Vital week ahead for Cleeve's survival bid
BACK to winning ways after a seven-game losing streak, Bishop's Cleeve face a "pivotal week" in their battle for Southern League survival starting with tomorrow's trip to Shortwood United.
Last weekend's 1-0 win over Clevedon Town halted a disastrous run that had seen the Villagers slump to the foot of Evo-Stik League Southern Division One South and West.
But with back to back Gloucestershire derbies at Shortwood, and at home to Cinderford Town on Wednesday and a bottom two battle with Winchester next week ahead there is little chance to dwell on the positives.
Boss Alex Sykes knows that by the time his side finish their nine-day slog with a trip to Taunton Town on Monday week, they will be much closer to knowing what their fate will be this term.
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"It was a great result for us last week, especially as we closed the game out in the last ten minutes," Sykes said.
"But now we have to take that on to Shortwood on Saturday for the first of four really, really big games for us.
"It is a pivotal week for us with lots of really important games starting with two local derbies – and you never need extra motivation to get ready for those.
"And then we have two six-pointers against two of our rivals down at the bottom and I am hopeful and expecting big things from these games.
"If we can get a positive set of results it won't make us safe as there is still lots more football to be played, but it will certainly give us some comfort."
Cleeve's quest to take points from their trip to Meadowbank is set to be boosted by as many as four new or returning faces.
Cheltenham Town youth trio Michael Gonzalo, Bobbie Dale and Zack Kotwica are all set to feature, providing paperwork is completed, while talismanic defender Sam Avery could return from an ankle knock.
With last week's goal hero Matt Liddiard now returning to Gloucester City after a successful loan spell, Sykes is hoping that the quartet can give his squad a timely boost.
"The Cheltenham lads trained with us on Monday night and looked bright and sharp," he said. "It was good to have them involved and it helps pick up the rest of the squad too.
"Sam may be back, and if he is I'll be able put Matt Rose back in midfield.
"We know it will be a tough game as Shortwood have got some good players - a lot of whom are well known to us but we just need to try and keep this run going."
One of the six former Villagers in the Cleeve rank – defender Mark Pritchett – misses the game due to work commitments, while striker Kevin Slack is still on the recovery trail from a knee problem.
Goalkeeper Tom King is still first choice for Wood, while Tim Haddock, John Cant and Allton Axton should all be involved.