Stabler still setting Pagham's heights high

Pagham's push for a second-place Sussex league finish gathered momentum when they beat Rye to register their fourth consecutive win.

Manager Carl Stabler has accepted that Crawley Down have the title firmly in their own hands but is focusing his side on finishing as high as possible.

He told the Observer: “At the start of the season everyone was expecting a lot, but I said if we finished in the top six I’d be happy.

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“There’s still four games left so we’ll see. I think Crawley have the title – you never know in football do you? But we’ve got to try to win our last four games and stay in the top four.”

James Temple and Paul Jones gave the Lions a 2-0 advantage at Rye with a goal in each half before Liam Upton struck for the home side. But Temple scored again seven minutes from time to keep Pagham a point above Three Bridges.

Stabler praised the men at the back and the in-form forwards after the win.

He said: “Since the Selsey game at Christmas, where we were abysmal, we’ve improved. The second half of the season has been very strong. We haven’t conceded as many goals, and we’ve been better as a unit.

“Their goal was against the run of play, it was quite a good goal, but we responded well and scored again and were quite comfortable. The defenders were outstanding, and bear in mind we lost Joe Booker after about 20 minutes with an injury so we had to reshuffle.”

There was also praise from Stabler for the club’s reserve and youth teams, from which the likes of Jordan Tribe, Alex Kew, James Misslebrook and Booker have all broken into the first team.

Pagham have lost more games than many others in the top seven and Stabler says this is down to poor defending. He said: “Going forward we’ve been very good, but as a side and a unit we haven’t defended very well, and not just the back four and the goalkeeper.

“We’ve conceded 50 goals.It’s something we know we’ve to improve on for next year.

“When I looked at the table and saw 11 games we’d lost and probably should have won, I said to the team and the chairman we’d probably under-achieved.”

Their title as the league’s top scorers, with 85 goals, has seen them reach the heights.

They will take a skeleton squad to Saturday’s game against Peacehaven – one of the teams also in with a shout of finishing second.

Stabler said: “James Temple is suspended, Neil Murfin and Joe Booker are out injured, so it’s a bit disappointing to pick up injuries and suspensions.”