Talk of the Town: Can tough run for Grimsby Town spark return to top form?
THE next nine days could prove crucial in determining just how successful this season will be for Grimsby Town.
Tomorrow night's game at Forest Green Rovers is the first of three crunch clashes that will be a stern test of the Mariners' title credentials.
After the trip to the New Lawn, Town welcome red hot Kidderminster Harriers to Blundell Park on Saturday before travelling to face a similarly in-form Mansfield side in a rearranged fixture the following Tuesday.
A win in Gloucestershire tomorrow night and the Mariners will keep themselves within reach of the summit once again and put a big dent in Rovers' play-off aspirations.
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Lose, and the door might be left wide enough to hand them and the rest of the chasing pack an opportunity to sneak in and catch up with Town.
Many fans have said they'd be happy with a point, and yes, a draw would be an acceptable result, but three points is what's needed.
After all, it's important to remember that this is a side that the Mariners beat earlier in the season, at a time when Rovers were in better form.
Stick to what has taken the Mariners towards the top of the table and a win is well within reach.
The game four days after is, on paper at least, the toughest of the three.
Kidderminster will come to Blundell Park in blistering form, regardless of their result at Gateshead tomorrow evening.
Going into the clash with the Heed, Harriers have won their last seven games and currently sit second in the Blue Square Bet Premier, level on points with leaders Wrexham.
It's because of that form, that Steve Burr's team are fast becoming many non-league fans and pundits' pick for the title.
Their run has certainly been impressive, but like all runs, it must be brought to an end sometime and why can't Town be the team to do it?
Take the three points at Blundell Park and it's all to play for.
The Mariners will have three games in hand on Burr's side and a great chance of leaving them behind.
Lose, and of course further momentum will build behind the high-flying Harriers.
After that the Mariners have a rearranged trip to Nottinghamshire to face Paul Cox's Mansfield side, who, like Kidderminster, have been on a fine run themselves.
But again, this is a team that the Mariners dispatched 4-1 earlier in the season and there is no reason why they can't do it again.
The next three games are certainly tricky, very few would think otherwise, but impossible? Certainly not.
It would be all too easy for fans to allow the fact that Town have slipped off the pace of late – mainly through no fault of their own – to cloud their hopes for their side over the next week or so.
But Town – and by that I mean players AND fans – need to go into these three games with confidence – only then will they have a chance of coming through them unscathed.
Supporters have taken to the message-boards predicting that Town need to take nine points from the next three games if they are to keep alive their title hopes.
It will be tough to take the maximum haul, but certainly not unfeasible.
If they can achieve it, Town will give themselves a real chance of coming out on top at the end of the campaign.
On the other hand, it's not fatal to their hopes if they don't
But a good run of results – at a time which many agree is their most difficult of the season – could be just the catalyst needed to spark a return to Town's pre- Christmas performances.
And what a boost that would be going into the crucial title run-in.