COLNE aim to continue their impressive form in tonight’s East Lancashire derby at relegation-threatened Bacup and Rossendale Borough (8pm).
But Reds boss Steve Cunningham admits he will select a side with half an eye on Saturday’s visit of high flying Norton United to the xlcr Stadium.
Cunningham believes his team have a genuine chance of winning the North West Counties League Premier Division title next season and he wants to use matches like the one against third-placed Norton as a gauge of how far they have to improve to do that.
That means for games against sides below them in the standings, such as tonight’s encounter at West View Stadium, he will rotate his squad.
Cunningham said: “We have to look at the longer term and I can’t be playing the same lads every Saturday and Wednesday.
“We want to win the league next year so we need to have our strongest sides out for the games against the likes of Norton and Runcorn Linnets.
“But we are not going to taking the Bacup game lightly. They are scrapping for every point and we know it’s going to be a difficult challenge for us.”
Colne, who have been challenged to finish in the top five this season by their ambitious manager, have proved they are a growing force to be reckoned with over the past three weeks.
The Reds earned a share of the spoils at championship dark horses Glossop North End – a result which ended their remarkable 28-match run without drawing in the league – before they swept aside St Helens Town 7-0.
But Colne saved their best performance of the season so far for last weekend when they won 4-3 at table-topping Linnets, the club Cunningham used to captain. So good was the Reds’ display they were clapped off the field by the home support.
Their hero, for the second game running, was full-back turned goalscoring winger Tom Berwick.
The young left newsback has been converted by Cunningham into a right-sided attacker who clearly has an eye for a goal having followed up his hat-trick over St Helens with another against Linnets.
Berwick, however, will miss tonight’s match as will Cunningham, who is away.
Colne will also once again be without captain Marc Young and fellow centre back Jonathan Hodgkinson.
But the eighth-placed Reds, who have games in hand on the majority of the teams above them, will be boosted by the return of club captain Michael Cruz.
Second-bottom Bacup go into tonight’s clash on the back of a four-match winless run which has left them three points adrift of safety.
Brent Peters’ men do, however, have three games in hand on third-bottom Alsager Town.