11:45AM, Friday 05 March 2021
Photo by Darren Woolley
Magpies boss Alan Devonshire has been frustrated by the ‘ridiculous situation’ of Dover Athletic refusing to play matches and believes that without swift action from the National League to give clubs clarity on the situation the integrity of this season’s competition could be called into question.
United had been due to visit Dover on Saturday for a rearranged fixture and host them on Tuesday at York Road, however, neither match went ahead with the south coast club currently refusing to fulfil their fixtures, and the National League threatening to bring sanctions against them for it.
For Devonshire it’s left his club with another frustrating period without matches, having already kicked their heels through two long periods of inactivity, and he’s calling on the league to take swift action against Dover to restore some credibility to the league and ensure others don’t follow their lead.
Dover were one of seven National League clubs who voted for the season to be ended immediately and declared null and void, due to issues over funding while matches are being played behind closed doors. While the National League North and South seasons were terminated, the National League Premier voted in the majority to play on, with loans available from Sport England for clubs in need of income to see them through to the end of the campaign.
United haven’t been in great form of late, and are without a league win since January 30, but with matches in hand on pretty much all of their rivals a play-off challenge is not beyond them if they can rediscover their form from earlier in the campaign.
“No, the rest is not good, it’s really frustrating,” Devonshire said. “Touch wood, we’ve had no COVID and we’ve played fewer games than most.
“We had a game fixed up for Tuesday (March 2), it was agreed and then suddenly the other team changed their mind. It’s very frustrating.
“It’s a ridiculous situation, but I’m not going to get involved in it. I know what I think they (Dover) should do, but I’m not going to tell you that. We need clarity from the league now. We can’t have this dragging on and people asking, ‘what’s going to happen to them?’. We need a decision now and clarity on all of this because other teams could choose to do it.
“If there’s no clarity on it, there’s nothing stopping other teams from adopting a similar stance I suppose.
“We need the league to act on this and act swiftly.
“You can’t have this sort of thing going on. The National League is a proper league and if teams do this sort of thing it doesn’t reflect well on the league.”
With no relegation from the league this season, Devonshire has also questioned whether teams near the bottom of the table will put out weakened sides in some of their matches or look to save some money by playing their u23s players and cutting loose their biggest earners.
“I don’t think we’d have been looking at relegation anyway,” said Devonshire. “But obviously that’s always the first target (avoiding relegation).
“What you’re going to get now, without relegation, is teams that are down near the bottom could play their youth players in matches.
“I don’t know how it’s going to work but we need a decision quickly from the league on relegation and the threat of sanctions for teams (who may be considering this). Those decisions need to be made quickly so we know what’s going on.
“It’s a problem we’re going to get, and, to me, you can’t have that. We’ll just have to wait and see, it’s up to the league to decide what needs to be done.
“But the more this drags on the more likely it will be that teams will consider doing things they shouldn’t be doing.”
He added: “We’re now going to have games on top of each other, let’s hope we don’t have to play on a Thursday night as well. It’s a weird one. We’ve wanted to play all of our matches, but teams haven’t wanted to play us. The league will have to clamp down when they have to get all the games in, but they should have done that earlier.”
Devonshire added that he hopes to see fans returning to grounds as soon as possible and, although the Government announced that fans will be able to return in a limited number from early May, Devonshire is not holding his breath on supporters being back at York Road this season.
He said: “Hopefully, by next season we’ll have fans back in and, for me, that can’t come quick enough. I want the fans back because it’s just not football without them and it sometimes doesn’t feel real when you’re on the sidelines. The fans just make the game so much better.
“If everyone does what they’re told to do I’d like to think that by next season. I very much doubt it (this season). If it happens, fantastic, but I doubt it will.”
Maidenhead United’s home game with Altrincham on Saturday, March 27, has been selected to be shown live on BT Sport 2.
The game against the Robins, who currently sit four points above the Magpies in eighth position, will kick-off later in the afternoon at 6.15pm.
As a result, this fixture will not be live-streamed via the club as coverage is exclusive to BT Sport 2.
Other National League games to be shown on BT Sport this month include Sutton United’s home game against Wrexham this Saturday (March 6), 5.20pm on BT Sport 1, and Boreham Wood’s game against Torquay United on Saturday, March 13, 5.20pm, BT Sport 1.
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