DARREN Manning believes those ruling Hullbridge Sports out of contention for promotion from the Essex Senior League need a reality check.

Sports have suffered back-to-back league defeats for the first time this season, with a 1-0 loss to Clapton following their setback against Redbridge.

And, although the frustrating results have left Hullbridge seven points adrift of table-topping Stansted, Manning still has his sights set on bagging a place in the Isthmian North.

“We knew this season was going to be a rollercoaster and it was always going to be tough,” said the Sports boss.

“There are going to be highs and lows over the course of the season.

“This is a blip but if anyone is writing us off then they need to think again because there is still a long way to go.”

An early goal proved to be the difference between Hullbridge and Clapton, with Manning’s high-flyers failing to take the opportunities that came their way.

And Manning admitted Sports were missing a cutting edge in the Essex Senior League encounter.

“We needed a little bit of quality in the forward areas,” conceded Manning, who recently celebrated a year in charge after leaving his role as assistant manager of Grays Athletic.

“It was the same story as the defeat to Redbridge in that we created chances.

“We just can’t seem to buy a goal at the moment, but that will come and we know that we just need to keep plugging away because we know we are a good side.”

Hullbridge, who have been at the division’s summit for extensive periods of the campaign, have dropped to third place in the standings and find themselves seven points off leaders Stansted.

And, although Sports have two games in hand on Stansted and second-placed Takeley, Manning would much prefer to already have the points on the board with a tricky run of fixtures on the horizon.

“The games in hand are irrelevant,” added Manning.

“It’s points on the board that matter and we have still got some incredibly difficult games to play between now and the end of the season.

“We have seven games in a row over the course of February and March where we are playing teams who are currently in the top nine.

“That’s when it is make or break in our season, but we have done well when playing teams around us so far this term.”