03:36PM, Monday 27 September 2021
Simon Grant has kept eight clean sheets this season.
If there were any lingering question marks over Marlow's excellent start to the season, they were expelled by Saturday's resilient 1-0 win at league leaders Bracknell Town.
Boss Mark Bartley says a few people had questioned the standard of sides the Blues had beaten having started the season with seven victories and seven clean sheets, however, another solid 1-0 in against the Robins will go some way to silencing the doubters.
Once again it was Nnamdi Nwachuku who fired the Blues ahead in the first half, and Bartley believes his side could have scored one or two more on the break, while acknowledging the strength of his side's defending and goalkeeper, Simon Grant, who pulled off a couple of smart saves.
Marlow remain third in the Isthmian League South Central table, but victory has taken them to within a point of Bracknell with two games in hand.
“It was brilliant,” said Bartley.
“For several reasons; one because they're the favourites to win the league and, two, because there were a few question marks from people asking about who we've played so far this season.
“I think one or two people were being a little disrespectful in the build up to the game, suggesting we hadn't played any of the big sides. But as far as we're concerned every game we'd played had been very tough.
“We went there with a bit of momentum, and we didn't fear them. They changed their shape for us, to one they hadn't played yet this season, and we took a little bit of confidence from that because they obviously feared what we were bringing to the table.
“I'll be honest, we weren't brilliant on the day, and I said to the players that it was a six or seven out of 10 performance. But again, we showed that if we dig in and take our chances, we're able to beat them without four players who would arguably start for us in Devontae Romeo, who was suspended, Charlie Samuel, Isaac Osei-Tutu and Ashleigh Artwell.”
Bracknell hadn't lost in the league since manager Bobby Wilkinson took over, and they're used to scoring goals, and plenty of them, so to be shut out by the Blues must have come as a jolt to the system. They'll now consider them as real rivals for promotion if they didn't already.
“We're pleased to have beaten them because that's the first game they've lost in the league since Bobby's been manager and it's been a long time since they failed to score in a match,” said Bartley. “Their game tends to be focused on the set pieces. We knew that, but we prepared for it.
“It was quite an open game, we scored, but had another two chances before half-time. Granty (Simon Grant) made two good stops in the first half, but in the second half they had a lot of possession, but Granty didn’t really have a save to make.
“We knew they would have spells when they were on top, but we did what we needed to do, and Alex Salmon and Adam Richards were immense.
“We've always been quite a tight side, and teams now know that if they go 1-0 or 2-0 down it's a real problem for them because it's rare that we concede a large number of goals. I do think there’s an element of that.
“They’ve got to commit a lot of players forward to open us up and we’ve got the players who can hurt them on the counterattack. They’ve got to be mindful of how they do it and on Saturday we could have scored two or three on the break.”
Bartley will be hopeful the Blues' start to the season has already got inside the mind of the management team and players at Harrow Borough, who they visit in the third qualifying round of the FA Cup on Saturday.
However, Bartley also knows they're by far the strongest side they'll have faced this season.
He added: “They're in the play-offs in the division above, so are by far the strongest side we’ve played this season, by a long way, so we know we need to be on top of our game to get something.
“But we've won eight games and have eight clean sheets. It doesn't get any better than that, so we'll go into the game with a fair amount of confidence.”
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