KEY players will have to be at the top of their game for the rest of the season for Rutland Rangers to maintain their climb away from the relegation zone.
That’s the view of Rangers boss Andy Saddington at the end of a roller-coaster year in which May’s league and cup double winners struggled at the wrong end of the table in the autumn.
Responsibility in the new year, he says, will fall heavily on the shoulders of Jamie Forbes, returning to Rangers in January, and Jamie Saddington in the centre of defence.
Saddington said: “Jamie Forbes, Nathan Arkle, David Bates and Tom Cooper are all returning and along with Jamie they have to be on song in every game.
“We have had a few injuries and we have to get them on the park and playing football. They lift the other lads.”
Saddington lost the majority of his first team to higher league football during the summer and after promoting the majority of last season’s reserves to the 1st XI he has been impressed by how quickly they have adapted to first football in the Peterborough and District League’s top flight.
“Andy Collins in goal has played very well and Craig Welbourne, Ben Dickenson, Tony Maher and Chris Steele all stepped up well,” he said.
“But really all the players have improved, never letting their heads drop even when we getting beaten.”
But with Rangers still hovering above the drop zone, he added: “Every single game, they will need to give 100 percent.”
Saddington has bolstered his striking options by signing former Oakham Imps striker Tane Scott as last season’s heroes such as Robbie Pearce and Richard and Michael Nelson have proved tough to replace.
Saddington added: “Our main aim was to stay in the division with all those players going.
“The lads coming in had to have time to adjust to a new level of football. We started well but then went seven without a win before taking 10 points from four games.
“But even in the games we lost we had looked decent for 80 minutes before our legs went. The scores didn’t always reflect how we had played.
“Overall I am more than happy with where we are and the points we have.”
Frustratingly for Saddington, Rangers had hit a rich vein of form when the weather knocked the fixture list for six.
He said: “We didn’t really want the snow to come. The break has not done us a lot of good, coming off a run of four unbeaten games.”
l Rangers’ next match is a cup tie at Whittlesey United on January 8. They return to league action a week later at home to Stamford Bels.