DROPPED points, rather than able opponents, is the reason Knutsford missed out on a third successive Cheshire League title.

That’s the verdict of chairman Jimmy Evans with Reds set to finish sixth in Division One if Barnton, as expected, beat Gamesley in their remaining match this weekend.

Champions Garswood United have finished nine points better off than the men from Manchester Road, first in each of the past two seasons.

“We’re still classed the team to beat,” said Evans.

“Few teams try to take us on; they tend to defend deep, letting us have most of the ball.

“We could, maybe should, have won it again but blew it during a poor run of results over Christmas.

“It’s our fault – the table doesn’t lie and that spell of bad form cost us.”

Reds finished the season with a seven-match unbeaten sequence, a cause to be optimistic when turning attention to wrestling back the title from Garswood next term.

Evans told the Guardian he is hopeful manager John Ferguson, who replaced Chris Adams in October, will stay at the helm.

He said: “We have to sit down and talk about things but we want business as usual.

“It will be important to keel hold of the good lads, because we had a settled side during the run-in.

“If we then address those areas in which we’ve not been great this season then we’ll be fine.”

The players will return for training at the start of July.

By then Knutsford’s second strong, currently a member of the Altrincham and District Amateur League, will know if its application to play in the Cheshire League’s reserve division from next season.

A meeting tomorrow week, May 22, will provide the answer.

Evans said: “We are looking to offer a better standard of football, though still based on the development of young players.

“Better pitches, supposedly better referees and better standards all round should close the gap between the first team and the reserves, meaning more lads can make the step up to there.”