After an exciting start to the season which saw the Baggies reach the second qualifying round of the FA Cup, things quickly went south.
Something of a player exodus followed, a cruel injury list lengthed and a string of debilitating defeats saw Lea slide worryingly down to 14th place in the Premier Division of the Combined Counties League after flirting for so long with the top five.
But pragmatic boss Gavin Smith kept the faith, for weeks citing a settled squad as the key to overcoming all the ills at Westfield Lane.
Now, after a lot of hard work behind the scenes, Smith and co-boss Dave Ford finally have something that resembles that settled squad – and the results speak for themselves.
In have come the likes of prolific striker Brett Denham from Tadley Calleva, James Smith from Ascot United and experienced former Slough Town midfielder Leigh Rumbold, who lives in the States but loves to simply play the game on his occasional visits back to our shores and picked up the club’s player of the month award for December.
A morale-boosting 3-0 win just before Christmas against a youthful Aldershot Town side in the Aldershot Senior Cup was followed by a deserved 4-1 thumping of Egham Town which ended a horrible run of six successive league defeats.
And Lea continued their resurgence with another 4-1 win last Saturday – this time against a Sheerwater side who had the audacity to take the lead.
“We didn’t start particularly well but going 1-0 down showed that we could get a response, that we can’t just win games when we go in front first. It was a good test,” said Smith, who has just completed his first 12 months in the Lea hotseat with Ford.
“We were shipping goals, but now we have only conceded two in three games, and we’re looking dangerous. We’re looking better all over the park.”
The Baggies didn’t have long to wait before cancelling out Jimmy Norman’s 12th-minute opener as Denham netted for the second time in as many games before Tom Cursons capped a superb team goal on 66 minutes to give Lea the lead. Adam New’s thumping header on 73 minutes made it 3-1 before substutute Jason Cotton wrapped up the scoring in stoppage time.
And Smith is delighted at the impact the club’s new signings have already made.
“There’s a real difference in the changing room. We’ve brought in some characters, good lads who are getting on. Obviously winning helps but there is definitely a better feel, and I felt it about a week before Christmas before the Aldershot game,” he said.
“They’ve invigorated the old players. Some of them have upped their game and are playing better than before because they were down in the dumps. They’ve come in like a breath of fresh air.
“The new boys want to impress, the old boys want to show them what they can do and that is why we are winning.”
And he added: “We’ve got a tough run of fixtures coming up but I’m confident in the players that we have got now. It’s up to them to show that we can have a better second half of the season than we did in the first half.”