Alan Devonshire spoke this week of his pride in his players after their National League future was secured with three games still to play.
Maidenhead United are the only part-time team to have survived the drop this season and, with the side lodged in the relegation places before Christmas, it’s taken quite a turn-around in form to get out of the mire.
They might have lost 3-0 at Salford City on Saturday but results elsewhere secured their place in the division.
Devonshire now says the players can relax and enjoy their last three fixtures, starting at home to Barrow tomorrow (Good Friday). They then go to Eastleigh on Easter Monday before rounding off another successful campaign at home to Chesterfield on Saturday week.
The Magpies boss always had belief his players had the ability to get the club out of trouble, but he admits it was hard to feel too confident when the side was losing by hefty margins to the likes of AFC Fylde (6-0) and Havant & Waterlooville (7-0) back in October.
“Yeah we are (proud),” he said. “With the situation at Christmas, to get ourselves out of it with three games to go is fantastic. It’s credit to the players. It was hard to feel confident at Christmas, but I knew what was wrong. The balance of the side wasn’t right at the start of the season after we lost a few players. But I had confidence in the players. We let a couple go and brought a couple in but we didn’t make wholesale changes.
“Of the sides that have stayed up this season we’re the only part-time club. The rest are full-time. That’s good, but we’ve now got to build for next season.”
Devonshire reckons next season will be even tougher for the Magpies, with more league clubs set to plummet through the League 2 trapdoor and Stockport County and Torquay United looking like good bets for promotion.
Again he expects to lose three or four players in the off-season but hopes it won’t have quite the same impact as it did at the beginning of this season, when Harry Pritchard, Sean Marks, Max Kilman, Sam Barratt and Jake Goodman all departed. He’s set to sit down with the players in the coming weeks to discuss their future.
“Next season it’s going to be even tougher,” he said.
“But we want to play these big clubs and we’re looking forward to it.
“I hope we’ll be able to hold on to the squad but you just don’t know. I would imagine that three or four will go.
“We’ll start to talk to them in the next few weeks and we’ll have a better idea then. But, if we lose a few, the recruitment will have to be right because we can’t put ourselves in that situation again.”
With survival assured Devonshire admits he might experiment with players and formations in the next few games. But, with Ryan Upward and Ayo Obileye looking doubtful for tomorrow (Friday) he might not have that luxury.
“Barrow won’t be travelling all this way to have a bad game,” he said. “Then we play Eastleigh who are going for the play-offs and Chesterfield who are one of the league’s form teams.
“But the good thing is we can relax now, or enjoy these games without pressure. Hopefully we can finish well like we did last year but we’ll have to wait and see. Maybe it’s a chance to experiment, but we’ve also got a few injuries. Ryan Upward and Ayo Obileye are both struggling.”