'I'm so pleased for the players and the fans, but we must work even harder now'
A proud Stuart Maynard said this trailblazing Wealdstone side are even starting to surprise him after they showed such adaptability and character to dig out a 1-0 win at Gateshead.
The Stones lost key defender Mason Barrett to injury after 20 minutes and then Deji Elerewe to a red card after 52 minutes, but they displayed a wonderful team spirit and togetherness to protect a goal from Rhys Browne after 44 minutes like their lives depended on it.
"Huge credit has got to go to the lads," said Maynard. "I think we showed a side of our game today that even us as a management team didn't think we had: that real togetherness to grind it out. The lads coming into the group, like Sam Habergham, like Max Kretzschmar, like Lewis Kinsella who come on today. He's been out the squad and when we say 'You're out the squad and you're going to play a key part' it's hard to really believe it, but he come on and he was absolutely outstanding. You don't really want to single out individuals but there's just a couple that have come into the group and their professionalism and their experiences have taken the whole group to another level of winning. Everyone wants to win the small-sided games in training. The levels have gone through the roof."
A fourth win in five games took the club to the top of the Non League pyramid for the first time in 37 years.
"It's a hugely proud moment and I'm just delighted for the 150 fans that travelled. It's absolutely incredible to make the journey with the way the fuel prices are, the train strikes and everything that's going on at the minute. It's great for us to be able to give that little bit back from the lads who gave absolutely everything on the pitch. I think we got what we deserved.
"It was a bit of a game of two halve. They looked on top until the red card really and then sort of changed their style of play. Sometimes when you go down to 10 men everyone covers that extra 10 yards a little bit quicker. We went to two banks of four and it's hard to break down. They've put some shift in."
There is precious little time to revel in the league position as the team are back in action tomorrow (Monday) at home to Yeovil, 3pm kick-off at The Vale.
"You've we've just got to keep taking one game at a time," said Maynard. "Football changes very quickly. You can go lose six or seven on the bounce, so we've just got to make sure that we keep on top of it and keep looking to pick points up and keep going one game at a time. We can't get ahead of ourselves, we can't look at batches of fixtures and think, 'Oh we can get points here and there'. It doesn't work like that. If you take your eye off the ball, then you just get punished so we've just got to make sure that we keep going one game at a time now and keep the work ethic going. The work ethic's been absolutely outstanding and the togetherness in the group has been brilliant.
"We've got to work even harder when you're at the top as people want to shoot you down. We know what this league's about. We knew that what we were bringing in in the summer and we knew we had to be patient and we just got to stick together now and keep going game by game. We've got a points target and we've got to get to that as quick as we can. Then you reassess once we get to it. We can't get ahead of ourselves."
Make sure you are there tomorrow (Monday) to cheer on the league leaders against Yeovil Town. Click HERE to get your tickets in advance