The great escape in Challenge League Football 23-24

Saint Andrews FC Malta managed to pull off one of the greatest escapes from relegation in recent Challenge League football history with the win over Luqa St Andrews FC during the relegation decider. Luxol St. Andrews FC beat Luqa St Andrews in the dying minutes of  the second-half of extra time. This win secured their position in the challenge league next season.

Captain Nigel James Dunkerley Vice-President of St. Andrews FC said “Relief is an understatement especially when you experience all the disappointments and challenges that we faced in one season.  This season has probably been the most stressful season that the club has ever undergone in recent times. If one looks back last January, survival was extremely slim if not close to impossible, especially when one saw that just after New Year we had a mere five points and at the bottom of the league.”

When one reflects on how the preseason started the aspirations and hopes of the club were very high with targets set to be in the top 6. The work done by the committee was tireless continuous without any breaks and the formula that was found at the time had a lot of promise, unfortunately results at the very early stages of the league did not go our way and after practically a long losing streak of matches, those aspirations were soon dashed.

The committee led by President Matthew Fenech made drastic decisions and major changes to provide the team with any chance of making it. The team effectively during the January transfer window had to be rebuilt which was a huge challenge for the committee and the technical staff notwithstanding the added pressure for all the new players that joined us at that time. Survival was now the only objective as relegation would have had a very demoralizing effect on the academy.

Slowly but surely points were slowly being added to our tally and the team started jelling together and gradually growing in confidence. We were never out of it mathematically,  however the task at hand was extremely difficult. There were games we had to win where we drew and there were games which we won that we could have drawn, nonetheless, the results of other teams happened to favour us.  

The match where St. Andrews FC Malta had numerous emotional roller coaster rides was the last league match against Lija. Although they won that match handsomely, they totally depended on the results of 2 other matches being played at the same time.  

They needed points to be dropped by Zebbug and/or Luqa St Andrews. Zebbug scored early and never let go whilst the match Luqa vs Tarxien was an up and down game with a lot of drama too. We could hear the crowd rejoicing then right after sighing every 15 minutes or so.  

We needed a loss by Luqa for us to be safe or at least a draw which would have given us the option to play a relegation decider. One will never forget, those emotions of “we’ve made it” then “it’s a playoff”  then “we’re out of it” and then all of a sudden “back into a playoff”.

The play off against Luqa was a nail biting one and ended up being a stalemate until the end of regular time. The win only came 2 minutes before the end of the second half of extra time.

This opportunity and this great escape from relegation has only invigorated further the committee to continue its plan to promote is academy players into the senior team and continue to strive with all its community the desire to remain at Challenge League status or higher.

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