Horsham’s relegation fate was finally sealed on Saturday but the season of struggle has been described as a ‘great learning curve’.
With just three games left to play, the basement boys cannot now finish outside of the bottom two in South Premier Division 1 after a 4-0 defeat to London Edwardians.
Approaching the end of a long season, Horsham have achieved the status that most sports journalists would describe as plucky.
On Saturday, at Christ’s Hospital they could only field 13 due to injury and non-availability, against the visitors 15.
Yet with the exception of four breakaway goals, they held their own, had their fair share of the play, and created chances without being able to find the back of the onion bag.
It wasn’t a start lowly Horsham needed against a side second in the table at the weekend.
You know it’s not going to be your day when, three minutes after the start of the game, the opposition winger mishits a shot that your keeper thought he had covered, only to see it squirt and bobble past his outstretched left foot.
There were some particularly good performances, notably Joel Chinn who was almost certainly feeling the aftermath of turning 18 the previous day.
Joel is the third of three talented Chinn boys to play first team Horsham hockey, no mean feat for home-grown talent coming into a South Premiership 1 team. Sadly for Horsham, like his brothers, Joel will be off to University this autumn.
At the pre-match team talk, manager Al Campbell, reflecting on what has been a very challenging season, told the squad not to think about the losses but to consider the achievements.
Like Joel, players such as Jéan Marshall and Tim Upchurch have stepped up from playing several divisions below this third tier of national sport.
Campbell said: “It is now inevitable that we drop a division. But the boys have turned in a good shift week in, week out and shown enormous strength of character in defeat.
“Dropping a league is always disappointing, but it’s been a great learning curve and next year we can put some of the fun of winning back into the squad.”
With three games left, more pluck will be required in the next few weeks.
The light at the end of the tunnel is the Sussex Cup final in April – Horsham are holders and, for once, have a favourite’s chance.