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Underwood: 'It's the oldest cliche in football, but goals change games'

Goals change games. It’s one of the oldest clichés in football but Slough Town’s management team were saying it through gritted teeth after Sunday’s 3-0 play-off defeat to Dartford.

The Rebels were the better side in the first half, having won their individual battles all over the park and created some fine chances to take the lead. But, just a minute after the restart, the tie was spun on its head when Charlie Sheringham ghosted in to touch home Jordan Wynter’s low cross.

If ever there was a match defining moment this was it. It sucked the energy and enthusiasm from the Rebels legs and gave Dartford a spring in their step as they went on to comfortably claim their place in the play-off semi-finals at Havant & Waterlooville. Sheringham’s second was even more difficult to stomach. A shot bounced off Ryan Bird’s leg, span onto the post and fell into the path of Sheringham who tapped home to make it 2-0. Then, with the game stretched, substitute Luke Wanadio thumped home a third before the final whistle.

Joint boss Jon Underwood said: “They played very, very well second half to be fair. It’s the oldest cliché in football. Goals change games, and I fully believe with the way we performed in the first half that if we’d got our noses in front it would have given us momentum and we could have built on that.

“We had two good headers from crosses and played quite direct in the first half. Players are rusty so we didn’t want them to make unnecessary errors at the back. We tried to play the game in their half and I thought we won the battle in the first half. They didn’t have a single opportunity in that first half and, Birdy’s header, yeah, I’d expect him to hit the target with that one. Josh (Jackman) had a good one as well.

“We praised them at half-time but we also warned them about switching off. Sometimes half-time can come at the wrong time and, although we defended brilliantly in the first 47 minutes, they got in far too easily within a minute of the restart. It was far too easy that goal.

“The second one was probably the killer blow. Apparently the shot deflected off Birdy, hit a post and fell straight into their guy’s path. Then it was difficult. They really upped their game and it got stretched. They’ve got some really good footballers and they could have scored more in the end, let’s be honest. We didn’t create any opportunities in the second half. Probably the 10 minutes at the start of the second half, that’s what’s undone us.”

Underwood admitted afterwards that Dartford fully deserved their win. The Rebels hadn’t been sharp enough at either end of the field in the game’s crucial moments and carried next to no goal threat of their own in a disappointing second half display. The Darts had been sharpened by their early strike and in turn the Rebels were deflated by it.

“Maybe the first half hurt them a little bit, because we haven’t played a 45 minutes like that in a long time,” he said. “The players said they felt good and had good energy at half-time but it is hard to come out and do exactly what they did in the first half. Sometimes the break can stop your momentum. The goal has given them a lift. They’ve gone up and we’ve gone down.

“They’ve played really well in the end and have dealt with everything we’ve thrown at them. They clearly deserved the win and we wish them well in the semi-final. We just started a bit sloppy, and yeah that (start to the second half) is probably the biggest disappointment.

“We missed chances as well, but, if you’re a defender, you’re probably saying ‘go and score’.

“We weren’t unlucky, you need to score a goal when you’re on top and we didn’t do that. We can’t feel sorry for ourselves.

“So it’s a bit at both ends really. If you’re not able to score you don’t deserve to go on to the next round. Unfortunately for a little spell there we didn’t defend well enough and they deservedly went through.”

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