Interim manager Lewis Thorogood reckons that Spalding United’s trip to Belper Town on Saturday is an even tougher test than last weekend’s clash with leaders Leek Town.
The Tulips went down 2-0 against the BetVictor NPL South East Division table-toppers Leek, but now face an away date with a fourth-placed Belper outfit that are 13 points off the summit with two games in hand.
With Belper having consistently improved in recent seasons (16th in 2018, ninth last season), Thorogood sees the play-off hopefuls as a blueprint for his team to follow.
“We’re on a bit of a tough run at the moment,” said the Tulips chief. “I don’t think we play anyone outside of the top ten until the end of March.
“We saw last weekend that Leek are a very good side and top for a reason.
“But, if that game had been a dull 0-0, I don’t think anyone would have said we didn’t deserve it.
“The top teams prey on your weaknesses – and Belper are a top team in this league. In some ways, this is a harder game than Leek.
“They are physical all over the park and play good football.
“In truth, the progression they’ve shown in recent years is something of a blueprint for us to follow.
“They used to be a side known for being in the bottom half, a bit like us. But now they’ve pushed on and are up in the top four – which is what we want to do moving forward.
“It’s going to be tough for us, but I know that the lads will go there with a good attitude. We’ve got to play with intensity and have a high workrate, while also being respectful of the calibre of our opposition.”
Spalding are finally hoping to welcome back talismanic keeper Michael Duggan, who has been missing for much of 2020.
Striker Jamie Jackson is also fit to start after making his return from the bench against Leek, while fellow frontman Joel Brownhill could also be back in contention.
Thorogood is also likely to make a few changes to his squad, with both departures and signings expected ahead of the game.