Stones relishing the challenge at pivotal point of the season
Joint Blackstones boss Lee Clarke is relishing the prospect of a hectic spell of games that could prove pivotal to his side’s season.
Stones face three games in five days as they look to cement a top four finish in Division One of the United Counties League while also continuing their quest for silverware in the Daniels Cup competition.
They travel to face Lutterworth Town on Saturday before an Easter Monday derby duel at the ALH Recruitment Stadium against near neighbours Bourne Town.
Stones then face the Wakes again on Thursday night when the two sides clash at Stamford’s Zeeco Stadium in the semi-final of the Daniels Cup.
Both Lutterworth and Bourne are sides that can go above Stones in the table if they win their games in hand and Clarke is eagerly-anticipating the crunch clashes.
He said: “It’s a big week for us. We’ve got a clean bill of health and we’re all looking forward to it.
“Both sides can go above us if they win their games in hand so it’s a good chance to put some daylight between them and us.
“Six points would go a long way towards taking us to where we want to be.
“It’s weird playing the same team back-to-back, but Bourne took a bit of a hammering in midweek so it will be interesting to see how they come out of that.
“The Daniels Cup is a competition we want to win and to keep our momentum going. We will be taking the match very seriously.”
Stones go into the crucial triple bill of matches after sharing the spoils in a topsy-turvy 4-4 draw at Rushden & Higham last Saturday.
The Stamford side trailed 2-0 after just 16 minutes of the contest and then fell behind again after getting back on level terms.
They equalised with 18 minutes remaining and then looked set to claim the points when they scored in the 90th minute.
However, the Cudge Lankies levelled in the fourth minute of injury-time to leave Clarke and co-boss Daniel French disappointed at dropping vital points.
Clarke commented: “It was probably an entertaining game for the neutral, but it was annoying and frustrating to take part in.
“I was pleased with how we came back into the game, but disappointed that we then threw it away with the last kick of the match.
“We were sloppy defensively as a team for the whole 90 minutes. We gave the ball away too cheaply and made errors when we were in possession.
“It was like going back to how we were when we first took over because you’ve got to be pleased to score four goals away from home.
“Our energy levels and quality were not good enough to win the game. We were also naive in the last minute. We should have taken the ball into the corner, but conceded a free-kick which they equalised from.
“We had most of the ball, but they kept catching us on the counter-attack and our defending was very sloppy.”
Jory Mann gave Rushden the lead after just two minutes and then Dylan Wilson doubled the home side’s lead in the 16th minutes when he beat the offside trap and lobbed the advancing Aaron Bellairs.
The hosts then had Jake Reynolds sent off for a reckless challenge on the half-hour mark and it give Stones the boost to come out with all guns blazing after the break.
Joe Papworth halved the deficit within seven minutes of the restart when he converted a Jones de Sousa centre.
Four minutes later De Sousa squared the ball for Clarke to tap home to equaliser, but parity last just six minutes as Wilson regained Rushden’s lead with a carbon-copy of their second goal.
De Sousa continued to influence the game though and he raced onto a through ball after 72 minutes before rounding the keeper to bring Stones level again.
Stones then looked to have snatched victory when Matthew Simpson powered home a 90th minute leader from a corner.
However, the home team kept pressing and with the last kick of the ball forced the equaliser through Nathaniel Aosnal-Taylor.
Stones: Bellairs, Peasgood, Wilmer (Bates), Pell, Simpson, Boome, Carter (Porter), Papworth, De Sousa, Clarke, Butler (Elwood). Subs not used: Buttery, Czerwonka.