03:00PM, Thursday 12 December 2019
Maidenhead United boss Alan Devonshire has said he needs to consider the bigger picture as he prepares to name his side for Saturday's FA Trophy tie with Hemel Hempstead Town.
The boss won't be making wholesale changes to the side which beat Dagenham & Redbridge 2-1 at the weekend, but does intend to sideline those in need of a rest as he looks ahead to a hectic festive schedule. After Hemel the club is set to play five league games in 15 days, and four in nine.
Devonshire has said on many occasions the league - the club's 'bread and butter' - takes precedence this season, but he's also keen for the Magpies to go on a run in the FA Trophy.
“Listen, Saturday will be a tough game,” he said.
“But we’re at home and all you can ask for in the cups is to get a home draw.
“They’re (Hemel) a good side. They’ve got good players and I know they’ve got players there who we couldn’t afford to have here, so they’re paying big money.
“Oh yeah (it’s a priority).
“I won’t be making wholesale changes for the game but those who have knocks or are maybe 70-80 per cent fit will be rested because I want those guys to be fit for the Christmas period.
“I need to think about the bigger picture but hopefully everyone will be fit and I can play a strong side.”
The Hemel tie will give the Magpies a chance to turn around their poor home form of late. United have won just twice at home all season but, fortunately, their away form is one of the best in the division, with the team having picked up seven crucial wins on the road.
The latest of them came at Victoria Park on Saturday where Remy Clerima scored twice to give the visitors a hard-earned win. It moved the side above Dagenham into 16th place and took them to within two points of 12th placed Notts County - who United will face twice over Christmas on Boxing Day and New Year's Day.
“Saturday was pleasing because it was a big game for both clubs,” said Devonshire.
“Our intensity was better all round than it has been in the last few weeks and it meant that we went above them in the table.
“I was pleased for Remy because he’s a good player who’s had some niggling injuries this season. He’s a big player for us and I know that wherever I play him he’ll do well.
“It could be a defining month for us. If we do well then we’ll be looking at the top half but if we do badly we’ll be around the bottom four. We’ll need as many players to be fit for the Christmas period because we have to play five games in 15 days, which is ridiculous.
“We’ll just have to take each game as it comes and see who’s in form and who has a knock. That’s all we can do.
“We’ve got Notts County on the 26th (Boxing Day) and some of the boys won’t get back home until after midnight. Then two days later we’ve got to play Wrexham at home.”
Saturday's opponents Hemel are one of the play-off contenders in National League South and have enough talent to provide a stubborn obstacle to United’s hopes of reaching the second round.
“Shamir (Fenelon) should be back on the bench for Saturday,” added Devonshire.
“I’m pleased for him because he’s been out for nine weeks and it’ll be good to get him back in the side. Hopefully we’ll have all our options back in the coming weeks because we’ll need them.”
The side’s home form might be patchy to poor but Devonshire doesn't care how the points are picked up, as long as they earn enough for survival.
He added: “Hopefully it will improve and if I have to change things to get results at home I will do. But if we keep on picking up points along the way I’m okay with that.
“If that comes from away wins then so be it. We’ve got one of the best away records.
“I think there are three teams who have seven away wins and we’re one of them.
“Our home form has always been good but, for whatever reason, that’s not been the case this season. We’re three points off 10th place and five off the bottom four, which is ridiculous. The focus for us is to keep on picking up points.
“We seem to be either winning or losing at the moment, but that’s okay.
“Because if you draw six games in a row you might be on an unbeaten run but if you win three and lose three you’ll have three extra points. So it’s good to win games.”
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