10:00AM, Saturday 20 November 2021
Slough Town have been a team transformed in recent weeks and joint manager Jon Underwood can pinpoint the moment their fortunes began to change for the better.
The Rebels hadn't won in seven matches heading into their game at Havant & Waterlooville on October 23.
They'd been playing well but coming out on the wrong side of closely contested games, however, at Havant they led 2-0 before coming under the cosh in the second half.
The home side pulled one goal back and had a golden opportunity to rescue a point in the 96th minute, but a crucial block on the line saw them win for the first time since the opening day of the campaign, and Slough haven't looked back since.
They backed up that crucial win with a solid 2-0 victory over Bath City at Arbour Park, were denied all three points by a late goal at Concord Rangers (1-1) and then got the better of promotion hopefuls Maidstone (1-0) and Dorking Wanderers (2-1) in consecutive matches.
This run of four wins from five has seen the Rebels edge their way back up the table and they're now within three points of the play-offs ahead of three winnable looking games against Eastbourne Borough, Tonbridge Angels and Hemel Hempstead Town.
Eastbourne is a place where they've enjoyed some success in recent seasons, and Underwood is hopeful that the Rebels will be in and amongst the battle for a play-off spot by the time they get into the critical Christmas and New Year period.
“Confidence plays a big part,” he said. “It does definitely.
“We went seven without a win. We were trying to keep the players positive and trying to make them believe in themselves, but there’s only so much you can do.
“They need that win to really feel it themselves.
“When we went to Havant and got the win that started this run, the confidence just flooded back into them.
“It’s all about confidence, mindset and mentality.
“That’s half the battle. We’ve gone from not knowing how to win to feeling invincible. Of course, we’re going to lose again but you don’t go into games feeling like that’s a possibility, you feel like you’re going to get at least a draw when you feel like this.”
A change of system and shape has also helped bring the best from a squad that's blessed with youthful pace and enthusiasm - fresh from the u23s Academy - but also experience, with the likes of Guy Hollis, Lee Togwell, Mark Nisbet, Sean Fraser, Matty Lench, Scott Harris, Ben Harris and now Warren Harris all playing their part.
“We’ve got a real mix,” said Underwood. “We have got some younger ones in there this year, but we’ve also got some good experience.
“We’ve got a lot of energy in the side and if you talk to opposing managers, they’re always talking about our work rate and desire and how hard it is to compete with us on that front. It’s important to us.
“In terms of a turning point the real low was going out of the FA Cup to Whitehawk. After that we responded well. We played well at Hungerford but conceded a late goal. And we played well against Ebbsfleet, who I think are the best team in the league, but they came back and won that one.
“Things didn’t quite go our way. That’s how we were feeling.
“The turning point was at Havant and we fully deserved to win that one, but we also saved one off the line in the 96th minute which would have cost us two points and if that had gone in that would have really affected us.
“We had a 2-0 lead in the game and if we’d dropped points there it would have really hurt us.
“You could maybe call that moment a turning point.”
He added: “But it's not like we were terrible back then and we're brilliant now.
“It’s not black and white sometimes, a referee’s decision, a missed chance, all sorts of things, but things are going our way at the moment and we’re making our own luck, but things could turn again.
“Having had the experience of going through a difficult spell, if it comes again hopefully, we’ll be able to ride it out.”
A number of schools across in Maidenhead and the surrounding areas have been named as top performers in Parent Power, The Sunday Times Schools Guide 2022.