PHIL Edwards says every game until the end of the season is a “must-win” for Burton Albion after they dropped points in the League Two promotion race on Saturday.
At 4.30pm, the Brewers were set to go joint second in the table, as they led AFC Wimbledon 1-0, while rivals Rochdale and Scunthorpe United were losing and drawing respectively.
By the time the final whistle went in those three games though, Dale had turned a 1-0 defeat into a 2-1 victory, the Iron had won 2-0, and Albion had seen their own lead snuffed out by the latest of late goals.
Those results – along with victory for Fleetwood Town – combined to actually drop Burton to fifth place, meaning their battle to claim an automatic promotion place will now be that bit harder.
Full-back Edwards remains positive though.
“We’ve just got to look after ourselves, and if we win the majority of our games, we’ll go up,” he said.
“I think we’ve got to win about six or seven maybe, to get the automatic promotion spot.
“Every game at the minute is must-win.
“At the moment, it’s out of our hands, because the teams above us have got more points, so we’ve got to hope that they drop points.
“But we’ve got to play Scunthorpe and Chesterfield out of the top two, so if we get victories against them we claw points back.”
That clash with the Lincolnshire outfit looms large this weekend, as Albion travel to take on a team currently on an incredible 21-match unbeaten run.
“It puts us on the back burner a little bit, but we’ve got to go there and try and get back the points we’ve lost today,” said Edwards.
“If we can do that, we’ll be in the same position we were last week.
“We’ve got to stay positive – there’s still nine games left and we’ve just got to win as many as we can.”
The timing of the Dons’ equaliser, coming in the 98th minute when only five minutes added time had been shown, was galling to all connected with the club.
And although a draw was perhaps a fair result for an off-song Brewers, Edwards admitted: “It certainly feels more like a defeat than a draw.
“It was the last kick of the game and we’ve been punished at the last second.
“The ref said five minutes, but I think it was about eight minutes in the end.
“We’ve still got to defend, but I was very disappointed in the end that we couldn’t just hold out for that last second.
“I don’t think we played particularly well.
“They put a lot of balls into the box and we dug in a little bit to put our bodies on the line and block the shots – we just couldn’t do it with the last one.”
Edwards is likely to be without his usual right-side partner next weekend after winger Zeli Ismail pulled up with what looked to be a hamstring injury in the second-half.
The defender has seen perhaps at closer quarters than anyone the havoc the on-loan Wolves youngster can wreak, with another left-back – Wimbledon’s Barry Fuller – falling victim to Ismail’s devastating bursts of pace at the weekend.
And while Edwards admits he will be a loss, he has faith in the likes of Alex MacDonald – who impressed after replacing Ismail on Saturday – can come in and do a job.
The 28-year-old said: “I saw him (Ismail) running and then he went down – he seemed to be grabbing the side of his leg.
“I’m not quite sure what he’s done and how bad it is, but hopefully he has a speedy recovery.
“He’s very good – he’s direct and he’s scored a few goals as well, so that helps the team.
“He puts opponents on the back foot with his pace and trickery.
“If he’s out for a long while, he’s going to be a big miss.
“But there’s other players there, so if he is injured, hopefully they can come in and do a job as well.
“Alex came on and put some great balls in, and had some shots as well, so he’ll be pushing for a start if Zeli is injured.”
Another possible absentee next weekend is Edwards’ defensive colleague Ian Sharps, who picked up a calf injury against Oxford United, and has missed the last two games.
At points during Saturday’s game, and especially during the frantic final few minutes and the series of corners leading to Wimbledon’s equaliser, Albion looked like they could do with the powerful centre-half’s presence.
“I don’t think we’ve particularly missed him,” said Edwards. “But obviously he’s a leader and we probably missed his height today, especially on those last couple of corners.
“But Bob (fellow defender Marcus Holness) has come in and done a terrific job, so it’s going to be a tough choice for the gaffer next week.”