02:00PM, Friday 13 April 2018
Alan Devonshire must have breathed a huge sigh of relief. After watching his Magpies come from behind for a victory on Tuesday night that should just about remove any lingering doubts over what division they’ll be playing in next season.
United weren’t at their best on an edgy evening at York Road, but against a side with a far longer winless streak than their own, they didn’t need to be.
Adrian Clifton, with his first touch since being introduced off the bench, and Sean Marks, with a typical poacher’s finish in the final few minutes, gave the club a big home win and moved the club beyond the 50 point mark, which has been something of a glass ceiling for them in recent weeks.
Devonshire, who was kicking and heading every ball with his players throughout the 90 minutes, was able to relax after the final whistle, safe in the knowledge that they cannot now be caught.
Mathematically it’s still possible they could go down, but some rudimentary predictions, and with rivals running out of games to catch them, it’s all done barring the fat lady singing.
“I think we can enjoy the rest of the season now,” he said. “Yeah, I think (it should be enough points for safety). We can now look forward to our final matches and having a good summer.
“We can go and have a go. I might have a look at a few people, and change a few things. A few people have been waiting in the wings, but, for now, I’m just going to enjoy tonight.
“At the end of the day we’ve got 52 points. Maidstone have lost today and these (Woking) would have to win all three of their matches to go above us.
“We’re seven points clear of them. I don’t think they’ll do that. Torquay can only get 52 points and I don’t think they’ll win all theirs. I think we’re safe.”
Devonshire’s substitutions made the difference on a night that looked to be turning sour for the Magpies. Having fallen behind in the 76th minute, he reacted quickly by bringing on Sam Barratt and Adrian Clifton.
The latter repaid his faith by scoring with his first touch and the former supplied the cross for Marks’ match winning goal. The man himself, though, was happier to deflect any praise to the players.
“At the end of the day there’s always a bit of luck with subs,” said Devonshire.
“You try and see where you might be able to get a bit of joy. It worked. But I’m delighted for them because they worked their nuts off.
“Some of them have done better than others in the new league, but I’m delighted for them in there, because they’ve put a lot of hard work in through the season.
“To get the points we want with five games left, I’m delighted.”
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