Alton manager Kevin Adair was pleased with his side’s efforts in their 1-0 defeat at Knaphill in the Combined Counties Premier Division South on Saturday afternoon.
“The first half had an end-of-season feel to it,” said Adair.
“There was not much happening in the game – it was a little bit disjointed. Both teams had five-minute periods when they were on top.
“We switched off at a set piece – which was a disappointing goal to concede from our point of view.
“At half-time we went through what we needed to do better, and the players took it on board. In the second half we were much better and had a huge chance to equalise in the last five minutes which we should have scored.
“That would have put a better reflection on the day.
“I didn’t think the penalty was a foul, let alone a penalty as the incident happened two yards outside the box.
“We’ve had some questionable decisions go against us this season, although in the latter part of the season we’ve not had as many.
“Lewis made a good save from the penalty which kept us in the game, as going two goals down would have made it tough to get anything.”
Adair’s squad has been stretched to its limits through injuries and unavailability, which has led to opportunities for a number of young players.
“The list of players who are not available includes seven or eight who would compete for a place in the starting 11,” said Adair.
“We had an 18-year-old goalkeeper, a 19-year-old right-back, a 16-year-old centre-back and an 18-year-old centre-back, which is really positive, and two 16-year-olds came off the bench. We were playing a side who will finish fifth or sixth in the league and we competed with them.”
Alton comfortably sit in 13th place in the Combined Counties Premier Division South, and Adair is happy enough after the upheaval caused by the club being moved from the Wessex League last summer.
“In the second half of the season, bar one game we’ve been competitive in every game,” said Adair.
“I don’t think our league position shows where we are.
“A lot of teams who move leagues are in relegation battles and might go down – so teams are affected by it.
“It’s a bit of an achievement for us to stay up at this level.
“The squad is good enough to stay up – but from where we were in November we knew it would be an uphill battle. We’ve done it, though.
“We’ve found ways of playing and are more mature as a group. The age of the squad is not mature, but the mentality is mature.
“A three-year plan was put in place at the start of the year – we had to rewrite our plan after the league move. We didn’t treat this season as a free hit, but we approached things differently as we knew we would have to adapt to the league and develop.
“The plan was to get four or five lads out of the development side involved with the first team. We’ve exceeded that plan as they’ve got game time and been good. The youngsters are technically and tactically good enough. They need more physicality, but you can’t force that at 16, 17, 18 – it will come with time.”
Adair also paid to tribute to Jamie Phillips, who made his 200th appearance for Alton on Saturday.
“Jamie has had a massive impact in the past three or four months with what he’s done to help the younger guys,” said Adair. “He was here as a 16-year-old and is the perfect person to help them.”
Alton finish their Combined Counties Premier Division South campaign with a trip to AFC Croydon Athletic on Monday.
“We’ve only got one place to play for in the Croydon game, so we might use it to have a look at players for next season,” said Adair. “I will see who is fit and available and take it from there.”