Crucial week of fixtures loom for Leiston, as Richard Wilkins deems to get the best out of John Sands

John Sands (blue) in action for Bury Town against Leiston

John Sands (blue) in action for Bury Town against Leiston - Credit: Archant

Leiston welcome third-placed Margate to Victory Road tonight (kick-off 7.45pm) in a crucial week of fixtures for the club.

The Blues, who sit just outside the Ryman Premier Division play-offs, also host table-toppers Maidstone United on Saturday.

Leiston boss Richard Wilkins knows that if his team are to achieve a play-off position come May then they will have to pick up points against two of the biggest clubs in the division.

“These are two massive games for us,” Wilkins admitted.

“It’ll be a tough ask but I’d like us to get four points from them.

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“We’re still in the mix for a play-off place, and looking ahead, I think there are six teams who are all going for that last spot.”

With Maidstone and Margate, alongside Dulwich Hamlet, embroiled in a battle for automatic promotion, Leiston find themselves vying for a play-off spot alongside the likes of Hendon, Metropolitan Police, and East Thurrock United to name but a few.

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The Blues will be hoping to be boosted by the arrival of striker John Sands tonight, following his move from Bury Town.

Subject to the completion of pending paperwork clearance, the striker could pull on a Leiston shirt for the first time this evening as he looks to link up with his former manager at Bury.

Sands scored 59 goals in 105 appearances under Wilkins at Ram Meadow previously, and Wilkins, who was in charge of the west Suffolk club for 14 years before joining Leiston in the summer, has vowed to get the best out of the former Ryman Premier Golden Boot winner.

“I am looking forward to linking up with John again,” Wilkins said.

“I got the best out of him before, and he got the best out of us.

“I think he just needs to settle down now (Sands has spent time playing for Canvey Island, Chelmsford City, and Bury this season).

“It didn’t work out for him back at Bury (Sands scored once in five appearances), but he’s a natural goalscorer. I think his head got turned a little (the first time he left Bury), but if he can settle down, he will hit the levels he is capable of.

“You don’t score 30-odd goals in a season a couple of years ago and become a bad player overnight.”

Wilkins continued: “Speaking to the chairman (Andy Crisp), and Steve Ball (Leiston’s last manager), it seems that we haven’t really had an out-and-out goalscorer for a few years.

“We’ve lost games this season by the odd goal, where we’ve just needed to take a half-chance to get something.

“John can score all kinds of goals – with his head, tap-ins, volleys, and with both feet too.”

Sands has been frustrated by a hernia injury this season, and is awaiting a double hernia operation in the summer, but Wilkins is not concerned.

“It is something we’ll have to monitor, yes,” he said.

“The heavy pitches don’t help, but he seems fine with it, as are we.”

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