Final-day heartache for Harleston
After 18 victories in a row had left Harleston Town just 90 minutes away from Almary Green Anglian Combination Premier Division title glory, they fell at the last hurdle on Saturday.
It was a final-day winner-takes-all affair at the Recreation Ground, with league-leading visitors Spixworth holding a two-point advantage over their hosts.
A 19th straight win would have clinched the main prize for Harleston, but they came up short against the table-toppers, who scored an unanswered goal in each half.
“We did not play anywhere near the level we have been and they were better,” conceded Harleston boss Adam Gusterson.
“It was a bit surprising, but I think nerves crept into the squad a little bit.
“The first goal knocked the stuffing out of us and we never really threatened after that.
“We have had to play a lot of mid-week games recently and that caught up with us as well.
“It is disappointing because we worked so hard to get into the position where it was in our hands, but we should not lose sight of the fact it was a good season.
“It came down to small margins — losing on penalties in the Norfolk Cup semi-finals and winning 26 of 30 league games. It just was not quite enough when it came down to it.”
While the wounds of the weekend will take some time to heal, there was a piece of positive news for the club this week.
Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division side Hadleigh United have agreed to sell their floodlights to Harleston, removing one of the major obstacles preventing the Norfolk side from gaining promotion.
There is still work to be done, but Gusterson is hopeful that the purchase will be a major sign of intent for the playing squad.
“We have been talking to Hadleigh for a couple of months and they have given us a really good deal,” added the former Norwich City trainee.
“Essentially, it was too good of a price for us not to buy them.
“Ultimately, actions speak louder than words and this shows the players we mean what we say about wanting to go up.
“Now we have to be proactive as a club, with sponsorship and events to help us with making the step up, providing we are in a position to do so in the league next year.”