MANAGER Dave Diaper is pleased Sholing have got their Christmas excesses out of their system and are ready to knuckle down and fight for their Southern League lives.

It was a mixed festive period for the Boatmen with last Saturday’s dismal 1-0 defeat at fellow strugglers Didcot followed by a rousing 4-1 win over slip-sliding Winchester City on New Year’s Day.

In Diaper’s book, it should have been six points out of six, but he admits that the down side of the team spirit that has so successfully bonded the club for the last 12 years can sometimes work against them.

“Christmas is always a bit disruptive for us and I’m glad to get it out of the way and get back to training,” he said.

“Everything we’ve ever achieved at Sholing has been done through hard work, but part of the strength of this club has been built on the social side and we probably celebrate more than some of the other clubs.

“Whilst that’s not professional, Sholing have always thrived on togetherness and I believe it’s important to have the camaraderie and team spirit that was so evident over Christmas.

“A group of 20 of us went out to celebrate my nipper’s (Marc Diaper’s) birthday and it was so good to see everyone out enjoying themselves.

“The thing about Sholing is that you play once for this club and you get besotted with it and I’m proud of that.”

Although the Boatmen remain at the foot of Division One South & West, Tuesday’s win narrowed the gap to four points on second-to-bottom Bishops Cleeve with Winchester and Mangotsfield a further two points away.

With just 14 matches played so far, Sholing have games in hand over all their rivals, but the frustration for Diaper is that they never seem to string a run of league games together.

Following tomorrow’s trip to Shortwood United, their schedule will be interrupted yet again on Wednesday (7.45pm) when they host Wimborne Town in the last 16 of the Red Insure Cup.

“The Winchester win has hopefully given us a platform to build on, but it’s been a disrupted season for the whole club what with cup commitments and games being called off,” said Diaper.

“It’s unfortunate we’re still in the Red Insure Cup and we’ve also got the Hampshire Senior Cup to think about. In our position, they’re games we could really do without.

“Wimborne on Wednesday is a difficult one because, having beaten Totton and Gosport at home in Red Insure Cup, I feel there’s a bit of an onus on us to try and do well in front of our own fans.

“But the league’s our priority and it may be that I’ll play some fringe players or try out a different system to make full use of the game.”

Wideman Barry Mason sits out the last of his three-match ban tomorrow as Sholing attempt to pull off their first league double of the season at mid-table Shortwood.

“We beat them 2-0 at our place, but they had a man sent off after two minutes,” said Diaper. “Even with ten men, they showed they were a capable side.”