WESTBURY United manager Neil Kirkpatrick feels there is a bright future ahead for his team, despite their hopes of a Toolstation League Premier Division title challenge stalling significantly, writes JONATHAN LEIGHFIELD.

United, who were crowned Division One champions last term, reached Christmas without suffering defeat in the league but saw that run ended by county rivals Bradford Town on Boxing Day – starting a run of six defeats in 13 league games.

Four successive league victories throughout January appeared to show losing their unbeaten record that stretched back well over a year would not faze Kirkpatrick and co.

However, defeat to Swindon Supermarine in the semi-final of the Wiltshire Senior Cup last month seems to have been the catalyst for a poor run.

A return of six points from five games since has obliterated United’s outside shot at back-to-back league titles as they are now seven points off leaders Willand Rovers, having played a game more.

Kirkpatrick believes Westbury’s success over a variety of competitions may be catching up with his lightweight squad now, and is desperate for their season not to fizzle out.

He said: “We run a pretty tight, light squad. Unlike other clubs around here, we can’t just wave a chequebook and bring top-quality players in, so we work with what we’ve got.

“They’re a great bunch and they’ve done fantastically well this season – we’ve done well in multiple competitions with a thin squad.

“I can’t fault the lads. They’re putting their bodies on the line – we’re in a tough league and we’ve done fantastically well.

“It’s a bit frustrating as we will look at it and think ‘what if’. But overall, the big picture is great and we have a bright future ahead.

“Whatever anyone says or does, it’s been a great season, and nobody can take that away.

“We have upset some of the big boys along the way, we’ve had a good cup run and without writing off the rest of the season – that’s the last thing we want to happen – we have already reached our targets.

“But I don’t want to see that slip away and us fall flat on our faces by fading away.”

‘Perspective’ is the key word for the Westbury chief as a top-five finish would still represent the highest position ever achieved by a United team, while their record points tally will continue to be set with every win or draw from now until the end of the season.

Kirkpatrick said: “People were still talking about us winning the league at the beginning of March.

“Nobody would have given us a snowball’s chance in hell of being anywhere near this position in August, so to get to March and for people to still be talking about us being in with a shout, it just shows how high our standards have been.

“We don’t have time to feel sorry for ourselves – we’ve got two of the top three in Bitton and Plymouth Parkway in the next two games. We just have to roll our sleeves up and get on with it.

“We’ve got nothing to lose now. We’re testing ourselves against big clubs with big expectations and we’ve already shown that we can beat both of these teams this season.

“We haven’t got anything to prove to anyone.”