Walton relieved at Ryman One North safety for another season at Ilford

Ilford manager Colin Walton delighted with survival, but knows things must improve next season

Colin Walton may have only been the Ilford manager for two-and-a-half years, but he admits it has felt even longer after their safety in the Ryman One North was confirmed for another season last week.

Relegation rivals Ware needed to win by three clear goals to leapfrog the Foxes and condemn Walton’s side to the drop in a re-arranged game last Wednesday against Waltham Forest.

The match had been postponed because of a waterlogged pitch on the final day of the season and it left Ware knowing exactly what they needed to do to stay up.

But in a drama-drenched game, Ware could only win 2-0 despite playing against a team that started the match with nine men, and were reduced to eight after Valentine Lawrence was dismissed in the second half.

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Goalkeeper Aaron Omand also saved a penalty for Forest to complete an action-packed 90 minutes, but one that secured the Cricklefield side another season in the division much to the relief of Walton, who saw his team stay up on goals scored after the two strugglers finished with the same number of points and the same goal difference.

“What can one say?” said Walton. “Quite how Waltham Forest managed that with nine men is beyond belief.

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“I had heard they may have trouble fielding a side, but to see them play with only nine is weird.

“You don’t know whether to praise those nine for battling to the bitter end or to have a go at Ware for having the incompetence for failing to put three past nine men, especially after scoring one early on.

“The whole thing is perplexing. But to say I am quite relieved is an understatement.”

The past campaign was Walton’s second full season in the Foxes hotseat after he took over from Chris Wood midway through the 2009-10 season and he has once again kept the club in the division.

“It’s been two-and-a-half years, but it has felt like a lot longer at times,” he added.

“There has been that bit of consistency at the club now and hopefully we can continue that.

“Before, there had been a huge turnover of managers, but two-and-a-half years is quite long in non-league terms and hopefully it will be a third next season.”

And Walton has wasted little time having already outlined plans for next season, which will begin on August 16, as he talks to players about the possibility of playing at the club.

“Unless I am told otherwise I am here next season,” confirmed Walton.

“There is a lot of work to be done and next season has definitely got to be a lot better.

“A lot of the players are 18-19-year-olds and they will benefit from this season.

“I am hopeful of keeping the core of the squad together while adding some experience, most importantly in midfield, as I feel that is an area where we have lacked an experienced head.

“Since our safety was confirmed last week you get the usual phone calls from players interested in playing for you and it is a matter of filtering out which ones you want.

“We’ll have a couple of pre-season friendlies and see where we go from there,” concluded the Foxes boss.

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