Two matches over this Easter holiday weekend represent the last throw of the dice in Hucknall Town’s bid to avoid relegation.
That is the honest assessment of manager Darren Kelk as Town face up to the prospect of the drop from Division One South of the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League.
And he urged Yellows fans to return to the fold after crowd-figures plunged to record lows in recent weeks.
Town have just eight games to play, starting with clashes against fellow strugglers Romulus tomorrow (Saturday) and Loughborough Dynamo on Easter Monday.
But they are ten points adrift at the foot of the table, leaving Kelk under no illusions.
“I am a realist,” he said. “I think we need five wins from the eight games.
“But this weekend is crucial. If we don’t win these two matches, it’s going to be very difficult. Four of our final six are away and two are against teams in the top four,Belper Town and Stamford.”
Town have yet to win since Kelk took over in January and have taken just one point from 13 matches -- since their last win on December 8.
Such statistics have left many supporters resigned to Town’s fate. For the last two home fixtures against Leek Town and Market Drayton Town have attracted crowds of only 55 and 34, the lowest at Watnall Road for more than 20 years.
“All I can say to the fans is: come and watch us again,” pleaded Kelk.
“Come back and back the lads for the last few games.
“We are giving every ounce of effort we possibly can -- and we are making progress.
“At the start of the year, we turned up with only eight men at Loughborough and didn’t create a single chance against Chasetown.
“But in recent weeks, we should have beaten Lincoln United, Market Drayton and Newcastle Town.
“The fans who have watched these games have been impressed.
“People only see the results. But they have to put things into perspective.
“We come across teams with huge wage-bills, and yet our players are doing it for the love of the football club. Not one has been paid since I became manager.”
Kelk insists Town have enough in their locker to survive relegation, providing they can cut out the “silly mistakes” at the back, their “poor finishing” up top and their habit of “giving the ball away too much”.
Amazingly, it is still not known how many teams will go down. And it is even possible that The Yellows could finish bottom and avoid the drop, amid rumours that other, higher-placed teams have applied to fall into lower leagues because of financial problems.
“If we get relegated, we get relegated,” said Kelk. “But we should not think about others wanting exit. We must try and stay up on our own merit.
“I have spoken to Liz Morley (acting chief executive) and Tony Knowles (secretary) and it’s clear we want to keep our Evo-Stik League status.
“It’s very difficult to get to this level of football in the first place.
“With a good close-season and a bit of work behind the scenes, we should be OK, although we would have to stay an amateur club.”
In the build-up to this weekend’s Easter crunch, Kelk was hoping to recruit two or three new signings ahead of the transfer deadline on Thursday.
They were also planning to train on the 3G pitches at Southglade Park in Bestwood, given that Romulus play on an artificial surface.