07:30PM, Thursday 11 November 2021
Joint manager Neil Baker is hopeful Slough Town's season has finally ‘clicked into gear', and the stats seem to back him up with the Rebels having won three of their last four league matches.
Baker knows things can change quickly in the National League South, but Saturday's 1-0 win over promotion hopefuls Maidstone United will have done wonders for confidence, and the joint boss knows that confidence, when laid on a foundation of hard-work and talent, can take a club a long way.
Their return to form has also dovetailed with the timely return to fitness of central defender Guy Hollis, who has formed a useful partnership at the back with the versatile Lee Togwell, and club stalwart Warren Harris, who netted the winner on Saturday having come off the substitute's bench only a few minutes before.
Harris will play his 300th match for the club in the coming weeks, and few players in the club's history can claim to have played a more important role than him, with the team claiming two promotions during his time as a Rebel.
Baker says the club has had a 'bit of a bounce to it' in recent weeks, but for much of this campaign they were desperately searching for inspiration at the wrong end of the division.
It wasn't that they were playing badly, but too often they came out on the wrong end of close games with contentious decisions seemingly going against them.
While they remain in the bottom half in 14th, they're now just four points off the play-off spots and have real momentum going into the second quarter of the season.
“I think we've clicked into gear a little bit,” said Baker. “Football is about confidence and momentum.
“We haven't played that badly other than a couple of games this season, but we've come out on the wrong end of results. Some have been influenced by decisions against us and in some we just didn't quite do enough to win.
“But, overall, it hasn't been too bad except for Whitehawk and Billericay in the second half.
“We didn't manage to get the points on the board that we wanted, but we knew we had good players within the squad, you do start to have some doubts and things like that, but we remained confident in them and now they're starting to repay us a little with their recent form. It’s still a tough league and anything can still change. but this run has given the players some confidence that they can go on winning some winning runs.”
Despite their indifferent form in the early weeks of the season, Baker and Jon Underwood kept faith with their young, inexperienced squad. They tweaked it only slightly to draft in promising young forward Alfonso Tenconi from the u23s Academy for Tom Derry, who has now departed the club.
Their recent return to form is sure to be tested by high flying Dorking Wanderers at Arbour Park on Saturday, but the Rebels head into the match in form and with confidence - and Baker knows that can count for a lot in football.
Their ambition is still to compete with the bigger, wealthier clubs for promotion in time, and while Baker concedes the Rebels are playing catch up after making a poor start, they're now back within touching distance of the play-off contenders and have found some consistency.
“We've had a really good couple of weeks, and it's given the place a bit of a bounce, and now we've got a good game against Dorking Wanderers to look forward to,” he said.
“They're one of the sides who expect to be up there this season and have a big squad with players you'd love to be able to afford.
“They have high ambitions to be in the National Premier and the Football League, so it's a big game for us on Saturday but we've got a bit of confidence which is massive in football.
“We haven’t done loads with the squad. We’ve brought young Alfonso (Tenconi) in and let Tom Derry go, but other than that we are where we are. It’s obviously been a real help having Guy (Hollis) back in and around it because he had to miss a month. Except for Ryan Bird, we don’t have too many injuries.” The whole thing with this league is it’s difficult to put a string of wins or unbeaten runs together.
“If you can put three of them together during a season you will go close to the play-offs. We had a poor start points wise but we’re slowly starting to catch up now. Hopefully we can be in and around it, that’s the aim every season and it’s no different.”