Hednesford Town, the early season pace setters at the summit of the Skrill North, travel to Northamptonshire on Saturday to face FA Cup heroes Brackley Town in what can rightly be billed as a ‘top of the table clash’.
Brackley, conquerors of League One Gillingham in a televised FA Cup First Round Replay on Monday night, currently sit fifth in the league but, when taking into account that they, like The Pitmen, have games in hand on all the teams around them, The Saints could be regarded as Hednesford’s closest rivals.
However, Pitmen boss Rob Smith was quick to pour scorn on the idea of regarding any team as true title rivals this early in the season, but he believes that Brackley’s FA Cup antics and exertions actually makes them a more difficult opponent.
‘Having watched Brackley I think that, pound for pound, they are the best team in this league. They do not give goals away and have experience all over the park and there’s no chance of us catching them with a hangover after their Cup victory for a number of reasons.
‘The game was played on Monday, so with plenty of time to rest and with a massive squad full of quality, any fresh faces they decide to bring in will only be of top quality. The win will give them a boost more than anything else but any talk of title rivals is absolutely meaningless to us. We have not even completed a third of the league programme so talk of rivals is plain silly at this stage.’
Such has been Hednesford’s outstanding form this season that the stock answer to what a good result is on Saturday would usually be a draw, but after imperious away performances already under their belt at Telford, Stalybridge and Altrincham, Pitmen fans have little reason to hope for anything less than a victory, although taking on a side with by far the best defence in the division and most likely without Jamey Osborne, who is doubtful with a back injury, makes their task that little bit harder.
If Osborne does miss out, with the signing of Tom Thorley, impressive on his full home debut against Workington last week, Smith believes the competition for places in the squad is the strongest for some years which can only be a good thing.
‘I thought Tom was terrific on Saturday, especially in the second half. Macpherson will have to work hard to get back in the team, as will all the lads currently on the bench as competition for places is at its strongest since I have been here.’
Saturday’s game really is an intriguing battle between the second highest scorers and league leaders, Hednesford Town, and a side coming off the back of the best result in their history along with the meanest defence in the division by some distance.
Something has to give and the travelling supporters from Keys Park will hope Francino Francis, Elliott Durrell and Kris Taylor, among others, once again play a major part in another fantastic Pitmen performance.
Hednesford Town Form – DWWWLW
Previous Result – Hednesford Town 3 Workington AFC 0 – FA Trophy Third Qualifying Round – Saturday 16th November 2013
Next Fixture – Newcastle Town (A) – Staffordshire FA Senior Cup Quarter Final – Tuesday 26th November 2013
League Position – 1st
Brackley Town Form – WWDDDW
Previous Result – Brackley Town 1 Gillingham 0 – FA Cup First Round Replay – Monday 18th November 2013
Next Fixture – Leek Town (A) – FA Trophy Third Qualifying Round Replay – Tuesday 26th November 2013
League Position – 5th
KO – 3pm
Address of Ground – Churchill Way, Brackley, Northamptonshire, NN13 7LE
Adults – £10
Concessions – £5
Under 16’s – £3