“A lot of people wrote Robbie and I off when we took the job, but the lads have been incredible over the last seven games. There is no greater feeling.”
Those were the words of Soham Town Rangers’ player-assistant manager Lloyd Groves after his side dramatically secured their Ryman League Division One North status at Julius Martin Lane on Saturday.
For a period The Greens were in the relegation zone, but late goals from Sam Mulready and Groves — both of whom had scored earlier in the contest — sealed a 4-3 win over Maldon & Tiptree, demoting Ware in the process.
It completed what had appeared to be an unlikely turnaround for Groves and player-manager Robbie Mason, who won none of their first 14 permanent matches in charge.
There were some mitigating circumstances for the alarming slump, the most notable being the large number of players — including captain Jordan Gent and leading goalscorer Ryan Sharman — switching to Cambridge City with previous bosses Robbie Nightingale and Dave Theobald.
Nevertheless, 17 points from the final 21 on offer kept Soham afloat against the odds, and Groves was delighted to have proven the doubters wrong.
“A lot of people wrote Robbie and I off when we took the job, but the lads have been incredible over the last seven games. There is no greater feeling,” he said.
“Most gave us no hope. Robbie and I knew we could do it because of the technical ability in that side is second to none. There are some very good players in the dressing room.
“We just needed some heart and desire. The attitude needed to change and it did. We have done what some people thought was impossible.
“I am not sure some people will appreciate how well we have done in the last seven games.
He continued: “Good luck to the guys that have left and those that have come and gone, but we literally put two fingers up to everybody today. We showed what we are about.
“If you look at our form, we have been a top-six side. We have had a tough run — the hardest out of everyone and that shows the grit in the squad.”
While all of the squad members played their part, Soham’s main man during their successful bid for survival was striker Mulready.
Having failed to score in his first eight appearances following a January arrival, the frontman ended the season in clinical mood, hitting nine goals in as many appearances.
“Me and my dad always talk about my goalscoring and I actually set a target of getting nine in nine,” revealed the former King’s Lynn Town marksman.
“I have always scored goals throughout my career and it always seems to happen in runs.
“I got promoted with King’s Lynn and scored in that run, but promotion is different to this.
“It is a good feeling. I knew I would come good, I just needed to get some minutes under my belt and get sharp.
“I came into a side that was not confident and that sometimes affects you personally as well.
“But we all came good at the same time and it was a complete team effort.”
Boss Mason, meanwhile, paid tribute to his fellow centre-forward, adding that he hoped to retain Mulready’s services for the 2017/18 campaign.
“Muzza has been outstanding. He has kept this club up. He came good at the right time and I knew he would,” he said.
“There was pressure to drop him, but I stuck by him. You do not have a CV like his full of goals and then lose it completely.
“I am a striker and I know what it is like when you hit a dry patch — it is hard.
“Of course it is a team effort and everyone has played their part, but he has put the ball in the back of the net.
“I hope we keep him next year. Hopefully he wants to stay with us.”
* For more reaction from Mason, see this Thursday’s print edition