Witton Albion manager Brian Pritchard calls on his players to rise to challenge of avoiding relegation

Witton Albion manager Brian Pritchard

Witton Albion manager Brian Pritchard

First published in Football Northwich Guardian: Photograph of the Author by , Senior Sports Writer

BRIAN Pritchard will tell his players not to be distracted by the table while they prepare for a crucial double-header.

Witton visit Stafford Rangers tomorrow, Saturday, further adrift of a position of safety after results in midweek were unfavourable.

Stamford visit Wincham next Tuesday.

However they have games in hand – four in Frickley Athletic’s case – on teams immediately above them.

“Our task hasn’t changed,” said the Albion boss.

“Sides who like us are attempting to avoid relegation have set us a challenge, and it’s up to us now to respond.

“The way things are heading, it’s likely that we’ll need to reach a higher points total than has been required to stay safe in previous seasons. We’re conscious of that.

“Most important, at least for now, is that we’re in control of our own situation.”

A 2-2 draw with title hopefuls Chorley last weekend – a game Witton led 2-0 for almost an hour – followed a 3-2 victory at home to Nantwich Town.

With club captain Anthony Sheehan again after recovering from long-term injury, plus striker Dave Walker returning to the squad to face his former club at Marston Road, Pritchard is feeling optimistic.

However, his side’s form away from Wincham is a worry – Witton have failed to win on the road in the Premier Division since October.

Even Stafford, 11 points adrift of Albion in the drop zone, have picked up more points in the past half a dozen games.

“We need to improve our away form,” added Pritchard.

“On too many occasions we’ve played well, but not done ourselves justice in terms of the result.  We’ll continue to chip away though.

“The past two matches have been a massive improvement, and I’m disappointed we’ve not had anything close to the credit we deserved for last weekend’s game [against Chorley].”

Stafford have improved since replacing former Northwich Victoria manager Andy Mutch with ex-Alty legend Graham Heathcote, beating fellow strugglers Droylsden and Stocksbridge as well as holding play-offs hopefuls Blyth Spartans.

They were thrashed 5-0 in Northwich in October, when the hosts scored four goals in the opening 20 minutes.

Pritchard said: “It won’t be easy; I’ll never expect a team managed by Graham Heathcote to roll over for anybody.

“He’s experienced, and will want to put one over on us.”

To read a preview of tomorrow's game, click here: http://bit.ly/1kCzSY7

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