ATHERSLEY Rec have been relegated for what is thought to be the first time in their history but manager Jimmy Whitehead hopes the future is bright.
The Penguins lost 8-0 at home to high-flying Garforth Town on Friday then second-bottom Hemsworth MW won the next day.
That meant Rec could only finish last in the NCEL Premier Division before their 5-1 loss at Hemsworth on Tuesday.
Whitehead said: “The only reason they haven’t been relegated in the last two seasons was because the league was cancelled by Covid.
“The club almost want to come down because they need to be at a slightly lower level to compete.
“Every club in the division pays their players apart from us.
“The lads have given absolutely everything but the quality is not quite there and nor is the squad depth.
“It’s ridiculous and a miracle that we were at that level to begin with.
“Really we should be two levels lower in the County Senior League because they don’t generally pay their players.
“We have lost players this season to clubs who pay them £20 per week.”
Athersley – founded by Pete Goodlad more than 40 years ago – will now drop down into Division One.
Whitehead said: “There is no real chance of bouncing straight back, especially on no money.
“A lot of teams in Division One have decent budgets so we will be up against it next season.
“But I believe the squad we have now is good enough to finish in mid-table, because there is a big drop in quality from the Premier Division.
“Hopefully we can keep this squad, but other clubs will be looking at some of them.
“I will sit down with the club about hopefully increasing the budget for next season. We are hoping to have a good season, win some football matches and develop this team.”
Rec have collected two points from their last 22 games and lost all 12 in 2022. Ryan Eastwood put them ahead at Hemsworth but they were heavily beaten.
Whitehead said: “It’s horrible to watch or play in but it builds your character.
“I wanted to stay up because it would be a great achievement but we don’t have the resources at all.
“From the outside it might not look like we’ve done much since I arrived in September but we have got a lot better and I would say we have competed in 70 per cent of matches.
“We have had a really tough run of games against teams in the top six with a lot of players out injured.
“We have lost 8-0 to both of the top two recently.
“The players at those teams are on about £30 a goal so they don’t let up on you.”
Meanwhile, Penistone Church’s promotion ambitions suffered a serious blow as they lost 2-1 at home to fellow contenders Winterton Rangers on Saturday.
Church are now sixth, five points off the second of two promotion places.
They have three league games left with the next two at fellow top six sides Garforth Town tomorrow and at home to Eccleshill United a week later.
Manager Stephen Lenthall said: “The lads were deflated in the changing rooms after the game and I’ve told them if we’d have told anyone six months ago that we would be chasing second spot they’d have laughed in our faces.
“It’s a huge achievement and we are so proud of what they’ve given us, how they’ve changed the season round and how hard they work.
“There’s still a lot of games to play, we’ve got a quarter-final of the cup.
“We will have a big influence on who goes up and you can never say never – look at us in October, you’d never have said we would be chasing second spot.
“Hopefully at the end of the season we have a cup final and top four finish.”
The visitors scored early then, after James Young levelled in the 67th minute, Winterton won it in the 69th.
The match was played in front of a crowd of 303.
Lenthall said: “I’m gutted. It was always going to be a tough game as they are the form team in the league.
“We started the game pretty well, and created a couple of decent chances but we got caught on their first attack and conceded.
“It was a bit of an uphill task then but we reacted pretty well.
“We dominated the second half, especially the first 25 minutes, then we got a goal through Jammy.
“We showed some great character in the second half to get back into the game but then unfortunately, three or four minutes later, we gave a silly free-kick away. It hit the post, hit ‘keeper Chris Snaith’s knee and went straight back to the striker and he put it away for 2-1.
“It was a bitter pill to swallow.
“I don’t think we deserved to lose the game, a point would have been decent enough for both sides and a fair result.”
Worsbrough Bridge lost 2-0 at home to Swallownest on Tuesday in Division One.
Bridge had lost 2-1 at home Shirebrook Town on Saturday.
They trailed at the break then Conor Glavin levelled before the visitors won it.
Bridge stay ninth in Division One.