TOWN take on Notts County in the final game of the season at Blundell Park on Saturday afternoon (3pm) knowing that a victory will secure their League Two safety.
With the Mariners now five points away from the relegation zone with two games to play following last weekend's 1-0 victory at Swindon Town, the picture is looking much rosier than it did a few weeks ago.
However, the job is not yet done and Michael Jolley's si
de face a tough assignment against a County side that are still in with a chance of automatic promotion, so it is important that Town keep focused ahead of another pivotal round of fixtures.
Dembele a doubt for Town
Town could have to make due without the services of Siriki Dembele after he was forced off with an ankle lock in the reserves game against Rotherham United last week, although it is hoped he will be fit enough to play.
The Mariners have the majority of their squad fit other than that, although Scott Vernon and Paul Dixon could still be missing, whilst Zak Mills and loanee Charlie Vernam are both out for the campaign.
County could receive a boost in the return of exciting youngster Jorge Grant's return from injury, with the Nottingham Forest loanee and top scorer back in training following an ankle problem.
County still in with a chance of automatic promotion
Notts County's 4-1 victory over Yeovil Town coupled with Wycombe Wanderers' loss to Accrington Stanley means that Kevin Nolan's men come to Blundell Park on Saturday only two points away from automatic promotion.
It has been a strong season for Nolan's side regardless of whether the Magpies go up automatically or reach the play-offs, but the former Bolton Wanderers and West Ham will be hoping that the season ends up in promotion whichever way that may be.
Nolan took charge in January 2017 and has reinvigorated the club since his arrival, saving them from relegation last campaign and turning them into promotion contenders in his first full season at the helm.
The boss has a very experienced squad at his disposal, with a twin pronged strike force of ex-Premier League strikers Jon Stead and Shola Ameobi causing a threat to most sides they have come up against so far this campaign, whilst the likes of former England internationals Alan Smith and Nicky Hunt, as well as Welsh defender Richard Duffy are all part of the squad.
A goalless draw earlier in the campaign
It was a stalemate between the two sides back in December, as Town held firm to pick up a valuable away point in a goalless draw at Meadow Lane.
Town restricted County to very few chances in that fixture, and after a very strong defensive performance last weekend, another one woud not go amiss as they look to confirm their League Two status for next year.
Both sides have met 81 times over their history, with the Mariners winning 33, the Magpies winning 27 and there being 21 draws.
Managers in summary
Michael Jolley: ''Notts County are a strong team – they’re coming into this game on really good form, so I think it will be a competitive game. We’re going to have to be at our best to beat Notts County – I must pay tribute to Kevin Nolan and his staff because I think they’ve done an excellent job. It's two teams that need to go and win the game for different reasons, so we’re really focused on doing the things that we’ve been doing well, and trying to add more to the level of our performance. It’s going to be a difficult one, and we need to do our work well this week, and give ourselves a chance on Saturday.''
Kevin Nolan: "The lads have put themselves in a fantastic position to put the pressure on and we’ve secured a play-off place, which is an unbelievable achievement considering where we were 15 months ago. All we’ve got to do is keep winning. We want to build momentum, have a strong end to the season and we’ll see where we are but we’ve got Grimsby in the way. They’re not mathematically safe and it’s their last home game of the season, which always has a good feeling about it. It’s another tough one - but it’s another we’re looking forward to."