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Comley not surprised by Maidenhead United's disappointing start or subsequent turnaround in fortunes

James Comley admits Maidenhead United’s poor start to the season was disappointing, but he wasn’t at all surprised by it, or the turnaround in fortunes they’ve had since to take them up to fifth in the table.

Over the summer, and with the distraction of COVID-19 measures and the delayed start to the National League season, Maidenhead again had a huge turnover in players.

Six or seven new signings started the side’s first match at Sutton United and promptly lost it 3-0. Further defeats followed to King’s Lynn (3-2) and Hartlepool United (4-0) before those new players got to grip with manager Alan Devonshire’s styles and systems and Comley says it also took time for the players to get to know each other’s games.

“If you look at the starting line up at Sutton, there were at least six of seven new players,” he said. “We’d played a few friendlies together, but didn’t have that many and, because everyone is rotating you don’t really make those links with people or get to understand every little part of everyone’s game.

“With time you get to understand what little moves a player makes. Just in terms of the little turns they make, even how they take the ball from a pass. Are they going to cross it first time? Are they going to chop back? You don’t really know that until you’ve played a few proper games with each other. The links are starting to sure up now and come good.

“Even when you analyse the first three games, they were awful scorelines, but some of the performances weren’t too bad. At Sutton we dominated the first 20 minutes and they hit us on the counter and scored and we just crumbled from there.

“We led twice against King’s Lynn and if we’d got a point from that match we’d have said ‘that’s okay, we’re feeling our way in’. To concede twice in the final eight minutes was disappointing but also a bit unlucky. Then we played Hartlepool, in the first half we battered them, we had three golden opportunities and they then score the flukiest goal to go 1-0 up. We were then chasing the game and couldn’t find our way again.

“When you take the scorelines away and look at bits of the performance, you can’t be too hasty to rush to judgement. For certain parts of those games we did alright.

Despite winning their last four league games, Comley says the squad is still striving to improve and be better in certain areas. They’ve conceded first in each of their last three victories and Comley says they must get better at taking a game by the scruff of the neck from its opening exchanges. As a ball-playing midfielder he also wants to see them develop their possession-game, although he admits they’ve been exciting and fluid on the counter this season.

“Now we’ve been able to transfer that into our other games and put these decent phases together and turn it into goals,” he said. “We’re not a constant possession type of team, which is a bit frustrating for me because I like to get on the ball, but the quality we’ve had when we do have the ball has been fantastic.

“We’ve taken our opportunities really well in the last few games and hopefully that’s going to get better. We had a little blip in the FA Cup, but in the grand scheme of things that might not be such a bad thing. It could be a blessing in disguise because it’s a tough season in terms of fixtures and most months we have at least two Tuesday night games.

“But we’re enjoying ourselves, enjoying training and we’re working hard. We’ve got goals in us and hopefully we’ll just keep pushing, learning and progressing.”

He added: “In the first couple of games we went behind and then went into our shell. But we’ve gone behind in our last three games and have been able to pick ourselves up and come back into the game. It shows we’re making improvements, but we’ve got to grab the game by the scruff of the neck from the start.” Looking ahead to Saturday’s trip to Chesterfield, Comley added: “Chesterfield haven’t had the best of starts, but we went to Wrexham and Notts County and won those games off the back of not playing that well. Most teams can beat each other, you can’t take anyone for granted.”

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