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Ebbsfleet United manager Kevin Watson warns his squad relegation will damage their reputations among fellow National League sides

Ebbsfleet boss Kevin Watson has warned his squad their professional careers are on the line.

It’s crunch time in Fleet’s season-long relegation battle at the foot of the National League as they host fellow strugglers Chorley on Saturday before visiting Chesterfield seven days later.

Kevin Watson's Ebbsfleet are fighting for National League survival Picture: Sean Aidan
Kevin Watson's Ebbsfleet are fighting for National League survival Picture: Sean Aidan

Watson has told his players that it’s not just Fleet’s time at the top table of non-league football that is in the balance.

Relegation will not look good on the CV of any Fleet players and potential suitors may look elsewhere in the summer.

“We’re towards the bottom of the National League and we’ve had this discussion before (with the players),” said Watson.

“If you think you’re going to get relegated from the National League and then find yourself a club next season in the National League, then you’re very much mistaken.

“The only way these boys will find themselves with a bit of recognition and all the plaudits is by keeping Ebbsfleet in the National League.

“If they do that, then they may be courted as the players that kept Ebbsfleet up from quite a bit of a deficit.”

Fleet, who crashed out of the FA Trophy after a 2-0 defeat at home to Royston on Saturday, are eight points from safety after Chesterfield and Dagenham added to their tally last weekend.

They still have to play the other three teams in the bottom four and Watson insisted Fleet’s fate is firmly in their own hands.

“The way things have gone, Chesterfield scoring in the 94th minute, the gap is seven points again,” he added. “But we have to play Chesterfield, we have to play Chorley, we have to play AFC Fylde – it’s doable.

“Until the fat lady starts singing and points-wise you can’t do it, then we’ll keep going.

“I need to pick myself up (after the Royston defeat) and I need to pick my staff up. I need to pick these players up, that’s my job. We’ll all go and reflect and be very disappointed but we have to move on to the next one now.

“Where do I go as a manager? I go home and think about decisions I made, substitutions, the team I picked, the formation I played.

"It ruins my weekend. I won’t show my face until we’re back in training.

“I’ve asked each and every one of them to do what I’m going to do which is go home and have a think about it, think about what they could have done differently in the game which I will do myself, and to put it right and don’t let it happen again, and make yourself better by learning. Yes, I’m hurt.

“As a player I tasted a lot of success and I was in dressing rooms that had a lot of success. It hurts me when you prepare as best you can and it’s not carried out.

“As I said to them, I love each and every one of those boys but it’s galling when that happens.

“If it hurts them as much as it hurt me, then we’ll be okay but they have to react to it. We cannot carry any passengers any more.”

Fleet will welcome back Adam Mekki (cup-tied) and Josh Payne (suspension) against Chorley.

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