AFC Telford have hit the skids badly in recent weeks, plummeting down the Conference table to find themselves in the relegation zone, writes Mike Simmonds.
A decent enough start to the league campaign saw the Bucks pick up three wins and two draws from their first six games, including a 1-0 triumph at Kenilworth Road.
Four draws and two defeats followed, before successive wins over Woking and Dartford, the latter a stunning 4-1 away success, saw hopes raised again.
They have been well and truly dashed since though as 13 games have come and gone since the Bucks have enjoyed that winning feeling in the league, a run spanning three months, with the Dartford victory on October 9, their last moment of joy.
In the sequence, they were hard to beat at first, but have now lost six of their previous nine games and sit fourth from bottom, just four boints above basement side Barrow.
Andy Sinton’s side did pick up an FA Trophy win over Nuneaton, but were dumped out by King’s Lynn in the next stage too.
Results have seen the boss come under pressure with some fans calling for his head, but he warned that his removal might not lead to any better results.
Speaking to local media, he said: “The longer it goes, I will be under more pressure but all I can say is I’m doing my best. If other people decide my best is not good enough that is for other people.
“I won’t walk away. I’m a fighter. I will get it right and I’m convinced we will stay up. I’m sure there’s a lot of people calling for my head – I would just say be careful what you wish for.
“It might not be quite understood fully until I leave the club what a good job I have done.”
With the transfer window now open, Sinton had been hoping to strengthen his squad this month, though missed out on some signings recently.
He said: “Three players I thought I had, we have spoken to their agents and they said they are going to wait on other offers.
“It has been frustrating but things can change in football by the hour.
“Even when we were seventh or eighth. I have been saying we need freshening up, I have been saying we are down to the bare bones but we will keep battling away.
“We need some leadership qualities as well as a sprinkling of youth, enthusiasm and desire. I’m close to pressing a button on bringing in a leader.
“But the lad wants to wait for another couple of days until he gets something else sorted out, not in football terms, something else off the field sorted out.”
He did sign former Boston United midfielder Jason Stokes, who was released earlier this week, while defender Chris Blackburn has left the club.
Team news: Left back Ryan Valentine is struggling with a groin injury, meaning Chris Taylor and Joe Lamplough are in the running to deputise.
Richard Davies out with a fractured foot, while Jay Smith (abductor)and Michael Briscoe (back) are both absent.
For Hatters, both Greg Taylor and Scott Neilson are available after being cup-tied at the weekend, while Danny Spiller and Garry Richards remain on the injured list. There are doubts over JJ O’Donnell and Andre Gray too, but the latter is expected to be fit.
Top BSBP scorer: Bucks - Steve Jones (7). Hatters: Stuart Fleetwood (10).
Man in the middle: Declan Ford - Tonight will be his 11th Conference match of the season and has shown 20 yellow and four red cards to date.
Not been in charge of Luton before, but did officiate Telford’s 1-1 draw at Alfreton in October.
Last season he made 39 bookings in his 14 games, not dishing out a red and reffed Telford twice, a 4-0 FA Cup defeat at Chelmsford and the Bucks 3-1 BSBP home win over Kettering.
In charge: Andy Sinton – flying winger who won 12 international caps for England, his debut in a 1-1 draw in Poland in 1991, before finishing with the 7-1 win at San Marino in 1993.
His career included spells with Spurs, QPR, Sheffield Wednesday and Wolves, before joining Fleet Town, where he became football development officer. Sinton took over as manager and was then appointed AFC Telford boss on May 26, 2010.
In his first season, he led the Bucks to second place in Conference North and clinched promotion to the Conference via the play-offs.
View from the opposition: Andy Sinton told the Shropshire Star that beating Luton tonight would ge a greater achievement than their win at Kenilworth Road earlier in the campaign. He said: “Without a doubt, particularly with the current run that we are on.
“It is going to be tough. I think they are arguably the best side in the league.
“They are coming here quite confident where we are coming in really low.
“It’s my job to try to pick the group up (following Saturday’s 3-2 defeat to Braintree) but sometimes that has got to come from within them as well.”
One to watch: Steve Jones - 36-year-old striker who began life at Blackpook before a prolific spell at Leigh RMI saw him snapped up by Crewe Alexandra for £75,000.
Netted almost 50 goals in his five years at Gresty Road and earned a move to Burnley where he featured regularly in the Championship.
Left Turf Moor and had spells at Crewe again, Huddersfield, Bradford, Walsall and Motherwell before signing for Telford in November 2011.
Has made 29 appearance for Northern Ireland too and is the Bucks leading scorer with seven league goals this season, but was labelled ‘stupid’ by Sinton recently after he was suspended for four matches after picking up his second red card of the campaign.
Friendly faces: Town striker Andre Gray spent a brief spell at the New Bucks Head on loan from Shrewsbury Town. Hesignedg on November 26, 2009, making five Conference North appearances and scored once against local rivals Stafford Rangers.
Last time out: Town were comfortable 2-0 winners in their last and only ever previous visit to AFC Telford back in September 2010.
Amari Morgan-Smith gave the visitors an eighth minute lead before doubling the advantage moments after the break.
Town had to play out the final 23 minutes with 10 men though when Ed Asafu-Adjaye was sent off after picking up his second yellow card
Hatters: Mark Tyler, Dean Beckwith, Jake Howells, Ed Asafu-Adjaye, Will Antwi, Keith Keane, Alex Lawless, Robbie Willmott (Adam Watkins 89), Amari Morgan-Smith, Danny Crow (James Dance 71), Stuart Fleetwood (Aaron O’Connor 82).
Subs not used: K Pilkington, J Kissock
Attendance: 2,640 (Hatters 502).
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