All of their next five opponents are potential title winners or play-off candidates. A trip to league leaders Altrincham follows on Saturday week before local rivals Buxton are at the DCJ Group Arena on Boxing Day. 2017 ends with a home meeting with fourth-placed Warrington Town and 2018 starts with a visit to second in the table Grantham Town.
More immediately, Farsley are currently seventh, five points ahead of the Gladiators, and after winning promotion from the First Division North via the play-offs, have made a solid start to life in the top tier. Kirkwood and joint manager Ian Hopkins are taking little notice of losses to Sutton Coldfield Town and Hednesford Town for Celtic in their last two league games.
Kirkwood declared: “They’ve come up and done really well despite losing their top scorer [James Walshaw to Scarborough Athletic], but they’ve got a good replacement in Nathan Cartman from Darlington. They might have lost their last two matches but they’re a good side. We had a big sticky patch. Farsley will be eager to get out of it and be wanting the win just as we are.”
After the cold snap caused last weekend’s home clash with Rushall Olympic to be postponed, Kirkwood is hoping his troops can rediscover the encouraging form which saw them beat Halesowen and Lancaster and play well in a narrow Derbyshire Senior Cup defeat at Alfreton.
“We were brilliant at Lancaster but that’s gone now and we have to look ahead to Saturday," insisted the joint manager. "The lads have trained hard, the weather looks as if it’ll be okay for Saturday and hopefully we’ll be on. We wanted to play last Saturday with confidence being high and with us playing well so it was a blow that it was off as we wanted to carry on the momentum and climb that table.”
Striker Ricky German has been recalled by Chesterfield and although nothing can be confirmed yet, Kirkwood revealed there may be a new face arriving in time in for Saturday. “Ricky did really well for us, he’s a good lad who will do well in the future and Jamie Jackson therefore looks likely to partner Shaun Harrad in attack," said Kirkwood.
On the injury front, Ted Cribley’s shoulder injury, which looked likely to see him sidelined for six weeks, is not as bad as first thought but long standing absentee Marc Newsham still looks to be some way off a return.
Speaking on Tuesday night Kirkwood said: “We’re hoping Ted can do a bit of training on Thursday and while Saturday might be a bit too soon for him, we’re hoping he’s not too far off a return. Marc’s ankle is taking some healing and it could be some while before he’s back. We all feel for him, he’s popular in the dressing room and a cracking lad so it’s really tough for him but he needs to stay strong and get it right.”
Reacting to the home Integro League Cup draw against Hednesford in January, Kirkwood added: “They’re flying at the moment but we’ve got to be happy with a home draw."
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