Wealdstone boss targeting top-eight finish

Wealdstone boss Gordon Bartlett believes a top-eight finish would give his side a strong base to challenge for promotion next season.

Bartlett’s team are currently eighth in the National League South table – and could yet snatch a back-door route into the play-offs if clubs above them fail to meet ground requirements.

That places added importance on the Stones’ trip to Hampton & Richmond Borough – who are four points above them with four games to play – on Saturday.

Bartlett told West London Sport: “There are rumours flying around that (fifth-placed) Poole and (sixth-placed) Hungerford haven’t got the work done on their grounds. That’s down to them, but we’ve got to finish as high as we possibly can.

“If we can finish seventh, that means we might have a chance. We’re in eighth position – can we get up to seventh? Then can we get up to sixth? We’re still in with a shout, that’s all we can ask.

“At the start of the season, when people asked about our ambitions, I said ‘top half by Christmas’, then my gut feeling was that finishing in the top eight would be a reasonable season.

“I’d love us to be higher, but I think we’ve got to say that if we do finish in eighth position, it’s a solid platform for next year and that’s what we need to give ourselves.”

Irrespective of whether they succeed in reaching the play-offs, Wealdstone are on course for their highest finish in the pyramid system since relegation from the Conference in 1988.

The club eventually dropped down to the ninth tier of English football and spent the best part of two decades without a ground to call their own.

But Bartlett, who is about to complete his 22nd season as Stones manager, has overseen the club’s gradual fightback and continues to urge patience among supporters.

He added: “With (chairman) Peter Marsden coming on board this year, it was a big boost but maybe people went a bit over the top and expectations went too high.

“What’s gone on behind the scenes is fantastic – possibly the infrastructure of the club is not ready yet but we’re currently in a better state than we have been over the last few years.

“We’ve based our development on solid foundations and that’s what we’ll continue trying to do – don’t try to run before you can walk, as they say.

“But we still want to get into the play-offs, even by default and, if we do, we’ll give it a good crack.”