Hampton cup hero targets league safety for year to remember
Hampton & Richmond Borough striker James Simmonds has warned only Blue Square South safety – not silverware – would make this season one to remember.
The former Chelsea trainee and Dave Tarpey struck in the closing 20 minutes as the Beavers beat Ryman Premier League Wealdstone 2-0 to lift the Middlesex Senior Cup in Uxbridge on Monday night.
It came 48 hours after Simmonds had hit his side’s second goal in a vital 2-0 league triumph at Farnborough on Saturday to briefly lift Hampton out of the bottom three.
Boss Mark Harper’s men, who are only one point from safety and go to fellow strugglers Eastbourne Borough this week, have five games left to save themselves.
And Simmonds, pictured right, insisted that while they had one foot out of the relegation trapdoor, there remains a long way to go.
“The gaffer sat us down 13 games ago and said from there on in every game would be like a cup final,” he said.
“That is how we have been going about it.
“Everyone has come together as a group, knuckled down and worked their socks off. It has paid off.
“Everyone was buzzing after the cup win. The whole club is chuffed to bits, but we are not getting carried away because the job is only half done.
“We have got another big game at Eastbourne on Saturday. We have to take the same approach as we have been and go out to win that game.
“We are pretty confident we can get out of trouble now. We have the belief, but there is plenty to do.”
Harper set his young side the target of Blue Square South survival at the start of the season, but has been dealt several blows on the way.
Defender Matt Ruby, striker Joel Ledgister and goalkeeper Matt Lovett have suffered season-ending injuries, with the latter breaking his leg last week, as he made his comeback from a knee ligament injury.
But Hampton’s current run of form has seen them collect 11 points from their past six games to leave the Beavers on the brink of safety.
And Simmonds, in his second full season with the club, admitted survival would make a year of struggle on the pitch worthwhile and could only bode well for next year.
“The main aim at the start of the season was just to stay in the league,” he added.
“To do that with a completely new squad and new management would be a massive achievement.
“We’ve changed our style of play and it has taken us a little while to learn what it takes to win.
“If we can start next season the way we have finished this one, then we can have a good year next year.”