Devonshire admits fixture congestion, injuries, and suspensions have caught up with Magpies

Maidenhead United are finishing the season in a ‘tired and leggy’ fashion, the result of a horrendously congested fixture schedule and a lengthening injury list, but manager Alan Devonshire says that it shouldn’t mask what’s been a season of progress.

Tuesday’s 2-0 defeat to Barnet was the club’s third in four matches and ended their hopes of a top half finish in a season that at one stage promised much more than mid-table obscurity.

Just a couple of months ago the Magpies looked like a solid outside bet for the play-offs, having dismantled Chesterfield United and Torquay United at York Road. However, a spate of injuries, most notably to striker Nathan Blissett, Sam Barratt and goalkeepers Taye Ashby-Hammond and Rhys Lovett, conspired against them while postponements earlier in the season led to a crippling number of games in the final month and a half.

Even the loss of James Comley and Rohan Ince to international duty – and their subsequent injuries – hindered the club’s progress at a time when it looked like momentum was with them.

The Magpies have also had more than their fair share of dismissals, and this disciplinary issue came back to haunt them again in Saturday’s 2-1 defeat to FC Halifax Town.

The game was in the balance when Ryan Upward was shown a second yellow card in the 38th minute following a couple of clumsy fouls. They went on to lose the game 2-1, with Danilo Orsi-Dadomo hooking home the side’s first goal in front of home supporters in more than 15 months.

Playing with 10 men for more than 50 minutes also had a knock-on effect on Tuesday’s match with Barnet, with Maidenhead’s players looking increasingly fatigued as the match wore on.

“We were down to the bare bones again,” said Devonshire. “The games have caught up with everyone and I haven’t been able to change it much because of the injuries we’ve had.

“It’s no excuse, we should be doing better and it’s disappointing, but there are reasons behind it to a point. Motivation isn’t a problem, it’s just the injuries and players having to play so many games in a short space of time. It’s caught up with them.

“Some of them looked very leggy and tired but there’s not a lot we can do about it. We’ve had to do what we’ve had to do and it’s fine.”

Devonshire watched Tuesday’s game from the stands having been banned from the dugout for the final two matches of the season following his red card in the recent 4-0 defeat to Notts County. They finish what’s been a strange season of many highs and the odd low away to Boreham Wood on Saturday. The manager is also in the process of pulling together his squad for next season and expects to be able to reveal who’s staying and who’s going in the next 10 days.

“There’s a lot going on behind the scenes,” he said.

“We’ve got a new boy signing tomorrow (Thursday), but we’ll put it all out there when we feel it’s ready.

“I think Boreham Wood were hoping to finish in the play-offs.

“They made it last year and they’ve got some really good players in their squad, but listen, it’s the last game of the season so let’s go there and give it our best shot.”

Despite the side’s form tailing off in the last few weeks, Devonshire believes it’s been a positive season and he’s hopeful he can mould a squad that’s as competitive, or even more so, next season.

“It’s been a bad year for everyone, but we’re privileged that we’ve been allowed to keep playing and the lads have done ok,” he added.

“They’ve got to realise how lucky they are to still be working because there are a lot of people in this country who have been out of work over the past year. We understand that and have tried to do as well as we can.

“We hope to be competitive again, but there’s a lot of big clubs in this league. Southend and Grimsby are coming down and they’ll want to bounce straight back up. It’s going to be tough, but then this league is tough.

“We’ve progressed from last year and the aim now is to progress again.”

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