Hall Road Rangers are preparing for their biggest game of the season so far, as they travel to league leaders Pontefract Collieries on Saturday.
Dave Ricardo’s side currently sit in 3rd place, just 5 points behind Pontefract in the NCEL Division One promotion race. Both sides are unbeaten in 2017 and are the two in-from teams in the division with the Rangers losing only one of the last 17 games, and the West Yorkshire side only tasting defeat once in the last 20 games.
Rangers extended the gap from 4th placed Penistone on Saturday as they beat fellow promotion rivals Grimsby Borough 1-0 at Haworth Park thanks to a first half header from James Piercy. With just seven league games left and seven points the gap, it now looks like a three-horse race for the two automatic with AFC Emley and Saturday’s opponents, Pontefract.
Hall Road will be boosted by the fact that the hosts ended a 9 game winning run on Saturday with a 1-1 draw at relegation candidates Dronfield Town.
However, Pontefract have been free scoring this season; as the NCEL Division One’s top scorers with 109 goals in 36 games (averaging 3 goals a game), Hall Road’s defence must bring their A-game. The likes of James Whittingham, Sam Belcher and Ash Dexter will have their hands full as they come up against 3 of the league’s top scorers; Michael Dunn (25), Christopher Jackson (24) and Christopher Wood (22).
The Rangers were boosted by the news last week that they would receive the points for December’s abandoned Shirebrook match, however these won’t be added until the 23rd March meaning a win on Saturdaywould put Hall Road just 3 points behind the Collieries.
The visitors will also be confident having beaten Pontefract earlier in the season at Haworth Park; a brace from Josh Batty along with goals from Ash Dexter and Scott Phillips earnt a 4-0 win back in October. The win ended a 3 game losing streak against Craig Perry’s side.
Dave Ricardo wants his side to recreate the excitement he’s seen from them so many times this season: “I want the lads to have the same sense of excitement that they had leading up to the Glasshoughton game on the first weekend of the season. That feeling of anticipation, what can be achieved, where it can take us.
“If we are fortunate enough to win on Saturday, that will give us one hand on the trophy and although there are six more games against opposition that we want to beat, Pontefract will be the most physical opponent of the season. They are experienced, but not unbeatable.
“As ever, we will be working hard in training on ways to combat their threats and also capitalise on their weaknesses.”
Rangers captain Ash Dexter also explained the current mood of the squad in this promotion push: “All of the boys are in a buoyant mood after a few very successful weeks.
“Saturday is another huge game, but everyone is when you are in the promotion race. Pontefract are a good side but we know we can get the job done if we all perform to the level we have throughout the majority of the season.”
Kick off is 3pm on Saturday.