Non-League Football: Stocksbridge Park Steels' crunch clash in race for play-off spot
Stocksbridge Park Steels take on Romulus at Bracken Moor this weekend in what manager Chris Hilton describes as a game they simply must win.
Steels suffered their first defeat in seven games with the 1-0 reversal at Division One South leaders Shaw Lane AFC in the last outing.
It left Hilton’s side down in 13th place, nine points of the play-off spots but they do have games in hand on all the teams above them.
“We need to bounce back with a win - the three-points are an absolute must,” said the Steels boss. “Our target as always been to reach the play-offs this season. We know were good enough but we need to make sure we put ourselves into a good position for the final run-in
“We’ve got five games between now until the end of February and we need to be looking at taking maximum points or certainly at the very least make sure we don’t drop too many.
“If we can do that then we should put ourselves in a good position. We’ve got a lot of the teams just above us to play so it’s in our own hands.”
Hilton feels his side need to start scoring a few more goals.
“We’ve got the sixth best defensive record in the division but we’re not scoring as many as we should. We’re creating chances but not sticking them away. It’s something we need to sort quickly if we want to get into the play-offs.”
On the defeat at Shaw Lane Hilton said: “I thought we were the best team for the first half hour. We’ve had one cleared off the line and their keeper has made a great save.
“They came on strong in the second half and put us under a lot pressure but we’ve defended well and I thought we deserved a point. But we’ve given the team, I believe are the best in the league, a very good game.”
Hilton confirmed he is looking to bring in a couple of players ahead of the game against Romulus, with a forward thought to be one of the likely targets.
Nat Crofts returns to the squad after missing last week’s game due to being on Sheffield United U23 duty. Matt Reay is expected to play despite the defender breaking his nose at Shaw Lane.
Joe Lumsden is a slight doubt with a tight hamstring, while midfielder Ashley Burbeary is unavailable.
Steels will be looking to complete the league double after a Lumsden first half strike earned a 1-0 win in the reverse fixture in early October.
The visitors arrive on the back of a 3-2 victory against AFC Rushden & Diamonds, which ended a run of three games without a win.
Sheffield FC travel to Newcastle Town in what will be the third meeting between the teams.
The Staffordshire side ran out 2-1 winners at the Coach & Horses at the beginning of October before dumping Club out of the League Cup at Buckmaster Avenue by the same scoreline early this month.
“They’re up there at the top end of the league so it will be another tough game,” said boss James Colliver.
“When we played them a couple of weeks ago in the cup at their place there wasn’t a great deal in the game, they were just a little more physical than us.
“We’ll be travelling better equipped than last time, having strengthened the squad over the last couple of weeks, so hopefully we can come away this time with a positive result.”
Club went out of the Sheffield Senior Cup on Tuesday evening, losing 3-0 at Shaw Lane but Colliver was full of praise for his team and said: “We had to change things around but that was not out of choice.
“The lads that came in did exceptionally well and put in a really good shift. I was very proud of every one of them. I think the scoreline flattered Shaw Lane. We were in the game right up until they scored the second, which knocked the stuffing out of us.
“We know we’re conceding too many goals and that something we’re working to put right. But we’re moving in the right direction and if we can stay around where we are and be in contention for the plays-off going into the last month we can give it a real go.”
Alec Denton (pictured) returns to the squad after completing his suspension. Andy Gascoigne should have recovered from a chest infection, while Anthony Wilson is available again after missing the midweek cup defeat.
Newcastle are third in the table and go into the game unbeaten in the last seven outings on home soil.
Shaw Lane AFC should consolidate their six-point lead at the top with a win at lowly Carlton Town, who will be looking for a first league win in five.
Premier Division: Blyth Spartans v Matlock Town, Buxton v Warrington Town, Coalville Town v Frickley Athletic.
Division One South: Carlton Town v Shaw Lane AFC, Newcastle Town v Sheffield FC, Stocksbridge Park Steels v Romulus.