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Blackstones host Long Buckby in table-topping United Counties League Division One clash

Joint Blackstones boss Lee Clarke is predicting a cracking contest when the top two teams in Division One of the United Counties League clash on Saturday.

Second-placed Stones host table-topping Long Buckby at the ALH Recruitment Stadium looking to close the four-point gap on the league leaders.

Buckby have dropped just five points so far this season from their 12 Division One games while Stones are the league's top scorers.

A grounded Lee Clarke scores Stones' fourth goal. (21092630)
A grounded Lee Clarke scores Stones' fourth goal. (21092630)

They have netted 46 times in 11 league games with Clarke - who won the league award for being top scorer in Division One for October this week - scoring 17 of them.

Bucks marksman Jim Smith is the leading scorer in the division after netting 20 times for his side who have plundered 40 goals in 12 league games.

And these ingredients have all the makings of a terrific table-topping tussle for Stones who follow Saturday's clash with league matches against title favourites Melton Town and high-flying Harrowby United.

Clarke - who watched Buckby win 4-0 at Whittlesey a fortnight ago - said: "They are a good side. They are top of the league for a reason.

“They have brought in a few players and have added some real quality.

“They’re scoring plenty of goals and have got experience in midfield and defence.

“Both sides like to play attacking football so it should be a really entertaining game.

“It’s a game between two good teams who like to play the right way."

Stones go into the crunch contest on the back of an epic 5-4 away win at Wellingborough Whitworth on Saturday.

They raced into a three-goal first half lead before being pegged back after the break.

The Stamford side regained the advantage only for Whitworth to level again before the hosts put through their own goal late on to give Stones their ninth league win of the season.

Matt Simpson scores for Blackstones at Whitworth on Saturday. (21092623)
Matt Simpson scores for Blackstones at Whitworth on Saturday. (21092623)

Clarke commented: "We were really good in the first half but, as good as we were in that half, the second half was the complete opposite.

“Whitworth came out for the second half with nothing to lose. They upped their intensity and it was just panic stations as soon as their first goal went in.

“We still look dangerous going forward regardless of how we’re playing, but we were all over the place at the back.

“The first goal knocked us for six. There was no communication after that, it was sloppy and we were not dealing with things like we had comfortably done in the first half.

“We spoke about it afterwards and it’s not something we can work on at training. It’s down to the mind-set of the players. They stopped doing everything we had done well in the first half.

“They thought the game was won and could just coast through the second half but, as has been proved time and time again, that’s out of the question.

“The three substitutes then came on and did well. They created two goals and got us out of a little bit of a pickle.

“But, when teams like Lutterworth Town and Anstey Nomads over the past couple of seasons have been three goals up at half-time, they then make sure the game is done.

“They manage the game by either taking the sting out of it in the second half. They shut up shop and will be happy to win 3-0 or really turn the screw and score four or five.

Ben Cowles scores direct from a corner. (21092628)
Ben Cowles scores direct from a corner. (21092628)

“But we seem to still want to charge around at 100mph rather than see games out.

“We are out-scoring teams at the moment, but that won't always be the case.

"It is going to cost us at some point and we do not want to waste being in good positions.

“We’ve got an important run of games coming up and we need to make more effort to ensure we’re not doing that because we are not going to create the same amount of chances against the likes of Long Buckby, Melton and Harrowby.

“It was a key three points regardless of the performance and we now need to get as many points as we can from these next games because that will mean we have taken points off the teams around us as well."

Stones are also in action on Wednesday night when they host Premier Division side Sleaford Town in the Lincolnshire Senior Trophy.

The two sides have already met once this season with Stones running out 5-4 winners in the Kitman UK League Cup clash.

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