THOMAS Baillie is expecting an immediate reaction from his players to see “who is up for the battle” when Stratford Town play host to Halesowen Town on Saturday.
Town suffered just their third league defeat since September on Tuesday night as they fell to a 2-0 home reverse to fellow Evo-Stik Southern Premier Central play-off hopefuls Coalville Town.
The Blues also finished the game with nine men after the defensive pairing of Jordan Williams and Jamie McAteer were given their marching order after picking up two yellow cards each.
Town don’t have long to linger on that defeat, though, as they’re straight back in action this weekend against second-bottom Halesowen and boss Baillie is expecting an immediate response from Tuesday’s defeat.
“We could keep going over what happened on Tuesday, but there really is no point,” he said.
“It’s important we get it out of our system as quite simply night’s like Tuesday happen, no matter what level you’re playing at.
“It will be interesting to see the reaction and who cares and who doesn’t care.
“Losing is never easy, and when you don’t lose many it’s even harder to take, but the facts are we have not became a bad team from Tuesday night.
“It’s about how we react now. What I will be able to see on Saturday is the make-up of those players.
“Saturday will be massive for me to see the character in the team and the character in the squad as we’re in this promotion push.
“For me it’s all about the reaction and it’s all about how they respond to setbacks.
“We will now see who is up for what is a massive battle over the next few weeks.
“Saturday will tell me which players are ready for the battle and those that aren’t.”
Halesowen are going through a period of transition, with Rob Smith recently taking over from John Hill and Baillie is expecting a tough test, but stressed it’s a must-win game.
“Halesowen came to watch us on Tuesday so hopefully they’ve seen the worst of us and base their opinions on us from that game,” joked Baillie.
“Every game in this division is tough, but at this stage of the season Saturday’s game is one we have to win.”
After Saturday, Town are on the road to another play-off hopeful in AFC Rushden & Diamonds on Tuesday night (7.45pm kick-off).
Both McAteer and Williams will be suspended for the trip to Northamptonshire, but Baillie has plenty of options to cover the centre of defence.
“We’ve got Lewis Wilson who can slot into the centre of the defence so it might be a case of who plays alongside him,” added Baillie.
“We are teetering on the edge of bringing in some fresh faces anyway, but we’ve also got Dan Preston who can play in the centre of the defence.
“Chris Cox and Albi Skendi can also slot in there as well so we have got plenty of options. It’s unfortunate to have both our centre backs missing for Tuesday, but I am glad it’s only for one game.”
Baillie watched Rushden & Diamonds last Saturday and believes Town are under no pressure to get a result.
“Diamonds have to beat us as they are four points behind and have played the same amount of games as us,” he said.
“It’s a case of us going to beat Halesowen then not lose at Diamonds,” he said.
“However, I cannot emphasise enough the dressing room has not had a test and now we’ll see what they’re all about.”