WORCESTER City boss John Barton insists putting the boot into struggling Stalybridge Celtic at St George's Lane tomorrow will be the perfect tonic for his side as they advance towards the Christmas and New Year period.

Morale is high in the City camp following victories in the FA Trophy and National Conference Cup over Prescot Cables and Droylsden respectively.

But after playing five cup ties in their last six competitive fixtures, Barton now wants to concentrate on improving City's Nationwide North position throughout December.

Celtic would seem ripe for the taking after enduring a woeful first few months to the campaign, languishing second from bottom with only Bradford Park Avenue registering a worse record.

The Greater Manchester outfit have clocked up a meagre 12 points from 15 games and are yet to win on their travels in eight attempts.

City are unbeaten in five league matches, a sequence stretching back to early October, and have only lost one Nationwide North encounter on home soil when Worksop Town triumphed 2-0 on September 21.

The finger points to a Worcester win and Barton believes it is essential to grab three points with a tricky set of fixtures to come over the festive period.

Barton said: "It's been an important time for us lately with four very difficult games on the run -- Prescot, Droylsden, Stalybridge and then Kettering. We've picked up two good results and it's now up to us to get two more.

"We've got a reasonably tough run-in to Christmas and the New Year. I would like us to be threatening the play-offs come January but it's dangerous to start making targets. I'm not one for doing that.

"Our home form this season has been a bit of a mixed bag and it's something we can improve on. We played some excellent football at the start of the season, but then we started to pick up injuries and that disrupted the flow."

Barton added: "I think we've only played Stalybridge the once while I've been here and that was in the FA Trophy in my first season. I remember getting a good result.

"I know their previous manager Paul Futcher quite well and Leon Kelly had a loan spell at Stalybridge so they are not completely foreign to us.

"The league table is taking shape and it tells me that Stalybridge will be looking to improve things. We know how competitive this league can be, so we won't take anything for granted."

John Snape returns to the fray after missing Monday's win to attend the birth of his son and winger Nick Colley is nearer to playing after recovering from an ankle knock.

However, youngsters Shabir Khan (groin) and Liam McDonald (knee) are likely to miss out through injury.

Celtic are without the services of goalkeeper Craig Dootson, defender Gregg Pearce and strikers Phil Eastwood and Chris Denham.

n Redditch United visit Worksop Town, one of the division's toughest sides, in a top-half Nationwide North clash tomorrow (3pm).