A SAFETY-FIRST approach has been behind the Magpies’ recent resurgence, according to boss Phil Simkin.
The Avenue outfit are Blue Square Bet South’s form team over the last half-a-dozen matches with Tuesday’s rout of Billericay making it five wins from six.
It wasn’t too long ago that Simkin’s men were in real danger of getting sucked into a relegation battle – now they are just two places and three points adrift of the play-offs.
And Simkin has put the turnaround in fortunes down to the team, and defence in particular, adopting a back to basics attitude having conceded a number of early goals during that bad run.
“At the start of the season I went on record as saying that I wanted us to pass the ball,” he said.
“The problem is that when we weren’t getting results we were still trying to pass it a bit too early in the game, in the wrong places and when the pitches were not like they were in August, September, October and November it caught us out a little bit.
“Since then the plan has been to just head it and kick it for five minutes, then another five minutes, and all of a sudden you’re 25 minutes into the game, you haven’t conceded a goal, you’ve got your shape, you’ve sized up the opposition and then you start to play.
“We’ve started better defensively in this run. Defenders defend, that’s what they’re paid for, and everything else is a bonus.
“We’ll keep a clean sheet then we’ll gradually play in the right places and that’s what we planned to do.
“And to be fair it has come off. In the first half on Tuesday we didn’t try and play and it didn’t look great but the wind was strong against us and the pitch was bobbly but we earned that second half by doing that.
“Slowly the centre-halves started to dominate their forwards and once they do that it sets the game up for us.”
Simkin was more than impressed by Benjamin Buchel, the keeper on-loan from Bournemouth who kept a clean sheet on his home debut.
There was also praise for Ben Watson, described as “gold dust” by Simkin while the boss added that Charlie Clough, who found the net twice in the 6-1 thrashing of Billericay, will shake off the ankle injury picked up on Tuesday in time for Saturday’s trip to Brom- ley.
On the signing of Buchel, Simkin added: “He is as safe as houses this boy and he’s given everyone a lot of confidence.
“You can say it was a gamble to sign him but I’d never seen him play.
“All I’d seen is a bit in training and I’d spoken to a lot of people.
“I put him in at Tonbridge and he was absolutely first class.”
Striker Kieffer Moore (thigh) missed the Billericay win and Simkin said he “might” be back for the Bromley encounter.