MANAGER Mark Owen cannot wait to end a month-long absence from West Midlands League action when Droitwich Spa entertain Gornal Athletic on Saturday.
Owen was left purring with delight after the Saltmen recorded a 4-1 win at Tipton Town in the Division One League Cup last weekend.
It was the perfect response to their FA Vase exit and sets them up for a hectic sequence of league games. The Vase run has meant Droitwich have so far only played six matches in Division One – the last on October 19 – while leaders Allscott Heath, who sit eight points ahead of Owen’s side, have played 11.
Buoyed by last weekend’s cup win, eight-placed Droitwich are confident of a swift ascent up the table.
“We’ve got nine games between now and the end of December, so we want to accumulate as many points as possible,” said Owen. “But we will just keep taking one game at a time and keep applying the same attitude and application as we have in the last few weeks.”
Brad Burgess, Connor Collins and Haydn Morris were on target in the away victory at Tipton, who also conceded an own goal, to give Droitwich a trip to Bromyard Town in the second round of the competition.
The comprehensive win was achieved despite six changes being made to the team eliminated by Lye Town in the FA Vase, with a number of young guns afforded the opportunity to impress.
Early chances came and went for wingers Burgess and Morris, while Collins also sent an effort off target from a promising position.
Home keeper Ryan Pratt appeared unbeatable in the first half as the opening goal continued to elude Droitwich, so there was a sense of relief just before the break when Morris put away James Lemon’s low cross to the back post.
A penalty awarded to the visitors looked to present the opportunity to put some distance between the two sides, but, despite the accuracy and power on Collins’ strike, Pratt pulled off a remarkable save to keep the scoreline at 1-0.
Burgess made amends for the miss with a well-placed finish inside the Tipton area, while Lemon forced an own goal to put the game beyond doubt at 3-0.
Further opportunities were missed by the Saltmen, who escaped when Conner Scott’s drive from range ricocheted against Matt Oliver’s bar and flew out.
Collins made up for his earlier misfortune in style when wrapping a 25-yard free kick around the wall and into the corner of the net to make it 4-0.
Danny Bell’s consolation for Tipton did provide a blemish on the scoreline for Droitwich, but the result was ultimately all that mattered for Owen.
“What we said before the game was that the League Cup campaign could give us the chance to put the Vase behind us,” he said.
“Their goalkeeper made three or four great saves at 0-0. We said at half-time it was a case of making sure we got the second and when we did the third followed quite quickly.
“We gave lads minutes, and those that came in impressed.
“Charlie [Tilley] at 17 did really well, we had Chris Duggan and Ollie Thompson out there as well, Mike Seeley played for the first time since his honeymoon, so there were lots of positives in terms of player performances.”
The Droitwich manager admits it has been difficult to manage playing time in his squad as effectively as he would have liked in recent weeks.
“We were always planning on changing things around for this game,” he added. “It was a case of mixing it up and stop things from going stale. The Vase games came thick and fast so it was hard to rotate, so when we got the chance to give lads some minutes and utilise the rest of the squad we did just that.”
Owen confirms that he will have a full-strength squad available to him against their 11th-placed opponents at Walshes Meadow on Saturday (3pm).
The Saltmen have already beaten Gornal this season, coming away with a 5-2 away at Garden Walk Stadium in August as a result of a Collins hat-trick and two from Lemon.