MANAGER Tom Killick believes losing the burden of expectation will help his Poole Town underdogs bite back against their fellow play-off pursuers.
Dolphins complete a critical double-header with a trip to third-placed St Albans City tomorrow (3.07pm), less than 48 hours after last night's scheduled trip to in-form Hungerford Town.
Poole had lost four of seven Southern League Premier Division outings prior to the Crusaders clash, but Killick remains adamant their promotion dream has yet to turn into a nightmare.
And he insists his boys could still land a knockout blow against one of the league's heavyweights when they travel to Clarence Park.
The Tatnam boss told the Daily Echo: “Externally, people's thoughts have shifted. The mindset has changed from expecting us to make the play-offs to, perhaps, writing us off.
“Hopefully, the players will respond to that because we have not lost hope internally. We have looked like a team playing with the weight of the world on our shoulders lately, but the change in emphasis could benefit us now we have become outsiders.
“We're in a position where we're fighting to get into the play-offs rather than having the luxury of expecting to be in them. It all seems a long way off at this stage.
“But if we can get back to the kind of form we were in before this run of fixtures then we know we can beat any team in this league.
"We just need to concentrate getting back to our best and if we do the results will follow, irrespective of the opposition.”
Dan Cann begins a five-match ban after picking up his third red card of the season against Bedford Town. Keith Emmerson remains sidelined and will have a scan on his ankle with Killick hopeful the full-back may return next weekend if it shows no further damage.
- Elsewhere in the Premier Division, bottom club Bashley, who were forced to field joint-boss Paul Gazzard in goal for their midweek match with Cambridge City, have goalkeepers Nic Jones and Monty George available for their home match with Biggleswade Town.
Lewis Blackmore (hamstring) and Warren Kenna (work commitments) miss out but dual-registered full-back Adam Flint should return after appearing for Conference club Salisbury City on Tuesday.
Leading marksman Mark Gamble and midfielder Jon Blake are back in contention as Wimborne Town attempt to end a seven-match winless run at home to Thatcham Town in Southern South & West.
In the Wessex League Premier Division, Verwood Town host relegation-haunted Fawley in Carl Poore's first match in charge, Bournemouth Poppies entertain Blackfield & Langley, Hamworthy United travel to Brockenhurst and Christchurch make the trip to Moneyfields.
New Milton Town are away to US Portsmouth in Wessex One, while Ringwood Town travel to Fleet Spurs (all 3.07pm).