RICHARD Wilkins has urged his players to stand up and be counted as Bury Town fight desperately to cling on for a coveted play-off berth over the Easter break.
Two straight league defeats has seen the Blues slip from second to fourth and they are now perched precariously two points above sixth-placed Harrow Borough with three games to play.
Tomorrow, Town entertain relegation-threatened Maidstone United at Ram Meadow (3pm), before travelling to fellow play-off chasers Lowestoft Town, for what is sure to be another spicy Suffolk derby, on Easter Monday (3pm).
Wilkins has stressed the importance of tomorrow’s Ryman League Premier Division home fixture – saying a win or defeat will shape the Blues’ end of season run-in.
“It is must-win. It is as simple as that,” said Wilkins.
“A month ago we were almost dead certainties to make the play-offs and maybe even win the league and now we find ourselves in a real fight.
“The players have to lift it. Maidstone are fighting for their lives at the bottom and they will be giving everything. But we have to concentrate on our own performance.
“If nine or 10 of our players perform to their maximum level we win the game.
“If only four, maybe five, play to their levels we lose the game – as we have seen several times already this season.”
Maidstone, nicknamed The Stones, have hit form just at the right time as they seek to stave off relegation fears after winning three of their last four games – including an eye-catching 2-0 victory against promotion contenders Concord Rangers.
“There are some good lads at Maidstone now and they have picked up of late,” said Wilkins.
“It is going to be another typically tough game.
“They’ve brought in a few decent loan signings and they have a striker who scored against us for Tonbridge Angels so we can’t afford to take them for granted.
“We need a big and vocal crowd to get behind us.
“It would be a great shame for the players and supporters if we weren’t able to at least make the play-offs from this position.”
Three points tomorrow will certainly release the safety valve ahead of Monday’s derby duel.
The Blues are yet to concede a goal against the Trawler Boys this season following a 0-0 league stalemate in February, before a 3-0 Suffolk Premier Cup semi-final trouncing last month.
But the Ram Meadow chief is expecting one of the club’s sternest examinations of the campaign.
“I have played six or seven times myself at Crown Meadow and never got anything out of them so I know exactly how tough it will be there,” said Wilkins. “They’ve only lost once at home all season but of course we go there looking to get something out of the game.
“Four points from these next two matches and you would think we are almost there in terms of a play-off place.”
Right-back Russell Short is likely to miss out with a hernia, but could return in time for Monday. Elliott Hunter will deputise.