AS Witham Town turn their focus fully back to climbing the Bostik League division north table, manager Mark Ashford is positive that his team of "young guns" can get themselves clear of the drop zone.

Having been on FA Trophy duty last weekend, Witham return to league duties on Friday night with a mouthwatering derby against local rivals Heybridge Swifts under the floodlights at the Village Glass Stadium (kick-off 7.45pm).

Swifts are now managed by former West Ham legend Julian Dicks and will arrive at Witham in good form, while their hosts will be looking to bounce back from a 2-1 defeat at Herne Bay in the Trophy.

They are also looking to end a run of league form that has seen them take just a point from their last seven outings, but despite his team sitting second from bottom in the table, Ashford is positive about their prospects for climbing the standings.

He said: "We have been in every single game regardless of what team we have put out, even with the younger players and when we've had eight or nine under the age of 20 in the side.

"We could have got something from every game so far and the margins are fine for these young guns of ours.

"It is a hard school for them to be learning their trade in, but we knew it would be tough with the resources that we have available.

"That is part of the challenge for us as the players are learning on the job and the Trophy result was another one where we have come away frustrated, but we have to take it on the chin.

"We can still be proud, though, that it was the furthest the club has got in the FA Trophy for 11 years and it's not all doom and gloom.

"We have done well in the cup competitions this year.

"We performed well against a strong Coggeshall side in the first meeting with them in the FA Cup, then beat Grays Athletic and did well against a very good Maldon & Tiptree side in the League Cup and beat Coggeshall and Dunstable in the FA Trophy before going close against Herne Bay.

"It shows the nucleus of a very good team is there and we just have to turn the narrow margins around in the league.

"Looking at the league table, we have played pretty much everyone towards the top end, but we haven't played many in the bottom half yet.

"So it's definitely not all doom and gloom.

"In every single game, we could have taken points and I don't think our performances have been too far away.

"It is just consistency that we need to get the results coming our way.

"In the games where we have played sides who are in the bottom half at that time, we have taken four points from six and we are only nine games into the league season.

"So I'm not overly concerned because I know that when we play more sides who are in the bottom half, we will pick up points if we can keep the level of performances going that we have showed against the higher-placed sides and we are improving all the time.

"We have to accept that we have very young players and that mistakes will be made.

"That's a consequence of having young players, but it is also very rewarding as you can see the improvements coming and they are hungry for the opportunity to play.

"We have some good lads here who are getting better and I can see the results coming with it.

"Don't forget, as well, that this time last year, Witham Town - with much bigger resources and a more established team - were on a run of 12 games without a win and were in a similar position to where we are now. "We're only nine games into the league season and we'll be in a better place to judge after 20 games.

"The chairman said when I came in at the start of the season that the aim was just to stay in the division with the resources that were available, but look at how many young players are in the side and how many more we're continuing to bring through from the youth sides.

"Success comes in different forms and ours may be different from some other bigger-spending clubs in the division."

One injury concern for Witham for the visit of Heybridge is for Sam Ashford after he was stretchered off in the FA Trophy game at Herne Bay, but the manager said he would be assessed ahead of Friday's game.

He added: "We don't know yet whether Sam will be fit or not as we're hoping that his injury will not be as serious as we first thought.

"He landed awkwardly on his knee when he went up for a header.

"He is getting treatment and is seeing the physio this week so we will wait until Friday until making a call on him.

"We'll see if he can play, but we haven't ruled him out."