John Clarkson believes his Tiverton Town players have the physical and mental stamina to cope with the play-offs following a gruelling run of fixtures.
The Yellows go to Stratford Town tonight (Thursday), before hosting Guildford City on Saturday and then travelling to Wimborne Town on Monday.
It means they will have played five games in 10 days.
A hard-fought 2-1 home win over Cinderford Town, on Tuesday, left Tivvy in a strong position for the play-offs, which commence on the week beginning Monday, April 28.
And Clarkson feels they can make a real fist of the play-offs provided they make it through their next three games unscathed.
“We are trying to get up there to the top spot in the league, but you just can’t do it with the amount of games we’re trying to fit in – our success is killing us,” he said.
“The trouble with playing this amount of games is not just physical, but mental as well.
“These lads are working and then travelling a long way.
“It is asking a lot but, if we can get through these games, we should be okay for the play-offs.
“Touch wood, we can keep them all fit and we can have a real go. If we can get this week out of the way and finished then we will have from Tuesday until Saturday for a rest.
“Fair play to them, they ground out the win on Tuesday and are getting the points – you can’t ask for more.”
Fatigue already looks to be taking its toll, with Sam Malsom and Shane Krac likely to miss the Stratford game through injury. However, Matt Villis should return from the groin injury which ruled him out of Tuesday’s win, with Ed Palmer expected to make way.
“Sam got a hip flexor injury which he has tweaked or done something a little more serious to. He is probably looking at a week out I would think,” continued Clarkson.
“Shane Krac is not that far away. Hopefully he will get some minutes on Saturday and I would definitely hope he will play on Monday.
“Matty phoned me on Tuesday to tell me he had tweaked his groin a little bit. I am rotating the centre-backs at the moment and he would have played on Tuesday and Ed Palmer would have sat out, so maybe against Stratford Matty will play.
“When you have three good, good centre-backs like that and with the amount of games we have, you have got to chop and change to keep them fresh.”
Tivvy were far from their best in Tuesday’s win over Cinderford, but they demonstrated their resilience once again with three hard-earned points.
The first half was arguably their worst 45-minute performance of the season, with George Lloyd’s close-range finish giving the visitors a 1-0 lead after James Richards surrendered possession on halfway.
Lloyd could have put The Foresters ahead even earlier, only for Mike Searle to save well with his legs from four yards out.
Despite plenty of huff and puff, Tivvy looked disjointed and bereft of ideas, with the visitors barely having to break a sweat to keep them at arm’s length.
But the introduction of Dan Smith and Matt Wright at half-time saw a marked improvement, and the former levelled via the penalty spot on 50 minutes following a handball.
The hard-working Ryan Richards made way for Michael Nardiello with 20 minutes left, and he converted Josh Searle’s backpost cross on 80 minutes.
That made it two in three games for Nardiello to go with the double he netted in Saturday’s 4-0 win at Clevedon Town. Marcus Martin and Josh Searle netted the others.
“I’m glad that one is over because that was a hard, hard game,” said Clarkson, whose side cut the gap on Merthyr Town and Cirencester Town to six points with a game in hand.
“The first half was abysmal. I don’t think we strung two passes together.
“We were so far off it that 1-0 flattered us – we probably should have been 2-0 down. We were at them for most of the second half though.
“Their manager was at Bishops Cleeve before and they play exactly the same way.
“It was one of those where we have ground out the result again, which we have done a few times recently.”