EVESHAM United are gearing up for a potentially pivotal fixture at Cirencester Town on Saturday which could make or break their Southern League Division One South play-off hopes.
The Robins slipped out of the top five following Saturday’s frustrating 2-2 draw at home to lowly Bristol Manor Farm and now trail fifth-placed Winchester City on goal difference, although the Hampshire side have two games in hand.
Above them sit Cirencester in fourth – two points above United with a game in hand – so the importance of the first of five remaining fixtures for Evesham is plain to see.
News has broken this week that Evesham – even should they clinch a play-off place – may yet be denied promotion regardless of their outcome.
Boss Paul Collicutt insists the only focus for the players and himself is making sure they do finish in the top five, but news from the FA will not have escaped his attentions.
With seven divisions at Evesham’s level and only 12 promotion places, all league champions will be promoted but two of seven play-off winners with the worst points per game records will be denied promotion.
Two clubs nationally will enter the play-offs knowing they cannot go up and currently Evesham would fall into that bracket before playing in any semi-final.
On Saturday, Bristol made a bright start to the match but did not seriously trouble United keeper Andy Hannah in the opening quarter and, having asserted their authority by this point, the hosts took a 33rd-minute lead when Shayne Anson headed home from Adam Page’s corner.
Crucially, though, Evesham spurned a fine chance to double their lead five minutes later when Kane Simpson was denied by Manor Farm keeper Ben John when one-on-one.
The home side then had Will Tunnicliff stretchered off just before the break but they made a bright start to the second period as Kane Simpson was denied by the keeper before Page’s 20-yard free kick grazed the bar on its way over.
However, the visitors were level on 48 minutes in fortuitous circumstances when Lewis Bamford was deemed to have been upended by Nick Hancock, despite the latter being lay on the pitch.
Up stepped Owen Howe to powerfully fire home despite Hannah getting his hands on the ball.
The turnaround was complete on 72 minutes when Jordan Rogers crossed for Howe to tap in his and Bristol’s second goal, but the Robins did at least salvage a point at the death when Jamie Turner was adjudged to have brought down Joe Turley and Kane Simpson made no mistake from 12 yards.
Evesham are likely to be without both Tunnicliff and Linden Dovey through injury this weekend.