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Magpies midfielder Upward frustrated by stop-start nature of National League campaign

Ryan Upward. Photo: Darren Woolley.

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The stop-start nature of the National League season is starting to frustrate Maidenhead United midfielder Ryan Upward, who believes their hopes of challenging for a play-off place, and possible promotion to the football league, is being thwarted by these periods of inactivity. United have spent most of the campaign in and around the play-off positions, but in recent weeks postponements, injuries and suspensions, has seen their form take a little dip.

They’re now without a win in the league since their 3-2 success over Halifax Town at the end of January, and have since lost 1-0 at home by Boreham Wood, played out a stalemate against Stockport County on the club’s 150th anniversary, recovered from two-goals down to draw 2-2 with Bromley – where Upward kickstarted their second half revival with a goal - while they were beaten 4-2 at home by Aldershot Town last Tuesday, after trailing 3-1 at half-time.

They were due to play Dover Athletic both home and away this week, but the south coast club’s refusal to play matches due to their discontent over funding for the remainder of the season means they’ve gone another 10 days without a game heading into this week’s crucial matches at Solihull Moors on Saturday and Dagenham & Redbridge on Tuesday evening.

Since that last win on January 30, they’ve slipped out of the play-offs and down to 14th in the table, however, they do have a number of matches in hand on most teams in the division.

“It’s been very stop start and very frustrating,” said Upward.

“We get on a little run and then we don’t play for a month. Middle of the season and we have a month off, it’s crazy.

“We wanted to play Dover to get some points off them, but they’re refusing to play, and it will be the same for everyone. They’ll probably null and void those points and I think Notts County and Eastleigh are the only teams to have lost to them so they’ll benefit but no one else will.

“The last few weeks games have just been getting away from us when we should have been getting results. We’re not quite scoring enough goals and we’ve been conceding too many as well.”

Upward says individual errors, rather than a collective lack of desire, are to blame for the side’s most recent results at Bromley and Aldershot. He feels the Magpies were good enough to beat the Ravens on their own patch and says calamitous miscommunications between individuals led to both Bromley and Aldershot taking control in those matches.

“We deserved to win the Bromley game, apart from the stupid goals we conceded,” he said. “But we took a draw after being 2-0 down at half-time. Against Aldershot we started well for the first five minutes but there was a communication problem for the first goal. Wellsy (George Wells) has gone up for a header when Manny (Parry) and Massey (Alan Massey) should have been taking control of that situation.

“Wellsy wasn’t able to cover and the player he should have been marking was able to score. We’ve just got to be better in those situations because in this league you get punished. Even against Boreham Wood we had the chances in the first half to score and I said to Sammy Barratt ‘if we don’t take one of these it’s going to cost us.’

Despite falling into the bottom half of the league for the first time in several months, Upward is confident the Magpies can sustain their challenge for a top seven finish. He believes they have enough quality in the squad to get back on a winning run and, in this unprecedented season, he senses an opportunity for the club to push for a place in the football league.

“Everyone beats everyone in this league, so we just need a few wins on the bounce, another good run, and we’d be right back in it,” he said.

“To do that we’re going to have to start performing better, but it’s an unprecedented year. Coronavirus hasn’t been great, obviously, but I see it as an opportunity. The big teams haven’t had their fans in the ground against us, so the atmosphere hasn’t been as good for them. That seems to have benefitted us, but in the past few weeks we’ve been disrupted by postponements, injuries and suspensions.

“We’ll have to put a few wins together if we want to compete to get into the Football League. There are no easy games, but we’ve got to start games well and get our confidence up.

“We can beat anyone in this league as we’ve proved already, it’s just about taking our chances when they come along and being a bit tighter at the back.”

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