STRATFORD Town’s head of football Thomas Baillie admitted he wants Saturday’s clash against league leaders Stourbridge ‘out the way’ – but stressed his side have nothing to fear.
Town face a tough test this weekend when Gary Hackett’s Glassboys visit the Arden Garages Stadium as they seek to cement their position at the top of the Evo-Stik South Premier Central standings.
However, with Baillie’s men having their own aspirations of breaking into the play-off places, the boss told the Herald that Stratford will give it their best shot.
“We are a good side,” he said. “I think we have gone under the radar for a quite a while but now teams are waking up to that fact.
“I’ve seen people think we’re an easy team to beat when we’re nothing of the sort.
“We’re a bit walking wounded at the minute and we’ll struggle with the squad for Saturday but we’ll get through the game.
“We’ve taken the pressure off ourselves by winning our last two games and we’ll give it our best shot against Stourbridge.
“On our day will give anyone a game and we know we can hurt teams in this division.
“It will be an interesting game for sure but I just want it out the way to be perfectly honest.”
Stourbridge won the previous meeting 3-0 back in August, but that was under the tenure of now Walsall Wood manager Darren Byfield.
And Baillie is hoping for better fortunes this time around.
“We’ve said all along, certainly when I joined, that the players were unsure of themselves and unsure of their roles,” he added.
“Now they can play without fear and we don’t have to fear Stourbridge.
“I have told the players that the destiny of this team is in that changing room.
“The first ten to 12 games that I was here was all about stopping the rot.
“We had to steady the ship but now we’re in a position where what happens this season will be determined by the players in the changing room.
“We’ve got the confidence in the players but more importantly, they’ve got the confidence, fight and ability in themselves and that is showing through.”
While Stourbridge lead the way and are deadly force going forward, with Luke Benbow (10) and Greg Mills (15) banging in the goals for the Glassboys, Baillie feels the Black Country outfit won’t win the league.
In fact, he believes his former club Kettering Town, who currently sit second in the table and are four points behind Stourbridge with three games in hand, will go on to lift the league trophy come the end of the season.
“Stourbridge are a strong side but as stupid as it sounds, I don’t think they’re going to win the league even though they’re the best team in it,” said Baillie.
“Stourbridge are the best footballing side in the division but I firmly believe Kettering will go on to win the league.”
Town know taking anything from the game will go a long way to boosting their chances of claiming a play-off place this season.
Baillie’s men currently sit sixth in the table but are outside the play-offs by virtue of goal difference.
Stratford have two games in hand on third-placed King’s Lynn Town, three games in hand on fourth-placed AFC Rushden & Diamonds and two games in hand on fifth-placed Biggleswade Town, who they travel to on New Year’s Day (3pm kick-off).
“We’ve taken some pressure off ourselves and we do have games in hand, but we have to win those,” said Baillie.
“In fairness to Stourbridge and Biggleswade, they’re not going to lose many games so they’re big games for us.
“I know Biggleswade’s manager (Lee Allinson) very well.
“I’m close friends with him and respect him. Biggleswade are doing really well so we know Tuesday will be tough.
“If we can get something from Saturday and then go and beat Biggleswade on Tuesday, I’d be the happiest manager alive.”
One doubt for the two big games against Stourbridge and Biggleswade is right-sided defender Chris Cox.
Cox scored the opening goal in the 2-1 victory over Banbury United last Saturday but was forced to come off before the second half could begin due to an ankle injury.
“Chris is struggling,” said Baillie. “His ankle is triple the size it should be.
“It’s like a balloon and it’s all cut so we’re going to have to take a look at it.
“Like I said before, we are a bit walking wounded so we’re going to have to patch a few people up.”
While Stratford have not been at their best in recent weeks, Baillie was quick to point out that it’s the results which ultimately matter the most.
“Everybody wants you to play like Real Madrid but it’s not going to happen,” he added.
“There’s no point saying you’ve played well but got beat.
“Sometimes in December, January and February you’re going to get poor games.
“Sometimes you just have to win ugly.”