Maynard "absolutely delighted" as Stones storm up to second in National League
Stuart Maynard was most satisfied with the first clean sheet of the season his side kept as the Stones roared up to second in the National League on the back of a third win in four games.
Maynard choreographed a 16th-place finish last season on the back of double-figure clean sheets – and the manager was keen to get his side back to that level of obduracy.
At the fourth time of asking, after conceding two against Bromley, one controversially at Eastleigh and one at Oldham, the boys in blue claimed a shut-out yesterday to padlock a 1-0 home win over FC Halifax.
"The clean sheet is massive," said Maynard. "We got 14 last season and I'm a firm believer that they bring you success. And we deserved it. I'm absolutely delighted with it as we had to dig deep for it.
"The first half was an outstanding performance from the lads. And I think we scored another goal like we did at Oldham, probably 15 to 20 passes. It's great for the lads to be playing some of the football they are playing and to be able to put their foot on the ball and be brave. We had to be patient today. We knew we'd get possession around the back and we knew we had to be patient, using the goalie to get us out and then the gaps eventually open up. Some of the movement from the lads was unbelievable."
Ashley Charles was the heartbeat of the performance, dictating play from the base of midfield, spreading the ball from left to right and putting out any fires in front of the back four.
"He's one of the unsung heroes," said Maynard. "He's getting on the ball and showing what a good technician he is. He works so hard for the team and covers the ground of two or three players. He gets better and better and him, Max and Fergy complement each other so well. They run players away with their pace and power and then Charlesy can get on the ball. He was outstanding today."
Dom Hutchinson, another who came through the system at Watford, was not far behind Charles in the Man-of-the-Match stakes. He worked his socks off in his new role on the right and got in behind as often as he got back to defend.
"He's got pace, athleticism and end product," said Maynard. "He's still finding his feet at this level. He got goals and assists for Eastbourne and I think he can do that for us. First and foremost his work ethic was great. The work ethic is key and that's why we are having the results we are."
Maynard agreed his side are becoming more streetwise, which is helping them to close games out against vaunted opposition like Oldham and FC Halifax. He said the experience of new boys Max Kretzschmar and Sam Habergham has added know-how to the group and they will be vital in helping to keep feet on the floor after a flying start to the season.
"Winning breeds confidence which is good," said Maynard. "Our job is to not look too far ahead as you can't afford to do that in this division. You can lose seven on the bounce quite easily. Grimsby came here last season as a top team. We beat them and then after that, they didn't win a game in nine. It can happen to anyone, so we've just got to keep focussing on one game at a time."
* Pictures by Jon Taffel