At the mid-way point of the season the Stones, who play their home games in Grosvenor Vale, Ruislip, sit in sixteenth place, just four points from the relegation zone, although they do have games in hand over the teams around them in the table.
But despite their difficult start and the number of ‘curveballs’ Bartlett has faced, the Stones manager stressed the squad are still fighting and he is hopeful the club can better their eleventh place finish last season.
“I hoped we would be higher but I can’t say I expected us to be. I hoped we would be higher and I still hope we will. But it’s not about where we are now, but where we end up and that’s what we will be judged on.”
“There is no doubt the early part of the season and in fact even up to recently, I think I’ve been thrown so many curveballs this year that even with thirty years’ experience in management it’s left me scratching my head on far too many occasions. There’s been things I’ve never come across before and sometimes I didn’t even think was possible.”
“But, they’ve happened, we’ve had to deal with them and we are still in there fighting and if we can win a couple of those games we have got in hand, we will be up sitting in mid-table and I said before the season started that I wanted us to improve on last year. Last year we finished eleventh and that is still viable.”
The Stones head to Eastbourne Borough at the weekend, as they aim to secure three points for the first time in five games.
However, the competitiveness of the division means the Ruislip based club can take nothing for granted and Bartlett is fully aware of this.
Asked whether this game was one he wanted to take three points from he said: “I think we’ve got to now. They’re (Eastbourne) one of the sides that have hit a bit of a dodgy patch certainly results wise, but I don’t know all the ins and outs that are happening down there.”
“But there are two or three sides that have hit a spell over the Christmas period, where results haven’t been going their way and you’ve got to go to these places and hope that their confidence is still low and you can nick the points.”
“I’ve got to say, there are no bad sides in the Conference now. Everybody is capable of beating everybody else on their day. We went to Ebblsfleet and won and then we lost to St Albans.”
“Currently, you’ve got Havant and Waterlooville bottom of the table who were probably the favourites for promotion at the start of the season. It is just incredible and you don’t have any divine right to win a football match, especially not in our league. I was looking at the table at the weekend and we have actually lost the same amount of games as Maidstone who are in second place and we’ve even scored more goals than them. How do you work that out?”
Bartlett also stated that the Conference South outfit are always looking to add new players to the current squad.
One player the Stones signed recently was former Watford and Millwall full-back Jack Smith and Bartlett said he is delighted at how the experienced defender has settled in.
“We are always looking to strengthen if the opportunity arises for us to get a player who is better than one we have already and fits within the financial restraints. We are always looking to improve.”
“With regards to Jack, we’ve been looking for a full-back for some time. Jack became available. It suited us because he’s versatile, he can play at either left or right back and I think he’s come in and done very well so far. He also fits in with the players we’ve got and the characters we’ve got in the group and he was absolutely ideal and he’s come in and done well so far. Long may it continue.”