Play-off race is starting to heat up between trio

The battle to reach the Southern Central Premier play-offs hits a crucial stage tomorrow.

Rushall Manager Liam McDonald
Rushall Manager Liam McDonald

Hednesford Town, Stourbridge and Rushall Olympic are among the sides battling for a top-five finish.

The Pitmen – who have signed striker Ethan Jones ahead of hosting struggling Stratford Town (3pm) – currently hold that all-important fifth position, but the Pics and the Glassboys will be hoping to make up some ground at the expense of two of their rivals this weekend.

Stourbridge may be 13th, but they have several games in hand on the sides above them – including ninth-placed Royston Town, who they travel to tomorrow.

Rushall Olympic – in eighth – can overtake sixth-placed Coalville Town with victory at Dales Lane, and boss Liam McDonald believes tomorrow’s visitors are among the favourites to finish in the top five.

“We went to watch Coalville this week and they are a good side who I fully expect to finish within the top five this season,” he said. “They recruited really well during the summer and, like us, they are a smaller club who are punching above their weight among the big boys.”

Speaking about his side’s play-off prospects, McDonald added: “There is no pressure on the lads – a lot of them have stepped up from lower levels and there’s not the expectation that some of the bigger boys in this League have.

“As a result, they’re going out there and just enjoying their football – they have the bit between their teeth and we’ll keep fighting to stay up there among the leading pack. We’re in a good place right now. We want to be able to make 2020 a year to remember and for it to go down in club history. There is plenty to play for and we’ll keep going to see where it takes us.”

In Southern Central One, Halesowen Town will hope to keep up the pressure on the top two by overcoming Aylesbury United at The Grove.

Northern Premier strugglers Stafford Rangers – whose match was postponed last Saturday – will hope to climb away from the foot of the table when they host second-placed Lancaster City tomorrow. Joint-boss Alex Meechan said: “The time off has given us some time to recuperate and hopefully we can get back out there feeling energised on Saturday.

“We’ll be looking to have some of our players returning from injury and of course our squad togetherness is always there.

“We need a lot more luck with injuries going forward into the new year. It’s the type of thing that gives us momentum and we’ll have a good chance if we have a consistent team selection and performances.”

Chasetown host Frickley Athletic in Northern One South East.

Former Albion interim boss Jimmy Shan – now in the same role at Kidderminster Harriers – has had 11 days to work with his players since picking up his first win since joining the club earlier this month.

That come-from-behind victory at Guiseley on December 10 was an important step, and Harriers hope to take another with victory at an Altrincham side who sit 19th in National League North – two points and three places behind Harriers.

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