NORTHWICH Vics were finally relegated on Easter Monday but they went down fighting with a performance full of pride and passion.
Goals from Simon Grand and Lee Elam either side of half-time completed the thoroughly deserved 2-0 victory over Mansfield Town but Vics’ late surge has come too late.
Relegation-rivals Weymouth’s draw with Forest Green Rovers means that second-from-bottom Vics cannot catch the teams above them.
Proud caretaker boss Andy Preece, who has guided Vics to three wins and a draw in their last five games, said the players had given everything for the cause.
“They have been awesome, just fantastic. We only had 12 players to pick from really and this had been the situation for a number of weeks.
“I am gutted for the players. They haven’t got their wages up to date but seeing what they have put in they do not deserve to be in a team that is being relegated.
“If they had just had the right guidance I am sure they would not have been in this position.
“It’s a real shame that we have run out time.”
Chanting “I am Northwich ‘till I die”, the fans, who turned out in strong numbers on Monday, gave Vics a standing ovation after the game.
And Preece, who has said he would like to be in charge for next season’s assault on the Conference North, said that giving supporters something to cheer was one of his priorities.
He said: “We just do the best we can for Northwich Victoria. Put some pride back in the club, give some back to the supporters who have gone through tough times and lift the whole place.
“Hopefully that good feeling will branch out of the ground to local businesses. Hopefully we will get the investment because if we don’t and the fans don’t come in then nothing will change.
“Whether we are here for that, it doesn’t really matter as long as the club moves forward.”
Vics, who face Lewes at home on Saturday (3pm) are nine points from safety with three games left.
But as target sides Weymouth and York are due to play each other, a point for either team will effectively relegate Vics from the Conference.
Vics were last relegated in 2005 but returned immediately under Steve Burr.
Assistant manager Andy Morrison is leaving the club temporarily to help coach Trinidad and Tobago for their CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers.
“I will be back for preseason,” he said.
To view Andy Preece’s post-match comments go to www.midcheshirechronicle.co.uk