Paul Smith takes over at Walsham

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PAUL Smith is adamant there is “light at the end of the tunnel” – as Walsham-le-Willows aim to stave off relegation fears over the next week.

Tomorrow, the Willows, who are teetering just above the bottom three in the Ridgeons League Premier Division, host fellow strugglers Ely City (3pm), before entertaining doomed Debenham LC on Wednesday (7.45pm).

Smith was officially unveiled as the villagers’ caretaker boss until the end of the season this week after Chris Soanes was advised by doctors to take a break from the game for at least six weeks.

“It is like a bug to me,” said fans’ favourite Smith, who takes charge of his second spell at Summer Road.

“Chris is obviously going through a bit of a bad time and he asked me to manage a few games. I couldn’t say no. I wake up on a Saturday and always look forward to the game in the afternoon.

“I guess we will all sit down at the end of the season and see what we want to do then – but I would never rule out a permanent return to the club.”

Until then, the former AFC Sudbury and Bury Town striker, who guided Walsham through their most successful ever period, is determined to keep his outfit afloat.

“The next few days are crucial,” he said. “We want to get out of this relegation fight as soon as possible and I think the players can achieve that.

“I was chatting with James Tatham the other day (Walsham striker) and we were saying how we were not used to this kind of end of season drama.

“But it generates an exciting buzz and I am sure the players can respond.”

Karl Parish, Ollie Hughes and long-term absentee Alan Ross could all return to the fray this week, but Richard Partridge is rated doubtful.

The Willows almost pulled off one of the shocks of the season against table-toppers Leiston on Wednesday evening.

After the leaders were reduced to 10 men, Andrew Cusack gave the hosts a deserved lead.

However, two second half goals from the visitors were enough to overcome another brave Walsham display.

“We are really improved in the league of late,” added Smith. “We played some great stuff and should have won the game. Unfortunately, we sat back after the break and they got on top of us.

“The players came off very disappointed, but we must move on.”