MARK Ashford admitted to "a great sense of relief" as his Witham Town players overcame early nerves to secure their Bostik League division north status on the final day of the season last weekend.

Witham headed into their last outing at Basildon United knowing they had to match the result of rivals Romford to stay clear of the bottom two relegation places, so there was jubilation at the final whistle as they secured a 2-0 win.

Safety was ensured by goals from Pat Ahern and Sam Ashford and the Witham boss was pleased to see his players rise to the challenge after a shaky first 45 minutes.

"It was a great sense of relief in the end," he said.

"It had become exciting and dramatic for it to go to the last game of the season so from that point of view it was a great feeling to come through it in a positive way.

"It was a real test for the players to come through and to get that great sensation at the end is a pretty unique feeling.

"But we didn't play that well in the first half and there were a lot of nerves out there that had not displayed themselves before the game.

"The players did a good job of masking it beforehand.

"I was feeling positive, but then I'm 52 and have been through a lot in football in my career, but our young players obviously felt it. "There were mistakes from pretty much everyone and we just couldn't get going in a difficult first 45 minutes, but we settled them down at half-time and asked them to make sure there were going to be no regrets at the end.

"We tried to simplify it for them and they came back out and dominated the second half to rightly win the game.

"Romford were 2-0 ahead before we scored our first so the pressure was on, but they took it all in their stride and got the result.

"It was a great feeling to have come through that."

Mark Ashford said he tapped into a footballing friendship to help his players prepare for their big day at Basildon.

Jody Brown, who is now a first-team coach at Dagenham & Redbridge and worked with Ashford while in charge at Heybridge Swifts, chatted to the Witham team ahead of the game about his own experiences in dealing with the pressure of having to win on the final day of a campaign.

Mark said: "I had asked Jody Brown to come in at training on the Thursday because he had experienced exactly the same thing when he was in charge with Heybridge. "I know Jody well having worked with him at Heybridge and I knew that, on a similar budget to what we've had to work with, they had gone into the last day knowing they needed to win to stay up two seasons in a row.

"They did it successfully and have since kicked on and I wanted to use that type of experience for my players.

"When you are a manager you have to use everything you can and you want to make your preparations as professional as you can.

"So I was very thankful that Jody could come in and talk to the players about the experience and how it was possibly one of his greatest feelings in football to stay up on the final day."