CLEE Hill United go into this Saturday’s big top-of-the-table clash with Wellington Reserves in ‘seventh heaven’ – but boss Wayne Whitbread admits it’s a match his side ‘can’t afford to lose’.

Second-placed United thrashed Fownhope 7-2 last weekend, with star striker Josh Carpenter hitting five and Charlie Edwards bagging a brace.

That win keeps confidence high at Clee Hill, who have dropped just eight points from a possible 39 this season – but are still 14 points behind leaders Wellington.

That gap is in part due to the four games in hand United enjoy over the table-toppers but Whitbread knows there is little room for error.

He said: “It’s a game we can’t afford to lose because Wellington are enough points ahead of us already.

“If we did lose, it wouldn’t be mathematically impossible to catch them with the games in hand and the fact we have to play them again, but you don’t want to be in that position.

“We want to beat them to let them we know are there, behind them. We know we can’t afford to make a mistake from now until the end of the season.”

United led 2-0 against Fownhope before being pegged back but ultimately ran out comfortable winners, pleasing Whitbread, who said: “We played some pretty good football in the second half.”

In Division One, a Jabez Smith equaliser preserved leaders Ludlow Town Colts’ unbeaten record as they drew 1-1 at home to Bartestree Reserves.

Colts were missing four key players in Danny Crowther, Nathan Priday, Jamil Kezze and goalkeeper Kieran Roche, leaving boss Scott Mackenzie to praise his side’s resilience.

Dean Harding made a crucial goal-line clearance at 1-0 down for Colts, who fielded three 16-year-olds in the form of keeper Regan Tonkinson, Rhys Lewis and Jack Mear.

Smith twice missed decent chances in the opening half-hour but, after Bartestree went ahead, he made amends to earn them a point on the hour mark with a fine half-volley on the turn.

Despite only drawing, Ludlow stretched their advantage at the top of the table to two points – with four games in hand – as second-placed Hinton surprisingly lost 3-0 at home to second-bottom Ledbury Town Reserves.

Mackenzie said: “There were chances at both ends after we equalised but we could quite easily have lost that game so we have no complaints with the result.”

Colts face a big derby at home to third-placed Orleton – who also dropped points last weekend in a 2-2 home draw with Hereford City – this Saturday.

Mackenzie added: “Orleton is going to be a really tough game. I respect them as a team, they will be up for it and anything can happen in a derby.”

Chris Breakwell got both of Orleton’s goals against Hereford but they twice let a lead slip to remain five points behind leaders Ludlow.