The Wokingham Paper

James Anderson fears fixture backlog could hamper Woodley United’s survival hopes

James Anderson
James Anderson has not been impressed with the Hellenic League

JAMES ANDERSON fears the scheduling of fixtures by the Hellenic League could hamper Woodley United’s chances of survival.

The Kestrels are gearing up for a pivotal 10 days, where they have been forced to fit in all of their remaining five league fixtures as they battle to avoid relegation from the Premier Division.

Following a string of postponements due to the winter weather and having to groundshare with fellow Premier strugglers Highmoor Ibis, Woodley go to Longlevens on Thursday before home games on April 21, 24, 26 and 28.

The fixture backlog also led to the Kestrels forfeiting their Bluefin Sport Supplementary Cup clash with Brackley Town Saints to avoid having to try and squeeze in another game.

Haydon Richardson will have a key role to play in the Kestrels’ survival bid

Anderson’s men sit 19th in the table ahead of this week’s run of games, seven points adrift of 18th-placed Fairford Town but with three games in hand.

If they are able to overhaul Fairford, Woodley are likely to remain in the top flight but Anderson, managing a team at this level for the first time this season, has questioned those in charge.

“It is frustrating,” he told The Wokingham Paper.

“What’s more disappointing is that there were plenty of games earlier in the season which didn’t need to be called off but the league called them off.

“And then more recently when the pitch was worse than it was then, the league were insisting on us playing.

“I haven’t been that impressed with the Hellenic League this season generally.

“There was another game last week with two teams where they had to play each other twice so they just played it once and did it as a double-header.

“That’s fine for those teams involved but what about the other teams in the league? Nobody got a say on that.

“I think that just makes a bit of a mockery of the league really.

“The rules are that you have to play everyone home and away, there should be no exception.

Woodley are battling the likes of Highmoor Ibis in the bottom four

“I think that’s where the Hellenic League, if they want to be taken seriously as a football league across the country, then they need to start obeying the basic rules of a football league season.”

He added: “I think they should have extended the league season.

“By not showing that flexibility you just end up alienating teams and people like our club secretary and the groundsman and people who are putting in all these hard hours and days and weeks throughout the season to then be told no, you’ve just got to play games, you’ve just got to get them done.

“Squads like us where we’ve only got about 18 players whereas other squads like Highmoor, they’ve got 30 or 40 odd players registered and you think that’s actually not very fair on the smaller teams.

“There hasn’t been any clarity on how the league is going to look next season. We don’t even know how many teams are going to go down. It’s all a bit up in the air.”

Despite his disappointment of the league, Anderson remains confident Woodley have enough to drag themselves out of danger.

The Kestrels battled well in their Berks and Bucks Senior Cup semi-final 2-0 defeat to Chesham United, who compete two leagues higher, on Tuesday night.

Focus now turns to the trip to Longlevens before hosting Ascot United on Saturday and Anderson is well aware of how important those two clashes will be ahead of a tricky looking clash with title-chasing Bracknell Town on Tuesday.

“I think in many ways we’ll know exactly where we are come 6 o’clock on Saturday evening,” said the Woodley boss.

“If we can get something out of the next two games then we’re in with a shout. But if we don’t then it’s very unlikely.

“It’s a lot of pressure on the lads but if they can just take a breath, remember their quality and that will come through definitely.

“I hope we’ll be looking at some points come the end of the week.”

He added: “We’ve got five games left and I think of those five, four of them are very winnable and we should go and get points from them certainly.

“Truthfully it feels like we’re due a big win.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if in one of those games we win it 4-0 or 3-0 or something like that, just because we’re creating chances and defending really well, we’ve just not been able to do the whole lot together.”

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