Following an extended break from league action due to positive COVID tests in the Aldershot Town squad, Danny Searle’s squad return to host Altrincham FC on Saturday.
Games against Notts County and Torquay United were postponed after a disappointing FA Trophy exit two weekends ago and after ten days of self-isolation for the squad, Searle is expecting a tough challenge from this weekend’s visitors.
Q: Danny, Altrincham at home after an extended break, what’s your thoughts ahead of the game?
“Yeah, it’s been obviously frustrating because we want to play games and we’ve obviously missed two through COVID which has not been good because it’s not been a precautionary thing, we’ve actually had players test positive, so we’ve all had to isolate.
“I think, when you have a break sometimes, but you can still be in training, it’s not the worst thing in the world because you can recover players, you can get people doing what you want them to do and you can work on stuff. The fact that we’ve not been able to get in has made it difficult.
“We’ve been in good form so hopefully we can pick that up quite quickly against what is a good side. We’ve watched them quite a bit, they play some great football and obviously they’re in the top half of the table for a reason.”
Q: A small period without football, does that change the preparation of the game with the hectic fixture schedule?
“Hectic is the probably only word you can use for it. With the re-arranged fixtures the have been published now, we’re pretty much Saturday-Tuesday for quite a long period of time.
“Look, the break could have been a blessing in disguise, giving us a nice mid-season break before we go into that last slog.
“I think the preparations have been a combination of the two this week, once we’ve got back into the building, it’s a little bit of sharpness work to try and get some miles in those legs but also with the conscious point of we have got Altrincham on Saturday, so we have got to learn what we need to do set up against them.
So yeah, it’s not been great, it’s not been the best preparation in the sense of time, but we’ve done the best of what we could with what we had.”
Q: What is the latest in terms of who’s available?
“It’s probably easier to tell you who is available, we’ve got quite a few out. I think we’ve got seven or eight out who are not available for Saturday.
“I don’t want to give too much away because there’s a couple we haven’t made decisions on yet but we’re going to be missing quite a few bodies on Saturday unfortunately.
“But it is what it is and we have to roll our sleeves up and get on with it. We’ve got a squad for a reason and we trust the players and we believe, given the opportunity, they can all prove their worth so it’s a great opportunity for them to go out and, for some of them, make their debuts.”
Q: With the big squad we have it’s important that the ones who maybe wouldn’t have started step up and take their chance.
“That’s the part of being a professional football player and it frustrates me at times, and this is at all levels, you kind of get a group of players who sometimes haven’t been in the starting lineup and they almost get into the mindset of being squad players.
“One thing we know this season, with the amount of players we’ve had to use, you’re going to get an opportunity and when you get that opportunity, you’ve got to be ready. Because that’s your job. Footballs a great thing to be involved in, it’s a great sport, it’s got everything everyone dreams of.
“But It’s still a job, you’ve still got standards to reach, you’ve still got work to do and you have to be ready when called upon. Touchwood, so far this season, all our players have done that and there will be a chance for a couple on Saturday to again prove their worth and show us what they’re capable of doing.
With their work ethic in training, I have no worries about it.”
Q: Obviously, we had the disappointing FA Trophy result, maybe that’s an incentive to go out there and put a performance in on Saturday.
“If you look at the league table now, we’re actually the team with quite a few games in hand. That’s a little bit of a double-edged-sword at times because, as a manager you’d probably rather have the points on the board than have to worry about catching up.
“But, circumstances are that we have got games in hand on teams. The priority this season was to make sure the club was a National League team for next season, that doesn’t change.
“But, have a go, the shackles are off a little bit. Let’s have a little run and see what comes at the end of it. We’re not going to be making any predictions or forecasts on what we expect to happen. But what we can say is this team is capable.
“As proven many times this season, we’re as good a match as anyone in this league, it’s that little consistency that we keep talking about that we’re trying to improve. Let’s get to the end of March, see how we go, and you never know – we could be in a position where we’re looking up rather than down.”
Q: It shows how quick the games come around, we’ve gone from playing one of the teams playing most in the league to being one of the teams with games in hand.
“We play Altrincham on Saturday, we’ve got four games in hand on Altrincham. I don’t think anyone has got as many games in hand as Dover have. But yeah, I think we’ve got games in hand. But they don’t mean anything. You could have ten games in hand, if you lose all ten games, it’s irrelevant.
“We’ve got to make sure we’re focused, we’re on it. In my opinion, we’ve got 20 mini cup finals. Go and try to win every game. Let’s not think about nicking a point here, we’re going to and try to win every game and see where that takes us.”
Q: Looking at Altrincham, they’re a completely new side. They had a load of new signings from the last time we played them, 2-1 away
“It’s amazing isn’t it that so many clubs, and Altrincham are not one of these to be fair, but lots of clubs have spoken about financial difficulties but all seem to be signing players still – it’s crazy.
“I was really impressed with Altrincham when we beat them up there and I said at the time I think people will realise what a great result that was because they went on a run. I think they ended up in fourth position at one point.
“One of the better footballing teams, that’s a credit to our boys to go and take three points up there but obviously our job on Saturday is to make sure they don’t reverse the result.”
Q: You said at the time it was a result that a lot of people would not think too much of but it was a great result given the situation, the performance and the situation at the game as well.
“I think, from our perspective, you’re playing away from home against a team that’s good on the ball, they dominate possession, they’re effective with what they do. Those are the games where you probably think ‘let’s get a point today, let’s make sure we don’t get beat’ Listen, we went and took all three.
“I think that almost triggered them, I think they won four or five in a row.
“Look, we’ve got to make sure when they come here on Saturday that we’re at our best, not necessarily always performance-wise but our work-rate, to make sure we nullify what they bring and probably try and create a few problems of our own.”
Q: New to the league this season, a bit of a dark horse as well?
“There’s so little between, without being disrespectful to the south, I think the teams coming out of the north seem to adapt to this level of football a lot quicker. You look at when Hereford came here in the Trophy, I thought they were brilliant on the day. Granted, I think we flattered them a bit because I don’t think we performed to our level but I thought they were brilliant. I look at them and I think ‘wow,’ you could comfortably see them playing in our league.
“So yeah, they’re a bit of a dark horse but you know the teams that are coming out of that area are going to be difficult to handle.”
Q: You mentioned the teams who would maybe go out there and look for a point, one of those teams was Hartlepool, their last game, 1-1
“I think when your opposition go down to ten men, you want to push and get the three points but Hartlepool have been in great form and one of the favourites to get promoted this season. They had to dig in and they dug in for a long period of time and to be fair play they even scored when they went down to ten men so it was a tough game for both teams.
“The bottom line is any points gained in this league against any opposition are good. You can never look at a game and think ‘ah that was two points dropped.’ If you’re 5-0 up with ten minutes to go and you concede five goals and draw the game the maybe. But generally, anyone you play in this league, if you don’t get beat then you’ve done a job.
“On Saturday, when we play Altrincham, our thought process is not only do we not want to lose, but we 100% are going to go all out to win the game.”
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