Non-league: Stocksbridge primed for tough festive run
Stocksbridge Park Steels must be wondering what they have done wrong this year after being handed a lump of coal-like festive fixture list starting with the visit of the runaway Division One South leaders tomorrow.
Steels will kick off their Christmas schedule by welcoming unbeaten Basford United to Bracken Moor on Saturday.
Basford arrive sitting 18 points clear at the top of the table and 21 points head of Stocksbrdige.
Steels boss Chris Hilton is determined for his side to hold onto their strong standing in the division heading into the New Year.
“It’s certainly a very tough ten days for us and one where we want to get as many points on the board as possible,” he said.
“We’ve got Basford tomorrow and then two difficult away games at Frickley and Stamford on Boxing Day and next weekend. And then we finish with the local derby against Sheffield on New Year’s Day.
“I don’t agree with the Christmas schedule. I think the powers-that-be forget sometimes that these are part time players that have jobs and families.
“But it is what it is so we have to just get on with it.”
Hilton says his players are raring to go for the tough ten days after seeing clashes with Bedworth United and Spalding United called off due to freezing temperatures.
“The mood in training has been excellent,” he said. “There’s a lot of positivity in the camp.
“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 with Basford, who I consider the best team in the division.
“They’re unbeaten in 20 league games and have won all nine on the road so they 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 them.
“We want to make sure we come away with six to eight points over Christmas but the important thing is we don’t lose to the teams that are around us.
“We’ve normally been around mid-table in January, having to play 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 in the division but we now there is still plenty of work to do.”
Sheffield FC boss Mark Shaw has urged his side to show they have turned a corner as they begin their festive campaign with a trip to Loughborough Students.
“The Chrismas period can make a huge difference if you pick up plenty of points,” Shaw side.
“Four games is a big ask and it’s one of the most challenging periods of the season.
“The lads are part time and have families so I was quite pleased the game last weekend was postponed as it gave the players a week.
“The lads are now raring to go and know the games coming up give us a chance to show we’ve turned the corner.
“Performances will determine just how many points we pick up over the next eight days.
“We’ve got quality players and a good work ethic in the team.
“If we do well then people might start to worry about playing us.”
Shaw confirmed Grant Ryan is unlikely to play over the festive period due to a knee injury and joins long term injury victim Jamie Hadfield on the sidelines.