May 1 2012 By Jon Batham
GORDON Bartlett had two contrasting messages for his Wealdstone players ahead of tomorrow’s playoff semi-final at Lowestoft – mission accomplished but do not stop there.
In a season which has seen his side come within touching distance of Wembley in the FA Trophy and a whisker away from silverware in the county cup final, just reaching the playoffs had always been Bartlett’s No 1 target.
However, having realised that aim with Saturday’s win over Concord the Stones boss raised the bar once more and challenged his players to go on and reach the promised land of the Blue Square South.
He said: “The priority was always getting to the playoffs – the semi-finals of the FA Trophy and the final of the county cup has been a bonus.
“But I’ve just said to the boys in there we have lost one semi-final this year and one final this year – now we have got an opportunity to put that right.
“The season of 42 games with all we set out to do is now over and a new challenge starts.
“We have given ourselves an opportunity over the next two games to really achieve something which would be fantastic and exactly what they deserve.”
Stones are definitely the form team of the playoffs with Saturday’s win over the beach Boys being their fifth in succession.
Coming on top of their other accolades this year, Bartlett knows his troops have come a long way but says the cherry would be nice.
He said: “We put up on the wall beforehand things to be proud of but at the bottom it said after today you could be in the Ryman league playoffs, after Wednesday Ryman league finalists and after that Blue Square South newcomers so don’t stop now because it has been a great season but you have won nothing.”
The stalwart of well over 1000 games in charge feels the depth of his squad has enabled them to already come a stage further than 2009-10 when the backlog of fixtures after the run to the first round proper of the FA Cup left them running on empty as the season came to the business end.
And he senses Alex Dyer’s freshness after missing half the season with injury might just give him the little bit extra on the daunting trip to Suffolk.
He added: “We have learnt from the disappointments of two years ago when the lads looked like we were running in treacle in the last game.
“This time we have managed to rotate it by making two or three changes most games.
“Alex (Dyer) didn’t have the best of times in the early part of the season before he was injured and I think it was purely because he went away and played for Montserrat and worked hard all through the summer keeping his fitness levels sky high because he wanted to get a pro contract.
“Your body needs a break and his foot injury was probably not the break he wanted, but he’s had it and at the end of the day it has probably done him and us the power of good.”