Head coach Andy Watson says he is under no illusions when it comes to the challenge facing his young Ilkeston FC side over the next month after they lost their eighth straight league game.
The Robins are eight points outside the relegation zone with six matches left to play, several of those below them in the table having games in hand and three of them still to face Watson’s men before the season is out.
And although any relegation fears would most likely be put to bed with just one more win, Watson is aware it won’t be a straightforward task given the team’s current form.
He said: “We’re in a battle, there’s no doubt about it.
“We’ve known we have been for a while, having not won since the Salford game, not picked up a point in that time and having conceded too many goals.
“We go out and do the best we can every week to try and pick up points but we can’t bring in new players other than from the academy and have to battle on with what we’ve got.
“Since I took over I’ve lost 14 players from a squad that was initially winning every week, the most recent being Dan Udoh to Crewe, and things are inevitably going to be difficult.”
Despite acknowledging the tough challenge ahead, Watson remains keen to accentuate the positives from his side’s recent displays, a 2-1 defeat at Ashton United followed by a 2-0 loss to Mickleover Sports at the New Manor Ground on Easter Monday.
He said: “At Ashton we once again looked really good in the second-half and I think we were unlucky not to get a point against a side flying high in the league.
“Then against Mickleover I felt we looked as comfortable as we have done for a long time for much of the game but then we’ve let our concentration slip for the first goal in letting the player come across the pitch and end up scoring, and they then hit us again late on.
“We had two debutants come into the team who I felt did well and we controlled big parts of the game, getting into good positions for crosses but not having the cutting edge again.
“Both boxes are where games are won and lost.
“I didn’t make any changes in that game because with ten minutes to go and them being reduced to ten men through the injury to their captain, we looked the most likely side to win it and were on top.
“At 1-0 down I thought about putting David Jones on for Roy Lee but Roy always looks like he has a goal in him, as he showed at Ashton, so I left things as they were. Unfortunately the second goal then killed us off.
“I can’t ask any more of my players at the moment. Their attitude remains excellent in what is a very testing time for them and they are giving everything to try and get results.”
Things don’t get any easier for Ilkeston with league leaders Blyth Spartans arriving at the New Manor Ground on Saturday before Whitby Town, one of the teams who sit below the Robins in the table, are the visitors on Monday night.
Watson said: “Some might say the pressure is off us on Saturday but in my time in the game I’ve never ever had a game where there isn’t pressure.
“We need to try and find points. We came close at Ashton and I don’t think anybody could have been surprised had we won that match given the chances we had, then against Mickleover on Monday we’ve again come close but just not had enough.
“We played really well up at Blyth just before the eight players got released and that was another game where we were unlucky not to get anything, but this season can’t be allowed to be defined by too many could haves, would haves and should haves.
“This situation remains a big learning curve for everyone and the big thing is that the players want to do well for this club.
“They know what the personal rewards can be given how many lads have got moves to higher levels, but if they don’t play as a team I won’t accept it.”