Huge clash as promotion race really hots up

Town can strengthen their play off hopes - and damage one of their rivals - when they travel to Stalybridge this afternoon (3.0).

Neil Aspin’s Shaymen have been in the play off places since they won at Gainsborough in December and are in no mood to let it slip now.

That puts pressure on them to perform at Bower Fold, but the manager knows that Celtic are under just as much pressure having at one stage this season looked likely to be leaders Hyde FC’s main challengers for automatic promotion.

They actually topped the table at the start of November but have slid steadily down since then and go into today’s game in sixth place - a couple of points behind Town.

“You only get the same points for winning today, but it is important because we want to stay above them in the table,” said Aspin.

“Games are running out and we cannot afford to drop too many points.

“Our away form has been good this season and we have to make sure that in a big game we give a good performance

“But it is an important game for Stalybridge as well as us.

“There was a time when you would never have imagined they would miss out on the play offs because they were picking up so many points.

“But that is a possibility now.”.

Stalybridge have won just three league games in 2012 but two of those wins have come in their last three outings.

Their most recent game, against Bishop’s Stortford in midweek, ended in a 3-2 defeat after they had clawed their way back to 2-2.

“It takes a good side to beat Nuneaton 4-1 which Stalybridge did and there looked like there were goals in the team when we played them at the Shay,” said Aspin.

“I watched them on Tuesday, but that was a game affected by the bad weather and you cannot read too much into that.”

Town will be back in action on Monday when Boston come to the Shay, but Aspin has banished all thoughts about that game until after the final whistle this afternoon.

“I am only thinking about today’s game,” he said. “We cannot start to think about Monday before then.

“It is nice that I have the players in the squad to be able to freshen it up for Monday if we have to.

“But I am concentrating on picking a team to do the job this afternoon.”

Aspin has no injury worries and could include Jamie Rainford in the squad for the first time since the game at Bishop’s Stortford a fortnight ago.

“I would expect Ross Hannah to play,” he said. “He has been having treatment but we took him off last week more as a precaution.

“Jamie Rainford trained on Tuesday and is available for selection.”

Easter eggs will be distributed to Junior Blues under the East Stand prior to Monday’s game against Boston United.