'Play-offs are now in lap of the gods'
CHELMSFORD City's play-off dreams hang by the thinnest of threads after rivals Basingstoke won their game in hand.
The Clarets must now beat Woking at home on the last day of the season and hope Basingstoke slip up at Welling, who have already secured third place.
"It's in the lap of the gods," said manager Glenn Pennyfather, whose side looked odds-on to clinch a play-off place at the turn of the year, but slipped to sixth on Tuesday as their Hampshire rivals beat relegation-threatened Hampton & Richmond 2-0 away from home.
"Basingstoke have had a fantastic run," said Pennyfather.
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"They've won eight out of the last nine games and you have to hold your hands up and say 'well-done'– no one expected form like that at the end of a long season.
"We've not had a particularly good two months, we've been very inconsistent. We now have to rely on Welling and hope they go for it on Saturday."
The boss said the collapse against Salisbury two weeks ago – where his side threw away a 2-0 lead in the last five minutes to lose 3-2 – was the turning point of an up-and-down campaign.
"We shot ourselves in the foot against Salisbury and it's really cost us.
"Once we lost we knew it was going to be a big problem and to be fair to Basingstoke they've capitalised by winning their games in hand."
City's cause would have been greatly helped had they picked up all three points away to Eastleigh on Saturday.
City went behind late on but two minutes from time they managed to salvage a draw when skipper Dave Rainford fired home a penalty after Ricky Modeste was hauled down in the box.
"Yes, we could have done with three points bearing in mind how tight it is at the top," said Pennyfather.
"I was still pleased with a point because we know it's always a difficult place to go and our recent visits there haven't been successful in terms of winning and picking up points."
City players, well aware of the club's predicament, looked nervous all afternoon, he said.
"At times we looked edgy and we were worried about making a mistake instead of trying to make things happen.
"That happens to any side in our position because some players are petrified at making mistakes that might cost the team the game.
"It was a certain penalty and thankfully we scored and came home with a point."
For the Woking game Pennyfather welcomes back striker Jamie Slabber, who missed the game against his former club as part of his transfer to City last month.
Missing though, will be the suspended Sam Corcoran but Pennyfather expects to have a decent squad of players available for what is their biggest game of the season.
"Everyone will want to play and the players have been training well, there's a good, positive dressing room atmosphere and we're looking for that important win and three points," he said.
"There's no room for manoeuvre, we've got to go for it and win. I won't be thinking about the Basingstoke match – football is a funny old game, look at Chelsea-Barcelona this week, anything can happen."