09:00AM, Tuesday 09 November 2021
David Mobbs-Smith believes Maidenhead's increasingly competitive performances in the London & South East Premier Division will breed confidence in the players as they seek to consolidate their place in the league over the course of the season.
So far, Maids have lost seven and won only two of their matches so far, but those two victories have come in their last three matches at Braywick Park, and Mobbs-Smith will be hopeful his side can chalk up a third when Sidcup bring their own indifferent league form to Berkshire on Saturday.
Not that he's expecting an easy match against a side who turned a few heads with a thrilling home win over Tring at the weekend.
Maids meanwhile returned to losing ways at the weekend, going down 26-12 at Havant in a performance Mobbs-Smith said was much better than the scoreline suggests.
He's also delighted by the emergence of a young crop of players he hopes will serve Maids well in the next few years. This group is led by 18-year-old prop Toby Dann-Muirhead whose development this season has been 'amazing to watch'.
“The competitiveness we now have brings more confidence and optimism to the team,” said Mobbs-Smith.
“When we come under pressure now, we're more able to absorb it and that's giving us more confidence as well.
“We have a lot of young players and they're growing up in front of your eyes.
“There's been a lot for them to learn but they're already making better decisions in matches. You must be technically proficient against your opponent at this level but also match up to them tactically as well.
“Against some of these senior players, it’s a learning curve.
“One of the lads has been absolutely outstanding this year, a prop, 18-year-old, Toby-Dann-Muirhead. He’s been so competitive against these senior men's players. It’s been amazing to watch him grow every game.
“He epitomises a group of players, who are a little bit older than him, who are doing the same.”
Maidenhead might have lost on Saturday, but Mobbs-Smith says this weekend's game against Sidcup will feature two confident teams who feel they’ve turned around their season and are now on the up. After a run of poor results, Sidcup edged out Tring 30-28 in a thrilling match on Saturday.
“They've just won a match, so they'll be coming here thinking they've turned their season,” he said.
“We just played a mid-table team in Havant who had lost quite a few and were under pressure at home, and now we play a team that are lower in the league and who hadn't won for ages, but now they have that win and will feel they can be competitive in every game they play.
“It’s going to be competitive for us all the way to the end of the season.
“As we get better, and develop over the second half of the season, we’ll turn some of these results around.”
The artificial 3G surface has for many seasons been a hidden weapon for Maids playing against teams more used to competing on heavier, grass, pitches, however, that advantage isn't so obvious in the London & South East leagues.
“Some of these teams also play on Astro,” said Mobbs-Smith. “We played on an artificial surface at the weekend, and a lot of the grass pitches in London are much shorter and closer to an artificial surface than the longer grass and wetter fields we played in the winter months in the west country.
“Teams can come and throw the ball around at our place because that’s what they’re doing at home anyway, as their pitches aren’t boggy or waterlogged through the winter months.
“We'll just look to start nice and quick on Saturday, and hopefully that will get our confidence nice and high.
“If we can do that it should be a good game and one of the better ones, we've had at home this season.
“Wimbledon, who have been flying lost to Sutton & Epsom on Saturday, which shows that if you have just a couple of players out, a team much lower in the table can become very competitive.”