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Histon take step up to BetVictor Isthmian League, North Division in their stride to catch the eye

Histon manager Lance Key.
Histon manager Lance Key.

Lance Key is pleasantly surprised by the progress of Histon in the BetVictor Isthmian League, North Division this season.

The Stutes had set off for the 2019/20 campaign after last year’s promotion from the Thurlow Nunn League, Premier Division with the target of holding their own and retaining their status.

With not even half their games completed, they are seventh in the table with 25 points, collected from eight wins and one draw.

They have also had to contend with the departures of Rob Ruddy, Matt Green and Sheldon Weinman.

“I think it’s probably going better than we expected,” said manager Key. “Going from Step 5 to Step 4, it was a big jump.

“You bring in a lad called George Coy, who we have known for some time, and you’ve still got a threadbare squad and you then introduce up to seven of the under-18 lads who have all done very well and you’ve been able to keep it on a very tight budget and use these youngsters.

“Since the three lads have left, for whatever reason it’s just one of those things that happen, the squad galvanises themselves and become stronger.

“If I’m honest, we said mid-table security would be where we want to be this year as a consolidation year.

“Having said that, we’re lying seventh, we’re only two points off the play-offs which is a little bit ridiculous really but we will take it because it keeps us very interested and buoyant.”

Histon have only conceded two goals in their past five games, and there have been some impressive scalps during that period.

They won 3-0 at Canvey Island and followed it up by defeating then leaders Bury Town by the same scoreline at home.

They had frustration when their match at Coggeshall Town was then postponed and so by the time they faced Cambridge City on Boxing Day, they had gone 16 days without a game. But they did not let that bother them as Max York's last-minute goal earned them a 1-0 win over the Lilywhites.

Histon are away to AFC Sudbury on New Year’s Day, and now sit in sixth place, just two points off third place which, given the few changes in the squad, suggests that the difference between the two divisions is not too great. Not so, says Key.

“You can go through the whole scope of the league, and it is much stronger. We found in the first two months how difficult it was.

“Did we find it difficult to find our feet? Possibly yes, at the start. But now we understand how teams play in this league, a lot of them play 4-3-3 against you.

“And they play attacking football, and a lot of teams want to try to play football out from the back and we’ve adapted to it, but certainly the league is a lot stronger than last year.

“There are some very good players, you look at the squads of Maldon & Tiptree, Coggeshall, Grays Athletic, Bury Town, some of these squads are very strong.

“Whatever they are paying it must be substantial to keep these players at these clubs. And that’s another thing, budget wise, it’s a lot higher than what we were used to last year as well.”

With the original goal being to stay up this season, have the targets changed now they are more than just holding their own?

Key uses last season as an example, when he assessed where they were around February before making plans for what was to come in March and beyond.

“I think, if we’re still there come end of February, early March in seventh or eighth only a few points off the play-offs, then why not?” he said. “You just don’t know.

“As long as we can stay in contention and on the coattails of these teams in and around the play-offs, because I think the top three will be the top three, and you are playing for fourth or fifth spot in the league.

“At the moment, we’ve played one more game than the teams around us but we’re in the mix.

“If we’re in the mix come February or March then my whole expectation of the season will have changed.”

He added: “I’ve always said that on our day we’re a match for anybody, it’s whether or not we get all of our players playing at the right time and of late they have been doing that and been superb for me, the club and themselves.”

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