Neil Crowe believes an in-form Alistair Waddecar can fire play-off contenders Bamber Bridge to victory against local rivals Clitheroe at Irongate tomorrow.
Striker Alex Taylor is still suffering from injuries sustained in a car crash and sat out Tuesday night’s 5-0 victory over Prescot Cables.
But Waddecar – who was named in the NPL First Division North team of the season – stepped up to partner hat-trick hero Greg Johnstone and scored two goals in the convincing midweek victory.
Brig are fifth in the NPL First Division North table and have won five of their last six matches.
Boss Crowe has called on his players to secure a play-off place by winning their final five games.
He said: “We have five winnable games left on paper – but it doesn’t always work like that.
“We are confident going into the game – we are unbeaten in the last six games and the lads are in good spirits.
“But it is a local derby and anything can happen.
“Clitheroe will throw everything at us so we will have to be on our game.”
Bamber Bridge beat 15th-placed Clitheroe 2-0 in the away fixture at Shawbridge in August but Crowe is wary of the Blues.
He said: “We have changed quite a bit – we are a much stronger side than we were in August but Clitheroe have changed too and I know they will be up for it.”
Crowe is determined to keep hold of consistent hit-man Waddecar.
He said: “It was a great performance from start to finish against Prescot – we could have scored more than five.
“I’m very proud to have one of my players picked as part of the team of the year – Ali on his day is unplayable. He has been consistently good over the last three or four seasons and it is great that he has been recognised.
“I definitely want to keep hold of him. He enjoys his football, he loves being at Bamber Bridge and we will sit down and talk to him next week to make sure he is a Brig player next season.”
Crowe is concerned about new striker Taylor, who will not feature in tomorrow’s derby clash.
He said: “We are playing it by ear. Alex had a car crash just before he joined us and he got whiplash. He is still suffering and he couldn’t look sideways on Tuesday, so he had to sit it out.
“He is making slow progress but we want him right before we play him – he won’t play tomorrow.”
In Taylor’s absence Johnstone continued his own recovery from injury.
Crowe said: “Greg got three, he has been steadily making progress. He has worked hard to get back to fitness and he is reaping the rewards.”
Matt Lawlor and Phil Doughty returned from suspension to shore up Brig’s back line in the 5-0 win. And Crowe is confident ahead of the Clitheroe clash as the fight for the play-offs hots up.
He said: “I’ve virtually got a full squad to choose from and it is a big plus having Lawlor and Doughty back. They looked solid as a centre-half pairing on Tuesday.”
Brig announced this week that home ground Irongate will be renamed the Sir Tom Finney Stadium at their annual pre-season friendly in July against Preston North End.
Crowe was pleased by the reaction of the fans, he said: “We’ve had a great response – it is Bamber Bridge’s tribute to Sir Tom.”