Dec 17 2010 By Jon Batham
GORDON Bartlett has challenged his young guns not to rest on their laurels after their gallant FA Trophy exit to Newport this week.
The Stones boss compared the extra-time loss to the Conference high-flyers to last season’s heroic FA Cup defeat at home to Rotherham.
Back then the 3-2 defeat to the Millers proved a peak in Stones’ season and they ultimately missed out on the play-offs as their form fell away.
This time Bartlett hopes the spirit and togetherness gained from the trophy run can inspire a second half of the season dash up the table, starting with the trip to strugglers Folkestone on Saturday.
He said: "The spirit around the place is brilliant and whereas last year we had a big game and we lost 3-2 to Rotherham and our season changed on that for the worse, this year I sincerely hope we use this as a building block for the rest of the season."
The two games with Newport, which followed wins in earlier rounds away to both Kingstonian and Brackley, have fuelled a sense of growing momentum at Grovesnor Vale.
Established young players like Alan Massey and Lee Chappell appear back to their best, while newer kids on the block like Kurtney Brooks, Alex Dyer and James Hammond have underlined the potential which didn’t quite flourish previously at Football League clubs.
Bartlett sees it as pay-off for keeping the faith.
He said: "These are good young players who will have little dips in form - it’s a fact of life. What you have got to do is trust them - we’ve done that and now we are getting the rewards."
Wes Parker and Sean Cronin are among those in a race to be fit for the trip to Kent.
Both missed the replay because of the flu, while keeper Jonathan North’s man of the match heroics came despite a recurrence of the migraine problem which forced him out of the previous round at Brackley.
Bartlett admitted the 19-year-old youth international’s condition is a bit of a mystery.
He added: "I think it’s something Jonathan has suffered from before and it has re-appeared a couple of times now.
"He’s just started a new job so perhaps that’s got something to do with it. Maybe it’s the lighting in his office or whatever, but we’ll just have to wait and see. Mind you, if he performs like that, he can have a migraine every week."