CRADLEY Town embark on a ‘massive’ month of fixtures when they travel to Shawbury United on Saturday with the welcome return to the dugout of joint manager Nigel Birch.

Like the Hammers, the Shropshire side are one of the form teams of the West Midlands League Premier Division.

But United will travel full of confidence having lost just two games in ten after Spencer Blackham’s hat-trick earned them a 3-2 win over Dudley Sports to eraze the memory of the 5-1 thrashing at home by Wolverhampton Casuals last Wednesday.

Birch’s return is a timely boost for his joint manager Marcus McDonald as they follow the Shawbury match with tough fixtures against high-flying Pegasus and Dudley Town who sit second and third in the table respectively.

McDonald said: “It’s a massive month for us and it’s good to have Nigel back.

“He does a lot of work off the pitch behind the scenes and we’ve missed having him around.

“Things are looking good now. Some of the players we had at the start of the season weren’t good enough but now we have competition for places and because we are playing good football people want to come here.

“All the planning we have been doing was for next season but we are ahead of schedule. At the start of the season we were looking at a top ten finish but now we must be looking at top six.

“We are still missing a few too many chances and conceding too many goals though, some we have let in have been comical so we may need to look at that.“ McDonald has strengthened his playing squad by signing Bartley Green keeper Aaron Gale who started the season at Lye Town. Gale is unavailable this weekend as Town wait for a 14-day notice of approach runs out and Gale will likely play a final game for his present club.

Young striker Jordan Archer will also link up with Cradley after moving from Baker Joiner Alliance side Coleshill Town and versatile wide player Stefan Ashman is making the switch from Bromsgrove Sporting.

Marcus Young misses the Shawbury trip as he looks to shake off a bout of flu.