Stevenage in fine form

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The Independent Online
Non-League notebook

RUPERT METCALF

The strongest challenge to Macclesfield Town, the leaders and defending champions of the GM Vauxhall Conference, is currently coming not from the expected sources, Woking and Kidderminster Harriers, but from Stevenage Borough, who travel to meet the leaders at Moss Rose tomorrow in one of the season's most eagerly awaited non-League encounters.

A run of six matches without defeat has taken Stevenage, in their second season in the Conference after finishing fifth last term, to second place in the table, five points behind Sammy McIlroy's Macclesfield but with three games in hand and a vastly superior goal difference. "It's a monumental game on Saturday," Paul Fairclough, the Hertfordshire club's manager, said yesterday, "but it may not have much relevance at the end of the season. We lost to Enfield twice when we won the Diadora League."

The Hertfordshire outfit have done well to compete with the GMVC elite, as they have hardly been big spenders compared to their rivals. "We're a selling club," Fairclough said. Since last season, he has lost Leo Fortune- West (to Gillingham), Phil Simpson (to Barnet) and Richard Nugent (to Yeovil) - so this season's form is all the more creditable. "We've just been swept along by a tide of well-being," Fairclough added.

If they do win the title, they will not be promoted to the Endsleigh League, however. "Our ground is council-owned," Fairclough explained, "and while Stevenage Borough Council have done well to get us this far, they cannot afford to improve the ground further this year."

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