ECCLESHILL United boss Lee Elam is glad he kept the faith with Luke Aldrich, after the striker’s fine start to the season.

He moved from Bradford rivals Albion Sports last year, but Elam felt he was capable of more than he’d shown going into this term.

But his manager can’t argue with a return of five competitive goals already in 2021/22, including the opener in Tuesday’s important 2-1 Northern Counties East League Premier Division derby win over Thackley.

Discussing the big man, Elam said: “Luke’s very important to this team.

“He’s been with us for a couple of seasons now, but with Covid around the whole time, he’d not kicked on like I knew he was capable of.

“He wasn’t performing at the highest level, but he’s always had it in him.

“He’s a technical player, a bright lad, and he has all the attributes needed to be a good number nine.

“I’m pleased with him as he’s started this season well, and he just needs to keep pushing himself now.”

Aldrich will be looking to add to his goal tally at Bottesford Town in a league clash this afternoon.

The game will be Town captain Michael Jones’ 1,000th in men’s football, but putting sentiment to one side, this is a clash Eccleshill will be expected to win, with their hosts having struggled in recent seasons.

But Elam warned: “It’s dangerous to write off any side on their day, and we’re going to need the right approach and attitude to win.

“I’ve looked at their results and asked around about how they play, and we know they’re a workmanlike outfit who give it their all.

“They have a decent pitch too, so hopefully we can play some good football on there and get the win.”

If Eccleshill do so, it would be their third league victory in a row, after successes against Emley and Thackley.

Discussing the latter, Elam said: “We were pleased with the result. It’s always tough to play your rivals, as they’re up for it.

“Getting the win sets us up nicely for this next game.”

He added: “We’re still bonding as a team, and discovering how to play together. We’ve bought some new players and it’s early days.

“We’ve not had a settled team this season either as illness and injuries have affected us.

“We lost Zack Sangster to a hamstring injury against Thackley for example.

“Fortunately, we’ve got a stronger squad than we’ve had in the past, which is a good job as we’ve had to use a lot of players.”

Elam has recovered from his own illness, having contracted Covid-19 in July.

He said: “There’s never a good time to catch it, and it did hamper our pre-season preparations, with us having to call off a couple of games.

“But I’m well now, as is everyone else, so we’re just keen to keep going with the season.”

Elsewhere today in the NCEL Premier Division, Thackley host Athersley Recreation, while Albion Sports entertain AFC Mansfield.

In the North West Counties League First Division North, Ilkley Town are away to Garstang. Campion and Steeton were both in action last night, against AFC Blackpool and Bury AFC respectively.

In the FA Cup First Qualifying Round, Liversedge visit Runcorn Linnets, while Barnoldswick Town host Pontefract Collieries.

In the National League North, Guiseley welcome Kidderminster Harriers to Nethermoor.