Lodge wants Stones to turn up the pressure on title rivals

Jake Pell wins a header for Blackstones against Long Buckby on Saturday.
Jake Pell wins a header for Blackstones against Long Buckby on Saturday.
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Blackstones boss Andy Lodge wants his side to crank up the pressure on their title rivals by closing the gap at the top of the United Counties League Division One table this weekend.

Third-placed Stones travel to Lutterworth Athletic on Saturday while table-topping Pinchbeck United visit Raunds Town who currently occupy second spot in a keenly-contested division.

Pinchbeck then take on high-flying Buckingham Town the following weekend and Lodge is calling for a maximum return to keep his charges firmly in the mix for honours.

He said: “So much can change so quickly in this division this season. If we go to Lutterworth and win then we’ll have taken 10 points from the last five games which isn’t too bad.

“It will be a tough game because Lutterworth are not a bad side, but I’m confident we can go there and get the win.

“We have got to get the win on Saturday and having two key players back in Scott Musgrove and Danny Barker will hopefully give us a lift and help us get a result and keep the pressure on the two teams above us.

“We have got a good enough squad, it’s just a matter of keeping people fit. I’ve got every confidence in my lads.”

Stones go into this weekend’s match after being held to a 1-1 home draw by struggling Long Buckby at the ALH Recruitment Stadium last Saturday.

The Bucks defied their lowly league position with a gritty performance to leave Lodge to reflect on what might have been.

He said: “We didn’t perform and we were not creative enough to open them up, but Long Buckby defended well.

“We had a lot of the ball, but they’ve got a few new lads in and were a lot better than the last time we played them.

“Based on recent results and the league positions, it was a game we were expected to win, but that’s not always the case. They battled for their lives and deserved the point.

“It’s two points dropped for us, but we didn’t deserve the win and a draw was a fair result.

“It wasn’t for the lack of effort, it was just one of those days where a couple of things didn’t go for us. We were disappointed to have only drawn, but we’ve still got a point so all is not lost.”

The first half began with Stones pressing hard and probing the visiting defence and it took 11 minutes to get the breakthrough.

Andrew Boome slotted a perfectly-weighted pass though into the penalty box where Jack Bates was able to run onto and side-foot the ball past the advancing keeper and into the net.

However, it took Long Buckby just 15 minutes to square the game when they moved the ball quickly forward following a thwarted Stones attack.

The home defence back-peddled but were not able to wrestle the ball away from the visitors who moved it out to the right-hand side of the pitch and a shot from outside of the 18-yard box from Simon Barby evaded the outstretched glove of Aaron Bellairs and into the bottom left corner of the goal.

The half sank into a war of attrition before Stones came out after the break and once more pushed to take control of the game but the visitors battled hard and frustrated the home attack.

The returning Jones de Sousa found the pace hard going and, what chances he engineered for himself, he drove wide.

Boome shot high while top scorer Liam Harrold found himself muscled off the ball by a determined back four.

Stones’ best chance fell to Ben Porter who received a laid-back pass and fired in a stinging shot from outside the box which the keeper failed to hold. It squirmed through his gloves, but he was saved embarrassment by the post as the visitors held out for a point.

Stones: Bellairs, Easson, Wilmer, Pell, Simpson, Boome, Porter, Papworth (Carter), Harrold, Bates, de Sousa (French). Sub not used: Edmondson.