BRENDAN Kelly believes the Southern League Premier Central promotion race will go right down to the final day after Tamworth went top with a 2-0 victory over Alvechurch in midweek.
The Rouslers tasted success in their last league outing on Saturday, a 1-0 win at Banbury United in which Mike Taylor’s strike kept them top, but were finally displaced after the Lambs chalked off one of their games in hand at Lye Meadow – where substitute Chris Lait scored twice – on Tuesday night.
Despite Tamworth now being two points clear at the summit on 56 points, and with two further games to play over Bromsgrove, Kelly admits he was left with some questions of their rivals’ title credentials.
“I have to say it will [go down to the wire], I went to watch the game and from what I saw it was a bit of a smash and grab from them,” he said.
“I spoke with a few of Tamworth’s staff and they also seem in agreement that it will go on till the end of the season.
“From Tamworth’s point of view, when you have the likes of Chris Lait, a player of that quality to come off the bench, then you’re always going to be confident of your chances.”
Sporting reeled off two promising results in as many days on the back of their 3-0 humbling by Coalville Town, advancing to the final of the Worcestershire Senior Cup with a 6-0 rout over Evesham United.
Charlie Dowd’s hat-trick, Richard Gregory’s penalty and goals from Shaquille McDonald and Taylor helped the Rouslers to a barnstorming result at The Spires & Hartwell Jubilee Stadium against Division One South opposition on Monday.
It ensured yet another positive response to a setback – a trait which has become customary with Kelly’s men throughout the current campaign.
“It makes it easier for me when we’re scoring and winning games, we’ve got make sure we keep it up,” said the Sporting boss.
“Charlie’s given me a headache for the team selection on Saturday. He had a bad game at Kings Langley which knocked him, but he was excellent at Evesham.
“If he can do that every week then he’ll be invaluable to us.
“Liam Spink in midfield was excellent, it was good to give Max Beardmore a game in goal, we’re yet to concede a goal whenever he’s played.
“He appeared at Alvechurch on Boxing Day [a 4-1 win], but we’d already conceded by the time he came on.”
And with Bromsgrove bouncing back at the first attempt in terms of matters in the league, earning their 16th win this term at the Banbury Plant Hire Community Stadium, the Irishman has re-iterated the significance of another win against one of the old guard at Step Three.
“I think not only the lads, but myself did a bit of soul searching after the Coalville game, to show that level of performance after the run we were on was alarming.
“We hope to go on another little run now. The defence was brilliant in that game, and have no doubt about it, but that was a big scalp for us against an established club at this level.
“I thought their manager [Mike Ford] was disrespectful after the game in his post-match interview – when in truth they were beaten fair and square.”
The Rouslers will return to the Victoria Ground on Saturday to face Lowestoft Town (3pm), offering the title challengers a real opportunity to address their indifferent home form, where they have won just six times in 14 matches.
Despite the Trawler Boys’ struggles against top-six opposition this season, having only recorded a slender 2-1 win against Coalville Town in November, Kelly has urged his team to gain three points by whatever means necessary.
“It won’t be straightforward, I’ve said it to the lads before but the only team that can beat us is ourselves,” he said.
“All the hard work from this week will be undone if we don’t do it again on Saturday.
“At this stage of the season, you can forgive lads for slip ups through fatigue, but we need to just get points regardless of how we perform.”