WITH AFC Sudbury four points adrift of a play-off spot with nine to play for, manager Nicky Smith believes only three wins will do.
A 50-hour period — from 3pm on Saturday, when they take on Romford, until 5pm on Easter Monday, when the final whistle goes at King’s Marsh against Needham Market — is the first pivotal hurdle to extending their season.
Then the Yellows will probably have to go to Grays Athletic and win to put themselves in with a shot at promotion to the Ryman Premier, and a possible reunion with arch rivals Bury Town.
Following Saturday’s 4-0 home win over Great Wakering Rovers — which saw a double-strike return from Dubi Ogbonna, back in town after his move to King’s Lynn went sour — there is renewed belief that all is not lost.
But Smith is not getting carried away when asked how much hope there is for fans eyeing up the play-offs.
He said: “It is difficult really, we shot ourselves in the foot. It could have been in our hands, but it is not to be. We have to rely on other teams, but we have to win all our games. If we do not, we will not get anywhere.”
A new 3-5-2 formation, with Tom Devaux flanked by Taylor Sinfield and the continually-impressive Jemel Fox in defence, paid dividends on Saturday and could be used again at mid-table Romford. But against Suffolk rivals Needham Market on Monday (3pm), in front of an anticipated bumper crowd, Smith has warned he may have to be more cautious.
“Needham Market are totally different opposition,” he said. “We cannot go gung-ho against them. We have to be relatively reserved.”
AFC pushed the promotion-chasers, who now look resigned to a play-off berth, all the way in the 3-2 reverse fixture in March, only narrowly missing out on taking a point after Dave Wareham got himself sent off for a reckless lunge.
Meanwhile, AFC have been boosted ahead of the new campaign by talisman striker Jame Baker and creative spark Dave Wareham penning new one-year contracts.
Smith, who has again praised teenage goalkeeper Fred Howe after Nicky Eyre played for Bishop’s Stortford on Saturday following his fine dispute, said: “They are big, big players for us. To be fair they have over 40 goals for us.
“They came to me and asked if they would be staying for next season, it was not me going to them. It shows we are going in the right direction.”
Smith said he is delighted to have young Ogbonna back, on a non-contract basis initially, after he left following just three games earlier in the campaign.
“Obviously he went to Kings Lynn in view of the financial side and the potential of going to Wembley in the FA Vase and things did not work out for him there,” he said. “He left under a bit of a cloud, refusing to play in a reserve game.
“We have missed so many easy chances recently with just James Baker as a recognised striker. Goalscoring has been our problem and Dubi can help with that. He is a natural finisher.”