PAUL HYDE insists it is very much “game on” in the scramble to avoid relegation.
Whites, seemingly dead and buried a few weeks back, are now in with an outside chance of beating the drop after four league wins out of five.
Hyde, who has played a key part in that run despite missing the Salisbury game after injuring his head, believes that winning becomes as much a habit as losing.
He said: “Earlier in the season we were losing week-in, week-out and leaking late goals, which sapped confidence. Now it’s the other way round, we’re winning and beat Salisbury thanks to a late winner.
“Before Christmas we let two points drop against Harrow – we were coasting to victory and then suddenly they’ve hit us with an injury-time equaliser. That kind of thing really knocks your confidence.
“But now, under Clive Walker, we’re showing a tougher mentality to win matches. Salisbury being an excellent example.
“We played poor in the first half of the match but had a good chat at half time, then gone out there and showed fighting spirit to equalise and win the match late on. We got our rewards for working hard.
“That did this team a world of good because it showed we can win matches, after we fall behind, by showing the right attitude and not giving up.
“This is testament to Clive’s approach to the game and the way the young players in the squad respond to his coaching. After all, he knows all these young lads and coached them when they were 13 and 14 years old – some of them younger than that. There’s no doubt that Clive has made a huge difference but the players have got their rewards too, by working their socks off.”
Victor Renner was the star of the show that day, weighing in with two excellent strikes and Hydie reveals the Whites striker responded to some sound half-time advice.
He said: “We told Victor to get stuck in a bit more. It was obvious to us that the Salisbury keeper wasn’t the best in the world and if we put him under a bit of pressure Victor would cash in.
“We told Victor to chase down every ball and really put their defence and keeper under pressure. That’s exactly how he got the equalising goal. He’s won a ball by chasing it down, and then hit it superbly, catching their keeper completely out of position.
“Then we’ve bombarded their goal and Victor’s come up trumps again. He worked so hard and, look, he’s got two goals and we’ve won the match.
“Now, with another excellent win against Harrow, it’s game on. Yes, on paper, nine points are a lot to make up at the bottom but we cannot even think about that. We’ve just got to go into each match and win. That has to be our approach, home or away, and then it doesn’t matter what happens elsewhere.”
Hyde rates Whites’ performance at Harrow, where they won 4-1, as one of their best performances in the last couple of years. The veteran stopper barely had a save to make the entire afternoon in what was a crucial victory against a side flirting dangerously with relegation themselves.
He said: “It was good to have a quiet day. I wish it could be like that every day. My head was killing me a bit, as I still have a bit of pain after hurting it in training the other week, but, luckily, I didn’t get called upon much.
“The boys looked solid and took their goals well. It was a thoroughly professional performance and that’s what you need if you’re going to pick up points at some of these grounds.
“It took a little while for us to get used to the pitch conditions there, but, once we settled down, there only looked to be one winner.”
The atmosphere has changed for the better in recent weeks and Hyde explains that it runs from the players and management through to the directors and supporters.
He said: “All the lads are going into the bar after the games and buzzing. The fans are buzzing too and everyone seems to get on with each other. It’s a real community spirit at Dover Athletic at the moment. The fans, players, management and directors are all in this together – and that has been a key feature.”
Chelmsford have only lost once in 13 games and Hyde insists that Saturday’s game will be between the two biggest clubs in the division – and, on current form, is a top-of-the-table clash.
He said: “It’s hardly going to be a game between a side second from bottom and another in mid-table. Both sides, on current form, are the best two in the division. We’d be the top two on our form at the moment and we’ve got to be right on top of our game if we’re going to win it.
“The pitch is under snow at the moment but we really hope the game goes ahead. I’m sure Chelmsford want to play the game too. When you’re winning, you want to play. You want to keep the momentum going.
“If the game goes ahead, it’s going to be a bit of a mud bath, which will be a leveller. We’ve then got to go out there and just grind out a vital win.”
The club are hoping for a bumper crowd. Chelmsford could be bringing around 100 fans down and it is hoped that the Dover public will turn up in numbers for a huge game – one that Whites are desperate to win.
Hyde added: “We’re the two biggest clubs in this division. I’d say we’re the biggest club, followed by them. They can get good support up there and this will be a good game, I’m sure. Let’s hope we make it five wins from six league games. We could pull to within six points of the safety zone if we win it.”