Ebbsfleet face a must-win game at home to Dorking Wanderers this weekend - but manager Dennis Kutrieb says nothing has changed.
The Fleet boss believes the last four matches have been ‘must-win’ as his side attempt to drag themselves back into the National League South title picture.
Victory over Dorking could see Ebbsfleet close the gap on the team in second to just five points with a game in hand. Defeat will see the Fleet planning for the play-offs.
“We’ve been in must-win for three or four games but the players have responded well to the situation,” said Kutrieb, whose side lost the reverse fixture 5-1 in January when Sefa Kahraman saw red inside the first 20 minutes.
“If you want to talk about promotion or play-offs you need to deliver and bring the basics on the pitch.
“It’s been must-win games for the last few matches and we’ve done that very well. Braintree was a little setback but I wasn’t really surprised as they were in good form and we went there on a Tuesday night after a tough game on the Saturday, I knew what could happen and that unfortunately was the case.
“Dorking away was more the feeling that the world was against us but it’s not a hurting feeling when I look back at it.
“We know that if we had played 11 v 11 for 90 minutes, we would have had a big chance to win the game.
“Things in football can turn around very quickly. Now Dorking come to us and we start 11 v 11.
“It’s a great game to play in, they are a good footballing side who are still far away from us in the table but if we get the three points, we have one game in hand and the picture will look different so we definitely need to win.”
Only one team has scored more goals in National League South than Ebbsfleet - Saturday’s visitors Dorking.
But given the Fleet’s recent focus on clean sheets, the absence of Matt Briggs who scored a hat-trick for Dorking against Ebbsfleet earlier in the season, and the nerves that come in a big clash towards the end of the season, Kutrieb is not sure the goals will flow.
“Maybe Dorking would be happy with a draw - I don’t know, I’m just guessing,” he said. “We have had a slightly different approach of late, we’ve only conceded two goals in the last five games.
“But, having said that, it’s still two teams with such attacking power.
“I would say more (likely to be) less goals than more because of the situation, and with Briggs and possibly Prior out - their two best offensive players are missing. I think it will be a close game, like St Albans last week or the Dartford games.”
The Fleet have won eight and lost just once in their last 10 home league games.
It’s an excellent record that they will need to maintain during the run-in, and Kutrieb believes the supporters have a key role to play.
“The fans are massive for us,” stated the Fleet boss. “I was very surprised at St Albans last weekend - but in a positive way - at how loud the cheer was when we scored the goal, and then again at the final whistle.
“I was really proud of our club. It was a big cheer, not just from us on the sidelines, and it was really noticeable.
“It’s the backing that the boys need this Saturday. They need to get a push, they need to help us as I think it’s pretty clear that there may be periods in the game when we have to suffer.
“Dorking are second in the table and had been top for a while so it’s not like we are going to dominate for 90 minutes. That’s when we need the fans to help us to repel them and not concede, or then help us go and get the winner.
“Sometimes you see a loud crowd at home can help the home team and support them but it can also affect the referee. We’ve seen it at other grounds - why can’t it be like that at our place?
“When we played Maidstone, the referee was so (influenced) that he gave a penalty in the first minutes.
“We should do everything to get the boys going and if the crowd can help us do that as well, then that’s great.”
Fleet go into the game on the back of an impressive 1-0 win at St Albans last weekend, the perfect response to the setback of losing at Braintree the previous midweek.
“It was really solid and mature as well,” said Kutrieb. “They didn’t have any chances to score, five or six shots at goal but not one on target.
“It was a really good performance and we were better in every aspect in the stats – aerial challenges, challenges, passes, corners, shots on target. My gut feeling was and my eyes could see that too but I was really impressed with the boys.
“It was the complete opposite of Braintree on the Tuesday when we tried to rush it during the 90 minutes and we forgot that we had that long to score a goal. We were very calm at St Albans and that helped us.”
Ebbsfleet have signed defender Franklin Domi on loan from QPR for the remainder of the season.