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Baker says Government's u-turn over clubs' elite status has been a 'god send'

Neil Baker believes National League North and South clubs now stand a better chance of completing their campaigns as planned thanks to the pressure they put on Government in the summer to be classified as elite.

Slough and other National League clubs, with help from MPs across the country, managed to force the Department of Culture, Media and Sport into a swift U-turn after they’d initially been classed as non-elite, enabling them to play end-of-season play-off matches.

Slough’s hopes of promotion were ended at the first hurdle, after a 3-0 home defeat to Dartford in a play-off eliminator at Arbour Park, and there was criticism of those clubs who pressed for elite status when leagues at steps three and below were able to kick-off their seasons with fans in attendance.

However, Baker says it's been a 'God send' as it should enable National League South clubs to continue playing through the lockdown.

“We started our season later than most, and if we’d had to stop for a month now it would have been a real problem in terms of finishing the season,” he said.

“It’s quite ironic really, all these people were having a go at the play-off teams, making a fuss over the elite and non-elite tag. It’s quite interesting because the argument we made at the time is that the players were elite, and by that basis so would the clubs at step three and four.

“But in the end the elite status we managed to get has ended up being a God send. It’s enabled us to get the money through from Government grants and it’s enabled us to continue playing. There will be clubs moaning about the money they receive, but it should help us to finish the season. Otherwise I think it would have been very difficult. It still might be but at this stage it’s looking like we will continue.”


Slough Town 2, Bath City 1

A dramatic stoppage-time free-kick from Max Worsfold earned Slough Town a 2-1 win over Bath City on Saturday and a measure of revenge over the side that knocked them out of the FA Cup last month.

All three goals were scored in the final 10 minutes but, with the game locked at 1-1 going into injury-time, Worsfold sized up his options from just outside the area and curled the ball into the back of the net.

Cam McGilp’s first strike for the club put the Rebels ahead in the 84th minute, but Donovan Wilson’s calm finish made it 1-1 just two minutes later.

Bath started the better of the two sides and Tom Smith’s angled shot was well blocked by Lee Togwell after just three minutes. But the Rebels soon took control of proceedings and Dan Roberts, who posed a threat throughout, headed just over before testing Ryan Clarke with a well-struck effort.

Matt Lench also came close in the first half with an effort that sliced just wide of the target. Neil Baker and Jon Underwood’s men then thought they had the lead when Jack McKnight finished from Josh Jackman’s looping cross, but the linesman’s flag was raised.

Norwich City loanee Louis Lomas almost scored in spectacular fashion when he controlled the ball with his knee before striking the post from just outside the area, but the goal they’d been striving for did eventually arrive in the 84th minute.

It was McGilp who broke the deadlock, smashing the home side ahead after breaking through the Romans’ defence.

The celebrations were quickly subdued when Smith and Wilson played their way through the Slough back four and Wilson finished past Jack Turner.

But, in the first minute of injury-time Slough won a free-kick on the edge of the D and Worsfold fired the ball through the wall and high into the back of Clarke’s net to give the home side the victory they deserved.

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