BASINGSTOKE Town’s new year improvement will be tested to the limit by in-form Welling United.
The Kent side, who visit the Camrose on Saturday (kick-off 3pm), have won their last nine league games, a run that has marked them out as genuine contenders for the Blue Square Bet South title.
They sit second in the table, nine points behind leaders Salisbury City – but with three games in hand.
Basingstoke are another of the division’s form sides, having won all three of their games since the turn of the year to move out of the relegation zone – and manager Jason Bristow is expecting a good game.
“I think it will be an entertaining match,” he said. “They are a side who like to attack and score, which is what we have been doing too of late.
“It should be a good game for the neutral and hopefully we can come out on top.
“Welling are full of confidence and flying high. They are a very talented, footballing side.
“They keep the ball, passing out from the back, and move it well, so it’s important that we track runners, shut them down and do not let them have too much time.
“It’s a massive test but we are looking forward to it. It’s a game that will show us where our season is heading. If we can do well and get something from the game then it will be a good step towards where we want to be.”
Welling are especially dangerous going forward. They have found the back of the net 25 times in their last seven league outings, scoring at least three goals in every game.
The Town defence is sure to be tested to the limit – and the hosts will be without key centre-back Ross Adams, who misses the game through suspension after being sent off during the 3-1 win over Staines two weeks ago.
“Ross was outstanding in the early part of the season and a big loss when he was out injured,” Bristow said. “He has done well since he came back, has got good experience and is a fantastic player so we will miss him – but it will give someone else a chance.”
That opportunity could go to youngster Chris Paterson, but Bristow could also decide to have either Robert Rice or Stuart Lake fill in at the back.
Elsewhere, Town have just one injury problem, with Delano Sam-Yorke a major doubt due to a hamstring injury.
The striker is among the contenders to win the 2012 Gazette Sports Personality of the Year award – and Bristow says he would be a worthy winner.
“Delano had a good year and was instrumental in our run to the play-offs,” the Town manager said. “When he’s on form and fit, he’s one of the best strikers in the league.
“His nomination for the award is well deserved and I hope everybody gets behind him and votes. I don’t think anyone from the club has won before so it would be great if Delano could do it.”