JODY BANIM wants second place in the Evo-stik NPL premier division and he believes his ASHTON UNITED squad are good enough to get it.
The Robins go into tomorrow (Saturday’s) game at second-bottom Halesowen having won their last two matches while Warrington have not enjoyed a victory in five games and Grantham have lost their last two.
A further boost to Ashton’s fortunes is former Oldham Athletic striker Deane Smalley who is now coming good and justifying the manager’s faith in him. He scored the winner against Stafford on Tuesday and twice in the 4-0 defeat of Whitby.
“We played well against Witton and then dropped points against Stalybridge and Mickleover, so we had a bit of a get-together — some team bonding — and it appears to have done the trick,” said Banim.
“Tomorrow we’ve got Halesowen who are second-bottom and then we play Stalybridge who seem to be playing almost every day. I think three wins could do it for us, and if we do finish second that would mean home ties in the play-offs.”
However, with only a small squad at his disposal, Banim knows he needs to avoid injuries but tomorrow he has several. Chief among them is team captain Mark Lees who has broken a bone in his foot.
Banim said: “We’re hoping Mark will be right for the play-offs if we reach them. We might even try and get him ready for the game at Workington on April 28 but it’ll depend on the pain. It’s usually six weeks for a broken bone but Mark’s adamant he’s going to play.”
Ryan Makhosini returns, having served a two-match ban, while only one game remains of Jack Dyche’s suspension. Matt Chadwick is still injured and John Pritchard has picked up a thigh strain.
STALYBRIDGE CELTIC are down to the bare bones as they prepare for the first of four away trips in six days.
Steve Burr’s men travel to Stourbridge tomorrow before playing at Nantwich on Monday (Cheshire Senior Cup semi-final), Ashton United on Tuesday and Matlock Town on Thursday.
Ross Killock misses out after suffering a recurrence of his calf injury in last night’s defeat by Shaw Lane. Tom Brown has dislocated a shoulder after falling off a ladder at work, and fellow midfielder Greg Wilkinson faces a late fitness test on his thigh injury. Defender Harrison Holgate is expected to return.
In National League North, CURZON ASHTON may find their elation at beating Gainsborough 2-0 is short-lived. They face the six-pointer at visit fellow strugglers Leamington without a trio of key players.
Chris Rowney has a ligament injury and is likely to be out for the rest of the season. Ben McKenna has a groin strain and Sam Walker pulled a hamstring in midweek which means he misses the final game of his loan period.
HYDE UNITED should be at full strength when they meet Skelmersdale at Ewen Fields. The Tigers, who have won their last two matches, are second in the Evo-stik NPL first division north but only a point clear of Scarborough who have taken 13 points from the last 15.
Jack Tuohy, who was an unused substitute in the goalless draw with Glossop, could start for MOSSLEY at Prescot Cables if he passes a late fitness test. Dieter Downey and Adam Latham may also figure but Logan Jeffs picked up a knock last night and it’s unlikely he will be risked.
GLOSSOP NORTH END boss Mark Canning expects to field a strong squad at home to Ossett Albion.
He said: “It’s a case of the morning after the night before. A couple of players took knocks against Mossley and we’ll have to see how they react. We’ll have a better picture on Saturday but we should be okay.”
DROYLSDEN, who are still winless in 2018, will only have the suspended Luke Daly missing when they play Kendal at the Butchers Arms.