NPL Division One East
Ian Richards may have to consider bringing some Zorbs to training at Stocksbridge Park Steels or at least wrap his players in cotton wool after a nightmare session this week.
Joe Lumsden and Kurtis Turner walked off the training pitch injured on Tuesday night, adding to Richards’ woes.
The Steels go to North East giants Dunston tomorrow and Richards already had a threadbare squad prior to the injuries.
The arrivals of new signings Josh Millen and Alex O’Connor bolster numbers for Stocksbridge and Richards who probably couldn’t believe his bad luck.
“I knew we had four unavailable for personal commitments (for Dunston) but Lee Cooksey got injured on Saturday,” Richards told Non League Yorkshire.
“We had a brilliant training session on Tuesday and Nat Crofts trained in it (and looks ready to return from injury).
“But Joe Lumsden, who was sharp in training, rolled his ankle and he’s doubtful for Saturday.
“Kurtis Turner who has been brilliant since joining from Penistone, took an innocuous knock on his shin which is quite bad so he’s a doubt now.
“We’re really focused on training and we want it to be high intensity and have a real purpose and quality to it.
“Sometimes unfortunately when you train like that there is the chance of picking up injuries.
“We could have anything between four and seven players unavailable (for Dunston).
“Josh Millen and Alex O’Connor have been long-term targets because they’re young and players we can develop but we accelerated that recruitment because of the situation we are in.
“They trained really well on Tuesday and one of them will probably start, without saying who that is.
“I’m confident they’ll do well.”
Two weeks ago in the North East, Stocksbridge won 5-1 at Hebburn Town.
Richards knows a win at Dunston would be an upset but he has faith in his troops.
“We are going to go there with the same resilience and disciplined defence that we had against Marske but we’ll also look to play on the front-foot like we did against Hebburn,” he said.
“I think (if we won) it would surprise a few.
“They beat Frickley 6-0 at home.
“They beat Worksop comfortably so they are good at home.
“We have some brilliant footballers and a good team spirit in the changing room so these are the games we can do well in.
“We will have to be at our best but there’s no reason why we can’t make that trip up there and get a result that we’re proud of and one that surprises a few.”
Ninth-placed Stocksbridge sustained a blow in their quest to challenge for the play-offs when they lost 2-1 to Frickley Athletic last Saturday.
Richards was disappointed but remains hopeful that his men will stay in the hunt for a top five place.
“I thought we had turned a corner at Hebburn,” he said.
“We got the result at home to Marske who for me are the best team in this league – Liversedge will probably challenge that at the current moment.
“Marske are a very good outfit and we got a deserved draw.
“We had disappointment in the (Senior) Cup but then we beat Hebburn 5-1 with an excellent performance.
“We had two excellent training sessions and I just felt going into the Frickley game that we’d get a win.
“In the first half we had good possession and good territory in their half but we were poor in the final third.
“We conceded a really sloppy goal.
“We did better in the second half but we conceded a goal that was a great finish but too easy.
“Then we had the disappointment of a goal ruled out for offside which after looking at the video he was onside.
“Frickley came with a game-plan and they were organised and very defensive and they looked to catch us on the break and it worked for them.
“It was a disappointment but we can’t dwell on it. We have to look forward.
“As a management team and a club we’re really happy with the progress we’re making off-the-pitch and the processes we’re putting in.
“We’re really positive about the squad we have and that we will continue looking up the table rather than down the table.
“We feel we can challenge for those play-offs spots.
“We are moving in the right direction, we just need to keep stringing a run of results together.”