Hucknall Town hope to sign off 2016 in style with a crucial victory in the big showdown with champions and main title rivals Selston on Saturday.
Because of cup runs, fourth-placed Hucknall already have six games in hand and only 13 points to make up and boss Andy Graves insisted victory on Saturday was therefore far more important to Central Midlands League North table-topping Selston.
“If you try to take a bit of pressure off yourself, the pressure is still on them because they can’t really afford to slip up,” he said.
“If we get the win it doesn’t do us any harm whatsoever.
“If things don’t go quite to plan, there is still a bit of leeway, though obviously we do still have to win those games in hand.”
Last weekend Hucknall came from behind to win 3-2 at third-placed South Normanton Athletic and he added: “We will go into the Selston game with confidence.
“We made a bit of hard work of last Saturday’s game - more than it should have been - but we got the result, so that was pleasing.”
Graves said team spirit and a refusal to throw the towel in were Selston’s biggest strengths.
“It will be a tough game – they are always tough games,” he said. “They are not a straightforward side really.
“What they have got is a big togetherness and a great team spirit. They stick together and grind results out, even when they are not playing particularly well.
“I’ve seen them a couple of times this season and, even when they are not at their best, they don’t give in and are quite resilient.
“It won’t be easy and they have two lads up front who can hurt you. But, likewise, we have as well.
“It will be interesting. If we turn up and play like we have been doing we can’t ask for any more, just so long as we don’t let ourselves down. I am sure their manager would say the same.”
He added: “Obviously a win for them stretches them away, even though we have the games in hand.
“But if we win on Saturday we’d be 10 points behind with 18 points to play with from our games in hand, though I know you have got to win those games in hand.
“It would be a big thing for them if they lose and we close the gap and we have those games in hand.
“It’s just how you view it, some say it’s better to have the games and some say at least you know what you are doing when you’ve played them.
“We just need to concentrate on one game at a time as the old cliché goes. We don’t look too far ahead. We know we have a tough January with five games, then we’ll see where we are.”
Graves continued: “Preparation this week will be normal, nothing special. Some of the lads played for the reserves last night, and some will be in the gym tonight.
“Injury-wise we should be okay, so I have one or two I can choose from.”
Matt Brian is back from a short spell at Heanor and played last weekend, but doubts remain over his fitness for Saturday.
“Matt came in for his first start since rejoining us last weekend,” said Graves.
“He probably wouldn’t necessarily have started but we did have one or two missing.
“He is not fully match fit. He played 75-odd minutes in the reserves last night, but whether he will start I am not sure yet.
“He plays just behind the striker, but Cameron Davidson has been doing a good job there. I will discuss it with my assistant, Phil.
“Whoever we put out on Saturday, if we play as well as we can do, we should do a good job.”