Ninth-placed Stocksbridge Park Steels go in search of a third win in eight days when they host third-placed Spalding United.
Manager Chris Hilton had conceded their play-off hopes were over. But wins at Lougborough Dynamo, 3-2 last weekend and then 2-1 at home against Belper Town on Tuesday raised hopes that Steels can still sneak into the top five.
“We’ve got four tough games starting with Spalding that will determine where we finish,” said Hilton. “We’ve got a local derby at Sheffield on Tuesday then trips to Lincoln United and AFC Rushden who are both chasing a top five spot so it’s going to be tough. We have a good record against top teams - its the teams lower down the table we have struggled against.
“We’ve given ourselves a bit of a chance but that’s all it is. There are three other teams ahead of us, Lincoln, Leek and Rushden that are all chasing down Basford who look a little vulnerable in that fifth spot having played more games.”
Hilton admits performances had not been at their best. “We’ve not played to the standards we set ourselves over the past week. But at this stage of the season its about grinding out results. We had more of the ball and chances against Belper but if I’m honest a draw against Belper would have been a fair result. A bit of excellence from Richard Stirrup was the difference.
“There has been games when we haven’t had what we deserve so these things hopefully balance themselves out. We’ll need to be better against Spalding, it’s a game we need to win. I’m sure they will they will be happy with a draw as it means we won’t have closed the gap on them.
“We’ve changed our shape a little in the last couple of games which has allowed us to score a few more goals.”
Brodie Litchfield has a swollen ankle but should be fit, while Josh Meade could return to the starting 11 having shaken off a shoulder injury. Adam Hinchliffe is also expected to be back.
Sheffield FC are without a game this weekend with the next fixture the much anticipated local derby against Steels at Dronfield on Tuesday.
Club will looking to make up for a 2-1 defeat at Bracken Moor in August. It will be a much changed Sheffield side this time around with Pat Lindley, Lee Cooksey, Matt Roney, Damian Magee, Liam Royles along with goalkeeper Chris Butt likely to be the only survivors.
Sheffield go into the game fresh from a record breaking 9-0 win against Market Drayton Town; their biggest Evo-Stik League victory.
“It was bizarre” admitted boss James Colliver. “We didn’t change anything or the way we play.
“We had been creating chances in other games but this time it all came together and we put our chances away. What was particularly pleasing for me is that we kept a clean sheet because it’s easy to get sloppy late on when your so far in front.
“But we kept our discipline and concentration until the end. We want to make sure we not only take that into the next game but also into the summer and in readiness for pre-season.”
Shaw Lane AFC host mid-table Bedworth United where the Ducks know its vitally important to hold onto their their three-point buffer at the top. Particularly as second-placed Witton Albion have a game and will be waiting to take advantage of any slip up.
Craig Elliott’s side are unbeaten in 16 games on home soil dropping just four-points and beat Bedworth 1-0 in the reverse fixture courtesy of Alex Byrne’s first half free kick. However, the visitors arrive on the back of a five match unbeaten run
Premier Division: Buxton v Stourbridge, Frickley Athletic v Grantham Town, Matlock Town v Rushall Olympic.
Division One South: Shaw Lane AFC v Bedworth United, Stocksbridge Park Steels v Spalding United.