"Bucks take on table toppers Mickleover in crunch clash"
Match Date : January 6th, 2024 3:00 pm
Competition : Southern League Premier Central
Ground : Don Amott Arena, Station Road, Mickleover, Derby, DE3 9FB
Kick Off : 15:00
The Bucks head to Derbyshire this weekend to take on league leaders Mickleover.
It’s safe to say Sports made an impressive start to the season. Having won their last four games of last season, the Derbyshire club kicked off the current campaign with 12 straight wins in all competitions, winning their opening 11 games in the league. However, a 1-1 draw with Bromsgrove in mid-October, Mickleover’s first dropped points of the season, heralded a run of five league games without a win, and Sports’ form has been inconsistent ever since.
A good run to the 3rd Round of the FA Trophy saw Sports thump Northern Premier high flyers Worksop 5-0 and knock out National North side Spennymoor, before they narrowly went out to Oldham on penalties. But their league form has taken a dip. At one stage the runaway leaders, Mickleover are still top of the table but are now level on points with Needham Market and Redditch, who have played one game less and one game more than Sports respectively.
Mickleover are yet to play in 2024 after their New Year’s Day game at Coalville was called off due to a waterlogged pitch, but a 5-1 Boxing Day win over Long Eaton ended a run of four league games without victory.
The man in charge at the Don Amott Arena is former Burton Albion midfielder John McGrath who was appointed in April 2016. McGrath’s side only narrowly missed out on the playoffs last season, as they finished one point outside the top five in 6th. And despite their drop in form, Sports are obviously still well and truly in the promotion picture again this season.
McGrath’s side are the division’s top scorers (50 for) and have the third-best defence (23 against), and their squad is littered with goalgetters. Oliver Greaves, Marcus Barnes, Andy Dales, Ethan Mann and veteran Stuart Beavon have all been among the goals, while former Wolves man Leon Clarke has recently arrived to offer yet more threat up top. Perhaps more importantly, at the other end young Welsh international goalkeeper, Lewis Ridd, has recently arrived on loan from Derby.
Sports have the division’s best home record, picking up 27 of their 44 points at the Don Amott Arena. What’s more, Sports haven’t lost in front of their own fans in any competition since 18 March 2023, when they lost 3-2 to Barwell.
But Kevin Wilkin’s men have been on an impressive run of their own. The Bucks are unbeaten on the road since 26 August (coincidentally, also a defeat at the hands of Barwell) and have picked up 10 points from the last 12 available away from home. In fact, the Bucks and are now 13 unbeaten in the league and have conceded just seven times during that run – giving Wilkin’s men the division’s second-best defence (19 against).
Sports won 2-1 when the sides met at the New Bucks Head earlier this season, but Wilkin’s men will be looking for a win this time around that would see the Bucks move to within a point of Saturday’s opponents.
Ground Address: Don Amott Arena, Station Road, Mickleover, Derby, DE3 9FB