JASON Bristow insists that his Basingstoke Town squad are not ready to give up on their play-off dreams just yet.
Tuesday night’s 2-1 defeat at the hands of fellow top-five chasers Eastbourne Borough left the Camrose club 10th in the Conference South table, seven points outside the play-off places.
They have games in hand over most of the sides above them but would probably need to win nine of their remaining 13 games to have a realistic chance of finishing in the top five.
“Making the play-offs is a big ask now,” Town manager Bristow admitted. “But we will keep going, try to pick up as many points as possible, and you never know what might happen.
“We will not give up though. It’s not in our nature to do that. We will keep going and, if we don’t reach the play-offs, then so be it, but we will then aim to finish sixth. We want to end the season as far up the table as possible.”
Basingstoke’s next home game will see them host struggling Tonbridge Angels at the Camrose on Tuesday (kick-off 7.45pm), but before that, they face a trip to Sutton United, the league’s form team, on Saturday (kick-off 3pm).
The south London side have taken 23 from a possible 27 points since the turn of a year, a run that has seen them move up to fourth in the table and become genuine title contenders.
To make things even harder for Town, Sutton are offering free entry for the game and a bumper crowd is expected at Gander Green Lane.
Bristow said: “Saturday will be our biggest test of the season. Sutton are flying and it’s a game they will relish.
“We need to regroup, go again and put in another good performance.”
Town remain in the grip of an injury crisis going into Saturday’s game.
Midfielders Simon Dunn and Neil Barrett have been ruled out with hamstring problems, while striker Manny Williams is unlikely to recover from a groin injury in time.
Wes Daly (knee) and Shaun McAuley (rib) are said to have an outside chance, while Jordace Holder-Spooner remains doubtful with a knee problem.
Bristow may decide to bring back on-loan midfielder Matt Partridge if he is cleared to play following an ankle problem, despite the fact that the Reading player could face a prison sentence following a violent road-rage attack.