TRAFFORD FC manager Tom Baker has warned his side to make sure it’s not a case of ‘after the Lord Mayor’s show’ as they face a crucial week in the Evo-Stik North.
Baker’s men won 1-0 in last Saturday’s top-of-the-table clash at Lancaster City to cut the gap, although the Dolly Blues then won their game in hand on Tuesday night, beating Colne 2-0 to stretch their lead back to 6 points.
Trafford now welcome 7th-placed Clitheroe to Shawe View this Saturday before visiting Prescot Cables, who are 20th, on Tuesday night. In a quirk of the fixture list, Lancaster have the same games in reverse over the next 4 days so it represents an opportunity for 2nd-placed Trafford to crank up the pressure on the league leaders.
“It’s a big moment,” Baker told Beyond the Big Two. “This next couple of games are really important. If we can take maximum points then it’s down to Lancaster and we’ll see how they’ve done.
“It was a huge result last Saturday, to go and beat Lancaster, who are top. To dominate the game and go 16 unbeaten in the league as well, it does mean a lot. In the dressing room after the game, the atmosphere was really good, but we’ve done that before this season.
“We’ve twice won 1-0 against Farsley (who are 4th) and in my opinion they’re probably the best team in the league so we’ve proven when we play the other top sides that we are good enough.
“What we do need to do is improve our form against the sides that are mid-table. There are some really good sides that, if you’re not quite at the races, they’ll turn you over. We need to have the same mentality and try to reach the same performance whether we’re playing Lancaster, who are 1st, or Prescot on a Tuesday night.”
Baker felt Trafford should have had an early penalty and the Lancaster keeper sent off after he collided with Mark Derbyshire. The Trafford striker soldiered on for over an hour with a dislocated thumb and broken hand but is not set to be out for 4 to 5 weeks.
Derbyshire has already seen a header cleared off the line although Lancaster threatened with Jacob Gregory testing Trafford keeper Terry Smith while Jordan Connerton struck the bar.
But Derbyshire went close again after the break before centre-half Alex Frost broke the deadlock on 63 minutes, stooping to head home after Derbyshire flicked on a Liam Brownhill free-kick. Trafford then survived some late pressure to cap off what Baker felt was a much-improved display.
“It was one of our best performances in a while and we deserved the 3 points,” he said. “It wasn’t all plain sailing. We had 2 players get injured in the opening 25 minutes so at that point I was thinking ‘maybe it’s not going to be our day’. But the lads were absolutely fantastic, they worked so hard and dominated the game, in my opinion. Lancaster still posed a threat going forward but looked very nervy.
“In the last few games, although we’ve not been getting beat, we’ve had quite a few draws and the performance levels have not been what we expect. That’s possibly down to tiredness, from the length of the run that we’ve been on. Maybe a bit if complacency too, but Saturday we were back to our best. Our work-rate was really good off the ball, our intensity in closing them down was fantastic, and we used the ball well. We got bodies forward and posed a goal threat.”
Besides Derbyshire, Jack Dorney was the other man to get injured, with the winger having to come off in the first half after suffering an ankle knock. He is now set to miss Saturday’s game but could feature on Tuesday night.
Baker was pleased with how their replacements performed at Lancaster but with Derbyshire set for an extended absence, the Trafford boss is looking to bring in another forward, perhaps in time for Tuesday night’s trip to Merseyside.
“The lads who came on did fantastic,” Baker added. “We didn’t really need to change anything and it shows the strength in depth that we’ve got, that we can make changes and still put in some real good performances.”