LEE Casswell admits that Leek Town's chronic backlog of games will "really stretch us".
The Blues have been scheduled to cram eight games into just 29 days this month - starting with yesterday's (Tuesday, January 1) 4-3 defeat at Northwich Victoria. And Casswell also has injuries to contend with.
The Blues boss said: "They just keep piling up. It will really stretch us in terms of the size of the squad. We have picked up some injuries as well. Tommy (Michael Thomas) is out for four to six weeks after suffering ankle ligament damage against Newcastle. Anthony Danylyk is still another two weeks away."
George Melling was thrust straight back into the starting 11 at Northwich despite missing a month through work commitments while Casswell has been frustrated in his efforts to extend the loan agreement of Dan Partridge. The defender arrived at Harrison Park in December on a one-month deal from Ilkeston Town. And Partridge is expected to be recalled by The Robins following an ankle injury to central defender Jide Maduak.
First Division South fixtures against Gresley and Belper both fell foul of the wet December weather either side of Christmas. The Blues did manage to get a run out in the disappointing 2-0 loss at home to Newcastle Town on Boxing Day. But Town have still played the fewest number of games in the division and have fulfilled an incredible seven less fixtures than second-placed Sutton Coldfield. And Casswell expects further postponements this month with even more rain expected to fall on a Harrison Park pitch susceptible to water-logging.
He added: "Realistically are you going to play all eight? But you have to prepare as if you are going to play every game. When we don't play we train."
The Harrison Park club faced similar issues in the 2011/12 season and ended up playing nine games in March and a further seven games in April after reaching the play-off final. Casswell's aim had been to still be in contention by the end of January. And the Town manager is hoping for a similar reaction.
"We need to make sure we are there or there abouts," stressed Casswell. "At the end of January we want to be in touch with the play-offs. You look at the league and we are still not a million mile off. We need to turn these games into points."
Blues chairman Andy Wain believes Town have the ability to replicate last season's late charge. Wain, who gave Casswell and his management team the seal of approval last week, said: "This season has in my opinion been equally as good with good games in the FA Cup and Trophy and albeit a few too many draws, we still can achieve our goal of going one step further than last season."