05:00PM, Friday 03 September 2021
Neil Baker says he's pleased the Rebels didn't have a game on Monday to give them some more time to allow Saturday's painful 1-0 defeat to Chippenham Town to seep out of their system.
This was a gut-wrenching defeat for the Rebels, who'd missed an 86th penalty through Eitel Goueth only to see Ross Stearn fire home the winner for the Bluebirds with almost the last kick of the game.
It left the managers feeling winded on the touchline, with Jon Underwood saying afterwards he felt 'physically sick'. It also leaves the side down near the bottom of the table with two defeats from their opening three matches, when, if the fine margins of the game had gone their way, they could have been sitting pretty in the play-offs.
“The feeling I had was similar to when we played Hereford at home a few years back and we were 2-0 up in injury time and we conceded two goals to draw 2-2,” said Baker.
“I felt awful that day and it was similar really as I thought we’d done enough to win the game.
“I thought we were slightly the better side and whilst we didn’t necessarily work their keeper loads, but we got ourselves into good positions and with better execution we might have won the game comfortably.
“When you miss a penalty with five six minutes to go and then concede to the last kick of the game, it’s pretty frustrating. We were all gutted.
“Unfortunately, we were on the wrong end of a smash and grab really. They would admit that as well. We were much the better side in the first half, although the second half was more even, but we've had more of the game than them.
“I'm pleased we didn't have a game on Monday, because in that situation, it's such a body blow and it can take a few days to recover from it.”
Having allowed the dust to settle on the defeat, Baker can now look dispassionately on a positive performance by the Rebels, and he feels there's plenty for the players to be encouraged by heading into Saturday's game at Welling United. Baker said the players were smiling again and in good spirits at training this week ahead of what promises to be another tricky match at Park View Road.
“There were loads of positives,” added Baker. “It was a reasonable game in terms of the performance, we just didn’t get the result.
“We’ve had to take the mick out of Eitel this week, to get his spirits up, because it was tough for him.
“He’s a young kid, he’s decided to take the penalty and he was firm in what he wanted, despite the fact Birdy (Ryan Bird) was due to take the penalty. You’ve got to admire his confidence to demand it. Unfortunately, it didn’t work. It’s a difficult position as managers because you could quite easily shout out, ‘no Birdy, you’ve got to take it’, but you don’t know what they’re feeling on the pitch and if he then goes and misses it.
“You’re only right when you score the penalty. There are better players than Eitel who have missed penalties.
“But there were smiles on the faces on Tuesday, and we realise we played well. We've also got exciting young players in the side, and we'll keep progressing this season.
“Once again we'll aspire to be as high up the table as we can. There are several clubs who are in a slightly different place to us, but that won't stop us from trying to compete with them. We need to try and get on a little run of two or three victories because that shoots you right up the table in this league.”
Welling kicked off their season with three successive defeats, but Baker saw them put in a much-improved display to beat Concord Rangers 2-1 on Monday and has warned the Rebels not to take them lightly.
“Welling have started poorly with three defeats, but I watched them against Concord, and they worked their socks off,” he said.
“They got a brilliant 2-1 win and I said to our lads on Tuesday, if you think you’re going to turn up and win the game you’ve got another thing coming.
“They’ve got a lot of pace going forward, they’re a young side as well and can breed off confidence.”