Six games to go for Jamie Howell’s Eastbourne Borough – and the manager insists that every one of them matters.
The Sports will take their final trundle of the season down the M4 on Saturday, to face Chippenham Town, before welcoming Bognor Regis Town to Priory Lane on Easter Monday (3pm).
Part-timers? Semi-pro footballers? With such a swift turnaround, it really will not feel that way. But Howell says his squad are fully up for it.
“Actually in one sense, we could do with the season going on a bit longer,” said the manager this week after a morale-boosting win at Wealdstone on Monday.
“We have been finding a rhythm in recent games and I really believe we are getting stronger. The final run-in will be a useful opportunity for some planning for next season – it’s up to the players to convince me.”
Jamie was impressed on Monday night. “Wealdstone is always a tough place to go, and after Saturday’s defeat to Truro we had to dig deep and show some character.
“We scored our goals at exactly the right times, but just as importantly, we defended superbly, and defending is all about teamwork. Every player did his job and they were quite rightly punching the air at the final whistle.
“Now I need more of the same this weekend. I honestly never believed we were a relegation side, but we’ve been that little bit too close for comfort. The Wealdstone win means we are playing with the pressure off.”
Borough have opened an eleven-point gap over third-bottom Poole and will now be looking towards a mid-table finish.
Chippenham Town, two points behind the Sports, should also be safe, but Sussex rivals Bognor are looking odds-on for relegation. The Rocks have floundered since the end of last year with a catastrophic run of just one victory in the last 17 games.
Howell’s former club entertain Chelmsford City today (Good Friday) and they face a very tough April run-in: defeat at Priory Lane would leave the relegation trap-door creaking on one hinge.
The Rocks did produce an upset on their last visit to the Lane, tipping the Sports out of the FA Cup 2-0 in September. “Yep,” smiled Howell cryptically, “we certainly haven’t forgotten that one!”
The Sports will then have four National South fixtures left - Oxford City and Hemel Hempstead away, and title chasers Dartford and Chelmsford at the Lane. A grand finale to a very mixed season. Centre-back James Haran will have a late test on his injured ankle, but otherwise Borough can call on a fully fit squad for the Easter programme.
Wealdstone v Boro p 79