Relegation from Conference almost inevitable

icon sack13 March ~ "I think I have got to prove myself over the next ten to 11 games and be a credible candidate. I am up for the challenge," temporary AFC Telford United manager Graham Hyde said at a fans forum last Thursday night. Two days later he resigned, leaving the team to go into tonight's fixture against Gateshead with their fourth boss in nine outings. Hyde's second and last match in charge, a 2-0 home defeat to Macclesfield, saw the club go a Conference record 23rd consecutive game without a win – since success at Dartford on October 9.

Reading decided to fire Brian McDermott despite him having attributes that might allow the team to challenge again next season, even if relegation does arrive in May. The same might be said at this supporter-owned Shropshire club. Former England international Andy Sinton guided the Bucks to promotion from the Conference North in his first season in charge.

Last year he kept them up by five points in their first campaign at national level since predecessors Telford United went out of business in 2004. He was sacked at the end of January after 16 winless league games left the club in the bottom four by two points. Seven games later and that deficit has been extended to nine, with Telford now bottom having played more matches than anybody outside the top six.

Mark Cooper – with a raft of experience at that level after spells at Kettering, Tamworth and Darlington – appeared a shrewd appointment but he left after just five matches to become Kevin MacDonald's assistant at Swindon. Hyde's two games returned no points, goals or even a shot on target against Macclesfield. John Psaras, signed by Sinton as a coach following nearly two decades at Walsall, has been handed the responsibility of guiding the team through to the summer.

The form produced in the closing months of Sinton's tenure was clearly a cause of major concern but relegation would not be a catastrophe. A part-time club is always liable to struggle in a division whose demographic is made up largely of ex-League clubs and ambitious benefactors prepared to bankroll high budgets in the quest for League Two football. While such long-term promotion goals had been optimistically mooted, Telford are at least in a stable position and have returned a profit in seven successive financial years. If, as seems likely, relegation is confirmed at the end of April it may be that Sinton would have been the figure most suited to giving the club the best chance of coming straight back up.

Psaras's first game in charge comes tonight against a Gateshead team they will aim to emulate, the Tynesiders having turned their own alarming form around in recent weeks. The Heed had won only once in 11 Conference games but have since won three of their last four matches to lift themselves back up to 18th, three points above the drop and having played at least two games less than all the clubs below them. Without the benefit of games in hand even a similar upturn in results may come too late to preserve Telford's status in the top tier of non-League. Matt Ramsay

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