Dean Brennan's Pre-Match Thoughts
Ahead of Wealdstone’s final August fixture against Maidstone United this Saturday, Dec O’Reilly spoke to Manager Dean Brennan as we welcome the Kent-based Stones to The Vale this weekend in the National League South.
“Connor [Smith] felt he was alright [to play Weymouth] until he started the warm-up and doing his fitness test, so we decided there was no point having him on the bench and was replaced by Matty Saunders.
“Phil Roberts had a stamp on his leg last Saturday [against Hungerford], he was unfit and there was no point him travelling down there [to Weymouth]. He had quite a bad gash on his leg.
“Aston [Oxborough] we’ll know today [Thursday]. He was passed fit to train this evening by the Norwich City club doctor so we’ll wait to get the all-clear for the weekend. I’ll know in the next couple of hours about Aston.
“The other two [Connor Smith and Phil Roberts] we won’t know until we go to training with them but they should be fit and available for selection.”
On Maidstone United…
“I’ve watched about six of their games on the tape, they are a very hardworking side [that] are very organised. [They are] quite defence-minded but they do have pace, I know Justin Amaluzor who I had on loan twice at Hemel [Hempstead].
“They’ve got good experience in goal and a centre-half as well as in the full-back areas, with good athleticism. They are a well-drilled side and [I have] no doubt that come next April, they will be in the mix because that’s where they are expected to be and they have a manager [John Still] who’s been there, done that and got the t-shirt.
“It’s a game we are really looking forward to because these are the games we want to be playing in. Maidstone have gone five unbeaten now and gave Chelmsford a little bit of a hiding on Monday, so there’s no doubt it will be a difficult game but one we’re definitely looking forward to.”
On this fixture showing what level we are at…
“With managers like John Still [at Maidstone] and Paul Doswell [at Havant & Waterlooville], they are so experienced and they know they have the capabilities with their financial resources to win ten [games] on the bounce, especially as they are both full-time [clubs]. That could even be the last ten games of the season when the pressure is really on.
“What we have to do is make sure that we enjoy it. Our squad will know how Maidstone play and how every team in the division plays, we try and prepare the same way every week and play how we want to play. For us, it’s key that we play on the front foot again and show what we can do which we have done, in patches, over the last two games.”
On making The Vale a fortress again this weekend…
“I spoke about this a lot in pre-season, everyone wants to have a strong home record. What’s so important for us is that we take it one game at a time and as I always say, we can only affect the next game.
“What I would say is we need to control games a bit better on the ball, I know we play a lot of good football but I would like us to control the game a bit better and not like a basketball game.
“On Monday [at Weymouth], we got ourselves in a brilliant position at three-one and made it like a basketball game and Weymouth scored two good goals. We need to make sure we dominate the game on the ball and then wear the opposition down.
“Out of our three home games so far, two of them [Dartford and Hungerford] have been played in blistering heat and the [dry] pitch hasn’t helped the way we want to play.
“Hopefully we can find a solution for that, we need to get our pitch slick if we can, I know we don’t have a sprinkler system but a wet pitch would help us at home to move the ball quicker and move the opposition that come [to The Vale], sit in and be defensive-minded against us.”
On the challenge of facing another team in-form…
“Both teams are going well at the minute, John [Still] has the majority of his players fit. I know [George] Elokobi was subbed off before half-time on Monday [against Chelmsford] but they’ve been preparing all week while our lads [players] have been going to work, so it does make a difference over a forty-week season.”
On the importance of scoring first…
“We have to make sure we take the game to them because the first goal is going to be very important. If they [Maidstone] score first then they can defend in numbers and that’s what they are good at. They can also hit you on the counter-attack because they have a lot of speed up top.
“While we’re setting a tempo early in the game, it’s important that we still control the game with the ball while penetrating in our play as well. What was pleasing on Monday [at Weymouth] is when we did go one-down, we totally dominated the half after that. What we were shy of is that we didn’t get a two-goal lead [before half-time] which our play deserved.
“We have to make sure that we don’t sit-back when we get into those [leading] positions and we keep playing with the efficiency that got us into that [leading] position in the first place.”
On what we achieved last weekend…
“We’ll keep improving and work hard again in training. I know the players are very honest in their work rate and their work ethic as a team has been excellent. Our supporters were fantastic last weekend and the mental strength of the team and the fans drove us over the line. Collectively, we should be proud of what we achieved [six points from six] last weekend.
“I don’t look at our lead [at the top of the table], I look at the points accumulated, our goals for and against because that’s all that’s going to matter. If someone goes and gets more points than us then that’s because they are a better team than us. We can only affect our points that we accumulate.
“A team could have won seven out of seven and be on twenty-one points but nobody’s done that. We’ve won six out of seven and that’s all we can affect, I can’t affect what John Still does, what Paul Doswell does or what Ian Herring does, we can’t affect what anyone does. We just need to focus on what we can achieve and get to the points total and points per game ratio we set ourselves, then we’ll have an unbelievable season.”