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Battered Crusaders face City challenge

Cup heroes Truro head for Bulpit Lane

Malcolm Howe

sport@newburynews.co.uk

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Battered Crusaders face City challenge

Surveying the walking wounded -management etam Gary McDonald, Jon Boardman and Ian Herring

HUNGERFORD TOWN have put 13 goals past Truro City on their last three visits to Bulpit Lane, but this time they will be happy to have 13 fit players to face the Vanarama National League South high-flyers on Saturday.

The injury worries that have hit Crusaders in recent weeks continued this week when Gareth Thomas pulled up with a stomach strain during the pre-match warm-up at Wealdstone on Saturday, adding another member to the physio’s welcoming club.

That means Hungerford are without four centre backs, leaving co-manager Ian Herring and on-loan Darnell Smith and occasionally full back Rhys Tyler to fill the hole, one they did well until a 92nd minute penalty gave Wealdstone the points.

“Centre half has been a bit of a curse for us since we took over,” said Herring’s co-manager Jon Boardman.

“We have strength in depth but I have never seen anything like this.”

Hungerford were forced to use midfielder James Clark as an emergency right back at Wealdstone, and the enforced re-shuffle then is likely to remain for the visit of Truro, while the midweek Berks and Bucks Senior Cup tie with Bracknell Town saw assistant manager Gary McDonald have to hunt out his boots to make a playing return.

“We have a good record against Truro at home,” said Boardman, “but they are flying this season and we know they are going to be big, tough and strong and well-organised.

“But we feel that we can beat anyone at home and we’ll have pretty much the same squad as we had at Wealdstone where I felt we deserved a point, if not more.”

Hungerford will, however, be without Boardman, Matt Partridge, Calum Willmoth, Scott Rees, Thomas and James Rusby, while Nicholas Bignall tweaked a hamstring last week and is a doubt and co-striker Stefen Brown has an Achilles tendon problem and is definitely out.

Hungerford had to field assistant manager Gary MacDonald in their decimated defence and untried academy players. The club’s more seasoned youngsters are dual-registered with Hellenic League Letcombe, and had they played in the Senior Cup, they would have been ineligible for chunks of the campaign.

“It was just a case of fulfilling the fixture,” said Boardman. “It’s a shame, because we would have liked to do well in it but the injuries are getting the better of us at the moment.”

Brown is sidelined by an Achilles issue and Thomas store a stomach muscle in the pre-match warm-up at Wealdstone, where striker Nicholas Bignall also picked up a hamstring strain is a doubt for Saturday.

“It’s what it is, and we’ll manage it.”

Promotion-chasing Truro City, who have never taken a point or even scored a goal  in the team’s three meetings at Bulpit Lane - losing 6-0, 2-0 and last season 5-0 - will be looking to put that dismal record right as they aim to consolidate their place in the play-off places.

And on paper they will go into the match as favourites, having lost just one of their last 10 league matches and are also fresh off the back of an historic Emirates FA Cup run which only ended with a brave 3-1 first round defeat at Sky Bet League One high-flyers Charlton Athletic.

City though will have to do without the services of former Plymouth Argyle striker Tyler Harvey, who will serve a one-match ban after picking up a fifth booking of the season in Saturday’s superb 3-1 home win over leaders Dartford when he gave City the lead from the penalty spot.

Last season’s top scorer Rocky Neal looks likely to replace Harvey, as Cody Cooke’s partner up front and will be eager to take his chance after spending, from his point of view, far too much time on the bench.

Cooke returned to scoring form with two brilliantly-taken goals against Dartford after a nine game scoring drought, to take his season’s tally to eight - one behind top scorer midfielder Noah Keats - one of many summer signings

Apart from Harvey’s enforced absence, City boss Lee Hodges expects to be able to choose from a fully-fit squad.

Hodges said their display in beating leaders Dartford 3-1 on Saturday, which took them  to third from eighth in the table, showed they were a match for any team in National League South.

And now he wants City to carry that level of performance  into the Hungerford game and then new leaders Braintree Town in Essex on Tuesday.

“I have a good squad who can compete against anyone,” said Hodges.

“It was a great win against Dartford and brilliant to get back into the play-off places Now we want to stay there.

“But as we all know every game is different and now it’s onto Hungerford where we have never done well, before we even think about Braintree.”

 

What are the odds?

SKYBET make Truro 11/10 favourites to win on Saturday with Hungerford priced at 9/4 and a draw at 2/1.

Anyone fancying and being rewarded for a punt on Hungerford repeating that previous 6-0 win would reap a price of 300/1 compared to most bookie offering 500/1 -  to the expert at Sky rate Hungerford’s chances of doing just that a little better than most!

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