By Paul Webster
Stocksbridge Park Steels play the first of four tough games this month against fellow promotion contenders when they host third-placed Newcastle Town.
Its followed by home games against play-off rivals Belper Town and Romulus with a trip to leaders Shaw Lane AFC sandwiched in between.
Steels boss Chris Hilton is looking forward to the challenge and says its just what his team needs.
“We have to make sure we hit the ground running now we’re in the second half of the season and the lads know that,” said Hilton.
“The last couple of games have been very frustrating. We need that kick up the backside and I think games against the likes of Newcastle and Shaw Lane will give us that.
“We know we need to start picking up points now if we are to get into the play-offs. Its going to be hard because their are a lot of teams fighting battling it out for the play-off places.
“We’re the only team to have beaten Shaw Lane so far this season and we’re one of only two teams to have won at Newcastle which shows what we are capable of doing when we’re on our game and playing as we know we can.”
After back to back victories against Northwich Victoria then Stamford Steels picked up just one point from their two games over the festive period drawing 1-1 with Chasetown on Boxing Day which was followed by a 1-0 reversal at Gresley in the final game of 2016.
“We should had been out of site against Chasetown before they got the late equaliser,” said Hilton.
“We created a hatful of chances but it was just one of those days when we couldn’t get the second goal we needed. In fairness to them they stuck in there and grabbed a late goal.
“I don’t think for a minute the game at Gresley should have been played. The pitch was absolutely awful. They got an early goal that was a bit lucky, then penalty was never a penalty but Dave (Reay) made a good save and you have to say justice was done. Again we created good chances but we weren’t sharp enough where it matters in front of goal. But they’re gone now, we’ll learn from them and look forward to Newcastle on Saturday.”
Adam Hinchliffe returns after missing the Gresley game through illness while Nat Crofts who would have missed Monday’s derby against Sheffield is also available again.
Newcastle, who have just appointed former Burnley and Doncaster Rovers player Steve Harper as first team coach, arrive having not played since a 2-0 defeat at Leek Town on Boxing Day that left them with just one win in the last five league outings.