Eastleigh boss Ian Baird must beware the on-field threat posed by his opposite number Nicky Forster when Dover Athletic visit the Silverlake Stadium tomorrow.
The former Brentford, Birmingham, Reading and Brighton striker may make his first start for the club after going on as a second-half substitute in a goalless draw against Eastbourne Borough on Monday.
Baird said: “He’s had a very good Football League career and he’s still only 38, so I wouldn’t think he’s finished yet. I know he went on for them on Monday and, if he’s looked after himself, he can be a secret weapon for them.”
Tomorrow’s match has the makings of a cracker with Eastleigh – the 4/1 Conference South title favourites – pitted against a Dover side ranked 9/2 second favourites by league sponsors Blue Square.
Earlier this week Forster alluded to Eastleigh’s reputation as the division’s big spenders, saying: “They will be looking for a return on their investment, but it’s not all about money.”
But Baird reckons Dover are one of many clubs intent on using Eastleigh’s new-found wealth as “leverage” against them – even if they’re not exactly paupers themselves.
“I’ve said in tomorrow’s programme notes that we’re up against a club who are traditionally a hell of a lot bigger than Eastleigh,” he said.
“Dover have got a fantastic history and their gates show they have pulling power.
“I know they’ve got a good budget because I’ve been interested in a couple of their players myself.
“They had a good budget last year too and they didn’t even get into the play-offs.
“There’s a massive expectancy level there and if you’d asked me at the start of the season who’d be in with a good shout at the title, I’d have said Dover.”
Despite losing their opening game at Boreham Wood, fourth-placed Eastleigh are a point better off than unbeaten Dover following back-to- back 3-0 wins over Weston -super- Mare and Havant & Waterlooville.
Moses Ademola, scorer of three of those six goals, missed training with a dead leg but should be okay.
Gary Elphick, Damian Scannell, Osei Sankofa, Chris Flood and Adam Everitt all came through a reserve run-out this week, leaving Mark Hughes (broken metatarsal) and Lee Peacock as the only injury concerns.
Peacock was also feared to have a fractured foot bone but Baird con¬ firmed: “It isn’t broken.
“He’s had a cortisone injection to settle it, but he probably won’t be ready tomorrow.”