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Striker Karl Ashton is big boost to Stafford Rangers

By Staffordshire Newsletter  |  Posted: January 10, 2014

By Dave McLean

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STAFFORD Rangers' new boss Graham Heathcote goes on the road for the first time with the Boro on Saturday as they make the long journey to Blyth Spartans.

And there was mixed team news from the Rangers camp on Friday. The good news for all Marston Road supporters is that striker Karl Ashton is getting back to his best after a long injury lay off.

Ashton joined Rangers last season from Mickleover Sports, but suffered a serious ankle injury in the closing weeks of the campaign and only returned to action on Boxing Day at Nantwich Town.

He got his first start last weekend and helped Rangers to a much-needed 3-1 home success against fellow strugglers Stocksbridge by scoring his second goal in as many games which is a big boost to the manager and his new club.

However, it was in tha same Boxing Day fixture when Ashton returned on the sub bench that promising defender Paris Bateman suffered a anterior cruciate ligament injury, one that will sideline him for the rest of the season.

On Friday, though, Heathcote made his first signing by bringing in on-loan Hednesford Town player Alex Melbourne, aged 24. The right-sided full back or midfielder is included in the squad for the Blyth trip.

Two players who recently arrived at Marston Road and were signed by former boss Andy Mutch, have departed. They are Phil Mooney and Jack West, who played in the league fixture against Stocksbridge.

Having taken his first look at the Rangers squad in that game, Heathcote said: "Everybody tells me its doom and gloom and they (Rangers)are going down.

"But I've seen teams pull out of these situations, but you need a start to do it (avoid relegation) and we've got one.

"We are not going overboard because we have won a game of football.

"What we have done is put things in the player's heads how we are going to play and hopefully they will get better at doing it, and hopefully we can strengthen the squad and get better as a squad all round."

Heathcote,who favours a 4-4-2 formation, said: "Football is about trying to enjoy yourself and that's what we have got to try and do, get some results where people can enjoy themselves."

There were a lot more smiles at Marston Road last Saturday, before and particularly after the win over Stocksbridge, and Heathcote will be hoping his charges can continue the good work at Blyth.

The North-West club are currently occupying 10th place in the Evo Stik Premier and they have the second best home record in the league, having won ten and drawn three out of 15 matches.

Blyth are just two points off the play-off places, whereas Rangers are second bottom and 14 points adrift of the safety zone.

However, a Rangers victory at Blyth could put them level on points with Stocksbridge, if the latter lose at home to Marine.

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