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National League extension keeps Slough Town's promotion hopes alive

The prospect of Slough Town competing for promotion through the play-offs moved a step closer this week, with the FA granting the National League an extension to its season.

The extension will allow the league to run the play-off matches in its three leagues beyond the end of May, although it’s likely clubs wouldn’t be in a position to put those matches on until July at the earliest.

The decision to move the parameters of the season back keeps alive Slough’s hopes of promotion, but it doesn’t mean the play-offs will definitely take place.

However, for those hoping to see the Rebels take advantage of this unprecedented situation and claim a place in the top level of non league football it’s a move in the right direction.

Managers Neil Baker and Jon Underwood will have reservations about the lack of training time for players ahead of any scheduled play-off fixtures, but Baker said this week they’d welcome the opportunity and go into it with their eyes open.

“It seems like we’ve now got the possibility of play-offs,” said Baker. “Let’s be honest. If the National League had no intention of playing play-off matches there would be absolutely no point in asking for that extension.

“They’ve now effectively attached themselves to the EFL and have said they’re ‘waiting for the EFL to make a decision on what should be done’. In doing that they’ve pretty much nailed their colours to the mast. In reality there doesn’t need to be a vote (from clubs), just a decision from the league. I think all teams that were in play-off positions from each of the leagues stated an intention to play them.”

There’s been very little clarity for National League clubs in recent weeks as to how the key issues of promotion and relegation will be resolved. However, decisions are being made from the top down and it now seems likely the National League will follow the path taken by the EFL in League 2.

Looking ahead, Baker is wary of the prospect of throwing players into highly competitive matches off the back of little training time and no friendly matches, however, he feels clubs will be willing to adapt to this unprecedented situation.

“It does become a lottery,” said Baker. “But the play-offs are always a lottery. Everyone will come in from the same point, having not played for a number of weeks and it’s not like we’re going to be able to get a lot of friendly matches in before hand. But I think we’d all go in with our eyes open.

“We just have to see what happens and then keep our fingers crossed. As managers and players you want that opportunity to get to the next level, and, if this gives us that opportunity then great.

“I’m sure there will be a number of people who’ll say it’s not right and they shouldn’t be doing it, but if the football league are going to be doing it then why not the National League? I think League 2 is probably going to be shut down, but they’ll also probably end up playing the play-offs so it shouldn’t be different for us. It’s positive news but it’s not a done deal by any stretch and there are still lots of hurdles to be overcome.

“If we play it would be interesting, quite surreal to be honest, but we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.”

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