Yate's surge up the table is no surprise to Paulton boss Nick Bunyard
PAULTON Rovers boss Nick Bunyard says he always knew Yate Town would be realistic promotion contenders – even when they were floundering at the foot of the Division One South & West table throughout the early part of the campaign.
The two sides go head-to-head at Lodge Road tomorrow afternoon looking to bolster their play-off challenges. Paulton are in fifth place after back-to-back victories in the last week, while Yate are sixth after their 14-match unbeaten run came to an end with a 3-1 defeat at Sholing on Wednesday night.
Bunyard's team were one of the last to claim a victory over Rob Cousins's side with a 3-2 success at Winterfield Road on November 10, at a time when Yate were propping up the rest.
"It is no surprise to me that Yate have made a big turnaround," said Bunyard. "They were struggling at the bottom of the league when we played them last, but with the amount of good players they have there it was only a matter of time.
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"They have been on a fantastic run, but we are not in bad shape ourselves. We've won the last couple of games and that has been particularly pleasing because we are having to deal with a mini injury crisis and are having to mix and match a bit."
Bunyard continues to struggle for numbers with Stuart Pearson (ankle), Jack Allward (shin), Josh Jeffries (knee), James Billing (ankle), Ben Lacey (ankle), Nick McCootie (hamstring) and Ben Osman (ankle) all sidelined.
Yate have an injury crisis of their own to contend with as skipper Edd Vahid, midfielder Geraint Bater and striker Danny Wring all face fitness tests, while Mitchell Page and goalkeeper Josh Dempsey are definitely out.
Assistant boss Michael Meaker, however, is expected to return to the squad after missing the defeat at Sholing due to work commitments and manager Cousins has also signed striker Karim Rendall on dual-registration terms
Cousins has also been boosted by in-form striker Scott Wilson's decision to remain with Yate for the time being instead of returning to his dual-registration club Gloucester City.
Meaker is hoping the players will bounce back quickly after that 14-game unbeaten run came to an end at Sholing.
"The run has been a brilliant effort, but it had to come to an end at some time," said Meaker. "Maybe it is a good time to get a little reminder that there is still a lot of work for us to do ahead of what is a massive game against Paulton.
"We've got two games in hand on them, but we don't want them to open up a seven-point gap going into the final part of the season."
Clevedon Town boss Mickey Bell believes his side will need to win five of their next six games to have any chance of staying in contention for a play-off place.
Bell has blamed squandered chances for dropped points in recent weeks, which has seen them drop nine points off the pace.
"Our general play up until the final third has been really pleasing," said Bell. "What we have not been able to do is turn the number of chances we are creating into goals and that has proved costly in recent weeks.
"I think we probably need to win five of the next six games to stay in contention and I believe we could achieve that if we can start getting the goals to complement some of the good performances we have produced lately."
Mangotsfield United boss Richard Thompson is pleased with the response from his players in the last two games after being critical of them following back-to-back defeats at the hands of Shortwood United and Cirencester Town.
Thompson watched his side end that sequence with a harder-than-expected 1-0 victory over Winchester City last weekend, before only a last-minute goal denied them another three points at Cinderford on Tuesday night.
"I was pleased with what I saw in the two games," said Thompson. "There was certainly a change in attitude and mindset from the players. I got the response I was looking for after telling them that I had not been happy with them in the previous few games."
Mangotsfield face a difficult trip to title-chasing Poole Town tomorrow, where Thompson will be without forward Mike Whittington and midfielder Kyle Thomas. Strikers Ben Hunt and Marcus Duharty face fitness tests before the game as they try to overcome hamstring problems.