Bradford Park Avenue face a stern test as Blue Square Bet North play-off rivals Oxford City arrive for a top-six clash at Horsfall Stadium on Saturday.
Fourth-placed Avenue are above their visitors but will be without stalwart left back Martin Drury, who picked up a knee injury in last weekend’s 4-1 win at struggling Histon.
Drury underwent an operation on Wednesday and could be sidelined for six weeks and his absence means manager John Deacey is again left with basic numbers.
Deacey said: “I brought Jamie Price back in as a permanent signing and I hoped that would help. But losing Drury this week means we’re left with just 16 available players for the game against Oxford.
“It’s a bit of a blessing that we have Simon Garner on loan because he is a left-sided player who is comfortable at full back. But Simon’s month’s loan is up after Saturday, so we will have to have a think and make some decisions after that.”
Oxford have four points less than Avenue going into the fixture and have played a game more but will be battling to stay in the frame for a possible promotion play-off finish.
Avenue will remain ahead of their opponents whatever the outcome but cannot climb into the top three as the gap is currently eight points.
Deacey said: “It will be a tough game because they are up there with us. I think the top three will be there at the end of the season and FC Halifax Town will be challenging, so clubs like ourselves and Oxford have to work hard to try to get the last couple of places in the play-offs.
“I haven’t seen them play this season but I’ve heard that Oxford have got a lot of big lads in there and are a hard team to play against. We like to play our football, so it should be an interesting game.”
Avenue are on a very good run after three straight wins which have seen them score 14 goals while conceding just two.
But their momentum was interrupted a little on Monday when they were denied a home game against Gainsborough Trinity, another promotion rival, because of a waterlogged Horsfall pitch.
Deacey is expecting no such problems on Saturday and said: “I haven’t seen the forecast but apparently it should be warm enough to rain this weekend and that will be a good sign.
“The pitch can cope with a bit of water as long as there is no deep frost underneath the surface. We are planning as though the game is a definite.”