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Welsh winger Watts is confident Town’s team spirit and togetherness can help them end recent slump and mount push for the play-offs

Talented winger Elis Watts believes the team spirit in this season’s Hungerford Town side is the best of any squad he’s been involved in.

The Crusaders have suffered a number of setbacks in their bid to bounce back to the National League South in recent weeks and lost ground on their play-off rivals following Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at home to Walton & Hersham.

However the 21-year-old, who has been one of Hungerford’s outstanding players this season, is confident Town’s togetherness can help them re-energise their promotion push.

Talented winger Elis Watts is hoping to help fire Hungerford Town to promotion
Talented winger Elis Watts is hoping to help fire Hungerford Town to promotion

Saturday’s game, Hungerford’s second home defeat in their last three, was a closely-contested affair decided by Nana Owusu’s stunning long range free-kick late on.

Boss Danny Robinson refused to be too downbeat afterwards and Welshman Watts shares his manager’s optimism, with the exciting attacker suggesting his side had the better of the game.

“We had a plan and I think it went almost perfectly,” he said.

“We limited them to not many chances at all. They’re a very good team on the ball and I think we were expecting them to break through and threaten us more.

“They’re a great team and it took a wonder-goal to beat us.

“As an attacker myself, I feel like we could’ve done better to get that goal. It just came down to one moment of quality and we couldn’t quite provide that.

“I think the way we played, and the way we set out, was good and we were the better side for parts of the game.”

Following a run of 14 games unbeaten, the Crusaders have lost five of their last six in all competitions – including a humbling 6-2 defeat at Plymouth Parkway, who were exacting revenge having been hammered 7-1 on the opening day – and have slipped towards the fringes of the play-off picture.

While Hungerford are just a point outside the top five, Town have played three more games than fifth placed AFC Totton and will likely need to put another unbeaten run together if they’re to force their way back into contention.

Watts, who has established himself as one of the league’s best wide players, remains confident the Crusaders can compete for promotion and insists it’s the spirit within the squad that will help propel Town back towards the top.

He said: “The mood in the squad is brilliant.

“It’s one of the best changing rooms – if not the best – that I’ve ever been involved in.

“The team spirit is perfect. No one moans, no one gets on top of one another if someone makes a mistake; if someone’s struggling, the rest of the squad drag them through.

“It’s the best I’ve ever had in terms of togetherness and having people all pulling in the same direction.

“We’ve slipped up a few times. I think the home games against Chesham and Walton & Hersham, who are two of the best sides in the league, were close and could’ve gone either way.

“We still believe we’re more than capable of getting into the play-offs and that’s our aim.

“Everyone’s beaten everyone this season. I’ve played a couple of seasons at this level and there’s always been five or six top teams, but this year’s different.

“If we can focus on ourselves and go on a good run then who knows where we can end up. The job’s not done.”

Watts gives popular manager Danny Robinson a lot of credit for curating such a united and well-balanced squad and admits the Crusaders boss was a big factor in persuading him to sign.

Watts was part of the Weston-super-Mare side that won promotion to the National League South last season but admitted he didn’t play as much as he’d hoped and agreed to a deal in West Berkshire in order to guarantee more regular football.

Watts has been one of Town’s outstanding players since signing from Weston-super-Mare
Watts has been one of Town’s outstanding players since signing from Weston-super-Mare

“Danny plays a huge part in the mood in the camp,” he said.

“He’s a brilliant man-manager and he makes everyone feel confident and happy – that makes us play better.

“He was massive in bringing me to the club, he was probably the main reason.

“I had a bit of an up-and-down season with Weston; we won the league but I didn’t play as much as I’d have liked.

“Danny promised me I’d play games and I hope I’ve been able to repay some of the faith he’s shown in me.”

As a proud Welshman, Watts hails from a nation with a passionate football culture, a reputation for punching well above its weight and producing a long line of talented wingers – given his impressive performances this season, it’s little surprise the talismanic wideman has been heralded as the non-league Ryan Giggs.

Watts, who scored just minutes after coming on for his debut in August and has been a near-constant threat since, certainly shares a directness and desire to create with Welsh wide players from Gareth Bale to Craig Bellamy.

Watts scored on his debut against Plymouth Parkway in August
Watts scored on his debut against Plymouth Parkway in August

And while he might have some way to go to reach the lofty heights of some of his most esteemed compatriots, Watts has a set of skills and a single-mindedness that means he’s more than capable of playing at a higher level.

He said: “My main aim is to score and create as many goals as possible.

“I want the ball as much as possible, I want to get at people and drag players out of position.

“I just love running with the ball and trying to make things happen.”

Watts came through the ranks at Newport County and earned a scholarship before Covid dashed his dreams of making it with the Exiles.

He secured his first professional contract with National League outfit Aldershot, where he was sent out on loan to the likes of Farnborough and Hayes & Yeading.

Still with time on his side and bags of ability, Watts is hoping that helping Hungerford return to the National League South will move him another step closer to returning to full time football.

“I was at Newport from when I was 13-years-old and I went through all the age groups there,” he said.

“I got a scholarship but then it was the Covid season and we all got let go, so I was without a club.

“I was in full time football with Aldershot and that’s the aim, I want to get back into full time football and play as high as I can.

“Right now, I want to get to a higher level with Hungerford. I love the club and the aim is to have a good end to the season and hopefully help them to promotion.”

Hungerford have a chance to bounce back from Saturday’s defeat with a testing trip to Hendon this weekend.

The Crusaders were comfortable 3-0 winners in the reverse in October but Hendon, who have former Hungerford and Hartlepool frontman Niko Muir leading their line, are just six points behind Town despite failing to win in their last four.

Watts in action in the reverse fixture against Hendon
Watts in action in the reverse fixture against Hendon

Watts admits it’s set to be a particularly important afternoon for his side but is confident Town can get back on the promotion trail.

He said: “It’s a massive game.

“It’s one of those games that feels like a bit of a six-pointer.

“We’ll go there with a plan to go and win the game and I think we all feel like we can pick up a positive result.”

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