AFC Sudbury manager Chris Tracey has blamed a disastrous start to their campaign for all but killing their play-off aspirations.
The Yellows’ boss has conceded it would take a miraculous gift from the footballing gods for his side to extend their season.
AFC have five points to make up in the two remaining games, and two teams to leapfrog, following a heartbreaking 2-1 defeat at Thamesmead Town on Saturday.
But Tracey believes their play-off hopes were extinguished long before Saturday’s loss.
“Our season did not die at Thamesmead,” he said ahead of taking his side to face 13th-placed Romford (3pm) on Saturday before hosting Heybridge Swifts (16th) the following week.
“The Grays results (a 2-1 defeat) would have seen us hanging in their but unfortunately James Smith’s dismissal in that game affected us.
“On Saturday, if he had been playing, with his experience and leadership at the back, their centre-half would not have imposed himself so much and got a clean shot – and that is nothing against the lads who played at the back.”
Manager Nicky Smith left the club, later to be succeeded by his assistant Tracey, following a 4-0 defeat at Grays Athletic eight games into a woeful start to the campaign.
AFC had found themselves one point off the bottom in 19th going into their last match in October, but catapulted themselves back in with a shout of promotion after six straight wins, which took them to fourth place by early December.
Tracey said: “Grays and Thamesmead were the only sides who did the double over us and if you acquire six points from the first eight games you are always playing catch-up – Enfield, Needham, Grays and Tilbury all got off to better starts than us.
“We then had a bit of a slip-up after Christmas and it is disappointing – the team has come a long way – but that is football and their have been mistakes along the way by myself, as I have been learning, and the players, and we’re all in it together.”
Tracey, who pointed to Wigan’s win at Arsenal in the Premier League on Monday as testament to unlikely scenarios coming true, has urged his side to win their last two games to give themselves a chance and take momentum into next season.
Meanwhile, Chelsea legend and cult footballing hero Ron ‘Chopper’ Harris, will be the guest of honour presiding over the annual schools’ penalty shoot-out competition at the Heybridge match.
And Ipswich Town will visit King’s Marsh on August 1 for the first time in several years, in AFC’s first confirmed pre-season friendly.