Eastbourne Borough manager Jamie Howell admits his thoughts will be on tactics and formations rather than preparing for Christmas this year.
Borough, who performed well despite their defeat in the FA Trophy at Dover Athletic last Saturday, welcome highflying Havant and Waterlooville tomorrow (Saturday, 3pm) ahead of their Boxing Day (3pm) trip across Sussex to rivals Whitehawk.
“It’s a busy time of year but it’s also a very important time for us,” said Howell. “Both games will be a tough test and it’s up to us to rise to that. Havant are having a good season and they are equipped to do well in this league.
“Whitehawk is always a great game to be involved in. It’s great for the fans, the players and the management. Having it on Boxing Day always adds a bit extra as well. The Boxing Day derbies are great occasions and ones we really look forward. Personally I like a game on Boxing Day. I’m always think about tactics and formations so Christmas will be no different.”
Whitehawk have seriously struggled this year having gained just four points from 21 matches. But Borough’s goals against column this season also makes pretty grim reading. Only Whitehawk have conceded more than Borough and Howell is determined to rectify the problem. Goalkeeper Mark Smith has impressed since his mid-season arrival and has agreed to a loan extension. Defender James Haran has also joined and replaces outgoing centre back Matt Drage, who left due to work commitments.
“We have made a few changes of late and I felt we needed to do that. Matt had a work situation and rather than letting it drag on we acted quickly. So far this season, there are things I am happy with and things that need to improve.
“We have struggled to name a settled side and I think we have been unlucky in that respect. With a new team you need players to have a run together so they get to know their roles and that of their teammates.
“We’ve had changes forced upon us and that has disrupted us.
“I’m convinced with a more settled team, we will see the difference and we will be more consistent in 2018. We have not been as well-drilled as I would have liked and for me that’s disappointing. But it does take time. As a new manager you need to survive, get used to your surroundings and then improve. I’m looking to speed up that process so we can improve as quick as we can.”
Jamie Taylor will have a fitness test on his knee ahead of the Havant match while Sergio Torres is expected to be fit despite a hamstring niggle. Yemi Odubade made a substitute appearance at Dover and is nearing full fitness.