By: Paul Webster
Runaway Division One South leaders and undefeated Basford United are the visitors to Bracken Moor this weekend in the first of what Stocksbridge Park Steels manager Chris Hilton describes as a tough festive period.
Basford arrive 18-points clear at the top ahead second-placed Alvechurch, who do have three games in hand, and are 21 ahead of Steels having played the same number of games.
“Its certainly a very tough ten days for us and one where we want to get as many points on the board as possible” said Hilton.
“We’ve got Basford tomorrow then have two difficult away games at Frickley on Boxing Day followed by Stamford next weekend, who have the same points as us then finishing with the local derby against Sheffield on New Years Day.
“I don’t agree with the Christmas schedule, I think that the powers that be sometimes forget that these are part-time players that have jobs and families. But it is what it is so we just have to get on with it.”
The cold weather led to Stocksbridge’s last two fixtures at home against Bedworth United and at Spalding United last weekend being postponed and Hilton says his players are now raring to go.
“The mood in training has been been excellent there is a lot of positivity in the camp,” he said. “Other results have been kind to us, we’re still fourth in the table and in a very good position. The players know what’s required of them and are looking forward to the game against Basford on Saturday who I consider as the best team in the division.
“ They’re unbeaten in 20 league games and have won all nine games on the road and deserve to be where they are. But we have an excellent record against the top teams, so we’ll be hoping to continue that against the leaders on Saturday and see where it takes us.
“We want to take to make sure we come away with between six and eight points over the Christmas period but the important thing is that we don’t lose to the teams that are around us.
“We’ve normally been around mid-table in January and playing catch up, so to be fourth already gives us the chance to put ourselves in a really good position.
“I class ourselves as one of the best sides in the division. We know there is still plenty of work to do”
Hilton feels that his side could even had been in a stronger position said: “ I think we should have had another nine-points but we’ve not seen games out when we should have done and that’s something we’ve been working hard on addressing.”
Hilton says he has almost a full squad to select from. “The break has helped clear up few knocks that some of the players were carrying. Alex (Wiles) and Jack (Poulton) are our only long term injury casualties. Our only concern is surrounding Ben Rhodes who has been struggling in training.”