Acid tests await as St Ives Town face fellow promotion hopefuls

Ben Seymour-Shove returns from suspension for St Ives Town. Picture: LOUISE THOMPSON

Ben Seymour-Shove returns from suspension for St Ives Town. Picture: LOUISE THOMPSON - Credit: Archant

St Ives Town boss Ricky Marheineke would love to pick up four points from two promotion clashes in the space of four days . . . but he admits he’ll settle for half that number.

The table-topping Saints are gearing up to face two of the teams leading the chase to knock them out of pole position. They entertain Kings Langley at ProEdge Westwood Road today before visiting title favourites AFC Rushden & Diamonds on Tuesday night.

They are certain to be two stern tests for a Saints side which has become accomplished in the art of grinding out hard-earned victories despite having a lengthy casualty list.

The latest example of that arrived last Saturday when a solid defensive showing and a moment of Scott Sinclair brilliance earned a 1-0 win at Potters Bar.

The wideman’s 77th minute stunner was enough to extend Saints’ unbeaten run to five league games and preserve a one-point cushion at the summit.

Marheineke said: “It is another result which demonstrates the importance of defending well and keeping clean sheets. When that happens you always have a chance of winning games.

“It doesn’t matter if it isn’t pretty. What matters is putting points on the board and we’ve are doing that.

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“We will go about the two games against Kings Langley and Diamonds in exactly the same way.

“Kings Langley are a very good side with some impressive individual players while Diamonds are clear favourites for the title.

“They are big spenders with a big squad which contains a lot of players who are proven at higher levels.

“We might be top now and we are determined to stay there, but Diamonds are favourites for the title as far as I’m concerned.

“Both games are going to be big tests, but they won’t define our season at this stage.

“It would be great if we could take four points from them, but in all honesty I would probably be happy with a couple of draws to stop both sides getting closer to us in the table.”

Saints have already drawn against both teams in their opening two matches of the season.

A curtain-raising 1-1 draw at Kings Langley was achieved despite the early dismissal of skipper Luke Knight. They then held Diamonds 2-2.

Marheineke is mulling over whether to offer Will Muzuimbiri a return to St Ives.

The forward has spent the past few months playing in the Swedish second division.

Saints have a striker shortage with Stuart Eason sidelined and Danny Watson in need of surgery.

Wideman Ben Seymour-Shove returns from a ban against Kings Langley while captain Knight should be fit for the Diamonds game after injury.