Veteran striker Steve Claridge could prove Gosport Borough’s trump card as they host fellow play-off rivals Paulton Rovers at Privett Park.
Claridge has recovered from his recent pelvic problems at a key stage in Borough’s bid to maintain their place in the Southern League division one south & west promotion chase.
The 45-year old played the whole 90 minutes in last week’s 2-2 draw at Wimborne and came through unscathed.
With so much at stake against Paulton, the experience of former Pompey striker and manager Claridge could make a big difference.
‘The experience of a player like Steve Claridge can be vital in a high-pressure game like this,’ said Gosport’s assistant manager Mick Catlin.
‘He is keen to play his part and gives us a calming influence out on the park. Chances can be few and far between in tight games and he has shown already this season that when opportunities fall to him, he sticks them away.
‘It is great to have him back for what is the business end to the season.’
Borough occupy fourth place in the table and are five points ahead of Rovers, who are two places below them.
A win for Gosport would widen the gap and provide a degree of breathing space for Borough ahead of the chasing clubs.
The home side have pushed their luck a bit recently on their travels, though, twice coming from behind to trawl back two-goal deficits and pick up points.
But with just one league defeat all season at Privett Park, Borough can head into tomorrow’s game in confident mood.
Catlin is expecting a close, but entertaining, affair.
‘Paulton need to win so they won’t be coming here to play for a draw,’ said Catlin.
‘At home, we like to take the game to our opponents and put them on the back foot so it should be an open, attacking affair.
‘We feel we are capable of beating anyone at home.
‘The race for the play-offs will go to the wire and this is a massive game for us.
‘It will be great if the local fans can turn out in force and get behind us because it makes a big difference to the players.
‘A win will relieve a lot of pressure but at the same time, if we lose, it heaps the pressure back on.’
Gosport are boosted by the return of central defender Lee Molyneux and midfielder Dan Wooden from suspension, but experienced defender Aaron Cook remains a doubt with ankle problems.
If the game is tight in the closing seconds, Borough can also turn to secret weapon – goalkeeper Nathan Ashmore.
Ashmore grabbed Borough’s late equaliser at Wimborne after racing upfield for a corner.
And in similar circumstances at Taunton the previous week, his presence caused chaos for another late leveller.
‘Nathan is always asking if he can go up at the end and I am sure if it is tight against Paulton we will give him the nod again,’ said Catlin.
Gosport Borough: Ashmore, Jones Gav, Molyneux, Poate, Martin, Wilde, Way, Kirby, Ford, Bennett, Claridge, Wooden, Langworthy, Sewell, Hards, Humble, Cook, Woodward, Lewis.