Assistant Manager Marcus Stewart today looked back over the Christmas/New Year fixtures and expressed his delight with the return of 13 points from a possible 15.
“In my career, as a player and a coach, I’ve never enjoyed such a successful festive period and to get four wins and a draw from the five games is a great return and in the process we have cut Barnet’s lead at the top of the table to six points.”
The way the players treated those five fixtures, played in just over two weeks, is testament to the work put in by the management team and by the players themselves.
“When you have to play so many games in such a short space of time, it’s all about rest and recovery and trusting the players to do the right things.
“We have a good group of lads here, all of whom we can trust, and they deserve a great deal of credit for looking after themselves. The senior players in the squad help out the younger lads and lead by example. We can give them days off because of their tough schedule, but they have to do the right things on those days off and I think you could tell from those five games that they all prepared in the right manner.”
With no game this Saturday, there is less pressure on the squad, though there is still work to be done.
“Of course we still have to work, that’s a given, but we are mindful that the players have played a lot of games recently and because there is no game this weekend we can work with a little less pressure. It’s really just a case of keeping them ticking over and getting the right balance between work and rest.”
While the players might enjoy a rare Saturday off, the management team and their scouts will be watching games involving future opponents and potential signings.
“We have a good scouting network and have a team of half a dozen scouts who we trust and who understand what we want back from the games they cover. The fact that future opponents Woking and Braintree are in action this weekend gives us a good opportunity to take in their games.”
Of course, we are a few days into the transfer window, and while the Sky Sports News cameras may not position themselves outside the Memorial Stadium gates to see who might be coming in there is, nevertheless, a great deal of interest in any potential signings.
“Things don’t always happen in the first week of the transfer window, but it is nice to bring in new signings earlier rather than later.
“Naturally, a great deal of preparatory work is done well before the window opens and it’s all about trying to sign the players you have targeted. Of course, it’s also about trying to improve the squad and anyone we bring in has to be capable of stepping straight into the first team. We already have some good squad players who can all play their part, but it’s about improving the level and if we can get the right players in then we will benefit in the run in to the end of the season.
“In addition, we need to recognise that the manager has created a superb team spirit in the dressing room and any new players have to fit into that in terms of personality and the way they train.”
Meanwhile a number of the club’s younger players have either returned, or are returning, from loan spells.
“Jamie Lucas is back from his time with Gloucester City, Danny Greenslade plays his last game for Truro this Saturday and Pierce Mitchell’s loan at Weston ends on 17th January. Meanwhile Aaron Ward-Baptiste has extended his loan spell with Taunton Town until 7th February.
“We monitor their progress whilst they are out on loan, but we are unable to watch them as much as we would like. The feedback we have received from all of the host clubs has been very positive, though, and the players concerned have grasped the opportunity to play men’s football, on a regular basis, with both hands.”
One other player to return from a loan spell is striker Ryan Brunt, who has come back from Stevenage with an ankle injury.
“We have yet to assess the severity of his injury, but it’s possible he could be out of action for a couple of weeks though we will know more when physiotherapist Phil Kite has had an opportunity to examine Ryan’s ankle.”