‘We will not be in a relegation scrap’ — that is the defiant belief of AFC Sudbury manager Jamie Godbold heading into back-to-back home games that could go a long way to defining their season.
Following another hard luck story against a promotion-chasing side — in losing 2-1 with 10 men at league leaders Needham Market on Boxing Day — the Yellows dropped two positions closer (16th) to the four relegation places, which they remain just four points clear of.
But Godbold has revealed he is more worried about the gap to the play-offs — currently 10 points — than sinking into a relegation dogfight.
And he is confident it will be the top half, and not the bottom, that his side end up residing in come the end of their debut Ryman League Premier Division campaign.
“The teams we have played at the top have always been close games, and that is the frustrating bit,” said Goldbold, who was sent from the dugout at Bloomfields following his remonstrations with the officials over Billy Holland’s header being interpreted as over the line to put Needham 2-1 ahead.
“We are losing by the odd goal against the teams at the top and we have not been tonked all season, and yet we have come up into the league.
“We have got better every game and we will do well in the second half of the season.
“We will push on and we will get better. And I have no problems standing here saying we will not be in a relegation scrap, We will be in the top half of the table come the end of May.”
Second-from-bottom Canvey Island, who have gone five games without a win, are first up at The Wardale Williams Stadium, with Saturday’s clash (1pm) preceding 10th-placed Lowestoft Town’s visit — a side Godbold captained and played 500 games for — on Monday (3pm).
And while supporters may see a failure to pick up maximum points in the first of their double header as detrimental to the fight to avoid the bottom four, Godbold would view it a different way.
“We need three points as we want to keep in touch with the play-offs,” he said.
“I know people will say ‘well you need points because you are close to the bottom’ but I am more worried about slipping away from the top eight.
“We are not far away, it is just detail.”
But he did fire a warning to his players when saying: “I will no longer pat people on the back for working hard, as that is just an expectation. It is now doing the right things at the right time. “We have got to learn and I cannot keep saying ‘we were unlucky today’ because we were not unlucky as you get what you deserve in football.”
The Sudbury chief has said he will be making changes over the course of the three festive games to keep players fresh, meaning Erkan Okay, back from his suspension, is likely to start Saturday’s game, while defender Ryan Henshaw’s ban for his red card at Needham is not set to start until Monday. Captain Sam Clarke’s 10 yellows means he will also miss Monday’s game.
Jack Wilkinson was on the bench on Boxing Day but is still a week away from fully shaking off a hamstring injury.
A dramatic late goal at Crown Meadow saw AFC claim a 2-2 draw at relegated Lowestoft in August.
But despite openly communicating their financial difficulties to fans since dropping from the National League structure, leading to a cut in the budget and player departures, Godbold is expecting another real tussle with The Trawlerboys.
“I think potentially the people they have lost have been big characters and leaders, but that can serve to pull people together,” he said.
“You will never get an easy game against Lowestoft, who will be full of heart.”