We have easily held our own at this level and if we can have a good finish to the season there is no reason why we cannot achieve a top 10 finish, says Eltham Palace boss Lloyd Bradley
RUSTHALL joint-manager Steven Ashmore says he’s expecting another stern test to his side’s title aspirations against Eltham Palace on Sunday.
Rusthall will go four points clear of Glebe with a victory at Foxbury Avenue – although Glebe will have three games in hand at the final whistle and remain favourites to go on and win the title.
“It was a very convincing performance by the boys last weekend against Forest Hill Park, which saw us beat them 6-1,” said Ashmore.
“We pressed extremely well as a team and didn’t allow them to settle into their game, which allowed us to be on the front foot from the start and dominate most of the game.
“It was very pleasing as well to see us score six goals against a team that has shown to be very strong defensively with up to last week only conceding 35 goals in 21 games.
“We looked dangerous every time we went forward and in truth we should have scored more, but all-in-all a very good performance and another three points.
“On Sunday we go to Eltham Palace, which we know will be another stern test especially as they have already beaten us this season.
“We know their strengths and how they like to play as we have come up against them (as Stansfeld) many times before when we were at Hildenborough, so we will make sure we set up correctly.
“I know the boys will be really up for this game as they will want to avenge that defeat only a few months ago.
“The squad is looking fit and healthy with only a couple of absentees due to illness and injuries so we will go to Eltham Palace with a very competitive squad.”
Eltham Palace go into the game in 12th place in the table with 30 points from their 22 league games and defeat on Sunday will put them 30 points adrift of Rusthall.
“On a personal note I have never known such a frustrating season. Every week I just seem to spend all my energies desperately attempting to assemble a squad for the weekend’s game,” said boss Lloyd Bradley.
“The fact that we have now played 30 League and Cup games this season and not once have I been able to name the same starting XI for two games in a row, pretty much tells its own story.
“Injuries to key players throughout the season have meant that I have not once had the luxury naming my strongest XI. Even this week we have had problems, the return of in-form Ryan Hassan, James Bradley, Charlie Burgess and Casey Killiea has been tempered by the loss of Billy Shinners and George Snelling, who both picked up knocks last week at FC Elmstead on their return from long-term injuries.
“A major blow has been the loss of Sam Ryan, who has stopped playing now until next season, so he can concentrate on his training for the London Marathon.
“Sam has probably been our most consistent and influential performer this season and would certainly have been a strong contender for player-of-the-year if he had continued playing. He will be sorely missed by both myself and the team.
“But my frustrations have been worthwhile as we have certainly proven a lot of the doubters wrong this season. The squad have never ceased to amaze me and have produced some tremendous performances, even when we have been down to bare bones, which has been often.
“We have easily held our own at this level and if we can have a good finish to the season there is no reason why we cannot achieve a top 10 finish.
“I set the players a 24 point target for the rest of the campaign, before our game at Holmesdale on New Year’s Eve and since then we have picked up nine points form five games, so I am still confident that with 11 games to go the players will meet their target.”
Looking ahead to Rusthall’s visit, Bradley said; “I know a lot of the players and their management team well from my battles with Hildenborough, both as Tudor Sports’ and Stansfeld manager back in the Kent County League.
“They have given a lot of teams hope for the future, as they have proved that you don’t always need a big player budget to be successful at this level.
“We will have it all to do against a very strong side. You do not stay top of the table for as long as they have been there without having a very talented team. They are a powerful team who try to play football, which is not always helped by the pitch at Jockey Field, so like many teams we have played this year they will enjoy playing on Glebe’s pitch, which is possibly the best in the League.
“We will need to be at our very best if we are to get anything out of the game and we will need to compete everywhere across the pitch.
“They are a big threat at set-pieces so we will need to be very focused in our defensive duties.
“But we have nothing to fear and the fact we put an end to the longest unbeaten run in the National League System this season with a brilliant 2-1 victory away to them in December. Rusthall had gone 17 League games without defeat. They will be looking to avenge that result, but we have a great opportunity to do the double over one of the favourites for promotion.”
Eltham Palace v Rusthall
Southern Counties East Football League First Division
Sunday 5th February 2017
Kick Off 3:00pm
at Foxbury Avenue, off Perry Street, Chislehurst, Kent BR7 6SD