Marlow were without 'a spring in their step' for final game of the season

Having fallen short in their quest for a play-off place, manager Mark Bartley (above) noticed the players - and management team - were lacking 'a spring in their step' as they fell to a 3-1 defeat against Westfield on the final day of the season.

The Blues’ hopes of a top five finish were ended by their 1-0 home defeat to Thatcham Town the previous week, but there was a definite sense of deflation as the season closed on another disappointing note.

They finished the campaign nine points adrift of the top five after a poor second half of the campaign and were left to watch on this week as Bedfont Sports, Hanwell Town, Chertsey Town and Basingstoke Town contested the play-off semi-finals.

Injuries and illness hampered their form from January onwards and the club managed just five wins from the middle of January onwards. Bartley highlighted the lack of depth in his squad this week and, when gaps needed filling, he was forced to sign players from other teams who struggled to settle and adapt to the club's style of play.

Had he been able to call up players from a youth or u23s team, he might have been able to cover those unfortunate injuries and maintain the club's early season form.

“Saturday was what Saturday was. Our season was essentially over for us in the sense that we couldn’t make the play-offs, so we made a few changes and gave a few other people a run-out,” said Bartley.

“We played okay, and we probably should have been two or three goals up before they scored their first. After that, the game just petered out into a bit of a dead rubber. Once we realised that we couldn’t make the play-offs, I think the group lost the spring in their step, which can understandably happen.

“Westfield’s season had been over for a while, so the game was a bit of a free hit for them. For us, we were still nursing the disappointment of being edged out of the play-offs really.

“We’re all naturally frustrated because for the longest part of the season, we’d been good enough to be in there. But one of the things that really hurt us this year was when we picked up injuries or had unavailability.”

He added: “If you have an u23s setup then you are coaching the same philosophy and the same ideology as the first team. Then, when you pick up an injury, and you ask someone to step up, the system wouldn’t be foreign to them.

“We do play slightly differently to other teams and there are jobs I ask people to do that are different to what they have been asked to do before.

“What we found was that when we had our first XI or even the first 14 available, we were flying. When you look back to our early season form, we were resilient, not conceding goals, and creating plenty of opportunities.

“That was because I had everyone available. But when we picked up knocks and you don’t have an u23s or even a reserves outfit to source from, you have to go out and sign a new player.

“You have to put a seven-day approach in, you must hope the conversation goes well, and if it doesn’t, then you have to put another seven-day approach in. Suddenly, you could find yourself with two or three weeks on the hunt for a player to accommodate an injury and with all that combined, you could drop several points and lose a little bit of momentum.

“So, that’s a big thing we have spoken about introducing next season and the club seem quite keen to do that.

“There are maybe two or three small other tweaks I see that can make a massive impact in terms of the overall success of the club. That’s what we will be talking about over the next week.”

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