04:26PM, Thursday 02 January 2020
Neil Baker insists Slough Town are well ahead of schedule in their attempts to finish in the National League South play-offs but – as much as he’d love it to be the case – he doesn’t believe the squad is deep enough to maintain a title challenge.
The Rebels kept up their challenge with a 2-1 Boxing Day win over the Stones and Saturday’s 1-1 draw with fellow play-off chasers Hemel Hempstead Town.
But the new decade kicked off on a disappointing note, as the Stones came rolling back to beat them 2-1 on New Year’s Day (Wednesday).
In certain respects the game mirrored the clash at Arbour Park, with the home side racing into a 2-0 goal lead before the visitors grabbed a goal back through their striker-turned-centre-back Ryan Bird with 10 minutes to play.
It leaves them nine points off the pace in the battle for the title, but Baker says it’s foolhardy for fans to think they can compete with the likes of Wealdstone for the ultimate prize.
“People get carried away some times,” he said.
“Some fans were saying the Hemel game was a must-win fixture.
“Well it’s only a must-win game if you think you’ve got a chance of winning the league.
“Of course we want to be involved at the top but the reality is that our squad isn’t deep enough to sustain a title challenge.
“That’s a fact. That’s not me just saying it. It’s a fact.
“About 80 per cent of our squad have come up from step three level
football so we don’t have the strength in depth to challenge over the course of a season.
“But we do have the squad depth to maintain a play-off challenge.
“That’s what we’re aiming for and we’re nicely set up to do that.”
Wednesday’s defeat was only Slough’s second in 18 matches, a magnificent run that’s seen them riding high in second place over the Christmas period.
They’ve slipped behind Bath City, Havant & Waterlooville and Dorking Wanderers in the past few days but have two games in hand over both Dorking and Bath, and Baker estimates they need only eight or nine more wins to guarantee themselves a play-off berth.
“We’ve been in brilliant form,” added Baker.
“We’re on 41 points and last season it took us until the end of February to get that many points on the board, so we’re well ahead of schedule.
“Going behind so early on didn’t help us at Wealdstone, but they played well and deserved to beat us on the day.
“Obviously we’re dis-appointed to lose but we’re only a point behind our target for the Christmas period.”
The Rebels host in-form Eastbourne Borough at Arbour Park tomorrow (Saturday).
Their 14th-placed visitors come into the clash after back-to-back wins over Welling United and Dorking Wanderers, who they beat 3-2 on Wednesday.
“They’re coming into the game off the back of two victories so it’s going to be another tough game,” said Baker.
“But we’ll look to get ourselves together and try to dig out a win somehow.
“We haven’t got loads of numbers for the game. Mark Nisbet has injured his knee and will be out for four to six weeks. Guy Hollis is suspended. Ben Harris will probably be unavailable and George Wells is 50/50 at the moment.”
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