A familiar face awaits Melton Mowbray FC co-managers Cliff Thornton and Matt Curtis as they prepare for their biggest game of the season.
Senior League leaders Melton host the biggest threat to their title hopes on Saturday when second-placed Sileby Town come to Hoby Road, Asfordby.
Sileby are yet to lose a league game this season and are led by Steve Hendy, like Thornton a former youth team manager at Holwell Sports, and well respected by both Melton bosses.
Thornton said: “Sileby are a passing team and it will be a very good game for the neutral to watch as long as the pitch is up to scratch.
“They are a very solid unit all round; they all work for each other very much like ourselves, but I honestly believe as a football team we shouldn’t fear anyone.
“The importance of the game is absolutely massive. It could be make-or-break for us.
“If we win, it will put pressure on Sileby to win all of their remaining games, but if we lose, it would mean Sileby could afford to lose twice and gives them a bit of a cushion.”
Last October, Mowbray led the reverse fixture at half-time, but were sunk by a late winner in a 3-2 defeat.
It left Melton with four defeats by mid-October and their title hopes increasingly slender.
But since their trip to Sileby, Mowbray have hit top gear. All 12 league matches have been won, a run which has taken them top of the Premier Division, and seen chief promotion rivals Saffron and Friar Lane dispatched in the last two games.
Much of the run can be attributed to their defensive strength which was bolstered mid-season by goalkeeper Richard Cragg from Holwell. The team have not conceded a goal since December 13.
Thornton added: “The confidence is very high, especially after beating Saffron last time out; the lads can’t wait for the game.
“It all works from the back room staff right through to the players. Everyone is happy and everyone looks forward to Saturdays.
“We are still involved in both cups and fighting for the league.”
With Sileby having not applied for promotion to step six level, Melton could still finish behind their title rivals and win promotion.
Their hopes of joining Holwell in the East Midlands Counties League next season hinge on topping the only two other teams to have lodged applications: Saffron Dynamo and Friar Lane and Epworth.
They must also ensure their temporary home at Burton Road, in Melton, is also up to spec before the March 31 deadline.
“Matt and I have to concentrate on the playing side and stay focussed on what’s important,” Thornton said.
“There’s no point doing all this if we don’t get promotion.
“As long as we finish above Saffron and Friar Lane we’re in the driving seat. There will be the odd game where things don’t go our way, but it’s all about finding a way to win.”
* The game takes place at Asfordby Amateurs FC, kick-off 2pm.