FOOTBALL: Mind the gap! Pinchbeck United face championship rivals
Pinchbeck United can take a big step towards the title in Saturday’s top-of-the-table showdown.
The Knights will face second-placed Raunds Town at the Sir Halley Stewart Field knowing a home win would send them 10 points clear with a game in hand.
Pinchbeck have dropped only four points in a 16-match unbeaten run to claim pole position in the ChromaSport & Trophies United Counties League Division One title race.
Player-manager Ian Dunn said: “We’ve put ourselves in that position where everyone wants to knock us off the top and end the unbeaten record.
“We’ve noticed lately that a couple of teams came out to have a real go at us.
“They all want to beat us so they are raising their game.
Raunds will turn up here at the weekend with all of the pressure on them. They have to win the game – it’s the only way of catching us.
“Bourne Town certainly did that last Saturday and I’m sure their management will be disappointed if they don’t play to those levels again.
“Raunds will turn up here at the weekend with all of the pressure on them.
“They have to win the game – it’s the only way of catching us.
“A draw would be a great result for us by keeping them seven points behind with a game in hand.
“We can tick off another fixture if we pick up a point.
“Of course, we want to win. We always believe we can score goals and keep a clean sheet.
“In Raunds’ position, they have to chase us down. It’s not all over yet because there are plenty of games to be played.
“If they win on Saturday and go four points behind, they are right back in the mix as well as staying clear of the chasing pack.
“I don’t think we can go out there and play for a draw.
“We have exciting players who are forward thinking and ball carriers.
“We can’t ‘park the bus’ by being defensive and then try to catch them on the counter-attack.
“My message to our lads is ‘let’s go out and win the game’. That won’t change now.
“We don’t often see those mistakes which cost us goals at Bourne last weekend.
“The key aspect is keeping a clean sheet and defending well. The only team to stop us scoring were Huntingdon Town on the opening night of the season.”
Dunn knows Pinchbeck already have a huge advantage over Raunds – and not only from a seven-point lead.
The Knights are the only team so far this season to beat the Shopmates at Kiln Park.
Ollie Maltby got the only goal in November’s meeting and Pinchbeck also won 4-2 in the Knockout Cup – although they were still eliminated for fielding an ineligible player.
Dunn said: “I suppose we hold the upper hand pyschologically.
“However, they will want to end our unbeaten run and set the record straight here on Saturday.
“I think they will have a right go at us so it should be a really interesting game.
“Raunds are a good side. They have a nice pitch at home – but the Sir Halley Stewart Field is not in that condition.
“Their away form is not the greatest so the home comforts might favour us as well.
“However, we still need to out-work them.”
Defender Ash Murrell will be back in the squad after missing last weekend’s eight-goal thriller at Bourne Town.
Stoppage-time goals from Tyler Wright and Jack Smith rescued a point for Pinchbeck as they fought back from 2-0 and 4-2 down.
Maltby and substitute Andrew Tidswell had put the Knights back on level terms – only to concede again before the break.
Goalkeeper Dan Swan was guilty of three mistakes which gifted goals to Bourne.
But the Knights still have the best defensive record in Division One.
Meanwhile, Raunds were being held 1-1 at home to Lutterworth Town so they failed to cut the gap at the top of the table.