It’s mission accomplished for Hythe boss James Rogers after Isthmian South East safety was confirmed over Easter.
Rogers took on his first management job in difficult circumstances last November, amid a budget cut, injuries and squad departures, all while continuing to pull on his boots.
The board asked him to keep Hythe up and the Cannons are safe with a game to spare and looking forward to a home Kent Senior Cup semi-final against Folkestone, which is scheduled to take place on Wednesday (April 27).
Hythe lost 1-0 at home to Sevenoaks on Saturday, despite being the better side, and gave a good account of themselves in a 2-0 defeat at Herne Bay on Easter Monday.
But with other results going their way, the points accumulated in recent weeks have proved enough to stay up and they can enjoy the final game of the league season at home to East Grinstead this Saturday.
“It’s nice to take a bit of pressure off the players,” said Rogers.
“It’s been difficult, there’s been a lot to deal with, like the budget cut and key players having season-ending injuries.
“We’ve had a lot of young players come in who are learning on the job and I take my hat off to them because over the last eight weeks we’ve become a hard-to-beat, compact sort of team.
“I’m pleased we’ve kept the club up and they can build for next year in whatever way that goes. Everyone’s relieved.
“The club wanted to stay up when I took over, that was the main target.
“I’m a little disappointed, because I wanted to do better, but looking back over it and the cards we were dealt, I think we’ve done well.
“It’s been tough but I’m not going to moan because there’s probably managers in a lot worse positions than I’ve been in.”
Rogers has enjoyed a successful playing career, including a run of six promotions in nine years with Dartford, Dover and Maidstone.
But management was all new to him and assistant Tom Wynter, while coach Will Graham had a brief spell in charge at Whitstable seven years ago.
“You can know football but that doesn’t mean you’re going to be a good manager or a successful manager,” said Rogers, who plans to sit out the East Grinstead game.
“Well over 60-70% of the squad on Saturday were under-23, so they’ve been learning on the job as players, but so have we as a management team.
“Will’s dabbled before but it’s mine and Wynts’ first job, so we’ve been learning as well.”
Hythe will be underdogs when they host Folkestone in their Kent Senior Cup semi-final.
Rogers said: “We’re the lowest-ranked team left in it (Welling meet Dartford in the other semi-final) but it would be nice to get to a final.
“Saying that, I can’t see the final being played until next season, which is unfair on the players who get you there.”