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Crusaders move to the brink of the play-off places following hard-fought win at Tiverton

Hungerford Town boss Danny Robinson has said he wants his side to finish as high up the league table as possible after the Crusaders maintained their excellent form with a 1-0 win over Tiverton Town on Saturday.

Goalscoring midfielder Sam De St Croix's 82nd minute strike was enough to separate the sides in Devon as Town made it 11 games unbeaten and moved up to sixth in the Southern Premier League South, only outside the play-off places on goal difference.

And Robinson was again impressed with the performance of his side, who had Ramarni Medford-Smith's first half strike controversially ruled out for offside.

Sam De St Croix scored for the second week in succession
Sam De St Croix scored for the second week in succession

"I was delighted. In the first half especially, I thought we were very, very good," he said.

"We should've been in front. I felt like we scored a perfectly good goal but the linesman gave it offside. I've watched it back and I still haven't got a clue how he came to that decision.

"Second half, we had to defend well. Tiverton put a lot of balls in the box and we had to make a number of important blocks. Our defending was brilliant.

"We had a bit of quality on the break. It was great play between Ads (Adulai Sambu) and Great (Evans) and Sam does what he does best, he arrived late and he took it really well."

Tiverton had themselves been on a run of excellent form since the appointment of new manager Leigh Robinson, taking seven points from their last three games. Despite being without skipper Rhys Tyler, midfielder Joe Shepherd and experienced goalkeeper Ryan Clarke, the Crusaders managed to end the home side's unbeaten run thanks to an impressive defensive display, leaving Danny Robinson full of praise for goalkeeper Nicky Harvey and the defenders in front of him – including centre-half Jack Wright, who was crowned the Royal Navy's young sportsperson of the year in the week – following a first clean sheet on the road this season.

He said: "We had Nick (Harvey) for a little bit last year, so we knew what we were getting.

"He's a young goalkeeper, he's learning his trade and he trains every day with Wycombe Wanderers, so he's only going to keep getting better. He's come in and done really well.

"The defence in front of him have been outstanding. As a team, we've defended really well.

"Ryan Clarke we think might be ready for Aveley (on Saturday) but Nick will continue in midweek."

Jack Alexander replaced Joe Shepherd, while Jack Stanley deputised for Rhys Tyler – although Robinson is confident he won't be without two of his most important players for too long.

"Hopefully Shep will be available for Tuesday night. He had a little bit of a tweak on his hamstring and he didn't train all week," he said.

"Tuesday might be a bit touch and go but he progressed really well over the weekend, so we're hopeful we can have him in the squad.

"We're aiming to have Rhys Tyler back involved on Saturday, too. The squad is looking really strong."

There was more good news for the club following the announcement that winger Adulai Sambu has agreed to extend his loan from Cheltenham Town until the end of the season. Since signing on an initial one-month deal from the League One outfit, the 19-year-old has made himself an integral part of Robinson's side on the left wing and the boss was extremely pleased to have the wideman tied down until the end of the campaign.

"We have to say a big thank you to Cheltenham Town," he said.

"Ads is really enjoying himself. He's a big part of the changing room and he's a very good player.

"We're absolutely thrilled to have him. He just needs to keep working hard and I'm sure he's going to be a fine, fine player."

The Crusaders have been on an upwards trajectory of late as a more consistent team selection has translated into more consistent results, with Town one of the form teams in the league. With Hungerford right on the cusp of the play-offs and just 12 points behind league leaders Salisbury, Robinson is determined to keep propelling his side up the table.

He said: "We want to finish as high up the league table as is physically possible.

"Obviously, after getting relegated last year we want to try and bounce back but we know how difficult it's going to be. This league is a very, very tough league.

"We've hit a bit of form and we've had a bit of consistency with the squad, which definitely helps. We want to keep looking up. If we can keep working hard, then you never know where we might end up at the end of the season."

Hungerford travel to 13th placed Basingstoke Town, who are enduring a run of three successive league defeats, on Tuesday night. With a number of former Town players in the Basingstoke ranks, Robinson is expecting a memorable midweek encounter as the Crusaders look to break into the top five.

"If we can win, we might just sneak into the play-off places at long last," he said.

"We've definitely turned a corner away from home. The only problem is that it'll be on 4G, and we've struggled on those kind of surfaces.

"We're in a good space and we want to go there and lay down a marker. They were really unlucky and we're expecting them to be up for it, with it being a bit of a derby.

"We have to be at our best if we want to get anything out of the game."

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