Needham Market are faced with a crucial run of seven matches in the next 22 days to reignite their faltering Ryman One North campaign.
The Marketmen — who have won just one of their last six league matches — face six sides below them in the table and one they would overtake with victories in their games in hand.
With 21 points up for grabs during the run, manager Mark Morsley is hoping the league standings look a lot healthier by the time his side reach the festive period.
“I’m not unhappy with our league position at the moment, but I want to get us in and around that top five,” he said. “It’s important to take each game as it comes, but when you look at the block of fixtures we’ve got coming up we have to target a decent amount of points.”
Needham’s run begins with a trip to 13th-placed Waltham Abbey tomorrow (3pm), before hosting 12th-placed Tilbury at Bloomfields on Tuesday (7.45pm).
Morsley believes it is unlikely striker Sam Newson will return before Christmas, while Ollie Brown is set to be absent for another week or so with a groin injury caused by a back problem that has now been rectified.
However, midfielder Keiran Morphew could return to the bench tomorrow and on-loan Colchester winger Ryan Melaugh should be okay despite tweaking a calf muscle while training with his parent club this week.
n New signing Ryan Crisp rescued Needham a point at home to Barkingside in Ryman One North on Saturday.
The former Leiston striker slammed home 10 minutes after half-time, but the Marketmen could not find a winner, with substitute Jamie Guy missing a gilt-edged chance to snatch the three points.
Earlier, three goals in the opening quarter of an hour had seen Ian Westlake give Needham the lead before Calvin Poku and Andy Edmunds netted for the visitors.
“We should have won, it was as simple as that,” said Morsley. “We made two very poor mistakes at the back for their goals, which is unusual.”
n Needham taught Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division leaders Hadleigh United a lesson on Tuesday to reach the semi-finals of the Suffolk Premier Cup.
Ian Westlake’s defence-splitting pass was converted by Darryl Coakley to set the Marketmen — who last reached the Portman Road final in the 2010/11 season — on their way.
Luke Ingram broke away to tee up Jamie Guy for his side’s second and former Colchester United striker Guy was on target again to complete the 3-0 scoreline.
n Needham Market Reserves defeated Grundisburgh on penalties to reach the quarter-finals of the Suffolk Senior Cup.
They return to Thurlow Nunn League First Division action at home to Braintree Town Reserves tomorrow (3pm) before hosting Whitton United in the first round of the First Division Knockout Cup on Wednesday (7.45pm).