could put our best team out each week.
“It’s not through bad management or lack of trying, it’s purely through availability.
“We have to rely on loyalty to the football club and to me.”
Painter was impressed the way the team adapted to losing key players during the season like Ollie Moore, who left for Loxwood, and Keiron Purkiss, who transferred to Oakwood.
He said: “They were massive blows to us but we moved players around, brought some young players in and managed to finish strongly at the end of the season.”
Painter was also pleased with the way they managed to overcome some severe injury problems.
They used a staggering 50 different players in the first team this year due to availability and injury woes.
Painter said: “We’ve been absolutely crippled by injuries, losing Rob Godfrey, Andy Waddingham, Andy Howard, Martin Flack, Piers McDermott and Shaun Findlay.
“The good thing for us was we brought in youngsters. Jamie Robinson, 17, missed just two games and he’s a much better player for the experience.
“Adam Wicking and Scott Weller have also come in and done brilliantly.
“Scott stepped up from playing Mid Sussex League Division 5 and you’d have thought he’d never played any lower than County Premier!
“Merv Bhujun scored 11 goals but was then out injured for much of the season, but in came Jake Holmes who managed to score around 16 goals in the last 20 games!
“With hindsight, this season has been difficult but it has put us in good stead.
“Our young players are a year more experienced and if we add one or two more to the core we have we should do even better next season.
“This season we have five candidates for the Young Player of the Year Award.”
They are Piers McDermott, Jamie Robinson, Scott Weller, Stuart Chester and Adam Wicking who have been playing regularly in the first team.
Painter added: “We’re proud of our young players it’s good they now have more experience in the league.
“It’s been a frustrating season but I think we will be stronger for it.”
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