Ridgeons League: Dereham Town manager Matt Henman is focused on development
Dereham manager Matt Henman insists the gap between his side and Premier Division leaders Wroxham is of little concern as the Magpies begin to rebuild following their mid-season wobble.
Henman's side were early pacesetters in the league this season, but ended 2011 with four defeats in their final five league games. That allowed Wroxham to extend the gap between the two clubs – it now stands at 14 points – although it could be reduced this afternoon as Dereham host lowly Newmarket, while the Yachtsmen are in League Cup action.
The Dereham boss, however, is focusing purely on his side's development instead of Wroxham's lead: 'It's not in my thinking,' he said. 'I'm thinking more about getting our performances right and seeing where that takes us and putting a squad together which can finish higher again next season.
'It's no coincidence that we have improved since we added a few new faces and the squad is in a lot healthier state now than at the start of the season. The difference is like chalk and cheese.'
Wroxham are at home to Haverhill Rovers in the quarter-finals of the League Challenge Cup and they hope to have midfielder Gavin Lemmon back after missing five games through suspension and unavailability.
Striker Ben Thompson also returns, while the Yachtsmen this week completed the loan signing of Ross Gilfedder from Colchester United. The youngster has already made a big impression in the Ridgeons Premier, having scored 12 goals in 11 games while on loan at Woodbridge earlier in the season.
Wroxham boss David Batch said: 'We've been without our top scorer Paul Cook due to injury since Christmas and he is still not yet 100pc. Ben Thompson was also missing last week and that proved how quickly we could become thin on the ground. We haven't bleated about it but felt it right to address the issue now.'
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Kirkley & Pakefield boss Paul Tong admits his side have got '11 cup finals' ahead of them to try and preserve their Ridgeons Premier Division status.
The Royals travel to Woodbridge this afternoon and Tong believes they need to start picking up points soon to avoid being dragged into a relegation scrap.
'We're going to have to win a few and I think it's got to the point now where performances don't really matter,' he said. 'We need to get points on the board, that's all that matters. We've got to show that desire and mental strength – sometimes we're going to have to win ugly.
'The lads are just going to have to roll up their sleeves and get on with it. The way I see it is that we have got 11 cup finals to prepare for.'
Diss Town's run of three consecutive league defeats has left them also looking nervously towards the bottom of the table and they face another tough task today as third-placed Ely visit Brewers Green Lane.
Elsewhere in the Premier Division, Great Yarmouth are at home to Felixstowe & Walton and Gorleston travel to Wivenhoe.
In the First Division, Thetford will aim to get their title challenge back on track at Team Bury following back-to-back defeats.
Town boss Mark Scott said: 'We've now got to have a reality check. We've had two defeats on the bounce and the three teams above us in the table have all beaten us, which doesn't bode well.
'Gorleston had five or six defeats last season and still won the league, so it's not impossible for us. But we've now got to go and win at Godmanchester and beat March here to make it happen.'
Fakenham, unbeaten in four, are at home to Cambridge University Press while Swaffham host Long Melford, with manager Paul Hunt backing his youthful squad despite last weekend's 7-1 defeat at Godmanchester: 'You learn more about players when the going gets tough and it doesn't get much tougher than it was on Saturday,' he said.