Matt Longhurst can feel the connection between Ramsgate players and fans after big numbers turned out for their top-of-the-table Isthmian South East clash with Cray Valley.
Rams continued their community drive by offering free entry to supporters, with 703 braving appalling conditions to cheer on Longhurst’s team in the 1-1 draw at Southwood on Saturday.
“It was absolutely unbelievable to get so many people along,” said boss Longhurst.
“Saturday was the best atmosphere I’ve known at the ground since I’ve been there.
“The fans behind both goals were trying to out-sing each other and the stand behind me was packed.
“There’s a real connection between the team and the fan base, which is great, and that’s testament to the players.
“They work so hard when they haven’t got the ball and if I’m a fan watching, I respect that.
“All those normal questions you get from fans, at every level - Do they really want to play for the club? Are they playing for the fans? - they don’t get asked because the fans can see how hard they’re all working, and that’s so important.
“We get a lot of young kids watching and their parents can say to them, ‘Look, if you want to do well, look how hard they work,’ so it’s perfect from that point of view as well.
“If the weather had been better I think we’d have got over a thousand.
“I don’t think I’ve been involved in a game like that where the wind and the rain and the cold has been that bad.
“Callum Peck had to come off at half-time, it was like he had pneumonia.
“We had all the players in foil jackets, but we couldn’t warm him up.
“Credit to the club for doing free entry and the feedback coming into the club has been amazing."
Rams, on a run of five straight wins, led when Ashley Miller’s cross forced an own goal from Nat Blanks.
The Millers, who lost top spot to Ashford following the draw, levelled through Matthew Warren early in the second half.
“We were disappointed not to win,” said Longhurst, whose side slipped a place to fourth.
“I felt if we’d had a little more belief in the second half, we would have won the game.
“That’s probably the difference between the two sides with the experience they’ve got.
“If they’d been on top in the second half, like we were, they would probably have won it.
“I think some of our players were thinking 1-1 is a good result whereas if we want to do well, we should be saying 1-1 is a good result for Cray Valley, not for us, but that takes time.
“You look at our squad and some of them are 15 or 16 games into their career.
"Chris Lewington, Cray Valley’s goalkeeper, has probably played 500 league games on his own.”
Longhurst is set to ring the changes for Ramsgate’s Velocity Trophy tie at Haywards Heath tonight.
They return to league action this Saturday with a difficult match at Sittingbourne.
“That’s going to be really tough,” said Longhurst.
“They’re not far off the play-offs and Darren (Blackburn, manager) has signed some great players.
“It’s always difficult going there but you look at the squad they’ve got now, people like Marvin Hamilton, Toby Ajala, Duane Acheampong, Kane Rowland, they’re all big, physical players and far in advance of us in terms of experience.
“This time next year we’ll be far better equipped for games like this because the players will have been there and seen for themselves for what it takes to get a result.
“We do our preparation and speak to them but there’s a difference between us telling them and the players facing it themselves.”