Swindon Supermarine continue their pursuit of promotion to the Southern League Premier when they take on fellow play-off hopefuls Bideford A.F.C at The Webb’s Wood Stadium this Saturday afternoon (kick off – 3 p.m), writes Nick Taylor.
Entering a vitally important time of the season with a very busy schedule of six more games in January, Dave Webb’s side are looking to build on their strong home form against Sean Joyce’s team from North Devon, who always provide tough opposition.
Supermarine boss Dave Webb believes his side’s battling draw at Larkhall last weekend proved his side’s character and determination and he has challenged his side to remain unbeaten for the remainder of the month.
Goals from Joe Selman (2) and Josh Parsons against Larkhall saw Supermarine turn around a 2-0 deficit before a freak bobble on the ball as keeper Josh Hill was about to clear gifted the hosts a last-minute equaliser.
Supermarine go into the home clash with Bideford boasting the second best home record in the league while the visitors have the second best away record.
With runaway leaders Taunton Town and second-placed Salisbury pulling clear of the pack, victory will be a must for both sides at the Webb’s Wood on Saturday.
Bideford are currently unbeaten in three games, having secured an injury-time winner last week in a 1-0 win at home against improving basement boys Bishop Cleeve.
Supermarine and Bideford met in Devon back in late August when a Josh Parsons header was enough for Webb’s side to return to Wiltshire with the three points.
Bideford now find themselves with games in hand sitting eighth on 38 points from only 21 games played compared to Marine, who with their 3-3 draw at Larkhall, moved up one place to fourth on 40 points.
Speaking ahead of the game, Marine boss Webb emphasized the importance of the fixture: “If you look at the league table it’s a massive game for us.
“If they win, they go above us. If we win, it gives us more space on teams below us. We have a huge week ahead of us with three big games with so much riding on them.”
Having made poor starts in the last two fixtures, Webb wants his side to come flying out of the blocks on Saturday against Bideford, adding: “We’ve spoken to the players in length about this and will do so again at training on Thursday night.
“We can’t keep starting games at a certain pace and give easy goals away, we need to start on the front foot and go ahead ourselves.
“We got a fantastic result down at theirs sticking to a game plan. With the expected heavy conditions on Saturday, we have to adapt quickly and be versatile.”
Webb will be without the services of his top scorer Josh Parsons, who is away on holiday, but George Kellow could return to the squad after a long injury lay-off. Defender Zak Westlake is also unavailable for six weeks, having seen an eye specialist on Monday at the GWH, who has revealed that Zak won’t need surgery on his fractured eye socket sustained against Kidlington on New Year’s Day.
Bideford Manager Sean Joyce, a former Doncaster Rovers and Torquay United player, also recognises the significance of Saturday’s fixture and will have his players primed for the occasion. He said: “It’s a great chance. You couldn’t bet in our league, you’d lose a lot of money because everyone is beating everyone – anyone can make a run for the play-offs at the moment.
“Marine are up there, they’re in good form and they beat us 4-1 up there last year but, then again, we beat them 4-0 at home last year, so it’s a tough one. If you’re serious about being in and around the play-offs, you need to go there and get a result.”
Meanwhile in the Hellenic League, leaders Highworth Town find themselves without a fixture this weekend, whilst Royal Wootton Bassett Town could do Highworth a big favour if they were to get something from their visit to second in the table Thatcham Town. Fairford Town play host to Oxford City Nomads at Cinder Lane and in the Bluefin Sport Challenge Cup while Shrivenham, third in Division One West, take on Binfield, currently sixth in the Premier Division.