WITH no game this weekend Northallerton Town boss Paul Burton has his eyes firmly fixed on their rearranged Northern League Cup tie away at Penrith on Tuesday night (7.45pm kick-off).
The cup soap opera has already been cancelled three times due to bad weather and with more heavy rain forecast across the area this week the game once again could be in doubt.
If playable, Burton is hopeful his side can progress through to the next round and also has high ambitions for the North Riding Senior Cup when his side tackle UniBond Premier League outfit Whitby Town away.
However, a date for the game has yet to be announced.
Town are currently in a rich vein of form following the festive victories over Whitley Bay and Darlington RA on Boxing Day.
But with Saturday’s fixture postponed against Durham City due to a waterlogged pitch, Burton has targeted the Penrith game to keep their purple patch going.
“Hopefully it will be fourth time lucky,” said Burton.
“It’s an important game for us because we want to have a good run in the cup this season.
“We’ve still got the North Riding Cup too and it’s important for us we stay in the competition because it gives us something to play for and look forward too.”
Town’s Tuesday opponents will be a tough nut to crack and currently sit in sixth place in the ANL Division Two table.
The Cumbria based side hit the traps running at the start of the season with a succession of high scoring victories including the 6-2 win over Brandon United and a 10-1 drubbing against Crook Town.
Burton is adamant Penrith will be no walkovers especially with home advantage for the tie.
“They will be a good side and have made a good start of the season,” said Burton.
“It will be a difficult game as they’re particularly strong at home.”
With their injury crisis well-documented last season, Town have been boosted by the return to full fitness of midfielder Andy Swalwell.
Swalwell had a scan this week on a recurring injury but Burton is hopeful he’ll recover in time to make his much anticipated comeback on Tuesday night.
“He went for a scan on January 2 and hopefully it will be sorted out there and then,” continued Burton.
“Dave Goodchild and Craig Skelton still look long-term injury doubts.”
Following the Penrith clash, Town are back to league action when they do battle against West Auckland next Saturday.
Then come two important fixtures at the bottom of the table against Bishop Auckland before second-from-bottom Horden.
Six points from the latter two games will be a significant survival boost for Burton and his men, who currently sit in 15th place, 13 points above the relegation zone.
On Saturday Town’s game with Durham succumbed to the atrocious weather conditions which fell across the region prior to kick-off.
Following Town’s recent improved performances Burton was disappointed and feels more postponed games this month could provide his side with a serious fixture pile-up.
“We expected it to be off which was a little bit disappointing,” added Burton.
“It’s not looking too bad at the moment as there’s not many teams who have games in hand on us around us in the table.
“But if we get a bad January and three or four games are called off then we could have problem.”
A deciding factor which could see more games cancelled is the state of the Calvert Stadium pitch.
The inferior playing surface is causing no end of problems for the players and Town’s groundsmen and Burton has highlighted the farce against West Auckland earlier in the season as the start of all their problems.
“The referee decided to play the game in farcical conditions when it should never have been played,” said Burton.
“The pitch has never really recovered from it. We can’t get on to level it out or roll it and it keeps cutting up every time we play.
“When you’re winning games like we did against Whitley Bay and Darlington you look forward to the next game but unfortunately the game against Durham had to be cancelled.”
Town’s two successive victories against Whitley Bay and Darlington on Boxing Day was the response the boss was looking for after the embarrassing 8-3 defeat against Shildon in December.
“We expected a response and we got one,” said Burton.