Martin Badger Baker talked to assistant manager Steve Thompson on Thursday 6th March - two days after the 3-2 victory against Halifax.
Photo © 2019
MB: It was a magnificent win over Halifax. Was there any time where you thought we would be lucky to get something out of that?
ST: Halifax is never an easy place to go to, and when you go 2-0 down youre up against it, thats for sure. The one thing we know though is that we always create chances, so we know weve still got a chance even if we are a couple of goals behind. We took the chances we created in the second half. Its not a turning point of the season, because weve been going well all season but I think if we had dropped points, people would have felt that they had a gap that they could go for. Weve come out of two really tough games on paper Hereford and Halifax were both in the top five and weve come out with six points. Now if you had offered us four points before those two games we probably would have taken them, given the position that we are in. So its been great to come out of that with six points. What we have to do now is to consolidate on that because our next two games, Woking and Leigh, see us playing against teams that are much lower than those two. So it would be a shame to get six points against two high-flyers, but then drop points against two that are in the bottom six.
MB: Well probably very different performances from Woking and Leigh, because whilst Halifax attacked us with a lot of flair, these two sides will probably show a lot of passion and desire to stay up.
ST: Yes, both Woking and Leigh are fighting for their survival to stay in the Conference, so in that respect they are not easy games. But they are games where if we play well, we will win them, so we have to make sure we play well.
MB: Weve won eleven and drawn one in 2003. Thats amazing consistency, because teams often have off-days yet the most weve had this year has been an off half or two like the first half at Halifax. Whats the secret of that consistency?
ST: People have said that the first half was an off half but we could have been 2-0 up before they even scored. We had two good chances in the first 10 minutes. When they got the two goals, I must admit it did rock us and we had a 20 minute spell where we were a bit all over the place. Eleven wins and one draw is down to lots of things. Its good management and its great ability on the players behalf. Fitness plays a role because by this time of year youve been going for quite a while. So its not one thing its a combination of lots of things that weve put together this year. We did quite well last year, but weve gone another step in that games that we would have drawn or maybe not come back from last year are now being won.
MB: Have you set any points target of where you want to be, or are you just wanting to wait until the mathematicians tell you its all over?
ST: Gary is more one for points totals than myself and he has set a points target of 84 points. The reason for 84 points is that it is two a game. Ive never set a points total and one of the reasons why is that I lost the league with 93 points when I was at Wycombe! I was distraught that year when Colchester pipped us on goal difference, so I tend not to use points totals and just concentrate on staying above the team that is our main danger. If you ask me what I think will win it then I think that 86 points. But youve got to be careful as Colchester were unbeaten in their last eleven games. So youve got to be careful and weve got to try and get every point that we can. It would be nice to think that 84 or 86 is the target that would win it, but that season with Colchester was a freak season and you never know if you might get a freak season this year.
MB: When you won the Conference title with Wycombe, at what stage did you honestly feel inside you that you had won it, as you won it by a very large margin?
ST: We were about 14 points up in March, so it was quite a similar position to where we are in March. What happened then was that the next two weeks when really well for us. We won games and Bromsgrove, Yeovil and Slough lost or drew games and so wed wrapped it up by late March or early April with a trip to Gateshead. Id love for that to happen here because it was great playing in the last month of the season having already won the league and then just being able to look forward to the Trophy games. You still went to play well, as a player, to try and keep your place for the Trophy team, but it is great to go out there as Champions and to be able to savour what was six or seven games as Champions. There was no pressure, and so you just go out and enjoy your football. Supporters still want to see you play because you are Champions. So Id love for that to happen for us to have a really great three weeks and for other teams to have a poor three weeks. But Im asking a lot because there are a lot of teams around 11 or 13 points behind and I dont think all of them are going to have a bad time. It might turn out that they all have a good time and that it keeps the pressure on us. All three of Doncaster, Chester and Dagenham are still dangers. But youve got to look at Doncaster as being that main danger because theyve got the three extra points and that could be important for them.
MB: Looking back at the Wycombe championship season, I recall that Yeovil put a minor dent in Wycombes hopes by winning 3-0!
ST: Yes, I dont think wed actually won it at that point. We got a tongue-lashing from Martin ONeill after that games, with words to the effect of youve not won it yet! But that was a blip because we went on to have a good run again, and had it wrapped up by the end of March. Yes, it is possible that we may lose one. If you offered me now just one defeat in the last nine games, Id take it because I think that would almost certainly ensure that wed be champions, unless we drew six or seven of them. Its not over yet, but that was a mighty result against Halifax because people would have seen our two results against Hereford and Halifax and thought that if Yeovil had got one or no points from those two games, then there would have been a chink of light for them. But whereas we havent shut the door on them, weve certainly closed it a little bit more. And weve knocked Hereford and Halifax out of the Championship race thats for sure, but there are three teams to go. We play all those late on in the season, so we would prefer those sides not to be in with a chance when we play them. Thats why these games against teams who are half-way and below are so important, because if you win those three games, you make the games against those three top-placed teams irrelevant. We want to win the next three games and take pressure off us.
MB: Our crowds for this season have also followed a similar pattern to Wycombes in that theyd been very successful the previous season, and all the fans that saw them then all came back for the whole of the Championship season.
ST: Yes, I think that Yeovil and Wycombe have got great parallels. Wycombes average crowds went up to just over 4,000 and I think Yeovils must be around 4,500. I think that Yeovil can do what Wycombe have done and consolidate themselves as a good Nationwide Division Two club, and even aim higher. Lawrie Sanchez at Wycombe is even hoping he can get Wycombe into Division One. That shows you where their ambitions are set at now. Our ambitions are obviously to get into Division Three, but as soon as we get there, we will want to aim for Division Two, because I honestly believe we have the potential to equal, if not better, what Wycombe have done in the past ten years.
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