CENTRAL defender David Ray says that the next few games could “make or break” Basingstoke Town’s season.
The Camrose club go into Saturday’s home game against Chelmsford City sitting 11th in the Conference South table, seven points outside the play-off places with 18 games of the season remaining.
They are by no means out of contention for a place in the top five – but Ray, pictured left, admits that they must make their move soon.
“We are at a point in the season now where it’s make or break for us,” he said. “If we can put a good run together now, then we could push for the play-offs. If not, then we could fade away.
“The Conference South has always been a tight league. Everyone is capable of beating everyone else but if we could string three or four results together, then we could fly up the league and get in a position to mount a play-off challenge.
“If we do not have that run soon then other teams will pick up points and our chances will get slimmer, so it is important that we get on a run now and make sure that our hard work pays off.
“I think that we have got a good squad and there is plenty of strength in depth, so we are more than capable of getting into the play-offs.
“We have been a bit goal-shy in recent months but that is not just about the strikers. We all need to chip in, whether that is defenders scoring from set-pieces or midfielders getting up in support.”
Ray is a year into his second spell at the Camrose, having spent five years with Town between 2002 and 2007. However, back then he played a lot of his football on the right wing – and he admits that he would not have predicted a move to centre-back.
“Standing at 5ft 10in, being a centre-back was not at the forefront of my mind 10 years ago,” he said. “It’s not something I ever really anticipated – but it is a position that I really enjoy playing.
“You get to see everything in front of you and organise everyone, which is something I enjoy.
“Moving from right wing to centre-back is not a move many people make but I played half a season as a sweeper under Ernie Howe early in my career and have always enjoyed studying the game.”
Ray’s background as a midfielder has been a real asset to Town this season. Bristow has been encouraging his defenders to pass the ball into midfield rather than simply clearing their lines and Ray’s ability on the ball makes him the ideal player in this role.
“The variety of positions I have played in does help me as we look to get across halfway in good possession of the ball, something that is quite refreshing at this level,” he said. “It’s a positive thing for the club but we are not going overboard. We have not forgotten the basics and will get the ball forward quickly if we need to.
Coming back to Basingstoke gave Ray, who is now 28, the chance to play for Jason Bristow, a close friend and former teammate from his previous spell at the Camrose.
“It has been a pleasure to play for Jason,” Ray added. “Everyone knows that we are friends but business is very much business and we have been able to keep the two separate.
“Jason is a young manager with a lot of potential and has a real opportunity to do well in management. Last season was a bit of a disappointment but we are progressing and I think the future is good for both Jason and the club.”