Kingstonian boss Alan Dowson reckons keeping his squad together will be key to a Ryman Premier title challenge next season – if he remains at Kingsmeadow.

Ks crashed out of the play-offs on Wednesday night thanks to a 1-0 defeat to AFC Hornchurch, which came four days after the euphoria of securing the runners-up spot in the league table behind champions Wealdstone.

Dowson, who still loves the concept of the play-offs despite having seen his side miss promotion twice via the end of season lottery, will spend a fortnight contemplating his future.

But he admitted the future of his players was probably more important in terms of launching a title tilt.

“I’m used to knock backs, but the players have been outstanding this season and but they did not deserve that,” said the manager, who is under contract next season.

“It is gutting for everybody because ’ve battered them.

"Sweeney going off was crucial because he has been outstanding for us.

"I’m very proud of the players. If we can keep the players, next season could be very exciting. It is a young squad. I cannot do anything but praise them.

“Of course other clubs are going to come in for them, becasue they have been brilliant this season.

“I’m not going to say anything I regret now. I’ll take stock for a week or two, but I’m absolutely on the floor.”

Sweeney later confirmed he had not broken his ankle following the horror challenge.

He said: “The way he came through me, I thought I’d broken it. It came up like a balloon. I got it x-rayed and it looks like just ligament damage.”

Sutton Guardian:

Disappointment: Ks season is over after a 1-0 defeat to AFC Hornchurch in the semi-final of the Ryman Premier League play-offs