TAUNTON Town head of football Rob Dray hopes to have star striker Andrew Neal back for the start of April.

Neal - the Peacocks’ top scorer this season - requires an operation after sustaining a knee injury (a tear on the meniscus), and will go in for the procedure this coming Monday.

“Rocky [Neal] is doing everything he can,” Dray told the County Gazette.

“He’s up at 5am to go swimming, then going to the gym after work, to have his body in good nick for the operation.

“We hope to have him back in early April.”

Neal aside, Dray expects to have a fully fit squad for  tomorrow’s trip to Hayes & Yeading United (3pm).

Their hosts leapfrogged them for fifth place in midweek, and Dray expects a stern examination for his side.

“They’re probably the best side to have come to Taunton this season,” he said.

“They were buoyed by their FA Cup run and have made good signings.

“We are at full strength, though.

“We’ll have to be at our best to get something, but on our day we know we can beat anyone.”

Following tomorrow’s fixture, Taunton are due to visit Weston-super-Mare on Tuesday, for a Somerset Premier Cup quarter-final postponed from this last week.

The opposition

How do you stop a team that’s put together a run of five straight league wins?

That’s the task facing Taunton Town tomorrow - weather permitting - as they visit Hayes & Yeading United.

Paul Hughes’ Middlesex-based team have beaten Weston-super-Mare (5-1), Merthyr Town (2-1), Gosport Borough (2-1), Yate Town (2-0) and Blackfield & Langley (6-0) in that run.

The latter match, Tuesday night’s thrashing of Blackfield, took United up into fifth place in the Premier South table - knocking the Peacocks out of the play-off places.

They now have 52 points to Taunton’s 50, and although the Peacocks have two games in hand, Rob Dray won’t want the gap between them to increase following Saturday’s game.

They made a poor start to the season, drawing one and losing two of their first three games, but they’ve certainly found some form off the back of a superb FA Cup run.

Wins over AFC Dunstable, Haywards Heath Town, Badshot Lea, Hendon (5-4!) and Poole Town set up a first round proper tie at home to Oxford United.

The League One outfit won 2-0, but Hughes’ men have only lost four league games since their FA Cup payday back in November.

The reverse fixture back in October saw Taunton win 2-1, with goals from Ollie Chamberlain and Andrew Neal, before Hassan Jalloh pulled one back from the penalty spot.

Jalloh scored the sixth against Blackfield on Tuesday, following strikes by Omar Rowe, Karl Cunningham, James Clark and Francis Amartey (2).

United’s 61 league goals so far make them the third highest scorer in the division, behind Tiverton Town and Chesham United.