PREVIEW | The boss previews Torquay
Wealdstone boss Stuart Maynard goes up against his former mentor Gary Johnson this weekend seeking to turn a promising start from the season into a very good one.
Perched in 14th place with two wins and eight draws from eight very watchable games, the Stones make the long trip to Torquay on Saturday to take on last season's play-off finalists (fans can get their tickets for Saturday's game by clicking HERE). The Gulls are managed by Johnson who was the Academy Director at Watford when Maynard was a promising midfielder at Vicarage Road.
"Torquay are a strong side and we expect them to be right in the mix at the end of the season," said Maynard. "I know Gary very well from my time at Watford and he got Torquay to the final last season. I watched the game and on another day they could now be a Football League club. They had two goals disallowed and one of them wasn't offside and one of them wasn't a foul, so they were really close to being promoted. They've taken time to reset, and that can happen after you get so close, but they will get there. This will be a big test for us as they will have a vocal ground down there."
But the Stones have not been short of a decibel or two in the away end this season and Maynard believes the support of the fans was a big factor behind really encouraging performances at the top two, Dagenham & Redbridge and Chesterfield, the thrilling showing at Notts County and the win at King's Lynn.
"The noise feels like we have five-and-a-half thousand in the away end!" said Maynard. "I said it in the summer: our fans can be our twelfth man and I don't think the fans matter more to any club in the league than they do to us. They make home games really hostile and then are out-singing the likes of Notts County when we go away. They really helped us against King's Lynn on Saturday when we had difficult patches and I know the players really appreciate it."
The players in this new-look squad have responded to the return of the fans with some really encouraging displays and the team is really starting to take shape under Maynard and his trusty assistant Matt Saunders in their first full season in charge.
"It's a good start to the season," said Maynard. "The performances have warranted a bit more and we might well have got a bit more had we been a bit more clinical. We used pre-season to get our philosophy across, which is about being a possession-based team who play at a high intensity, and the players been really receptive. We got a lot of prep work done in pre-season on patterns of play and how to combat different formations. Now we just tweak things for each game. We also worked hard on our fitness and that's shown. We are now finishing games stronger if anything. I think there is more to come, especially if we get a bit of luck and keep everyone fit."
Stones boss Maynard also spoke about his newest recruit, loan signing Jay Bird from Milton Keynes Dons. "He's a player we've had our eye on for a while and it hasn't quite happened. It's been in the pipeline and I think it will be a really good addition to the squad. He will bring a lot to the team and gives us that strength in depth. He can play up there with Josh [Umerah] and can link the player very well. He's been on the bench for MK Dons this season and scored in a Trophy game, so he's a good player."
Josh Umerah goes up against his former side this weekend and Maynard was full of praise for his striker. "You need proven goalscorers in this league, but they cost money so we have to recruit in a different way. We research players long and hard and we've been tracking Josh for a while. We all thought he was just lacking game time and a bit of consistency. He's worked so hard for us, occupied defenders and been a real handful. He's been on fire for us and long may it continue!"
Maynard also spoke about fellow summer signing Charlie Cooper who scored the winner at King's Lynn last week. "Charlie had a few options in the summer and we're delighted he chose us. He has a really good pedigree and is a really good modern-day midfielder who does a bit of everything. He helps us move the ball quickly, gets up and down the pitch, puts his foot in and is now adding goals to his game. He didn't have a proper pre-season so we think he'll get better and better, which is great for us."
Stuart Maynard spoke with Kevin Affleck ahead of Saturday's game.