NEVER mind a game of two halves – Poole Town have had a year of two halves.

Just 12 months ago, the Dolphins were handily-placed in National South, sitting seventh in their first season following promotion as Southern League champions.

Although they would go on to finish fifth, issues with their Tatnam headquarters precluded them from taking their chance in the end-of-season play-offs.

However, the tireless efforts of board members and a loyal band of supporters ensured ground-grading criteria would be met for them to remain in the division, something which had been under threat prior to their annual inspection.

With the paint still drying on a tumultuous campaign at the spruced-up Black Gold Stadium, two telling occurrences during the summer would prove to have damning consequences as boss Tom Killick began his preparations for 2017-18.

Marvin Brooks and Luke Roberts, whose 22 goals between them had been pivotal to Dolphins’ fortunes in their maiden campaign in National South, were lost – one enticed to Salisbury, the other struck down by a serious knee injury.

Although Brooks eventually realised the grass was not greener on the other side and headed back in October, Roberts, a target for Football League clubs in his pomp, remains sidelined with only an outside chance of returning this season.

Currently four points adrift of safety, Poole tomorrow face fellow strugglers Chippenham in a clash which has taken on greater significance bearing in mind the two clubs’ precarious positions.

So just where did it all go wrong for Poole in the first half of the season?

“I don’t think it has been any one thing as you would probably expect with such a big swing,” said boss Killick.

“I look at a club like Havant & Waterlooville this season. If you win a league and get promoted, your team is full of belief and confidence.

“And just because you are in a higher league that makes quite a big difference. When games are in the balance, you have that inner belief that you can come out on the right side.

“When we went into the league last season, we had real confidence and belief. We didn’t finish the season too well and, this season, we have looked more fragile.

“When games have been in the balance, we have almost lacked a bit of confidence and belief. Quite a few times games have been there to be won or lost and we have fallen the wrong side.

“There has been a mental aspect to it and, as the bad results continue, then it becomes a vicious circle.

“We are not used to bad results so you could say we haven’t dealt with it as well as we might have.

“Losing Luke and Marvin, as well as Michael Walker and Jake Smeeton, has been a factor. I know a lot of clubs can point to things like that but they are all key players.

“I think I have made a few mistakes in how we have set up the team sometimes. We started the season trying to play three at the back. I just think it has been a combination of factors.

“I accept there has been a huge difference in points and results. Last season, we were often perhaps looking a little inferior in games but managed to win them. This year, we have looked superior to the opposition in some games and lost them.

“I know people harp on about it but, sometimes, the margins are so small. Last year, we had real momentum and, this year, it has been the other way round.”

Despite their struggles, Killick says he has been encouraged by recent results: “Without having rose-tinted glasses, I genuinely feel we have been much closer to where I feel we need to be.

“I know we have had the odd bad performance but I am much more confident in our ability to get out of it than I was a month or six weeks ago.”

Chippenham, last season’s Southern League champions, are currently 18th, two places and five points better off than Poole.

“You only have to look at the league table to see the magnitude of the game,” said Killick.

“And to place even more emphasis on it, we don’t have a game the following Saturday.

“We can’t afford to get adrift. We have two teams below us and need to claw back at least one other and make sure a gap doesn’t open.”

Brooks returns after serving a four-match ban, while Yeovil loanee Jeremiah Gyebi is available having missed the New Year’s Day defeat at Truro.

Skipper Jamie Whisken is struggling with a thigh injury and Ollie Harfield has returned to Cherries following the expiry of his loan.