07:30PM, Saturday 20 June 2020
With this week’s resolution determining the end of the National League season now voted through, Slough Town are set to be handed the chance to take part in play-offs for the fourth time in seven seasons.
The Rebels finished just outside of the play-off places in their maiden National League South campaign last year, but – with some big spending clubs in the division – weren’t necessarily tipped to challenge for them this season.
However, after overcoming a shaky start, they’ve been in those positions for most of the campaign and were even pushing champions Wealdstone for top spot at one stage over Christmas and New Year. Results slipped a little in the latter weeks of the season and the Rebels fell to fifth before the season was suspended and subsequently cancelled due to COVID-19.
But joint manager Neil Baker is confident they would have finished in the play-offs anyway had the season been played out in full.
Slough are due to host Dartford at Arbour Park on July 18, and should they win that they would face either Havant & Waterlooville or Weymouth away on July 25 before the final takes place on August 1.
“We weren’t expected to be in the play-offs but as far as I’m concerned we would have got there anyway,” said Baker.
“The key is that we’ve improved year on year. I think we’ve only had one year in our seven full seasons when we haven’t improved on the previous year.
“That’s pretty good. And it’s now six play-off seasons in nine. That’s two play-off campaigns in every three seasons which is also pretty good. We’ve got to be proud of that.
“It’s going to be an interesting few weeks and it’s going to be exciting.”
The players aren’t likely to be brought back for group training until a week before that play-off match with Dartford – and Baker believes they may only have three or four full-contact sessions with the squad prior to that match.
But, while he acknowledges it’s not ideal ahead of what’s likely to be a competitive clash, he expects Slough’s rivals to be in the same – or similar - boat.
“We’ll have a conversation with the players at some point but we’re more likely than not going to come back in the week before,” he said.
“We can’t afford to be doing what the Premier League and EFL clubs are doing. We’ve got to give ourselves every opportunity to play, but we won’t be able to afford to come in until the week before. We’ll just have to go with that. If it means we don’t go up then we don’t go up. Three days ago we weren’t even going to be in the play-offs so it’s great to have this opportunity. We’ve got to keep the costs as low as we can. We’ll ask the players to keep themselves fit and they’ll step their training up naturally because they’re all competitors.
“We’ll then pick a side based on who comes back the fittest and in the best shape because we’ll only have two or three sessions of contact training before we play our play-off quarter final.”
Looking even further back, Slough have now reached the play-offs seven times in the last 11 seasons. As managers, Jon Underwood and Neil have been in the play-offs six times in nine seasons, including twice with Godalming.
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