MANAGER Paul Collicutt heaped praise on his Evesham United side for the professional way in which they ended the Southern League Division One South & West campaign with a 3-0 victory at Marlow on Saturday.
The Robins headed to Buckinghamshire knowing they could not reach the play-offs but an impressive performance saw them clinch an 11th victory in 13 games and they finished sixth – one place and two points outside the play-off zone.
United can count themselves desperately unlucky not to reach the end of the season shoot-out having totalled 81 points from their 42 matches, but Collicutt is now looking ahead.
He said: “We’ve set ourselves high standards and done some very good things but ultimately our poor start to the season has cost us.
“A lot of sides who had just missed out on the play-offs would have rolled up at Marlow on the last day of the season feeling sorry for themselves and gone through the motions, but we have a winning mentality at Evesham and we go out to win every football match.
“We were excellent, we bossed the whole 90 minutes, scored three very good goals and on another day could have added a few more.
“The only downside for me is losing my assistant Mark Boyland who has decided to relinquish the role due to work and family commitments. We go back a long way and I wish him well for the future.”
In front of Marlow’s biggest crowd of the season boosted by another sizeable following from the Vale, it was one-way traffic from the start, but United had to wait 23 minutes before taking the lead.
Carl Brown made ground down the right before finding Karnell Chambers and the Cheltenham Town youngster confidently found the net for his second goal in two games.
Earlier Blues stopper Simon Grant had work to do in making crucial saves to deny leading scorer Adam Mann with a brave block and then going full stretch at his near post to keep out Linden Dovey.
Grant went on to make further stops from Mann and the speedy Jacob Sloggett before he was beaten for a second time just before the break.
Brown was again provider when his cross found Clayton Green who planted a firm header beyond the helpless Grant.
Chambers, who had a field day on the left, twice tested Grant who saved well and Brown volleyed inches wide as United began the second half camped in Marlow territory.
The home side’s slim chance of getting something from the game then disappeared completely on the hour when striker Jordan Brown received a second yellow card and was promptly given his marching orders.
Ten minutes later a trademark Matt Sysum bullet-like header from Sean Wood’s corner made it 3-0, giving the United defender an impressive haul of 13 goals for the campaign.
By now the game had turned into a training session for the Red & Whites and Grant made a flying save from Sloggett, Chambers and midfield dynamo Nick Stanley pulled shots wide and Wood ballooned a ‘sitter’ over the crossbar with only Grant to beat.
United continued to ping the ball around for fun and Grant was in the thick of the action as he again pulled off a wonderful fingertip save from Sloggett’s volley before somehow getting down to save an angled drive from the same player a few minutes later.
Such was United’s dominance, substitute goalkeeper Conor Thompson came on in the closing stages for Mann and neat skills by the burly stopper nearly got himself on the scoresheet, but his deflected shot bounced kindly into the arms of Grant.
It was a positive finish by United who suffered just two defeats in the final 16 games and the shut-out in Buckinghamshire was an impressive 20th clean sheet of the season, whilst the Robins also chalked up 11 league wins on the road.
Banbury United will host Taunton Town in the play-off final for the right to join champions Cinderford Town in winning promotion.
UNITED’S Jubilee Stadium will host the Evesham Hospital Minor Cup final between Evesham United Reserves and Studley Rangers on Thursday, May 5 (7.45pm).