Another long season has come to an end, with largely mixed results for south Essex’s clubs.
Here, Luke Lambert rounds up what has been a hugely eventful and entertaining nine months.
First up - East Thurrock United manager John Coventry discusses Rocks’ efforts in the National League South, following their promotion to the level 12 months ago.
l How do you assess what East Thurrock United have achieved this season? Would you class it a success? Why/why not?
What we have done this year has been fantastic. It is our best ever season in our short history and it has been enjoyable on top of that.
It was a big ask this season and everyone at the club got a lift the day we won in the play-offs. There are not many people that work at the club but going up gave us all that boost in terms of enthusiasm. We got the ground grading and worked hard to do that so that was very satisfying.
I am pleased with the playing staff as I brought in about six players but the challenge was to get through after we lost the likes of Joe Ellul and Michael Clark as we could have dropped off. It was difficult but we got through it.
l What do you think was the biggest plus?
I look at the first dozen games when we were trying to get a feel of things at this level and some of the football we played in those early days was very pleasing.
Devs (assistant manager Jay Devereux) and I knew at that point that we would be able to handle playing in this division.
l And the biggest negative?
There really aren’t that many. When we don’t do well we accept it and move forward.
I would say losing key players was disappointing. I would have liked to have seen where we would have ended up in this league if we had kept some of the players that left, or if we had not suffered a number of important long-term injuries. That would have been very interesting.
You look back and don’t realise at the time what a good side you have. We were very good.
l Do you feel the team has progressed in the past 12 months, looking back to the 2015/16 campaign?
Individuals have really come on. The guys that have been here for a long time, like Ryan Sammons, have really stepped up. They have had to ply their trade at a higher level and seeing them rise to the challenge is great.
Also Kye Ruel coming back from a broken leg and playing well in this division was pleasing.
l What have you learned about the team and yourself this year?
This year I have learned it is difficult in this league to have no strength and depth. At times that has been the case and we have found it hard to keep up with the sides who have such big squads. I am looking to improve on that next season.
l East Thurrock finished the season with the best disciplinary record in the National League (56 yellow cards, 0 red cards). You also saw a 50 per cent increase in the average attendance at Rookery Hill. How pleasing is this?
I am pleased we have not got silly bookings or sendings off. That said, I don’t think many teams win things who finish at the top of these charts.
The average gate has been very good. There are a small number of loyal faces that travel away from home and I think back to when we beat Aldershot in the FA Trophy and there were about 60 people there. That was a nice moment.