Courage as well as ability will be needed as we battle to stay up

It’s been a mixed week for us – and we’re now heading into a potentially season-defining few days in our battle against relegation from Conference South.

Last Saturday we secured a vital victory against bottom side Dorchester, but on Tuesday our recent good form deserted us when we were beaten 3-0 at Gosport, who are among those scrapping for their lives at the wrong end of the league.

Even though they’re adrift at the foot of the table, Dorchester were hard to break down, especially in the first half, but we finally broke through with goals from Pat Cox and Dean Inman.

It was a welcome three points, and our fifth clean sheet in eight matches – however, the defensive stability that has become our hallmark of late took a hit at down in Hampshire with our heaviest defeat of the season.

In mitigation, Adam Everitt was suspended and we lost Ben Gerring during the game to injury – that’s two senior members of the defence that has been so solid recently – and Gosport have been getting good results over the past four or five weeks.

It wasn’t the sort of performance from us that we’ve seen of late – it was our fifth game in 10 days and some lads were mentally tired but Gosport were just the better team.

There was still all to play for when we went in at half-time 1-0 down had some individuals raised their game a little, but that didn’t happen for one reason or another. If you only have 50% of your troops on the battlefield, that’s a real problem.

It’s like Groundhog Day for us as we have to face Dorchester and Gosport again next Tuesday and Thursday. Before that though, it’s a trip to play-off chasing Bath on Saturday.

We’ve got a few injuries and Adam Everitt’s still suspended so it is going to be difficult. We’ll need to think about our workload ahead and if we can rest anyone, maybe throw someone in with fresh legs who’s got a point to prove.

Dorchester away is a big one for us. We need to accrue a couple more wins to stay in the league and it’s a case of looking at the fixtures and establishing the best chances to do that.

Whatever team I put out against Bath, it will be a team I think can get something from the game. If we get through that unscathed, we can then have a really good go at Dorchester.

We’ve got a mini-season now of six games in 14 days where we have to perform to the best of our ability.

But it’s not just about talent now, it’s about finding something deeper – as you lace up your boots before a relegation battle, you’ve got to find courage, heart and desire.

As a player, I was only ever involved in one relegation battle, at Sunderland 11 years ago.

When you’re a professional and going into training every day, it’s nagging away at the back of your mind all the time.

That’s when fear takes a grip – you don’t want to make a mistake that sends the club down. It leads to very good players doing uncharacteristic things. The lads in our dressing room need to be relishing the challenge that’s ahead.

Our game at Bath on Saturday, like every other fixture in the country, kicks off at 3.07pm, to mark the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster and the point when the FA Cup semi-final was abandoned.

It was a terrible tragedy and I really appreciate everyone in football’s efforts to remember it.

It always comes home at this time of year, especially for the families and for former Liverpool players like myself.

Two teams of Liverpool legends will be playing a benefit match at Anfield but it’s on Easter Monday, when Hayes and Yeading are playing down at Eastbourne Borough, so unfortunately I won’t be able to be there.

Liverpool is a fantastic city, very warm and family-oriented and everyone bands together around this time, whether you’re a Red or a Blue.

It was an event that changed the city and, of all the disasters that affected football around that time, it did more to change football in this country forever. It’s right that we remember it this weekend.

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