Devonshire confident Maidenhead United will cope with hectic schedule

Josh Kelly. Photo by Darren Woolley.

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Alan Devonshire used to like playing two matches a week during his days for West Ham United and Watford,

and he’ll be hoping his Magpies players feel the same way, as that’s the least they’ll have to contend with over the next couple of months.

The Magpies, who are sitting in 10th position in the National League, despite Saturday’s 1-0 defeat to Boreham Wood, are set to play on Saturdays and Tuesdays for the next six weeks, postponements withstanding.

It’s likely to be a taxing schedule for all involved, however, Devonshire believes his squad, which is one of the strongest he’s had in the National League, can cope with it.

He also reckons the league season will finish as planned at the end of May, with no extensions.

But any more cancellations – due to the weather or COVID events – could lead to the side playing three, or even four matches in a week.

If that were the case Devonshire fears it could ‘kill’ the team’s chances of being competitive.

“It’s frustrating that we’ve had a lot of games being called off because of COVID,” he said. “Now the weather has come in and there’s not a lot we can do about it.

“Listen, when I was playing, I liked playing twice a week. I don’t think it’s going to be a problem for the players. It’s only an issue if you get a spate of injuries. That’s when it can hurt you.

“If it gets to three times a week, then there’s a risk of injury to the players. But twice a week, I’m quite happy with that and I’m sure the players are if they’re fit and haven’t got any knocks.

“It’s obviously less time between games if they’ve got a knock. If someone gets a bad one and they’re out for four to six weeks, then they’re going to miss a lot of football. That’s the danger with us because we’ve got a small squad compared to a lot of teams in our league.”

With plenty of sides missing matches due to frozen and waterlogged pitches, as well as COVID events, fixtures could pile up in
the remaining months of the season.

But, if Devonshire’s story of his time managing Braintree Town is anything to go by, the league won’t extend the season into June.

“No, that will be the end of the season,” he said. “There’s no way it will be extended beyond the end of May. When we were at Braintree, we missed a lot of games and played away at Gateshead on the Saturday, away at Southport on the Tuesday, we were then away at Halifax on the Thursday, it was a stupid schedule.

“We got back Friday, early in the morning, and we had to play on the Saturday. That kills you. You’ve got no chance then. Twice a week you can cope, but if you have any more games than that it’s a problem. We’ve just got to play the games when they’re there and the other team is able to play. That’s all you can do.”

Despite the recent wintry weather, Devonshire rarely has any doubts that matches at York Road will go ahead as planned, with Weymouth due to visit this Saturday.

He added: “Jason and Mark (Stewart) have done a great job at the ground this season and the pitch is in good condition. It was good again on Saturday against Boreham Wood, despite the bad weather. You can’t account for adverse weather conditions. If there’s a massive freeze then we’d struggle with the pitch like everyone else. But apart from that I’d imagine it will be fine for Saturday’s game against Weymouth.

“I’m always 99 per cent sure the game will go ahead when we play at home.”

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