07:00AM, Friday 10 January 2020
Maidenhead United boss Alan Devonshire has called January and February big months for the club as the Magpies look to grind out the points needed to drag themselves away from the relegation zone.
United have been playing much better since the turn of the year, with an intensity returning to their play in the victory over Wrexham AFC and last week’s goalless draw with Notts County at York Road.
That work-rate – and willingness to close opposition players down – was evident once again during Saturday’s narrow defeat at Harrogate Town, but the team are struggling to put clear water between themselves and the bottom four, while the prospect of clubs such as AFC Fylde, Chesterfield and Wrexham finding some form and getting out of trouble in the coming months, remains a real concern.
“These are big months for us, January and February,” said Devonshire this week.
“They will decide what we’re looking at come the end of the season and where we are going.
“It’s looking like we’ll probably need six more wins from the last 16 games and hopefully we can do that.
“I would love that (for Maidenhead to win matches and get out of trouble), but words are easy. We’ve now got to go and do it.”
Devonshire, his management team and the players can take a much- needed breather from their battle for league survival this weekend, when they visit Halesowen Town in the second round of the FA Trophy.
But their five-point advantage over the bottom four is likely to be cut before they get back to league action at 10th-placed Halifax Town on Saturday, January 18.
After that they’ll host Eastleigh at York Road on January 25, two matches that Devonshire has said the club will ‘go to win’.
But he knows that, at this stage of the season, words are cheap and the club will be judged on its actions – and ability to grind out points – during January and February.
“At the end of the day there is Fylde, Wrexham and Chesterfield beneath us and who’d have said they’d be there
at the start of the season with their budgets and everything?” added Devonshire. “But, it is what it is. It was always going to be tough for us this year, because the league is getting tougher every year.
“I don’t think there are as many top sides this season but the league is very even. Anyone can beat anyone. That’s why the league is so tight from top to bottom.
“We’ll have a couple of players suspended for the Halifax game, which is a blow. But, listen, we’ll go there and try to win. We play every game to try and win. There’s no way we’ll sit back and we’ve got some big games between now and the end of the season.”
Devonshire was keen not to dwell on the refereeing display in Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at Harrogate but it’s fair to say he was less than impressed with the officiating in a match that saw both Rene Steer and Josh Kelly sent off in the closing stages.
He said the Magpies are not a dirty side and believes they haven’t had the rub of the green when it comes to decisions from match officials all season.
“We’ve had a lot of suspensions,” said Devonshire. “Yeah, some of the boys have been stupid with dissent and that, but some of the bookings we’ve been getting are just not fair.
“On Saturday three or four of their tackles were equally deserving of a booking but nothing was given and that’s hard to take.
“With Josh’s, he’s going for the ball. We’ve looked at it with a view to appealing but know they won’t overturn it so we’ve just got to take it on the chin. The boy is devastated by it.
“We compete but we’re not a dirty side and we’re getting so many bookings, I just don’t understand it.”
On Maidenhead’s performance, Devonshire added: “We deserved something from the game. It was an even game. The last three games we’ve played very well. We’ve got back to working hard without the ball.
“That’s a big thing of ours and we’ve got to keep that going between now and the end of the season.
“Their goal came against the run of play. We were penned in their half but they managed to break and get a corner and they’ve scored from it.
“That was a bad goal to concede but it was only us going forward really.”
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