WINNINGTON Park’s relegation was confirmed a few weeks ago following a miserable start to 2016.

However coach Roger Pickering had started a promised rebuild of the first team much earlier.

Despite improved performances on the pitch in the past month, that process must continue at a lower level next term.

“We’ve played better, but not transferred that form into results,” said Pickering.

“It’s been an incredibly frustrating season, not least because of the number of injuries we’ve had to senior players.

“It’s countless, and that’s disruptive; I haven’t once selected a side that hasn’t included at least three changes from the previous game.

“But we are where we are for a reason; the table shows we’ve not been good enough.”

A victory at Northwich on the campaign’s opening day, opponents they had never previously beaten in a league encounter, hinted that a transition from one trainer to another – he replaced Mark Warr in the summer – would be a smooth one.

Park finished fourth in South Lancs/Cheshire Division One last term, a single place below their neighbours.

However they will start this Saturday’s contest at the opposite end of the standings, separated by a huge 78 points.

If Blacks prevail, they will be crowned as champions.

Pickering said: “Northwich will be expected to win, and to do so comfortably.

“There’s no pressure on us, and it’s up to our lads to show a bit of pride. I think they’ll respond to that.

“I’ll say the same things to them that I have been doing; that their focus needs to be on sticking to what we’ve worked on in training.

“Despite where we find ourselves, there hasn’t been negativity in the group.”

Park have won only once in 2016, against Douglas in February, losing 12 of their past 13 games.

Indeed, they are guaranteed to finish bottom of the pile even if they spoil Northwich’s party.

Not that a victory would be insignificant.

Pickering said: “Confidence is fragile, and I think the players have started to worry about the score-line in games when we’ve not turned pressure into points.

“That’s then led to lapses in concentration.

“We’re a work in progress, and the plans we set out with at the start of the season have had to be adapted because we’ve not been able to select a settled side.

“We’ve ended up blooding about a dozen teenagers, while at the last count we were up to around the same number of half-back combinations.

“I hadn’t intended to call on those young players as often as I have, but they’ve coped admirably and gained valuable experience.

“I know now what we have at the club, and we can feel positive about the future because there’s is potential here.”