PROP Ollie John admits that it will be win or bust for Basingstoke when they come up against Chichester in January – but he says the squad still believe that promotion is possible.

’Stoke’s disappointing defeat at Wimbledon last weekend left them 10 points behind second-placed Chichester – but with half of the season left, John insists there is still plenty of belief in the camp.

“If we are aiming for the top two positions it is going to be very difficult – but we still believe we can do it,” he said. “We have not come across anyone yet where I have come away thinking they are in a different league and we will be disappointed if we do not end up in the top two.

“It is achievable and we do not know how other results will go. It’s not at the point where it is out of our hands yet so it is still possible and we believe we are good enough to do it.”

There will be little chance for ’Stoke to play themselves back into form after the three-week Christmas break as they face a crucial home game against Chichester on January 12.

It’s a game that John and his colleagues must win if they are to have any chance of catching the Sussex side – and the 29-year-old cannot wait.

“It will be all or nothing against Chichester and a lot of people are looking forward to the game,” he said. “When we played them down there we had a terrible start but fought back and got our noses in front, only to give away a penalty to lose at the death.”

East Grinstead look set to run away with the title in their first season in London One South, following a pattern that has been established of late. Every year at least one club in the league has serious financial backing, making it hard for the bulk of clubs, who, like Basingstoke, remain amateur outfits.

“There does seem to be that there are one or two sides with money in the league every year, but if we are serious about getting promotion then we have to deal with that,” John said. “I do not think that money has been as big a factor this year though and there does not seem as much of a gap.

“The likes of Guernsey and Jersey in the last two years were a lot better than everyone else but I do not think that is the case this year. I believe we can compete with East Grinstead when it comes to the last day of the season.”

Reliable prop John has been one of Basingstoke’s top performers this season, with the pack impressing most weeks.

“There are always things to improve but I am fairly happy with my form,” he added. “The scrum and set piece are going pretty well and I enjoy the battle within the battle against my opposing prop. “There are a couple of positions that change but it’s a fairly settled pack and we have not been too affected by injuries.”

After a blistering October, ’Stoke’s form has fallen away in recent weeks, something John admits he is at a loss to explain.

“A few injuries have not helped but we should be able to step up and accommodate players if we have people missing,” he said. “The timing of the break has worked out well for us. Hopefully we can get some players back and get on with the job in the new year.”