James Rusby - faces fitness test for Merthyr visit
HUNGERFORD TOWN are looking for a lift back to home form following a rare double dose of Bulpit Lane reverses that briefly threatened the club’s Evo Stik League Southern play-off place.
And they are looking for that support on Saturday when they face Merthyr Town at Bulpit Lane for the first time since the May 2013 play-off final when Hungerford secured their Premier Division place for the first time in their history.
That saw Merthyr fans pack out the Berkshire ground, and a fair number will make the return trip following a team that has been stuck in mid-table since finally moving up this term, but which is on a six-match winning streak.
That was support of which Hungerford can only dream, but manager Bobby Wilkinson is hoping that a little extra can mean a lot more on the field and in the points column as his side goes into the final five games of the campaign still mixing it with the leaders in a packed bunch.
“It’s the first time we’ve lost two in a row at home in four years,” said Wilkinson, “and it was doom and gloom around the ground on Saturday.
“But we didn’t dwell on it, and what makes me proud of the boys is the way they went out at Slough on Monday and produced an unbelievable performance when nobody expected us to win.
“It means we are still in the mix and whoever puts together a run now will make it. This time last year we had six games left and were seventh. We’re two places higher this season.
“But the boys are under a lot of pressure and we need people to give them a lift,” he added,. “We’re fighting against teams with six, seven or eight hundred fans pushing the ball into the back of the net and we need some noise and support, even if it’s just wearing a scarf or whatever.
“We are still only five points off the leaders and that’s incredible, and with everybody playing each other, who knows what could happen!”
Hungerford will be boosted by the return of top scorer Nat Jarvis from Caribbean Cup duty. Alan O’Brien took a knock at Slough but should be fit while defender James Rusby was forced off early with a groin strain and his condition will be assessed. But his replacement then - Mike Jones - produced an outstanding performance alongside Matt Day, despite being in pain following operation, and Jon Boardman is also nearing fitness in time for the run-in.
“What has been our fortress for four years has suffered a little bit,” said Wilkinson, “and these boys are under pressure for the final three weeks of the season and we need to be positive and put a smile on the face as go out to try to make history again.”