By Tony Leighton
Gary Smith is set to complete his first year as Stevenage manager with his side faltering in the npower League 1 promotion race after a run of poor results has seen them tumble from second place to 12th in the table.
Smith's team have at least one game in hand on all but one of the 11 clubs above them, but after a very good first three months of the season they have won only one of their last eight games - the most recent three of which have ended in defeat.
Despite concern about his team's loss of form, however, Smith can reflect positively on his first 12 months of management in England since moving back to his native country after three years in charge of American club Colorado Rapids.
The 44-year-old former Wycombe Wanderers and Watford coach, who following his appointment last January led Stevenage to the League 1 Play-Offs, told football-league.co.uk: "There have been an awful lot of changes in the last 12 months.
"The club's gone through quite a lot of upheaval, off as well as on the field, with a new training ground and a lot of work on the ground itself. Lots of staff have been added behind the scenes as well and there are 17 new players in this group.
"But it's all moving nicely to make us a stronger club. I think we have the ingredients of a group that will move us forward. They are predominantly young, but a lot of the experiences they're running into will stand them in good stead for the future."
While Smith and the people around him are planning for the long term future of Stevenage, who became a Football League club for the first time only two seasons ago, they are also hopeful in the shorter term of reaching the Championship.
The manager added: "The first half of this season has been a really good one, it's just the last month that has seen a dip in our form. We've lost three games on the spin now and I think that it's the first time this group I've had has done that.
"We've been dragged into a mid-table battle and at this point in time it isn't about thinking of the top six, it's about getting back on track. There are too many guys that have dipped in form and the dip in form has occurred in too many areas.
"But I'm sure they'll come again. There aren't too many problems other than a bit more sparkle up front and keeping a clean sheet. That's not always easy to come by, but we'd like to think we're going to challenge for that top six again this year."
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