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Bartley admits Marlow FC have had a 'bang average' start to the season

In many ways it’s been a frustrating start to the season for Marlow manager Mark Bartley.

His side haven’t quite hit the ground running as he’d have liked, taking only five points from their first four league matches, despite the emergence of a goalscoring threat in the form of James Clark.

Clark scored a hat-trick in Saturday’s 3-3 home draw with Westfield FC, but Bartley admitted his side never truly got to grips with his visitors, a familiar feeling so far this season.

Last week Bartley said they played some of their best football in recent seasons in a 2-1 defeat at Waltham Abbey, while they went out of the FA Cup on the lottery of a penalty shoot out against Bracknell Town, having bravely fought back from 2-0 down to tie the game with 10 men.

Bartley’s Blues sit 11th in the table after four matches and the boss admitted this week it’s been a ‘bang average’ start.

“From my point of view, we weren’t quite at the level I expect us to be at or we’ve shown we can be at,” said Bartley.

“So, I came away from the game feeling a little disappointed. We haven’t won a game at home; we’ve conceded three goals and we’ve relinquished the lead three times. That’s not great from our perspective.

“But, give credit to Westfield they were well organised and well drilled.

“Their system was quite difficult for us to get to grips with and likewise ours was for them.

“You get some games when teams cancel each other out and other games like this one when you just can’t get hold of your opponent’s game.

“It’s not a terrible point, but I wanted three from it. We’ve had a bang average start, but I know we will be better.

Bartley saw Harrison Bayley depart for National League South side Hungerford Town on the eve of the new season and has also had to contend with injuries to influential players including Adam Richards, Curtis Ujah and Alex Salmon.

He’s hopeful they’ll pick up a greater share of the points when those players return to the fold and he also hopes to see an immediate improvement in Saturday’s FA Trophy tie at Phoenix Sports.

“I’m frustrated because it feels like we’ve got the front end sorted to a degree,” he said. “But we’ve picked up a couple of injuries and we lost Harrison Bayley to Hungerford just before the start of the season.

“He was an anchor in the side and one of the big cogs from our team and the defensive shape that we’d been working on.

“We’d been working on that for a number of weeks and then, suddenly, you lose that cog and Adam Richards to an injury and you’re conceding goals at the other end.

“We need to be a little better defensively, but we also must be reasonable and realistic and say that hopefully we’ll see an improvement when we get bodies back.

“Defensively Curtis Ujah and Alex Salmon should be back for the weekend.

“ We’ve also got Louis Rogers to play in midfield and we’ve just signed Anton Rogers from Bracknell Town, so we have another body for the midfield area.

“We’ve got the FA Trophy this weekend and then we’ve got four or five league games in really quick succession, so we need to improve on what’s been an average start to the season.”

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Mark Bartley was full of praise for the natural goalscoring instincts of James Clark after the striker’s hat-trick in Saturday’s draw with Westfield.

Clark bounced back from a disappointing display against Waltham Abbey in mid-week to score all three of the Blues’ goals at Oak Tree Road, however, it was not a match-winning display as his exploits were matched by Westfield’s Darnell Goather-Braithwaite.

Bartley also now feels he has a strike force capable of finishing off the chances created by his side which he didn’t always feel was the case last season.

“The second half at Waltham Abbey is one of the best halves of football we’ve had since I’ve been at the club,” he said. “We lost the game and we were all looking at each other wondering how that had happened.

“James had some chances in that might which he would have expected to put away and he’s a tough critic on himself, but I said to him afterwards, this happens to all strikers, to Harry Kane, to Sergio Aguero.

“I said to him ‘you’ll probably come in on Saturday and score a hat-trick’ and that’s what’s happened.

“The goals he gets are the kind of goals where you have to want to score. They’re the ones you have to work hard for. He has to make about nine or 10 of those runs before he’ll get an opportunity to score, but I thought he did really well for us on Saturday.

“We now create a lot of chances and when you have someone like that (Clark) at the front end, he’s going to take them often than not. If we take a few more of these chances we’ll start turning draws into wins.”

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