STEVE HALES has vowed that Hillingdon Borough will bounce back from relegation from Ryman Division One North.
League leaders Aveley hammered the final nail in the home side's coffin after theywere awarded a fortuitous penalty on 56 minutes, which Petrit Elbi converted to give the pace-setters the narrowest of wins.
However, Hales believes his rock bottom side have what it takes to return to the division at the first attempt, provided the majority of his players stay to see the task through.
Borough are likely to start next season in the Premier Division of the Spartan South Midlands Football League unless they get a reprieve by virtue of other clubs' struggles.
"The relegation is unfortunate but I'm proud of the players for the giant strides they've made in recent weeks," said Hales, of a side that has not won in the league since October.
"We've now got six games left and 18 points to play for and we don't want to go down with a whimper.
"We've cut out the silly mistakes lately but haven't been getting the results we perhaps deserved.
"As for next season, you never know what can happen if we keep this squad of players together. We're trying to build this club and do things the right way and I think the players can see and appreciate that. We'll come out fighting though, that's for sure."
Borough, who suffered their 30th defeat of a dismal campaign on Saturday, were due to entertain Tilbury last night (Tuesday) as the Gazette went to press. Hales hopes confirmation of their exit through the trap door will ease the pressure on his squad.
"Apart from the results the players are really enjoying it here," he said. "Their attitude has been spot on and the majority of them are looking to stay next season.
"We've had a couple of rival clubs make seven-day approaches for a few of our players but they have told me they want to stay, and I can't thank them enough for that. It shows we must be doing something right."
In the meantime Hales has set his sights on first bridging the 12-point gap between them and second from bottom Witham Town and then overtaking them.
"To finish second from bottom would be a great boost but when you are down the bottom the decisions tend to go against you, as against Aveley."
Centre-back Matt Jarvis (knee) and right-back Zack Gill (shin) were both doubts for last night's game with Gary Edwards and Ashley Songho primed to replace them.
Jarvis is also likely to miss Saturday's trip to Ilford.