STRATFORD Town will begin their mission to kick-start a climb up the Southern League Premier Division table without the vital influence of Scott Hadland.
The tigerish midfielder has been a key influence – on and off the pitch – as Town secured promotion last season but he has now had to put his football commitments on hold because of a new job.
Manager Carl Adams said it would be a big blow to lose the former Barwell, Hinckley and Bromsgrove player, but Hadland will remain on Town’s books.
“Hopefully his situation will change and he will be available for us again but at the moment his work commitments come first,” said Adams.
“Scott is a big character around the club and we will miss his presence in the dressing room, as well as out on the pitch. He has been a man mountain in the last couple of seasons.
“It’s a shame but we’ve got a big squad and it’s up to the other players to take on the responsibility.”
The good news for Adams is that Emmitt Delfouneso, Alex Price and Dior Angus are all available as Town prepare for a first league game in a month on Saturday away to Slough Town.
With Tuesday’s match at home to Merthyr Town being called off – and rearranged to December 22 – Stratford have not played a Southern Premier game since a 1-0 defeat to Frome Town on October 24.
The run of cup games has meant Adams’ men have slipped into the bottom six but with as many as five games in hand on the teams around them.
However, after just two 90-minute defeats in the last ten league and cup games, the boss stressed they have the confidence to start putting together a winning league run.
Adams has targeted at least two wins from the next three league games to ensure Town start pushing up the Southern Premier table. They remain five points off tenth place and, after the trip to Beaconsfield, where Slough are ground-sharers, they face bottom two Bedworth United and Paulton Rovers.
“Because we have played so many cup games, we’ve not played a league game for ages so we’ve slipped down the table,” said Adams.
“The cups are great but the be all and end all is the league. That’s how we will be judged and the next month is going to be important.
“We’ve lost only two games in the last ten so the form is there and the confidence is there.”
Despite the weekend’s 2-1 FA Trophy exit at Ashton United after going down to an own goal, Adams says the performance deserved better.
Playing on a sodden, windswept surface, it was a real battle for both sides but the hosts took the lead on 33 minutes when Jeff King created space to spin and fire home.
Six minutes later, Town top scorer Edwin Ahenkorah notched his tenth goal of the season to level, tucking home after Rob Thompson-Brown’s shot had rebounded into his path.
However, a lack of concentration proved crucial three minutes later when a quick Town free kick suddenly became a counter-attack and, as defender Anthony Charles attempted to clear a Joel Melia cross, the ball flew into his own net.