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Herne Bay boss Steve Lovell identifies 3-1 derby defeat at Ashford United as key in club’s failure to reach 2023/24 season Isthmian South East play-off places

Boss Steve Lovell has identified the match he felt ended Herne Bay’s 2023/24 Isthmian South East season play-off prospects.

Bay finished eighth, 10 points behind fifth-placed Chichester - the eventual play-off winners after their shock 5-0 Final thumping of Three Bridges last Friday.

Herne Bay manager Steve Lovell. Picture: Randolph File
Herne Bay manager Steve Lovell. Picture: Randolph File

Lovell’s team headed into the business end of the campaign with a chance of a top-five finish still alive, only to collect four points from their final five league fixtures.

Herne Bay’s manager, who saw his side end their season with a 3-3 home draw against Chichester last month, said: “It was a bit disappointing not to get in there.

“Me and Mark (his son and assistant) had a good side. We just wanted to finish it off by trying to get into the play-offs.

“The game against Chichester - 3-3 - that was a pretty good game.

“I think the game that did it for us was the Ashford game (a 3-1 loss). It dented us a little bit and we didn’t make the play-offs.

“But only two teams out of the whole league can go up every season. The ones that lost in the Play-off Semi-Final and Final, they’re in the same place as us.

“Hopefully, we can learn from experience and improve.”

Individual defensive errors proved costly for a largely youthful Bay side, who kept few clean sheets all term.

Lovell said: “It’s been about learning all the time.

“A lot of games, we lost through individual errors. We just need to cut out the individual errors.

“If we can get the boys to cut them out - we try to play open football - but we’ve just conceded too many silly goals.

“Rather than winning 1-0 or 2-0, we were drawing, or even losing, games.

“There’s a lot of games that we didn’t deserve to lose.

“Hopefully, we can eradicate those mistakes. If we do that, we will be fine.”

While players are starting to have a hard-earned summer break, Bay’s management team remain at work. Lovell was set to meet the club board this week to discuss their pre-season plans.

On attempts to bring any new signings in, Lovell said: “The first two weeks after the season, it’s sort of a ‘no-go’ area. Everybody takes a bit of a breather.

“But when I meet up with players, I [want to be able to] tell them when we’re starting back and what friendlies we’re having.

“Then, we can look forward to the start of pre-season.”

Herne Bay will again have plenty of Kent derbies during their 2024/25 Isthmian South East season, including matches against relegated Margate and Southern Counties East Premier Division champions Deal.

Lovell said: “It’s going to be a good league - some local derbies, some good gates - and it’s been a good year this season for that.

“There will be a few more. It will soon come around!”

Trials to join Herne Bay under-15s, coached by ex-chairman Sam Callander, are due to be held on Sunday at Winch’s Field from 10am until midday.

Player registration starts from 9am. Call Callander on 07423 402249 or email HBFCtrials@gmail.com for more details.

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