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Smith returns from suspension but Miller departs for Grantham

Stamford manager Graham Drury feels Saturday's crunch clash with Sheffield FC will make-or-break his side's play-off hopes.

The Daniels host the world's oldest football club at the Zeeco Stadium looking to close the gap on their fifth-placed visitors who occupy the final play-off place in Division One East of the Evo-Stik League.

Stamford are currently 11 points adrift of their visitors with nine matches remaining and Drury believes defeat will leave his side too much to do in their bid to reach the play-offs for a second successive season.

Stamford manager Graham Drury. (7784849)
Stamford manager Graham Drury. (7784849)

He said: "Make no bones about it - if we lose on Saturday, we're out of it.

"We've got to make sure we give it our best shot though and we still have the belief that we can get into the play-offs.

"We've got to give it everything we've got and make sure we're still in there with a fighting chance.

"The weather this week might make the game a bit of a lottery with the strong winds so we've got to make sure we buy the right ticket."

The Daniels will be boosted by the return of striker Gregg Smith after completing his three-match suspension.

However, centre-back Kern Miller has decided to join Premier Division neighbours Grantham Town.

Miller - who was deployed as an emergency striker in Saturday's 3-3 draw at Brighouse - becomes the eighth player to leave the Daniels this season for a higher level club.

Drury commented: "The offer was too good for Kern turn down.

"Losing eight players to a higher level has really hurt us this season. It's been hard, but we've just got to get on with it.

"It shows I'm doing the right thing by bringing these players to the club if higher level sides want to then sign them.

"I'll just have to keep working my way through my little black book. It might be getting nearer the back pages after this season though. I'm probably on page 56 - but I'll make sure there's another 256 to go."

The Daniels will also be without Conor Marshall on Saturday after he joined league rivals Wisbech Town while Jack Gurney has been recalled from his loan by League One side Peterborough United.

Kern Miller (left) has departed the Daniels to join Grantham. (7784851)
Kern Miller (left) has departed the Daniels to join Grantham. (7784851)

Despite the departures, Drury will still have some 'big decisions' to make on his starting line-up after ringing the changes at Brighouse on Saturday.

New signing Teddy Bloor made his debut while Jon Challinor and Ollie Brown-Hill were both handed starts with Ryan Seal and Joe Boachie on the bench.

Drury explained: "I had one eye on Kern leaving by how we set up on Saturday with him playing the Gregg Smith role up front and going with three at the back.

"It worked well. We were really good for 85 minutes and, although we had to make changes, they were enforced.

"Teddy was absolutely superb, but it was his first game for nearly a year and he had run himself into the ground.

"Ollie did really well on the left-hand side and I've got some big decisions to make this weekend.

"The players trained really hard in the week and deserve a lot of credit for believing in the way we set up and taking on board how I wanted us to play."

The Daniels were within five minutes of becoming only the second side this season to win at third-placed Brighouse.

However, after leading 3-1 late on, they conceded two goals with Brighouse bagging an injury-time equaliser.

Drury added: "A point would have been a great result five or six weeks ago but, considering where we are in the league, we needed the three points which is why it really hurt.

"I couldn't fault the lads and their endeavors though. They stuck to the game-plan.

"There have been some real fine margins in a lot of games this season, but conceding goals late on has cost us recently. Unfortunately we haven't been seeing games out."

The Daniels have been drawn away at either League One side Scunthorpe United or Boston United of the National League North in next season's Lincolnshire Senior Cup.

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