By Tony Leighton
Wycombe Wanderers' 21-season tenure as a Football League club is in danger of being ended, admits manager Gareth Ainsworth, after a poor run of results that has plunged them to within two points of the Sky Bet League 2 relegation zone.
Ainsworth's first full season in management started brightly with the Chairboys placed in the Play-Off places after a quarter of the season. But they fell away and, with only seven games remaining, they are in serious trouble.
Despite acknowledging the precarious situation, however, the manager remains defiant. "We're still right in it," he said after a 1-0 Tuesday night defeat - their fourth in a winless five games - at Burton Albion, "but it's still in our own hands.
"We've got a seven-game shoot-out between now and the end of the season. If the season finished tomorrow we'd be fine, but we're in a battle and we've got to win a few more games before we can sleep soundly.
"We're leading the (survival) pack and we need to get the results to make sure we finish above two teams. I don't want to go down and I'm sure we've got enough to stay out of the bottom two if we all turn up."
The Chairboys will certainly have to turn up on Saturday, when they visit a Scunthorpe United team second in the table that are unbeaten in 23 outings and are looking racing certainties to end the season with automatic promotion.
Meanwhile second-bottom Northampton Town, who are at home to Bury on the same day, have lost only one of their last nine matches and are putting the pressure on the teams above them in the battle to stay in the League.
Ainsworth will demand a massive seven-match effort from his players as they look to avoid the drop. "People have got to stand up and be counted and scrap and fight for every point we can get in the next four and a half weeks," he said.
"We're a wounded Wycombe, but we've just got to pick ourselves up and go again at the weekend. We've got to turn up week-in, week-out starting at Scunthorpe, which is a huge, huge game for us and the lads have got to be on it."
While trying to get the best out of his players during the run-in, Ainsworth is promising to lead from the front in the bid to ensure that Adams Park will be hosting Football League and not Conference fixtures next season.
"I've got to be very positive and get the boys to come with me," said the 40-year-old manager. "I'll lead the way and I'll fight and scrap for everyone of them if I need to. It's going to be tough - but I'm relishing the challenge."
For all the latest news on Wycombe Wanderers please click here