Ahead of their visit to Plainmoor on Saturday, United manager Gary Johnson highlighted the potential threat posed by their opponents, Dartford.
“They’re on a good run of form, we seem to be saying that about everyone we’re playing against at the moment, but they are on a good run of form,” said Johnson
“We remember down there we scored two late goals, I think their manager said in the week that they were the better team for part of that game, so they will be feeling confident because they’ve been on a good run. Of course it’s very important for us to make sure we keep the pressure on the new leaders. We’ve looked at all the fixtures, and we felt that they would get a result at Oxford, even though they nearly didn’t. I’m saying that because, of course, you need to keep an eye on your rivals but you can’t do a lot about it until you play them. That’s when you can do a lot about it, because it’s a six pointer on the day. Up until that day, both teams have got to look over their shoulders a little bit at some of the other teams. You’ve got to be professional, you’ve got to win, concentrate and focus on the next game, and Dartford is the next game.”
Having narrowly missed out on the National League South title last season, Dartford are living proof of the importance of winning the title, and therefore securing the one automatic promotion place on offer, a point not lost on the gaffer.
“We need to win the league. If you had a crystal ball and you knew you would go up anyway, the best way of doing it is through the play-offs but we haven’t got a crystal ball, so we don’t want to take that chance. Everyone wants to win the league outright because that’s the best way to do it, the safest way to do it.”
With seven of United’s last nine fixtures against teams in the top half of the table, any reward will have to be earned the hard way. Johnson though, has every faith in his young squad.
“We’ve both got tough run-ins, and you’ve got to be careful when you start saying ‘there’s three points there and there’s three points there’, everyone is capable, as we know from Weston beating us and East Thurrock beating some of the big teams. Dartford weren’t right up there early on and beat Woking twice and Bath twice, you’ve got to get your game right. As I keep saying every week, we’re at the level where we are and that’s an inconsistent level of players, so we have to try and be the most consistent and that’s what we’re trying to achieve. If you do that, then I’m confident that my boys will put everything into it and if we’re good enough we’ll do it. If not, we’ll be just short. We’ll have to wait and see, but I still maintain that with our support and the way our player’s mental state is at the moment, I’m hoping we are in a good position to kick on.”
Although predominantly a young group of players, experienced heads such as Asa Hall and Ryan Dickson have both played vital roles over the past few weeks, and Johnson has been delighted with their contribution, both on and off the pitch.
“You’ve got to think about their older heads, but you don’t want to worrying about their older legs! All of them now are as athletic and as comfortable in their bodies as they need to be and they have all done well. Ryan Dickson, the most recent one, has done very well, and they’re all good captains. They talk to the younger players when they need to, they enhance what the manager is preaching when they need to, and the good thing is they are boys that are totally behind what we’re doing. They’ve got that belief in where they are with their own game, and the team’s game, so that’s when you get that feeling that you’re not going to be far away.”
With the Woking away match on April 6th capturing the Yellow Army’s imagination this week, United’s manager is mindful for his team to remain focused on the job in hand, rather than look any further ahead.
“When it comes round it will be a key game, but not now it’s not because we’ve got these other teams. What we’ve got to make sure is that we make the Woking game a very important game by winning the next few. That’s what we’ve got to do, and I’m sure they’re thinking the same. You’ve got to be careful and not get ahead of yourself, there’s only nine games left but you have to really, really focus on the next game each time.”
This week it was announced that the recently postponed home match against Chelmsford had been scheduled for April 2nd, just four days before the Woking game. As ever though, Johnson is keen to stress the importance of remaining positive in every situation.
“I’ll keep my views to myself I think, I don’t want to create another iceberg. We’ll just play the game when it’s been given to us and we’ll look forward to that when it comes round. You could look at that as a positive in some instances, and you could look at it as a negative in some instances, we’re going to try to make it a positive and we’ll certainly do that. The lads know I wouldn’t have any of them being negative about anything, so we’re only looking at the positives and that’ll help us through this very important period of time.”
On the injury front, United have almost a clean bill of health, with only Jake Andrews causing concern this week.
“Everyone is OK, Jake Andrews is the only one with a slight knock from last week, he’s had an X-ray because we thought it might be a little broken metatarsal, but touch wood and thank God it was OK so he’s come through it. He trained yesterday with everybody else. Jamie Sendles-White is obviously available as he was last week, so that’s a full squad from the players that we’ve got.”
National League South | Torquay United Vs Dartford | 16/03/19 | Plainmoor | If this is your first visit to Plainmoor click here.