With five fixtures remaining, Swindon Supermarine head into a crucial couple of days as they face play-off outsiders Winchester City at The Webbs Wood Stadium this Saturday before taking on second-placed Salisbury at home on Tuesday night writes Nick Taylor.
Sitting fifth in the standings in what’s proving to be a massively competitive fight for the play-off places in the Southern League – West Division, Lee Spalding’s side are still mathematically in with a chance of stealing the second automatic place if Salisbury’s indifferent form continues and both Wimborne and Bristol Manor Farm were to drop points in the next few games.
Saturday’s opponents defeated Marine back in November by 3-2, firing home an 88th minute penalty to send the Swindon side back north to Wiltshire pointless in an untidy encounter in which Marine skipper Zak Westlake received a red card for remonstrating with the referee after having had his most of his shirt wrestled off of his back in an off the ball incident.
Winchester arrive having played three games since last Saturday, fighting back from two goals down at half time to grab a point at Salisbury on Tuesday night and Marine interim manager Lee Spalding doesn’t believe this heavy schedule will affect his opponents, who still have an remote outside chance of grabbing a play-off place sitting in eleventh place, eight points behind Marine.
“Their mindset will be that this is a massive game for them, as it will be for us and Winchester will treat their visit rather like a cup final,” Spalding emphasised this week. “As we are above them in the league they will be up for it!”
Former Marine youngster Oli Bailey returns to his former side to spearhead the visitors attack and with over twenty goals to his name Spalding is fully aware of the danger Bailey brings, “He’s quick, lively and we’ll have to be on our mettle that’s for sure, but to be honest, I’m more concerned about how my side play than the opposition,” Spalding added.
Following their 3-1 away victory to second-bottom Slimbridge last weekend, when the home side dominated the early proceedings, Spalding has sharpened up his squad by having them in for training twice this week, going over certain things that the coach wasn’t happy with in the first half particularly.
“Last week, the first twenty minutes we struggled and were slow out of the blocks! However, after going a goal down the response the players showed was pleasing and despite not being at our best we are grinding out results.”
Full back Michael Hopkins returns to the squad after his recent skiing holiday, though Jon Else misses out due to work commitments. Zak Westlake is a doubt, having been substituted last week with a groin issue.
Long term absentee defender Ash Taylor has trained twice this week and Spalding is confident that his commanding centre back is in contention to return to the squad for the Salisbury fixture next Tuesday night.