TAUNTON Town boss Rob Dray is expecting a tight finish to the play-off race, as the Peacocks welcome promotion rivals Salisbury to the Cygnet Health Care Stadium this Saturday (3pm), writes Richard Browne.

Taunton sit fifth in the Southern League Premier South table - seven points ahead of Salisbury but having played two games more - after a 4-2 defeat at Merthyr Town on Tuesday.

Dray said: “I think it will go down to the last three weeks and the two games over Easter - it could be that close.”

Dray expects to name a similar squad to the last two games for Saturday’s match, with top scorer Andrew Neal still out.

His knee injury - a tear on the meniscus - will keep him sidelined for the immediate future, but Taunton supporters and sponsors have rallied round to raise almost £1,400 to fund private treatment for the striker.

“He saw a specialist [on Tuesday] and he does need an operation,” Dray added.

“[The fundraising] is testament to our fans and how Rocky is seen by them - he’s a great character and loves the club.”

Next Tuesday (February 18, 7.45pm) sees Taunton visit Weston-super-Mare in the Somerset Premier Cup quarter-finals.

Opposition in focus

WHEN the concept of Expected Goals was introduced, you could be forgiven for thinking that it referred to Taunton v Salisbury matches, writes Richard Browne.

These two clubs have been battling each other for promotion since Salisbury FC - which rose from the ashes of Salisbury City’s liquidation in 2014 - joined the Southern League after winning the Wessex League in 2016.

Matches between the teams almost guarantee red cards, goals and late goals.

Last season saw the Peacocks win 4-3 at Wordsworth Drive - stoppage-time strikes from Josh Nelmes and Matt Buse overturning a 3-2 deficit - before the Whites gained revenge with a 3-2 victory, after both Ben Adelsbury and Keith Emmerson had been sent off for the visitors.

This term’s reverse fixture, at the Ray Mac in October, ended 2-1 to Salisbury; a Lloyd Irish own goal and Nathaniel Oseni’s header earned the points for the hosts, with Andrew Neal replying late on.

The Whites enjoyed a run of five straight wins around the turn of the year, but their recent form has been less impressive, losing four of their last six games in all competitions and only winning one - 5-0 at bottom side Dorchester Town.

The last two defeats were both by 3-2 margins - away to Swindon Town in the Wiltshire Premier Shield, and at Metropolitan Police in the league.

Tuesday night saw their scheduled game at Poole Town called off following a re-inspection, prompting Whites manager Steve Claridge to tweet: “Before the idiots accuse me of getting the game off, ref said he was worried about players safety, end of, now go back to your sad little lives.”

Buckle up for Saturday...