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Wealdstone trip brings a winter reunion

Crusaders face former manager for the first time

Malcolm Howe

sport@newburynews.co.uk

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Wealdstone trip brings a winter  reunion

HUNGERFORD TOWN have to burn up the form book on Saturday when they make the trip to in-form Wealdstone having collected only one point from a possible nine in a run that has seen them dip into the bottom six in the Vanarama National League South.
Leaving aside the minor issue that Wealdstone are now managed by Bobby Wilkinson, newly crowned as the league’s manager of the month, it would be a tough job at the best of times.
It would not be going too far to claim that it was Hungerford’s previous trip to the former Ruislip Manor ground at Grosvenor Vale in April that played a big part in the eventual loss of their former manager, that 3-0 defeat coming in the week that ground standards destroyed Crusaders’ play-off hopes last season.

Wilkinson’s early season switch saw assistants Jamie Leacock, Mike Percival, Ian Hobbs and Stacey Wood make the trip and players Matt Day, Luke Williams, Alan O’Brien, Stephane Ngamvoulou and Harry Goodger all followed their former manager along the Ruislip trail.
Although only Day and Williams are current regular first-team starters, O’Brien had featured regularly from the bench, but his chances of appearing on Saturday are slim after he went off with a hamstring injury during the midweek 3-0 Middlesex Senior Cup win over Hayes and Yeading.
Goodger still pops up with some goals, including three in a recent 7-1 friendly win over Uxbridge although he is now joined on the strikers’ rostrum by the six-foot three-inch Shaun Okokie, on loan from Aldershot Town, and he scored on his debut in the Despite the background, Hungerford's management team and players will be treating the game as they would any other.

“It’s just another game,” said co-manager Jon Boardman, “and we need a win.”
“We know it’s going to be tough. I played for Bobby for seven years and we all know how disciplined and organised his team will be and they’ve had some good results recently.
“We need a win, whether it’s Wealdstone or anyone else and we have to treat it as we would any other game.
“But it will be good to see Bobby, Jay, Mike and the others. We’ve got a lot of respect and it will good to see how we get on against them really.”

Wilkinson watched Hungerford go down 1-0 at home to Havant and Waterlooville last Saturday, when Crusaders suffered the early injury loss of defender James Rusby at the start of another narrow defeat, following the fifth minute dismissal of Diak John in the previous home game with Eastbourne Borough.

With defender Matt Partridge recently undergoing an operation, midfielder Callum Willmoth possibly facing the same and Scott Rees still recovering from a serious hand injury, Hungerford's squad has been fully stretched.

"We have had injury problems since we took over," said Boardman, "and we have never had a full squad available yet."

Striker Stefan Brown is also an injury doubt for doubt Saturday and Hungerford will also have goalkeeper Marcus Beauchamp making his league debut after Lewis Ward was recalled by Reading to be farmed out to a higher-league club to assist his development. Ward was due to remain at Hungerford until the end of the year.

Hungerford have cup action in midweek when Hellenic League Bracknell Town visit Bulpit Lane in the Berks and Bucks Senior Cup on Tuesday night with the winners going on to entertain Slough Town or Wantage Town in the quarter-finals.

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