BOSS Thomas Baillie admitted football had taken over the lives of the Stratford Town management team in recent weeks as they tried to get the club back on track.
Prior to Saturday’s much-needed 1-0 victory over fellow Evo-Stik Southern Premier Central play-off rivals AFC Rushden & Diamonds, the Blues had won just one of their last six league outings, a run of form which also included back-to-back defeats for the first time under Baillie since he took charge.
Town had also scored in just one of their previous six outings prior to the Diamonds game and head of football Baillie told the Herald both himself and the rest of the management team had been working hard to try and put things right.
“It was a week from hell,” he said.
“We had all been scratching our heads as to why things had gone a bit wry over the last few weeks.
“In the build-up to the Diamonds game, both myself and the rest of the coaching staff were absolutely relentless.
“We were on the phone to each other at 11pm at night trying to work things out.
“You wouldn’t believe it’s only non-League and that we play on a Saturday, but football had really taken over our lives so we could try and put things right.
“We prepared really well for the Diamonds game.
“We had two good training sessions in the week and the lads also went out for a team-bonding meal.
“Had we not got the result against Diamonds I would have been lost as to how we could have prepared better.
“We spent a lot of time talking to individual players and as a group to try and give them some belief and confidence where we could and I think it paid off.
“We have hopefully come through our blip and I could not have asked more from the players on Saturday as I thought they were superb.”
Town will now hope to push on after bringing an end to Diamonds’ nine-game unbeaten run, but the games continue to get tougher, with Baillie’s men facing three games in the space of seven days.
First up is a trip to fellow play-off hopefuls Coalville Town on Saturday (3pm kick-off) followed by a long trek to Leiston on Tuesday night (7.45pm kick-off) before welcoming another play-off hopeful in King’s Lynn Town to the Arden Garages Stadium the following Saturday (16th March, 3pm kick-off).
And Baillie is confident Town will not be too far away from the play-off places come the end of that difficult run as games against lowly Bedworth United, Rushall Olympic and Lowestoft Town are on the horizon.
“It’s a massive run for us, but it’s tough every week and there’s no respite for anyone,” he added.
“We have proven, despite losing a few matches recently, that we are more than a match for anyone on our day and we are looking forward to the Coalville game and those that follow.
“We needed to win against Diamonds for lots of reasons. When you’re losing games and trying to pin-point what the reasons are, you just want it to stop.
“I wouldn’t have been bothered if we won via a 95th-minute penalty, we just needed to win, especially as it was against a play-off rival.
“We’ve had a tough February and we’re going to have a tough early March, but after then, I wouldn’t say the games get easier, but we’ve got no more play-off rivals to play.
“As long as we get something from these next three games I think we are going to be in a decent position. We may drop out of the play-offs, but one thing is for sure that by the end of March we will be back in them or we won’t be far away.
“We will be going into the last month of the season with everything to play for.”
One player who will not be able to play a part in Town’s play-off chase for the remainder of the season is midfielder Ross Oulton, who had to come off in the first half in the victory over Diamonds with suspected ligament damage.
“Ross being out for the rest of the season is a very sad point for us as I thought he was excellent in the first half against Diamonds,” Baillie added.
Although a spell on the sidelines awaits former Diamonds man Oulton, he joked on Twitter: “The golf course obviously wants me on it.”