Preston Grasshoppers head coach Garth Dew is hoping some good can come out of the remainder of this season – even if it does end in relegation.
Hoppers sank to the bottom of the National League North at the weekend after a demoralising 30-0 defeat at Sheffied Tigers, who subsequently leapfrogged them in the table.
Dew announced at the beginning of this month that he will be stepping down from his role at the end of the season.
He admitted this season has been a testing and challenging time with Hoppers struggling to cope with the loss of key players who have either moved away from the area or have suffered long-term injuries.
The fact that the first team has also been forced to play the vast majority of their home fixtures on one of the back pitches at Lightfoot Green due to the installation of the new artificial surface on the main arena has not helped matters .
“It’s been a very difficult season,” said former Sale Sharks youth star Dew, who became the youngest ever National League coach when he took charge of the Hoppers three years ago at the tender age of 26.
“I think it was always going to be, to be honest. We lost a lot of quality players for various reasons. Our centre Andy Napier and goal-kicker and star player Sean Taylor both moved to London to be with their partners and for work reasons.
“We also lost about a dozen players through injuries.
“I think also the main pitch being unavailable due to the installation of the new artificial surface has meant we have had to play on one of the back pitches.
“That should not make a difference, but it did really.
“At Preston Grasshoppers, you are always used to playing in front of a good crowd, but this season not many people have been coming down to watch. The atmosphere has been a little bit flat and we have not had that home advantage.”
With three of the division’s top seven to play in Hoppers’ remaining five games, Dew accepts avoiding relegation is going to be a tall order.
But he is eager to finish on a high so that the players have positive feelings heading into the summer.
“It’s going to take a huge effort to stay up now,” said Dew, who will become a father for the first time later this year.
“Realistically, we are going to have to win every game to have any chance.
“I think the focus for me until the end of the season is to try to build some momentum for next season.
“Confidence is quite low at the moment so I want to try to win our home games so that the players go into the summer feeling positive.”