22 May 2018
7.30pm start at The Holbrook Club
Hornets boss Dom Di Paola was in reflective mood as he looked back on the 2017/18 season for Saturday’s matchday programme with Whyteleafe:
What a season it has been! Playing away from Horsham has been harder than any of us expected and I think we can all agree, whilst a necessity, Lancing has not felt like home and our gates have reflected that. With the new ground really in motion, we can see light at the end of the tunnel and we now know that sooner rather than later we will be back in Horsham and in our own home for the first time in over ten years!
This has easily been the toughest of my twelve seasons as a manager as we have essentially put out three teams over the course of the season. Pre-season saw us put together a squad we felt would improve us from our team last season. Friendlies were largely positive and we played some fantastic football. Almost as soon as the season started, the problems began with injuries destroying us within a month. We actually didn’t start that bad but September was a horror show and with players out for months and a few moving on we took the view we had to re-build. At one stage we had twelve players out with injury and players playing out of position or playing when in truth they were not fit or not ready to play this level. We had to make a change urgently!
Our best period of the season was from November to January. We brought in some players, had some good loanees, and played some great football, flirting with the top ten for a long spell and dispelling any threats of a season of struggle. Up to the Herne Bay game at the end of January we even had a slim chance for the play-offs before losing a close game 2-1. Brannon Daly getting injured on New Year’s Day and out for the season saw Josh Pelling return in goal but, apart from that, the side was quite settled during this period.
February saw a poor run of results in general and with the weather taking a turn for the worse, our momentum completely dropped away. Further injuries to key players meant we were missing some of our star performers so we took the view to use the remaining matches to look at players for next season, giving a number of players a run of games – in particular some of the younger ones – to see how they did. In truth the results were poor in general. From mid-March we haemorrhaged goals and the team was constantly changing and without some of the more established players we looked lost at times. We have spluttered over the finish line and dropped a number of places in the league to finish far below where we could have done. Too often we have had to put out sides that were far below the standard of this league and with key players missing so many games we have lacked leaders to help the inexperienced players through games.
Now we have got Saturday’s game out of the way, I can draw a line under this season and never speak of it again! I really hope with the positivity around next season, the new ground, supporters returning and a fresh start we will only be better for the troubles of 2017/18. I would like to thank our committee and volunteers for their tireless work, in particular Jeff Barrett who is so helpful and kept us going when we had to get players in last minute! Thanks to Darren, Steph, Macca and Chappers who have all contributed so much to help us as part of the management team. Huge thanks to Wezzo who has been such a big part of the team this season and helped me get through some of the darkest periods!
Finally, as always, the most important part of the club – you the supporters! I know this season has been just as hard for you and your endless support and encouragement has kept us going and striving to do better on your behalf. I hope to see you all again in 2018/19.