Garry Flitcroft has urged his Chorley players to remain relaxed and positive as they head towards the final run-in of the season.
The Magpies looked certainties for promotion to the Conference North only a few weeks ago after building a commanding lead at the top of the NPL Premier Division.
But a run of four defeats – and only two wins – in their last eight games means their advantage has been whittled away. They now sit in second spot on the same number of points as new leaders FC United of Manchester.
Worksop Town, AFC Fylde and Ashton United – who defeated Chorley 2-1 on Wednesday night – are queueing up behind ready to strike if the Magpies continue to slip up.
Flitcroft is keen that his men do not dwell on the last few weeks, preferring to focus on the form which saw them rise to the top of the table and reach the last 16 of the prestigious FA Trophy.
“It’s all about me as the manager trying to keep the players’ confidence levels up and remain positive,” Flitcroft told the Evening Post.
“We have had a fantastic season so far. We had a great run in the FA Trophy and have had a great run in the league.
“We are still in a great position, there are still lots of points to play for and we are right in there.
“The lads are feeling fine and are in great nick. I told them that they’ve worked so hard to get where they are this season.
“You can never go through a whole season without having a bad run.”
Chorley looked to have turned the corner at the weekend after thrashing Nantwich Town 5-1 at Victory Park – but they were beaten by a late goal against Ashton in midweek.
Flitcroft admits his plans over the past month or two have been disrupted by injuries.
Star striker Josh Hine has only just returned to action this week after an eight-week absence after a groin operation, while full-back Adam Mather is out for the season. Centre-backs Andy Teague and Keil O’Brien have also been carrying injuries.
“The games we have lost recently have all been by the odd goal,” Flitcroft said.
“We have had a few injuries which have affected us. Andy Teague and Keil O’Brien are both carrying groin injuries.
“I have a problem at left-back because Adam Mather is out for the season. Adam has been outstanding for me this season.
“I’ve had to put a winger in Paul Jarvis at left-back, then he got injured. The match against Ashton could have gone either way, it’s just individual errors which are costing us.”
Flitcroft was delighted to see Hine return – and score – against Nantwich, although he cautioned against expecting too much too soon from the pacey goal-getter.
“Josh has been a massive loss for us,” Flitcroft said.
“He’s had a few aches and pains this week because he had a big operation on his groin.
“We are desperate to have him back, but we will have to nurse him back and he’ll have to take his time.”
Tomorrow, Chorley travel to face Ilkeston, who are below mid-table. The Magpies will be without O’Brien and Keiran Walmsley, who both begin three-match suspensions.
Max Cartwright – on loan from League Two Fleetwood – has strengthened the Magpies’ squad, while Flitcroft was hoping to make two further loan signings from Preston ahead of yesterday’s deadline.