Haverhill Borough face what is probably the toughest fixture they could wish for right now when they take on Long Melford on Saturday.
Melford currently the lead the Thurlow Nunn League First Division table and in their last two matches have become the first team to win a league game this season at Debenham LC — dismantling them 5-1 — and come from 3-0 down to draw 3-3 with fellow high-flyers Saffron Walden Town.
For fifth-placed Borough though, the equation is simple, beat Melford at the New Croft on Saturday (3pm) and they will not only move nearer to a top-three place, but they will also be nine points behind their Suffolk rivals with three games in hand.
Borough manager Ben Cowling said: “It’s a big game. Melford are flying at the moment on a great run of form.
“They came from 3-0 down against Walden to draw and destroyed Debenham’s unbeaten home record.
“We are going to have to get up for it and certainly perform somewhat better than we did against Downham Town (2-1 home win on January 10), certainly for the first 45 minutes.”
Borough midfielder Luke Strutton and striker Lee Salmons are both unavailable.
Jake Twinn (knee) remains out with injury, while Harry Halls is still suspended.
Otherwise they have a full squad to select from, including defender Ryan Geoghegan, who has now served a ban and midfielder Aaron Forshaw, who has recovered from glandular fever.
Both Geoghegan and Forshaw turned out for Borough Reserves last week, with the former completing 90 minutes and the latter, who has only played seven games all season due to injury and illness, 70 minutes.
Melford are this season’s big surprise outfit having floundered near the foot of the table last season.
They have since brought in a clutch of players with experience at a higher level, including ex-Ipswich Town midfielder Jamie Griffiths.
With Borough having suffered just one home league defeat all season, a run that included a 3-0 win over fourth-placed Swaffham Town and a 1-1 draw with Saffron Walden Town, Cowling knows they can raise their games for the stronger teams.
He said: “If we can get three points on Saturday it keeps us ticking along. We are still outsiders, but it keeps us in the top six, which is an important thing at the moment.”
Haverhill Rovers go into their match at Ely City, who came off the bottom of the Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division with a 2-1 win at Brantham Athletic last Saturday, with experienced central defender Lee Kersey added to their squad.
Kersey was snapped up by Rovers player-manager Michael Shinn once he knew the 35-year-old was available.
Kersey and Shinn previously played in the same Billericay Town team and the defender has a long list of higher level clubs on his CV, including Tottenham, Barnsley, AFC Wimbledon, Boreham Wood and, most recently, Heybridge Swifts.
Shinn, who aside from the suspended Marc Abbott has a full squad to choose from, said of Kersey: “If he is fit and available he will play.
“I thought it would be good to get him in to help with some of the younger players we have got in the squad.
“It’s a difficult game on Saturday because they are trying to get all the points they can and we are still in the bottom half of the table.
“We need to go there and just show that our early league position was a false position and just do what we have done in the past few months.”