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Blackstones host Rushden & Higham in United Counties League clash at the ALH Recruitment Stadium




Blackstones face a must-win match on Saturday if they are maintain their place among the leading lights in Division One of the United Counties League.

Lee Clarke and Daniel French's charges host Rushden & Higham at the ALH Recruitment Stadium aiming to halt a three-match losing streak.

Defeats against Long Buckby, Melton Town and Saturday's reversal at Harrowby United have seen Stones drop to third place in the table.

Blackstones went down to a 2-1 away defeat at Harrowby on Saturday. Photo: Martin Davies (22695921)
Blackstones went down to a 2-1 away defeat at Harrowby on Saturday. Photo: Martin Davies (22695921)

They now trail table-topping Long Buckby by 16 points after picking up just one win in their last five league games.

And Clarke - who misses the match after starting a three-game ban following his dismissal at Harrowby at the weekend - wants to see a return to winning ways.

He said: "It's a game we expect to win because we're at home and hopefully the lads will turn up with the right attitude and get the job done.

"I don't care how we get them, but we need three points on Saturday. We need to get the job done no matter what the performance or how and when the goals come.

"Five games ago we could have gone top of the league, but we're now down to third and 16 points behind the leaders so Saturday is a must-win game."

Clarke admitted he had 'let the lads down' following his second half sending off at Harrowby when he kicked out at a home defender after being pulled back.

The joint player-boss had given Stones a dream start by firing them ahead inside the opening 30 seconds.

But his side's continual defensive frailties again came to the fore as Aboubacar Sylla's double sunk the Stones.

Clarke added: "My sending off was a combination of things with the way the game was going.

Blackstones went down to a 2-1 away defeat at Harrowby on Saturday. Photo: Martin Davies (22695916)
Blackstones went down to a 2-1 away defeat at Harrowby on Saturday. Photo: Martin Davies (22695916)

"I can only put it down to frustration, but I've been around the block enough times and should know better. I let the lads down.

"Harrowby were there for the taking though. We went ahead after 20 seconds and then had a good spell for 25 minutes.

"We didn't create clear-cut chances but were always in and around the box. They gradually got their way back into it though.

"We could have done better defensively with their first goal and then missed a sitter before they went down the other end and made it 2-1.

"We had a lot of territory, but they had something to hold onto for the last 25 minutes.

"We didn't play overly well compared to the last two games where we had done better.

"But we are still conceding goals every week and need to score three or four goals to win a game and, when you don't do that, we lose the game like was proven on Saturday.

"We are unable to keep clean sheets and it is becoming a major problem."

Stones came out the blocks and within the first minute took the lead through Clarke.

Blackstones went down to a 2-1 away defeat at Harrowby on Saturday. Photo: Martin Davies (22695942)
Blackstones went down to a 2-1 away defeat at Harrowby on Saturday. Photo: Martin Davies (22695942)

Josh Edmondson tore down the right and played the ball back into the 18-yard box where Clarke did not need asking twice and powered it into the net.

For the next 25 minutes Stones powered forward, pinning the home team in their own half but despite the pressure failed to extend the lead.

A one-goal lead is never ideal and on 28 minutes Harrowby levelled after a series of half clearances that never got beyond the halfway line to relieve the pressure.

Goalkeeper Aaron Bellairs was only able to half punch a corner out of the six-yard box where Sylla struck to level the score.

With their tails now up, the home team set up camp in the Stones half and they took the lead on the hour mark as Sylla lifted a weighted shot over Bellairs after a team-mate had danced past a couple of challenges.

Stones now threw everything at the home side but they defended robustly and, as the frustration began to show in the Stones attack, the game edged away from them.

Blackstones went down to a 2-1 away defeat at Harrowby on Saturday. Photo: Martin Davies (22695929)
Blackstones went down to a 2-1 away defeat at Harrowby on Saturday. Photo: Martin Davies (22695929)

Despite Clarke's 74th minute dismissal, the 10-men still pressed but were unable to rescue the game.

Stones: Bellairs, Buttery (Carter), Bates, Pell, Wilmer, Boome, Edmondson (Cowles), Moore-Papworth, De Sousa, Clarke, Morley (Young). Sub not used French.

Harry Peasgood and Ben Easson are both expected to return to Stones' squad for Saturday's home clash.

With 22-goal Clarke suspended, the co-boss wants his squad to take up the challenge of being his replacement.

He continued: "It's a chance for the likes of Josh Edmondson and Lewis Morley to step up alongside Jones De Sousa.

"We've got three or four players on seven or eight goals so we're now relying on them to step up and hopefully get the goals for us."


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