Blackstones have the chance to get back among the leading lights

Ben Porter scored Blackstones' winner against Thrapston.
Ben Porter scored Blackstones' winner against Thrapston.
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Blackstones have the chance to catapult themselves back among the United Counties League Division One front-runners this weekend.

They host second-placed Raunds Town at the ALH Recruitment Stadium on Saturday looking to close the seven-point gap on the Shopmates.

With Potton hosting Rushden & Higham on Saturday in a clash between the third and fourth-placed sides, victory for Stones will elevate them from their current fifth spot.

However, they face a Raunds side who have taken 16 points from their last six games, including a 4-0 thumping of Potton last weekend.

The match pits Blackstones as the joint highest scorers in the division against a Raunds team who are the joint fourth top marksmen overall with striker Ty Clark having netted 21 goals this season.

Co-boss Lee Clarke is predicting a difficult test for his Blackstones charges, but was buoyed by their 1-0 weekend win at Thrapston.

He said: “It’s a big game for us on Saturday. Raunds are flying high and on a good run. They had a good result against Potton last weekend so we know it’s going to be a tough game.

“They will want to win the game to keep close to leaders Pinchbeck, but it’s also a chance for us to close the gap on them and who knows what could happen then.

“We are going to have to step up and be on it because anything less than 100 per cent won’t be enough.

“Last weekend was probably the most pleasing win since we took over. It was the first time that we had showed an ugly side to our game. We showed a lot of character to really dig in.

“We were tactically disciplined to keep our shape. We looked like we really enjoyed defending rather than wanting to go gung-ho.

“We stood up to what they threw at us. We had a chat before the game about what we wanted the players to do and they took it on board which was really pleasing.

“We have been looking to find the right balance and asked the forwards to defend from the foot to take a bit of pressure off the back four.

“We had our worst performance the week before so it was a big game for us. As the higher opposition in the table, we were probably expected to win but it doesn’t always work like that.

“It was a potential banana skin on a heavy pitch against a physical side. They asked questions of us, but we had the answers.”

Stones had a number of players missing due to injury and unavailability for what is traditional tough away trip.

They also suffered an early setback when teenager Adam Chambers was forced injured inside the opening 20 minutes. He was replaced by Harry Peasgood who went on to have an excellent match.

Stones tried to play passing football but were hampered by a heavy pitch and physical challenges. Thrapston looked dangerous going forward, but this was dealt with by the visiting defence.

The deadlock was broken 10 minutes before half-time when player-boss Clarke was bundled over in the penalty area.

Ben Porter stepped up to take the resultant spot kick and, although his initial effort was saved, he reacted first to fire home the rebound.

The second half followed the same pattern with Thrapston having the lions share of the ball but Stones defending resolutely as goalkeeper Aaron Bellairs pulled off several reflex saves to ensure a clean sheet.

Stones: Bellairs, Bates, Chambers (Peasgood), Wilmer, Simpson, Boome, Porter (Edmondson), Papworth, De Sousa, Clarke, Barker. Sub not used: Crockett.