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Promoted Harleston Town 'absolutely delighted' to be 'back where they belong'

‘Back where we belong’ – that was the feeling at Harleston Town following confirmation earlier this week of their promotion back up to Step 6 of the National League System.

As part of the Football Association’s restructure of non-league football at Steps 3-6, clubs deemed to have collected enough points during the two Covid-19 impacted seasons were invited to apply to go up.

And on Tuesday it was confirmed a bid from Harleston had been successful, meaning they will return to the Thurlow Nunn League First Division North for 2021/22.

Jon Abbott (left) and Nicky Howell (right) are now planning for next season at Step 6. Picture: Mark Bullimore
Jon Abbott (left) and Nicky Howell (right) are now planning for next season at Step 6. Picture: Mark Bullimore

It comes two years after the club were relegated after just one season at that level due to ground grading issues.

They finished runners-up to Swaffham Town in 2018/19, scoring more than 100 goals in the process, as well as lifting the First Division Knockout Cup. But the absence of floodlights and a couple of other requirements resulted in the FA demoting Harleston after just one term.

But those issues have now all been rectified, allowing joint bosses Nicky Howell and Jon Abbott to prepare for next term at a higher level.

Howell said: “We’re all absolutely delighted. People at the club have put in a lot of hard work since we went down.

“We’ve still got a large chunk of the squad we had when we were last in the Thurlow Nunn. We did well that year and feel like it’s the level we belong at.

“The FA and league made their decision though and we had to accept it.

“It’s maybe not how we wanted to go back up – you’d much rather do it by winning a league title. But we’ve done enough on and off the pitch during the last two seasons to deserve it.”

The clarity means Howell and Abbott are now able to fully firm up their squad plans for 2021/22.

With a large majority of the current players expected to stay put, Howell does not anticipate a widespread number of comings and goings.

“It’s been tough planning in the last few weeks because we didn’t know what league we were going to be in,” he added.

“Now we can push on and start trying to land some of targets. We only need a couple of new signings, maybe three of four if we manage to get everyone we want.

“We know there is already plenty of quality in the squad we have to compete at that level.”

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