MARK Harper admits his Hampton & Richmond Borough side blew their Blue Square South lifeline by failing to finish third bottom.
Not a year has gone by in recent times when the full compliment of relegated clubs have actually gone down from the division, due to teams further up the pyramid going bust.
Finishing third bottom would have put Hampton first in line for a reprieve if any clubs go to the wall this summer, but finishing second bottom, despite Saturday's last-day 2-0 win at Thurrock, makes a back door escape less likely.
The only hope for survival Hampton now have is if more than one club go under this summer – and with the likes of Portsmouth, Darlington, Kettering and Truro facing bleak futures – they could yet stave off relegation.
Harper said: “Finishing third bottom would have been our lifeline, as only two teams have gone down the last few years. There is always the chance other clubs will go under, but we always wanted it to be in our own hands.
“The table doesn't lie, and we haven't been good enough all year, but we've gone down on 42 points, which is the same total we got last season when we survived comfortably. Last season, 37 points was enough to stay up in this league.”