12:00PM, Tuesday 21 September 2021
At some point in the near future Marlow FC will concede a goal and lose a game of football. But it hasn't happened yet this season, and boss Mark Bartley is confident the Blues can maintain their unbelievable run when they face promotion rivals Bracknell Town in the league on Saturday.
The game – which pits the leaders against the third placed Blues - is scheduled for Monday, but both sides expect to see it switched to Saturday, with Marlow also needing extra time to prepare for their tough-looking FA Cup third qualifying round tie at Harrow Borough the following Saturday.
The Blues have made an impressive start to the season in the league and cup, winning all seven of their matches without conceding, and they've had to come through moments of real adversity to post those results.
On Saturday, they managed to beat FC Abbey Rangers of the Combined Counties Premier Division North 2-0 to book their place in the next round of the cup, but they did so after playing more than 45 minutes with only 10 men after Devontae Romeo was sent off. Nnamdi Nwachuku fired them in front just after the half-hour and Curtis Chapple made sure of their place in the hat for Monday's draw with a second deep into stoppage time.
No wonder Bartley says they fear no one, and that includes big spending Bracknell Town and step 3 Harrow Borough of the Southern Premier League.
“The main thing was to get through and make sure you're in the hat for Monday,” said Bartley.
“That was key, and the players applied themselves really well. They came out of the blocks quicker than we did but we were resilient, because they've been scoring a lot of goals recently and are used to finding the net.
“We dealt with that and got ourselves in front well and then Devontae gets a second yellow card at the end of the half, and we had to show grit and determination to stay in the game and preserve the lead.
“I still felt we were the better side though and deserved to win the game. They had a lot of the ball, and we were stretched at times but we also created some quality openings on the counter.
“Ultimately I still felt comfortable when it was 1-0 and we were down to 10 men because we just looked solid.”
Marlow have been the byword for solidity and resilience this season, often winning games by the odd goal with Simon Grant still yet to pick the ball out of his net. Despite this he was overlooked for the league's Golden Gloves honour which went instead to Uxbridge, one of only two sides above them in the Isthmian League South Central table. In the FA Cup they ridden out some tricky periods and questionable decisions to beat Slimbridge, Sheppey United and now Abbey Ranges, all without conceding and rivals will be starting to sit up and take note.
“We showed that little bit of experience on Saturday, and it was a gutsy performance. The players have shown that over the last seven games.
“There’s a belief in the side. We know that at some stage we’re going to concede right, it just is what it is.
“We know that will happen, but we don’t want it to derail anything. There is a belief in what we're trying to do and in the way we're set up for matches. When we go down to 10 men nobody gets sloppy shoulders, and no one chucks the towel in because we believe we can still keep a clean sheet.
“Everyone is working hard, and it has taken away that excuse. That's one of the big differences from last season, the players now have this mental maturity and resilience to stick to our task and that's pleasing to see.”
A few weeks ago, Marlow were one of only three sides in the country who hadn't yet conceded a goal. Bartley now expects the Blues are the only team left with that record intact, but it's sure to be tested at Bracknell Town this weekend.
“It is unusual to go seven games without conceding. I'm loving it and the players are as well,” he added.
“We know we're going to concede but until then we're going to make it really hard for teams to score against us.
“Bracknell have got Dave Tarpey and James Clark, who signed for them from us last season after scoring a lot of goals. He hasn't played a lot for them but I'm sure he'll play against us
“They’ve got some good players and they’re the favourites for this league, but we don’t fear anyone. We’re in good form. We’ve been preparing ourselves well and we believe we can go there and get a good result. They’re just 11 men like we will be and we’ll look to go there and give a good account of ourselves, and I truly believe that if we do that we’ll win the game.”
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