Ultimate test ahead for Eastwood CFC against leaders Long Eaton United

Unbeaten United Counties Premier Division North pacesetters Long Eaton United will provide Eastwood CFC with the ultimate test at the Halbrooke Stadium this Saturday.
Liam Hearn - shock departure from Eastwood last week.Liam Hearn - shock departure from Eastwood last week.
Liam Hearn - shock departure from Eastwood last week.

And the Red Badgers have hardly had the ideal preparation with the postponement of their game at Melton Town last weekend due to ground alterations and improvements taking place at SignRight Park.

They have also lost top scorer Liam Hearn, who has moved to league rivals Quorn.

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Ian Deakin's Long Eaton side proudly top the table with an unbeaten run of 12 wins and two draws from their 14 games so far and Eastwood boss Steve Kirkham said: “They are top and not lost all season, so we will be massive underdogs.

“It's not a free hit, but it is a chance to see where we're at again.

“We have played fourth and third and given a good account of ourselves so it will be a good measure for us.

“I know pretty much all their players and their manager and they are big, strong and very direct.

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“They put the ball into the box at every opportunity and they have a long throw that reaches the box from the halfway line.

“We know we are going to have to deal with a lot of balls in the air, a lot of crosses, and we're going to have to be physically strong.

“It's a big ask as they are obviously very good at what they do which is why they are top of the league.

“It won't be a surprise how they play or how they go about things. It's whether we can stand up to it to the task and are good enough to stop it.”

Eastwood face a big task to replace top scorer Liam Hearn.

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“It is disappointing – he was our top scorer with 11 goals in his 10 games which you can't immediately replace. It takes time,” said Kirkham.“Generally when he's not been on the pitch we don't score many goals.

“But we know the resources we have to work with. We've probably got a bottom six budget.

“That's what happens at any level. If a player does well they get other offers and it's down to them as to whether they go or not.

“I know lads have got bills to pay and mouths to feed.

“I am sure it won't be the last time a player moves on from here, and the same thing works for us with the lower leagues where we try to pick up lads who are doing well and see if they can play higher.

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“Liam will be a big loss. We are looking to get a striker in for Saturday. “Whether that will happen I am not so sure but we will do everything we can.”

On last weekend's Melton postponement, Kirkham added: “It wasn't ideal and it was a bit of a strange one as we've not played them yet, so I am not sure why it wasn't reversed or we didn't play them midweek at our place.

“There's not much anyone can do and we just have to get on with it.”

However, it did give Tyrrell Shannon (back), Romello Nangle (ankle) and Dean Freeman (knee) chance to regain fitness.

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“It is a plus in some ways as we have a couple of lads that have been able to shake knocks off,” said Kirkham.

“Tyrelle came off after about 10 minutes in the last game and would not have been fit for last Saturday.

“Nangle also had a knock and would not have been able to play last Saturday and it also gives Dean Freeman a bit more time to recover as the last game was his first back and he was struggling a bit.

“So we will get back to it on Saturday and try to put a run together, which isn't easy as it's a tough league.”