Hednesford Town make the journey North East to league leaders North Ferriby United in a true top of the table encounter on Saturday, with the Keys Park outfit six points behind The Villagers with two games in hand.
A victory for The Pitmen against a North Ferriby side, unbeaten in 16 matches, would cut the deficit at the summit of the Evo-Stik Northern Premier Division to three points and send out a real signal of intent to their fellow promotion rivals.
North Ferriby are deservedly in top spot with the most potent strike force and meanest defence in the league so far this season and despite initially losing two of their opening three matches, Pitmen boss, Rob Smith, is fully aware of the difficulty of the fixture.
‘Ferriby are a very strong physical outfit and very well organised. They have good individuals all over the park but it is their overall strength as a unit which impresses me and they are unbeaten at home so that tells its own story.’
The Hednesford manager was keen, however, to praise his own sides strong start to the season and has challenged his squad to improve their overall performance levels, starting on Saturday.
‘We have had a fantastic start without reaching massive heights with our performances. Points wise this is as good a start as we could have hoped for. The challenge now is to build on it.’
Smith also stressed the strength of The Pitmen’s playing staff, a factor he feels has been added to with the signing of Sam Craven from Boston United this week, which has led to the release of Luke Bottomer.
‘We have found it difficult for Luke to fit into our shape and his chances will be limited so it was mutually agreed that he move on to get regular football. In an ideal world it would have been nice to have both Sam and Luke in the squad but we work to a budget and decisions have to be made. We had no cover at all on the left side so it makes sense to sign Sam. I wish Luke all the best.’
The form of Alex Melbourne has been noted by Pitmen supporters over the past few weeks and Smith believes the competition for places is healthy thing to have.
‘Alex has been excellent and his fitness levels are as good as I’ve known. He just needs to concentrate on putting in consistently good performances and the fact that I was able to rest Dave MacPherson against Matlock for example is a great option for us. Both players will have a massive part to play this season.’
Past meetings between the teams saw North Ferriby win five games in succession between 2007 and 2009 with The Pitmen faring better last season with a 0-0 draw at home in April 2012 at Keys Park and a 2-1 victory away in September 2011.
Hednesford are renowned as having a vocal and passionate away support, especially in big games, and they come no bigger this one at this stage of the season. The chances of those fans being in good voice at 5pm on Saturday is without question should The Pitmen prevail and end North Ferriby’s long unbeaten run.
Pitmen Form – WWDWLW
Previous Result – Hednesford Town 2 Ilkeston 0 – Tuesday 27th November – Evo-Stik Northern Premier Division
Next Fixture – Burton Albion (H) – Birmingham Senior Cup Second Round – Tuesday 4th December
League Position – 2nd
North Ferriby United Form – DWWWWW
Previous Result – Ashton United 0 North Ferriby United 2 – Saturday 24th November – Evo-Stik Northern Premier Division
Next Fixture – Rushall Olympic (H) – Saturday 8th December – Evo Stik Northern Premier Division
League Position – 1st
KO – 3pm
Address of Ground – Rapid Solicitors Stadium, North Ferriby, East Yorkshire, HU14 3AB