Defensive qualities delight Maynard
Stuart Maynard is delighted in the turnaround in the club's defensive record after they kept an eighth clean sheet of the season on Tuesday night.
The Stones shipped nearly 100 goals last season, but Maynard and his assistant Matt Saunders have helped shore the team up, establish a defensive structure and they now have the fifth best home defensive record in the league, conceding just 12 goals.
"An eighth clean sheet is unbelievable," said Maynard. "We conceded 99 goals last season so to turn it around like this has been unbelievable from this group of lads. And it's not just the boys at the back. Josh Umerah's work rate was unbelievable. Medy Elito hasn't played for a long time and he worked his socks off. Jamie Mascoll down the other flank was unbelievable. It was a squad performance and we've had lads who had to come out of the team who were running on empty from Saturday. The lads who came in were outstanding."
The point against high riding Notts County at The Vale should not be sniffed at. The Magpies had won their last six matches and Maynard believes Ian Burchnall's side will be in the shake up for promotion to the Football League.
"Them and Stockport are the two best teams in the league," said Maynard. "And we have competed well against them. We created enough half chances in the first half to warrant a goal, but they have good players who get blocks in and their the goalie made good saves.
"We were good in posession. We were brave with the ball, moved it and controlled the game with the ball in the first half. We didn't get on the ball enough in the second half and sagged back a bit, and it looked like wave after wave [of sttacks[ but there was nothing too threatening and I don't think George [Wickens] had too many saves to make. We are delighted with the point."
The draw saw the Stones pull one further point clear of the bottom three and was further evidence of how the part-timers are digging deep and eeking everything out of their resources to compete with former league clubs. With the exception of the defeat at Torquay in October, the boys in blue and white have been competitive in every game this season and punched well above their weight.
"We just keep picking up points where we can," said Maynard. "We'll respect the point, even though we possibly edged the game and deserve a bit more. Games like this, in front of another crowd of a 1,500 plus, is why we are in the league and why we fight week in, week out and why we put all the preparation in. I felt we got the tactics right. The tactics change week to week. We don't just come into a game with and one set of tactics. We studied them from Sundayonwards and I felt we got both sides of our game right. We nullified their threats, kept them as quiet as we could and we exploited a few weakness."
The feel-good factor around the point against one of the promotion chasers was amplified by the sight of new signing David Sesay making his first appearance for the club, coming on as a second-half substitute. The excting right-sided player signed at the end of the November but his appearances have been limited due to injury, games being postponed and then the African Cup of Nations.
"We've got to be patient with him," said Maynard on the Watford Academy graduate. "He isn't going to set the world alight straight away. He'll take time to get up to speed. He'll be a top player for us. He's got pace, is direct and is a threat. We can't have the finished article. It takes time to [mould the player we want] and we are slowly piecing the puzzle together. It doens't happen overnight, especially with resources we have and the league we are in. We must just keep sticking togther. And not get too high when we win, or too low when we draw or lose."