NEWBURY Blues’ struggles in South West 1 East have come as a mystery to Swindon head coach Neil Loader.
The Blues, who were only relegated from the National League at the end of last season, are in real danger of yet another demotion after a miserable first half of the campaign.
Having recorded just two league wins all term Newbury currently sit third from bottom of the league table, just three points above last-placed High Wycombe.
They entertain Loader’s side tomorrow in the first competitive clash of 2013 and the Greenbridge Road chief is surprised to see the Blues lingering at such a lowly level after watching them push his team all the way in the first meeting between the two clubs earlier this season.
“Especially at our place, I know the score was big, but they weren’t that bad. We had to play right to the end to secure the win and they had a guy sent off,” he said.
“Their results have surprised me slightly. I’m not 100 per cent sure why. We played them quite early in the season and they may have had some students go off and play for their universities.
“Whether they lost players due to that, as lost a couple, I don’t know. Unfortunately we’re going to meet them when they have their students again but never mind. We’d rather beat them when they’re strong than when they’re weak.
“It’s a real mystery to me. We all know that Newbury have had their problems, so whether they’ve had more problems and lost more players since we played them I don’t know.
“Whether they’ve picked up a load of injuries I don’t know, but it’s a mystery. For me they weren’t that bad. I know at the end we got away but they played hard, they played until the end.
“I remember that we had the edge up front and that allowed our backs to play. Whether they’ve suffered in that area I don’t know.”
Loader has been holding specialist keep-fit training sessions over the Christmas break, and he does not expect any new injury problems to disrupt preparations this week.
Tom Mannion and Mike Thompson are both set to remain on the sidelines, but Connal Knott could return.
“We’re hoping we all come back fit. We did a couple of different sessions over the Christmas period,” said Loader.
“We went to the boxing gym and did some boxing for a couple of sessions to change things up a bit.
“On Saturday we should be close to full strength.”