Boss Chatfield says relegated Grantham Town will 'come back stronger'
"The day that everyone knew was coming, but never wanted to happen," was how Grantham Town manager Matt Chatfield described Saturday's fall from grace from within the Northern Premier League Premier Division.
The end of the Gingerbreads' 10-year stay in the top flight of the NPL was confirmed after their 4-1 defeat at Stafford Rangers.
A win was the only thing that would have kept Grantham Town’s faint hopes of survival alive. Three unanswered goals after the break put paid to those chances of a mathematical miracle.
Chatfield said: "I think it's accumulated over the past few years. Grantham have been inevitably been going down for a few years now. It's just disappointing that it's happened in this season when I've played a part of it.
"Grantham would have gone down last season if it weren't for Covid, and the season before that as well.
"Sometimes a club has to take a relegation to get its house in order, to then be back stronger and I hope that's the case here at Grantham. But it's still a very sad day for the club.
Chatfield said: "I'm just disappointed on Saturday with our two halves again. First half we were good, battling. Second half we completely capitulated again.
"It seemed to be as soon as we conceded the second goal you could see some of the players just completely went. We felt like it was eight versus 11 at times, it really felt like that. So, that was disappointing how we didn't give everything.
"I don't ask for much from the players. All I ask from them is they give me and the club everything they possibly can, so when they come off the pitch. I think on Saturday that didn't happen.
Chatfield said he had not previously experienced a relegation personally, and neither had some of the players, but he was not surprised by the overall mood in the dressing room following the game at Stafford.
He said: "It was very hard in the dressing room, not many words had to be said. I don't think anyone looked up from the floor because it's a painful day for everybody.
"You work so hard all season, nobody sets out to get relegated, so it was a hard day."
With the looming black cloud of relegation now a reality rather than a pressurised threat, Chatfield said that it might ironically give the Gingerbreads a new lease of life going into their final four games of the season.
Chatfield said: "I think it's a little bit different now because they are not playing so much for keeping the club up, they're fighting for themselves for next season. Everybody's got to fight for their shirts for next season.
"We want to be getting our core group of players ready for pre-season, where I think our main problem was this season that we've never been settled in a side."
Those final four games begin with league leaders Buxton away tomorrow (Saturday) and also include a local derby at Gainsborough Trinity on Easter Monday and a season finale at title-chasing South Shields.
With Buxton and South Shields battling neck and neck for the single automatic promotion place, Grantham could well play a pivotal role in which of the two sides takes the title.
Chatfield said: "The last four games aren't easy for us but it's nice to be able to play a part in that.
"Obviously, not how we are at the moment, it's not very good that we've got the top two teams still to play but it's also a nice thing for the players to see where we have to get to and the standards we have to meet. We didn't meet them this season so we've got to look at those standards say this is how we need to be when we come back stronger."