Marlow's play-off hopes deflated by Binfield then ended by Thatcham Town

Monday’s 1-0 home defeat to Thatcham Town officially ended Marlow's hopes of a play-off finish this season, but in truth it was the concession of a late equaliser in Friday's 1-1 draw with Binfield that really deflated those hopes.

The Blues had been hoping to stay in contention for a top five spot, and take their challenge down to the wire, with the side set to visit struggling Westfield in their final game of the season on Saturday.

However, those hopes of hanging on in the race with the likes of Uxbridge and Basingstoke Town were officially ended by Alex Miller’s 86th minute winner for Thatcham at Oak Tree Road on Monday afternoon.

Marlow have been hanging onto the coattails of their rivals for some time, however, with form faltering from the early weeks of January.

Mark Bartley was consistently able to name his best side in the early months of the season, but injuries and illness caught up with them in the second half of the campaign and results took a turn for the worse. Following their 2-1 home win over Chipstead on January 15, the Blues were only able to win five of their next 18 matches, surrendering their challenge for a play-off spot in the process.

Reflecting on that disappointment, Bartley said: “We looked deflated in Monday’s game. On Friday we played well against Binfield for most of it. We were the better side but fair play to them they kept going and managed to get the equaliser.

“That was really the end of it for us, but the performance wasn’t too bad. Then on Monday it felt like an end of season game and that was the difference.

“To a degree not being able to name a consistent side played a part in that.

“What we had in that first part of the season was consistent in a lot of areas, and when we did need to rotate and make changes, we had the core of the team still there.

“We worked hard in the summer to try and imbed the way that I wanted us to play and there were 14/15 players who got that really well, but any time we went beneath that it just didn't feel like it came quite as natural to them.

“And when you don’t have the availability sometimes or you get an injury to key players, there were areas where we just didn't have that cover. We were without Nnamdi (Nwachuku) for long periods, and he hasn’t been involved for the last however many games.

“He was the main goal threat for us in the early part of the season but when you do have those spells where he's not around it’s just more difficult.

“We had depth in certain areas but not in all areas. It’s a squad game and ultimately, maybe our first 13/14 are good enough but our squad is maybe not as deep as we hoped it would be at the start of the season. We had 13/14 who were up to the job, but we didn't have the 17/18 that you need.”

The past couple of months has been a critical juncture of the season, with the Blues coming up against many of their rivals for the top five.

However, while some of those matches went their way and others didn’t, Bartley believes it's the club's results against sides down in the lower reaches of the Isthmian League South Central Division that have ultimately been the reason for the Blues not finishing in the play-offs.

“There were a few of those games that we did well in, we beat Bracknell and Bedfont and Basingstoke that are in there,” he said. “There was a draw at home against Uxbridge that should have been a win and we feel we should have won away at Hanwell.

“But the games that have really hurt us more, when the injuries have really affected us, have been in those games you’d expect us to win.

“The defeat to South Park, the draw away at Staines, the draw away at Sutton Common Rovers, those are the ones that, for me, that’s where you get caught.

“Our record against the sides that are in and around it is probably good enough, but, with all due respect, if you’re to be successful, those are the sides that you must beat. If we’d won those three games alone that would have probably been enough and that’s really where the quality players show up.

“Ultimately, we just weren't good enough or deep enough.

“We had some good performances along the way, and we had some games where we felt luck deserted us, but it is what it is.

He added: “We feel that we’re as good as any of the sides that are in there, but that’s just the way the game goes and we have to take that and move on.”

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