Melton Town manager Shane Jarram believes a run to the club’s first-ever County Senior Cup final could be just the tonic to revive a flagging season.
Town take on NKF Burbage in the re-arranged semi-final on Tuesday, hoping to resurrect a stop-start season dogged by changes in personnel and postponements.
Melton have turned over several of the top sides in United Counties League Division One and in their cup run this season, but have struggled against sides in the lower half of the table.
While Melton’s league form appears to have stalled, Burbage are eyeing a league and cup double.
They sit second in Division Two of the Midland Football League after just one defeat in 15 games, but Jarram believes Melton’s higher-league status could play a part.
Melton should also have Kieran Foster available again after completing a three-match ban for his sending off in the 5-2 win against Lutterworth Town in January.
“Their division is equivalent to our Senior League Premier,” said Jarram.
“But it’s a strong league and they are a very good and well-organised team with aspirations of challenging in the league above.
“I think it will be a very good game. They are used to winning – it has become a habit – but we have beat some of the top sides in our league and hopefully we can raise our game again.
“If we perform like we have in the other rounds, I’m confident we will go through.”
Town’s low point came with a 5-0 home defeat late last month against Irchester, a side which had started the day just a couple of places and a handful of points better off in Division One.
The result left Melton just two places and six points above the bottom three, and prompted Jarram to bring in four new faces.
“We started the game comfortably and even when we conceded a poor goal we didn’t panic because we had been on top,” he added.
“But we just capitulated in the second half and after that I stood back and (realised) it was attitude.”
Jarram believes the players were also affected by the departure of Charlie Sheridan to Shepshed Dynamo, just weeks after he became the first Town player to sign an FA contract.
But Sheridan will be available to wear the red of Melton again when not required by the Midland Football League Premier outfit.
“We said all along we didn’t want there to be any barriers for Charlie to play higher league football,” Jarram explained.
“He had been offered some reasonable money to play at that standard and it wasn’t in our interests to hold him back.”
A string of postponements since the Irchester defeat has meant all of the newcomers are yet to make their debuts, while the team also has been physically unable to consign the result to the dustbin.
Town have played just five games since Christmas, and the interruptions have been symptomatic of an inconsistent campaign.
The postponements have also presented Jarram with an extra challenge to keep players sharp and focussed for the run-in.
“I’m very keen to get some momentum,” he said. “If we can finish strongly, it will help to keep the players interested and help them buy into what we want to do next season.
“We did have some players early in the season that were hit and miss in terms of availability so I wanted to try and get rid of that.
“We’d have been better off signing cardboard cut-outs because at least they would have been there every match.
“But the mood is now really good. They are a good bunch of lads and they stick together; it’s just frustrating they haven’t been playing.”
* The match takes place on neutral ground at Birstall United FC (kick-off 7.30pm).