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Marc Benterman says Haverhill Rovers' clash with Kirkley & Pakefield is not 'season defining' in their bid to avoid relegation

Haverhill Rovers manager Marc Benterman insists this weekend’s home clash with Kirkley & Pakefield will not be a defining moment in their bid to avoid relegation.

Rovers are seven points adrift of safety in the Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division ahead of hosting the third-from-bottom Royals at the JR Crane Services Hub, The New Croft on Saturday (3pm).

With this weekend’s game marking the halfway point of the league campaign for both clubs, a victory for either side could be crucial, as a first home win of the season would see Benterman’s men close the gap on Kirkley to four points.

Marc Benterman’s Haverhill Rovers host 18th placed Kirkley & Pakefield at the JR Crane Services Hub, The New Croft this weekend Picture: Mecha Morton
Marc Benterman’s Haverhill Rovers host 18th placed Kirkley & Pakefield at the JR Crane Services Hub, The New Croft this weekend Picture: Mecha Morton

Meanwhile, a triumph on the road for the visitors would see them open up a 10-point buffer on the Premier Division’s bottom side.

But with performances already improving under his watch Benterman says the significance of the game is not as big as it looks.

“It’s no bigger than last week’s game,” the Rovers boss said. “You can call it a six-pointer but if we win the game 1-0 we don’t get four points or five points instead of three.

“We’ve got 20 games to go and it’s not a defining moment. It would be great to get a result and close the gap.

“We’ll give Kirkley & Pakefield respect and we’ll do our utmost to take the three points, but there’s no more emphasis on this game than any of the other 20 games we have left. If we can get three points on Saturday it will move us in the right direction.

“It would be great to get a big crowd this weekend. We appreciate the support and this is a rallying call to the Haverhill Rovers fans to come out and support us and hopefully we can get that first home win of the season.”

Last weekend, Rovers resumed their Premier Division campaign after a two-week break with a trip to First Division South champions Ipswich Wanderers.

A run of nine wins from their last 12 games had seen Wanderers shoot up the Premier Division table from 18th to sixth, but it was only a Teon Leggett strike midway through the first half which was all that separated the two Suffolk sides on Saturday.

The 1-0 defeat marked a third consecutive single-goal defeat in the league for Rovers and, despite the results not going their way, Benterman has been pleased with the displays he has seen from his side on the touchline.

“I was gutted to come away from Ipswich Wanderers with nothing and that shows you how far this group has come,” he said.

“We definitely deserved something, but we switched off for 30 seconds for their goal and after that we tried to get back into the game.

“We had a great chance with a one-on-one to score and at the end of the game we’ve come off the pitch and the Ipswich Wanderers fans have applauded us.

“It’s been down to the work on the training ground that the boys have put in. We’ve closed the gap.

“There was 10-0, 7-0 and 6-0 defeats before I took over five weeks ago and in a short space of time we’ve lost 3-2 to Soham, 2-1 to Long Melford and 1-0 to Ipswich Wanderers.

“I know it’s a results industry but we’ve achieved what we wanted to achieve and that’s to be competitive.

“Now it’s about the fine margins we’re talking about to turn those results into draws and wins.”

Andrew Conroy was substituted off with a head injury early on during Saturday’s defeat at Wanderers, with the Rovers defender now out of action for the next four weeks under the concussion protocols.

Benterman’s squad will be boosted by the return of defender Rokas Janilionis, who is back available after serving his suspension at the weekend.

Rovers are bidding for their first home win of the campaign, with their last success in a competitive game at The New Croft a 2-1 victory against Long Melford in their final home fixture of the 2021/22 season back in April earlier this year.