10:30AM, Monday 29 January 2018
Published on Thursday, January 25
Maidenhead United FC
When you are a little more than half way through the season, mid-table, 11 points from being in a play-off place and 12 points from being in the relegation zone, it’s fair to say that you are at a crossroads.
Manager Alan Devonshire, and many fans on social media, see the next block of four matches as being crucial in determining the success or otherwise of Maidenhead United’s National League campaign.
As long as the match isn't washed out, the Magpies host a struggling Chester side on Saturday, and follow that up with bottom-placed Torquay at York Road, a trip to second-bottom Guiseley followed by another home game against mid-table Eastleigh.
Throw in the FA Trophy last-16 clash with Stockport County on February 3, and you can see why many believe the next few weeks are pivotal.
The Magpies certainly won’t want to lose any of those matches.
A team’s form and spirit, and the changeable winter conditions, make all matches at this time of the year unpredictable. Just because the Magpies are faced with teams propping up the table they shouldn’t, and won’t, assume it's three points for the taking. These teams have everything to play for and little more to lose.
Four league victories will be the target and will maintain the hopes of those who still believe the Magpies can reach the play-offs.
I suspect two wins and two draws will be more than acceptable to most realists.
Anything more will be a bonus, anything less and concerns over relegation will linger a little longer.
You have to feel for football ground staff in particular at this time of year.
They are fighting everything Mother Nature can throw, having already seen their lovingly manicured surface slowly torn asunder over the past four or five months.
However, some clubs go about things the right way, which gives them a fighting chance.
I know Windsor FC are very proud of their surface at Stag Meadow and rarely have a match called off. Having had it completely re-laid a few seasons back, they see producing a good surface as a priority.
I hear they spent hundreds of pounds at the back end of last week to ensure that Saturday's clash with Brimscombe & Thrupp was not postponed.
Other clubs are increasingly looking at playing on a 4G artificial pitch which beats most of the weather most of the time, and the only water you have to deal with is a seven-day-a-week revenue stream.
I witnessed a Maids team not at their best on Saturday against Lydney and still came away with victory and maximum points. Fair play.
I’ve written before that I don't expect Maids to be beaten at home this season and, unless they have chronic player availability issues or are hit by the complacency bug, I stand by that.
Another prediction I stand by is that the supporter who has recently taken to playing a bugle, or something similar, during Maids’ matches will one day find the offending musical instrument mangled around the nearest rugby post or somewhere a lot more painful by a disgruntled spectator or player!
Police were called to the River Thames between Cookham and Bourne End yesterday at about 3pm, to reports that a teenage boy had entered the water but hadn’t been seen to leave.