BASINGSTOKE Town will be hoping to put Eastleigh’s promotion party on hold when they make the short trip down the M3 tomorrow.
The south Hampshire side will win the Conference South if they avoid defeat against Jason Bristow’s out-of-form team – and a big crowd is expected at the Silverlake Stadium tomorrow afternoon (kick-off 3pm).
Eastleigh are nine points clear at the top of the table and unbeaten in 11 games, having won seven of them. By contrast, Town have failed to win in five outings and recorded just one victory in their last 11, beating bottom side Dorchester Town.
It’s a dreadful run that has seen them slip from play-off contention back to mid-table mediocrity.
Bristow said: “It’s frustrating. We do not want to end the season on a bad run, but that’s the way it is at the moment.
“It’s not acceptable and at times it feels like some of the players are just ticking the games off and waiting for the end of the season. We need to show more pride than that.”
Town beat Eastleigh 2-0 when the sides met at the Camrose in the opening month of the season, but Bristow is under no illusions about the size of the task that his side face tomorrow.
“They’re going to be buzzing and will come at us with all guns blazing,” he said. “I expect there to be a big crowd and they will be desperate to seal the title. We need to show the sort of resilience and character that has been missing for the last few games.”
One player that Town know all about is striker Ben Wright. The Salisbury City forward began his career at the Camrose and spent a month on loan at his hometown club in the winter, before joining Eastleigh in February, scoring 12 goals to fire his current club to the top of the table.
Bristow, a former teammate of Wright’s, said: “Ben has done really well down at Eastleigh in the last couple of months, showing what he can do, but they will be good from one to 11.”
Town will be without defender David Ray, who has suffered a partially-torn Achilles and will be out of action for at least three months, while Robbie Rice is a doubt after suffering a dead leg in the defeat at Gosport on Tuesday.
However, they could welcome back striker Liam Enver-Marum, while midfielder Matt Partridge is available again.
The Eastleigh game will be followed by a visit from bogey team Weston-super-Mare on Monday (kick-off 3pm), while Town’s final home game of the season will see them host Concord Rangers next Wednesday (kick-off 7.45pm).