Merthyr Tydfil travel to third-placed Halesowen Town tomorrow knowing that a win over their hosts, whom they are nine points ahead of with a game in hand, would help make the Premier Division title quest a "two- horse race". The second-placed team, Forest Green Rovers, trail the Welshmen by two points and have played two more games.
Merthyr's championship challenge has been inspired by their vastly experienced manager, Colin Addison, formerly in charge of Hereford, Derby, Newport and Atletico Madrid. It is a long way from the Vicente Calderon stadium to Penydarren Park, but Addison retains his enthusiasm for the game and his coaching skills are clearly paying off in south Wales.
"We're lucky to have a man of his calibre," Charles Stanley, Merthyr's chairman, said yesterday. "His ability to motivate players is top class and his track record speaks for itself."
Three former Cardiff City professionals play key roles in Addison's team - and they all do other jobs for the club. The 42-year-old midfielder Roger Gibbins, who also played for Tottenham and Norwich and turned out for Cwmbran in European competition this season, is the first-team coach.
The forward Cohen Griffith is also the commercial manager, while the centre-back Gareth Abraham doubles as the groundsman. He missed a few games earlier in the season, after injuring a hand by trapping it in the club mower while trimming the pitch. Addison's most recruit from the full-time game is Shaun Chapple, the former Swansea midfielder.
When a small amount of work is completed, Merthyr are confident that Penydarren Park will be deemed suitable for the Conference. Forest Green Rovers, who were promoted to the Premier Division only last summer, are spending pounds 100,000 to upgrade their ground, The Lawn, for the same purpose, so an exciting conclusion to the Dr Martens campaign, with promotion as well as the title at stake, looks in prospect.
Two Conference clubs are looking forward to big gates tonight for friendlies against Premiership teams who have been knocked out of the FA Cup. Yeovil Town entertain Everton at Huish Park while Woking take on Southampton at Kingfield.
Hereford United's director of football, Graham Turner, has become the new majority shareholder at the Edgar Street club and may replace the long-serving Peter Hill as chairman.
Hill will remain as chairman until third-party funding is in place before handing over the reins to Turner, who said: "I don't see myself as chairman [in the long term] but I shall be looking to bring in some financial clout."