Stevenage in bold pursuit of twin targets

Non-League football
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The Independent Online
The only GM Vauxhall Conference fixture to beat the winter weather on New Year's Day saw the defending champions, Stevenage Borough, secure a spectacular 6-1 win at Slough Town to climb to third place in the table.

Stevenage are a daunting 15 points behind the leaders, Kidderminster Harriers, but they have five games in hand - and they are not letting tomorrow's scheduled FA Cup trip to Birmingham City distract them from their main objective this season.

"If we could swap places with Kidderminster, we would," Paul Fairclough, the Stevenage manager, said, "but this club loves a challenge. The Cup run is great, but the league is more important and we still think we can win it."

Wednesday's result at Slough did his side's self-belief no harm. "We were most surprised to find the game was on, but it was a great confidence- booster ahead of the Cup tie. And we've got a message for Birmingham - we're not just going there to enjoy the day, we're going there to win."

Stevenage were drawn at home for the third-round tie but the match was soon switched to St Andrew's on police advice. When it will be played remains to be seen - City have had their last two home games postponed and a hot-air balloon covering the pitch failed to save Wednesday's fixture against Manchester City.

David Sullivan, Birmingham's joint-owner, might not be too upset if Borough have to wait for their big day out. "We want a perfect pitch to play Stevenage on," he said, "and don't want to give them any possible advantage by staging the game on a substandard pitch."

The winter weather prevented play at Bromsgrove Rovers, so Kidderminster will have to wait to try and gain revenge for their unexpected Boxing Day 2-1 home defeat to their Worcestershire rivals. Harriers have, however, signed up their highly rated striker, Lee Hughes, until the end of the 1998-89 season.

Hughes, 20, has scored 21 goals this season. "He is more valuable to us on the pitch than he is as money in the bank," Kidderminster's manager, Graham Allner, said.

Peter Davenport, the former Nottingham Forest, Manchester United and England forward, has become Southport's caretaker manager following the resignation before Christmas of Steve Joel. Davenport, who had been Joel's assistant, intends to carry on playing for the Haig Avenue side.