AFC Ludlow 5 Red Star Alma 0

MANAGER Dave Cooper says it’s great to have Nathan Hodge in AFC Ludlow’s ranks for Saturday’s shoot-out at promotion rivals Wolverhampton Sporting Community Reserves.

Hodge has been in red-hot form since returning to Ludlow and snapped up four goals in last weekend’s 5-0 rout of Red Star Alma.

Ludlow are now second in West Midlands League Division Two, level on points with Wolverhampton Sporting and just four points behind table-topping Team Dudley.

“Wolverhampton Sporting will be a good test for us,” said Cooper, who is expecting to welcome back Dale Hodge and Rob Vass for the match.

“We only have ourselves to blame for not being close to Team Dudley because we lost some matches earlier in the season.

“Wrens Nest have come from nowhere and we should have beaten them at home.

“We only have two home league games remaining this season.

“After Saturday, we still have to play Wolverhampton Sporting at home and Team Dudley away.

“We play at home to Malvern Rangers a week on Saturday and then we are not scheduled to have match for three weeks.”

Former Haughmond striker Hodge hit four goals as Ludlow roared to a league double over Red Star in atrocious conditions last Saturday at the Showtime Stadium.

Keanu Cooper, Rob Boyd, Kieran Dovey and Jason Mynett all set up Hodge, while Mynett rounded off the scoring after the visiting keeper had parried a fierce drive from the marksman.

Cooper said: “The weather conditions were absolutely atrocious – there was no way we would have played had it not been for the AGP surface.

“Nathan scored four goals and he’s been back for three matches and scored eight goals – and that’s the difference. In Nathan Hodge, we have a natural goal-scorer.

“We have 10 players unavailable but man-of-the-match Luke Hicks was excellent at centre-half. Jamie Hammonds and Jake Pryce were immense in the middle of the park.”

Ludlow led 2-0 at the interval but Alma almost took the lead in the early stages.

Cooper said: “In the first there or four minutes, Ian Havard made a brilliant save to tip a shot on to a post. The ball rolled along the line and, thankfully, went wide. But that was the only thing Havard had to do in the match.”

Cooper added: “Liam Taylor and Keanu Cooper have come in and they have not let me down.

“Luke Hicks was our man of the match.

“It has been a good season and this is a very hard league to get out of.”

Cooper thanked Simon Newhill who, made a return to football after an absence, but has now left the Ludlow club.