DIRECTOR of rugby Josh Ward feels Southend Saxons are moving in the right direction – despite feeling his side underperformed this season.

With the remainder of the campaign wiped out due to the coronavirus pandemic, Saxons have finished sixth in the London One North standings.

And Ward has been left with mixed emotions.

“It’s been a frustratingly inconsistent season on the field but importantly it’s another step in the right direction holistically,” said Ward.

“As a group of staff and players alike we’ve never hidden our ambition to succeed and push on in our pursuit to regain National League status.

“It’s massively important to have high aspirations, it keeps you driven, hungry and connected and at times this season it’s been evident as we’ve played some outstanding rugby.”

And Ward has been encouraged by the club’s strength in depth.

“Lots of clubs talk about their ones and twos players but for us we have a huge emphasis on our squad,” said Ward.

“As a result our midweek training numbers have not dropped below 31 all season.

“We have two teams that represent our Saxons squad each week and our Priors results have rocketed this season.

“The Priors secured a play-off spot finish and an Essex Cup semi final spot and we’ve had a number of boys represent both teams which is demonstrating the growing quality in depth.

“For me this is going to be pivotal if we are going to be successful.”

Southend have now secured two six finishes in succession.

And Ward is certain Saxons are back on the front foot after a turbulent spell.

“When I took on the role I think it’s fair to say the club had been run over, hit for six and all of those different figures of speech,” said Ward.

“It was a time of change and it was a great opportunity to start again, roll up our sleeves and get to work.

“In order for that to happen I’m a firm believer you need good people and people who care.

“The commitment and support we’ve had not just from off field personnel but senior guys who stuck by the club like Chris Vaughan and a few others is admirable. “

Ward has mixed the club’s senior players with some encouraging youngsters.

But he has been left to regret a few below par performances.

“As a group I think there are three or four fixtures that we didn’t turn up for and that is the difference between mid table and the top,” said Ward.

“Have we underachieved on the field in London One this season?

“Of course, that’s the honest truth but it’s not doom and gloom.

“It’s a learning moment and that’s important in anyone’s development. We have to be honest and reflective to identify areas of need.

“We don’t want to be in this league but we are and it’s now our first challenge to get up and out of it.”

As a result, attention has now turned towards next season and securing an improved league placing.

“Everything we are doing is sustainable, it’s moving forwards on and off the pitch and that to me is success,” said Ward.

“We’ve got to be better and more consistent on the pitch and the group knows that.

“We’ve got a few areas to bolster but again a 96 per cent squad retention shows you we have a very happy and committed group of people.”