BADSHOT Lea have put their poor recent run behind them with two away wins in four days to drag themsleves right back into title contention in the Premier Division of the Combined Counties League.
A comfortable 3-0 win at Guildford City on Saturday was followed on a chilly Tuesday night in west London with a 2-0 win at CB Hounslow to leave the Baggies just four points behind stuttering league leaders Ascot United.
But the wins have come at a price, with Lea picking up a string of injuries as they enter a tough month against sides in the top half of the table, starting with home games against second-placed Balham on Saturday followed by a visit from table toppers Ascot to Westfield Lane next Tuesday.
Then come tough tests in the league against Abbey Rangers, Egham Town, Molesey and Colliers Wood before November’s out and a trip to Dorset to face Christchurch in the FA Vase.
And they face that daunting period with question marks over the fitness of Nic Ciardini (hamstring), Stacey Thripp (cracked rib) and Mac Ford (bruised ankle) while Zac Hawker and Danilo Cadete are unavailable for Saturday’s game against Balham, as is striker Tom Cursons who is currently with Met Police, while central defenders Liam Flanaghan and Scott Hutchings have left the club.
“We’ve lost eight players in the space of five days,” said Lea boss Gavin Smith.
“We’ve signed one midfielder from Camberley and we are working on getting people in on loan. We are coming into a really busy period of games against teams at the top, so we want to be as strong as possible.”
The injuries and absentees couldn’t have come at a worse time for Lea after two superb wins on the road have catapulted them up the table and to within touching distance of the leaders with games in hand after their exciting run in the FA Cup.
“They’re really important wins and two good performances. We keep saying we’re way behind and we just need to get some sort of run going in the league and keep ourselves within touching distance of the top sides in the table,” said Smith, whose charges have now kept three clean sheets in the last four games.
Two goals from experienced playmaker Ciardini and a towering header from centre half Adam New saw off Guildford while a 25-yard thunderbolt from that man Ciardini and a crucial second from Jordan Carter wrapped up the points against Hounslow.
“We said we expected more from our experienced lads, that they needed to set the example, and they’ve all played well in the last two games,” said Smith, who was particularly pleased by the peformances of key players such as Ashley Lloyd, Liam Robinson and Darren Blake in helping Lea steady the ship after the recent wobbles against Banstead Athletic and Cobham and start to climb the table.
“We felt that we had lost our way a little bit in the way we wanted to play which stems back to the Banstead game. It had become like a basketball game when we played which is not what we want. We need to keep the ball, we don’t have to keep going forward all the time, and Stacey makes a massive difference as he retains possession of the ball so well.
“We just have to take each week as it comes, it’s important that we stay close if we want to achieve anything this year.”