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Bartley working to bring back Marlow FC's players in the best possible shape

Mark Bartley has admitted the disruption caused by the second national lockdown is hardly ideal, but the club is working with the players to ensure they come back next month in the best possible shape to continue their rise up the Isthmian League South Central Division.

The Blues had been playing their way into form in the weeks prior to lockdown, only for matches and training to be suspended until December 2 at the earliest. The consensus among managers at the level is that league matches won’t resume until December 12, allowing the players a week of training and the possibility of a friendly before the competitive action gets back underway.

“It’s not been ideal,” said Bartley. “We tried to do as much as we could to prepare for it because we could see it coming. So, we put a few things in place to try and keep the players in the right place fitness wise. But there’s only so much you can do and it’s not easy.

“There are only so many things you can do from a distance and you can’t really see how hard people are working. But I trust the group and believe they’re doing what we’ve asked of them.

“Fingers crossed on December 3 we can get going again and hit the ground running. We’d managed to get ourselves into a decent position before lockdown and we’ve got to maintain and build on that.”

Bartley also expects to have five or six potential starters back in contention to play

following lockdown after shrugging off injuries. It will add to the competition for places and give him selection headaches, but these are ‘good problems’ to have as a manager.

“One of the beneficial things is that we’ll have five or six players who were injured before coming back into contention,” said Bartley. “The reality is we’re going to have two matches a week from now on, so we’ll need the whole squad really.

“If you look at our last six games, we’ve only lost one

of them. We have a lot of

confidence that the squad can go on and build on that. The players coming back in are probable starters, so it will give me some tough decisions but that’s a good problem to have. It’s what you want as a manager.

“We’ve been canvassing opinion from managers at this level and the consensus is that December 12 feels like the best date to go back because it gives the players a full week of training before playing and I also wouldn’t be uncomfortable with that.

“The other thing I’ll be pushing for is the ability to use five substitutes. I think that’s important for us because the players don’t get a huge amount of recovery time between games. They have to get up and go to

work, so there’s a duty of care to the players when they’re playing two games a week. I think it’s something the league should consider.”

Marlow sit 10th in the table, two points off the play-off places in what Bartley expects will be one of the most open title and promotion races in recent seasons. They’re scheduled to play at Harlow Town on December 5, but if the resumption is pushed back to December 12, they’ll visit Hertford Town.

“Bracknell are probably one of the top sides in the league on present form, and we lost to them on penalties in the cup,” said Bartley. “Staines are towards the top and we beat them, Chertsey are another side who are up there, and we beat them. We’re good enough and it’s a very open league this year. There are eight or nine teams that could make the play-offs and a handful of those could win the league. For us it’s about getting back to the level we were at before we broke up.”

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