Manager Lee Lashenko is gearing up Bishop Sutton to play a “big part” in a dramatic Premier Division title run-in, even though his side’s challenge is all but over.
Sutton travel to faltering leaders Bitton tomorrow with spirits raised a little by last weekend’s 1-0 victory at Ilfracombe.
Lashenko said: “We’re out to make life as hard as we can for Bitton and the other teams in with a shout of the title such as Hallen and Larkhall, who we have yet to play.
“Yes, I’m envious of sides like Bitton because I’d love to be where they are. We beat them 1-0 earlier this season and it would be nice to achieve the double over the possible champions.”
Veteran former Torquay and Walsall defender Steve Winter has joined Sutton for the run-in, though the 38-year-old is serving a four-match ban.
Bitton have endured a tough week, with last Saturday’s shock 4-1 home defeat by Street followed by a midweek 2-0 home loss against Merthyr Town. The Welsh club are up to third, two points off the lead with two games in hand.
Injured goalkeeper Sam Alexander, Matt Knapman, Guy Cocks, Mitch Tippins and leading scorer Mark Salter are missing for Bitton, who have recruited left-back Shaun Lamb, a former Bristol City youngster, from Chippenham Town.
“We’ve been desperately unlucky with injuries and it’s hit us at the wrong time,” said boss Richard Fey.
Hallen manager Paul Owen has labelled his fourth-placed side’s clash with lowly visitors Bridport as a “must-win match”.
Last Saturday’s 1-0 away defeat by Brislington ended a seven-match winning sequence for Hallen, who will be without influential midfielder Greg Andrews for the next four games.
“We’ve got Merthyr, Bishop Sutton and Bitton to play, so it’s vital we pick up points against sides at the other end of the table,” said Owen.
Damien O’Brien, who has played second division football in his native Australia and also appeared in the fifth tier of the German league, has been signed as cover.
Bristol Manor Farm manager John Black has said the fight for cup places is well and truly on, starting with tomorrow’s home meeting with Wells City.
Farm will take on Shortwood United in the GFA Trophy final next month and also travel to Merthyr in the Les Phillips Cup semi-finals on April 14.
Black, who is without the suspended Kye Thomas, pictured, for the next three games, has given opportunities to his son Joe, fellow midfielder Jack Trott and centre-back Ryan Batten in recent weeks.
Brislington host bottom club Corsham Town with only one defeat in their last 11 league outings, but they will be without 14-goal leading marksman Frank Gingell, who has a groin problem, for their final three games.
Defenders John Lock and Dave Peters return to a Bris side with one eye on Tuesday’s home Somerset Premier Cup semi-final with Weston-super-Mare (7.30pm).
Longwell Green Sports name brothers Mark Pocock, the former Oldland Abbotonians striker, and James Pocock, who was with Westbury last term, in their squad for the trip to Ilfracombe.
Goalkeeper Mark Britton, 41, comes out of retirement for the game as regular shot-stopper Mike Bawn is unavailable. Andy Summers and Dave Parnell are also back for Sports.
Andy Black has re-signed Billy Fletcher from Oldland Abbotonians as Cadbury Heath home in on the championship crown.
The young defender began the campaign at Springfield and has also played for Bitton and Oldland this term. Now, he is back to help drive the leaders over the finishing line, with promotion all but secured.
“Billy can play anywhere across the back. He has lots of ability and is good in the air and he’s decided to return to where he likes it best,” said boss Black.
Heath are unbeaten in their last 25 fixtures following Wednesday’s 1-0 win at Elmore. They host Roman Glass St George tomorrow with Mark Cherry and Jason Base in contention to return, but winger Luke Corish out through injury.
Saints’ meeting with Heath is followed by a trip to second-placed Melksham Town. “It doesn’t come much harder,” said manager Roger Hudd, who is without regular keeper Josh Compton.
Boss Ray Johnston is backing a talented crop of Portishead Town under-18s to make the grade. Right-winger James Playford has been performing well, at left-back, while central midfielder Will Payne has also just broken through.
“We’re starting to get a good mix of youth and experience here,” said Johnston, who can recall Jordan Cleary, Andy Lynch, Simon Kelly and Joe Lott for Calne Town’s visit.
Reece Purnell, 16, is in line for another senior outing at Elmore tomorrow after impressing in Oldland Abbotonians’ 7-1 caning of Shrewton United last weekend. Manager, Paul Britton said: “Reece took to it like a seasoned campaigner. Another of our reserve-team players, Tom Morgan, scored a hat-trick against Shrewton and he’s now got four goals in four games.”
Hengrove Athletic seek a first win in seven games when they go to Bradford Town, while Almondsbury UWE assistant manager Mel Davies said his team will travel to Gillingham Town “in good heart” despite a 3-1 defeat at Calne last Saturday.