Aylesbury United manager Ben Williams is relishing the prospect of his side testing themselves against the best teams in the division over the coming weeks, starting with AFC Dunstable this weekend.
Having played and beaten three of the bottom seven in recent weeks, including basement boys Arlesey Town last time out, six of United’s 10 remaining games are against sides who currently occupy a place in the top seven.
The Ducks play title-challenging trio AFC Rushden & Diamonds, Hartley Wintney and Dunstable during that run, although first up they were due to have a supposedly easier fixture at home to 17th-placed Northwood last Saturday before it was postponed due to a snow-covered pitch.
“It has been a good three weeks with maximum nine points taken,” said Williams, whose side are currently 14th.
“Although against teams that were not exactly testing, we have got the job done and controlled each game, playing some lovely football at times and keeping three clean sheets in the process.
“We know we will have sterner tests from now on with a particularly tough run-in against teams all challenging for the title or play-offs.
“This is something we as a management team are looking forward to, as it will show us the character of our players and whether or not we are capable of continuing our footballing philosophy against harder opponents, which we are confident we can.”
United’s cause will not be helped by an increasingly lengthy injury list with goalkeeper Jack Sillitoe set to undergo surgery on his damaged foot and loanee Horatio Hirst sent back to his parent club.
Williams added: “Unfortunately it looks like Jack will need an operation on his broken metatarsal. We’ll find out in the next few weeks, but we wish him a speedy recovery.
“Frustratingly, having managed to finally get two strikers in Horatio and Aaron Berry, they both managed to break a toe in back-to-back games. We are hoping Aaron will be fit in a couple of weeks and join up with the squad for our final eight games.
“Horatio’s loan period ended after the Arlesey game and he has been told to rest for four weeks. I am hopeful that he will be fit for the final six games of the season and, if Sheffield United agree, I would love to get him back involved for the tough run-in.”
To counter those injuries, Williams has strengthened his squad, revealing: “I am delighted to welcome Matt Peake-Pijnen to the club.
“Matt is someone I know locally and was recommended to me by Scott Davies.
“Matt progressed through the Oxford City ranks to play for the first team in the Conference South before moving to Banbury United this campaign, making 22 appearances. We see Matt as an attacking addition to our side.
“We also welcome Jamie Keen and Archie Davis to our squad, both are currently first year students with Bucks Sport Academy and show exciting potential.
“Planning is well underway for next season including player recruitment and pre-season friendlies.”