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City’s top-five tussle starts to build nicely
10:00am Wednesday 6th February 2013 in Sport By Steve Carley - Midlands Sports Journalist of the Year 2013, @stevecarleyWN
EXPECTATION is an interesting concept in football.
Largely because it places unrealistic demands, from both fans and the media, on teams to better what they achieved the previous year with scant consideration as to how that might actually happen.
Once you start to occupy the upper echelons of leagues, that automatically becomes the benchmark for the next season, no questions asked.
If you fall below that level, it is deemed as failure.
Success, therefore, can often work against teams in the fickle world of football. Which is where Worcester City come in.
It is not even three years since the St George’s Lane outfit were spared relegation from Conference South. Now they are sitting sixth in Blue Square Bet North and being touted as genuine play-off contenders.
Consequently, although nobody is denying Carl Heeley’s side are punching above their weight in terms of resources, they are now being judged in the context of promotion.
After finishing seventh last term, the expectation level has risen.
Whether that’s unfair is debatable but discussing them in such terms certainly makes a welcome change.
City, however, have lived up to that billing and have been in and around the play-off zone since August.
If anything, as we approach the two-thirds of the season mark, they could be even further up the table if you look at some of the points that have been dropped, particularly at home.
For, of their 38 points to date, only half have come at the Lane.
Interestingly, they have won five and drawn four matches both at home and away.
The only difference is on their own turf, where they have suffered two more defeats — five compared to just three on their travels.
Nevertheless, they are embroiled in a fascinating tussle for a top-five finish and that should provide plenty of excitement for fans in the final season at the Lane.
On the face of it, City are one of a raft of teams vying for the last of the four play-off spots behind champions-elect Chester, Guiseley and Brackley.
This is because Halifax have a whopping eight games in hand on Heeley’s men so will easily bridge the two-point gap between the teams.
Being only four adrift of fourth-placed Altrincham, they will almost certainly comfortably leapfrog them too.
It’s OK having points on the board but that only comes into play if the team playing catch-up have a large gap to close, which the Yorkshiremen don’t.
Which leaves the battle for fifth.
Gainsborough, Altrincham, Oxford City and Bradford Park Avenue are Worcester’s main rivals but Stalybridge Celtic, Solihull Moors and Boston United cannot be discounted.
Nor for that matter can 13th-placed Harrogate who, because of major problems with their pitch, have played seven games less than Worcester but have ground to make up.
With the exception of Bradford, City still have to play all of these teams again, starting against Stalybridge this Saturday. In that respect, it’s in their hands.
It is all beginning to come to the boil nicely.
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