THE statistics and Covid-19 crisis are ganging up on Heybridge Swifts manager Stuart Nethercott and assistant Michael Pulford, writes JON LONGMAN.

Swifts, suffering a 3-0 home defeat to Dereham, have now lost the first four games of a season for the first time since 1973 and it is ten games since they last won a competitive match.

The Swifts management team cut a lonely sight as the fans booed at the half-time whistle while a handful remained long after the final whistle to clap the players off the pitch after the warm down.

The manner of the hugely disappointing home defeat against bogey side Dereham has added to their growing list of worries.

All the confidence and attacking panache of the first 30 minutes of the season at Barking has long since drained away.

Swifts did not have a shot on target against Dereham and that stat was made worse by Jack Adlington-Pile missing a penalty after sub Andy Fennell was fouled.

The failed spot kick capped an appalling afternoon for the Swifts who gifted Dereham a 2-0 lead with two own goals in the 24th and 26th minutes — the guilty players were Harry Norman and Isaac Nkosi.

Adam Hipperson rounded off the scoring for Dereham in the 80th minute and a number of regular Swifts fans in the crowd of 201 immediately drifted out of the ground.

Nethercott made a commitment to give youth a chance but one of the four teenagers who have been promoted tested positive for Covid last week and two have gone into 14-day isolation as a consequence. Luckily, there was no contact with the main squad.

Relief was evident at the final whistle when news filtered through that Histon had scored a late winner over Witham to stop Heybridge sinking to the bottom of the Isthmian North table.

In defence of the Nethercott and Pulford, they have had the near-impossible task of building a winning team after the bulk of last season’s squad deserted the club in the lockdown, leaving the club with two players —goalkeepers Luca Collins and Anthony Page.

Even the keepers have now departed — Collins has joined AFC Sudbury to solve their goalkeeping crisis and Page tweeted that he was quitting after Nethercott signed Jacob Marsden from Chelmsford.

Pulford said: “If you had told me that we would have a team to kick off the season after the having just a handful of players in training in the aftermath of the lockdown, I would have been delighted.”

Swifts have signed up at least 32 senior players so far this season, having sifted out a number of trialists, and there are more signings in the pipeline.