Hartlepool United can play their way out of the relegation mire in League Two - as long as they don’t start to look over their shoulders.
That was the prediction of club captain Billy Paynter ahead of the critical Easter weekend programme.
The last thing you want to be doing is walking onto the pitch nervousBILLY PAYNTER
Pools host promotion-chasing Carlisle United on Good Friday before heading to basement outfit Leyton Orient on Monday.
The situation is serious at the bottom of League Two, where Pools are only three points ahead of Newport, who are 23rd but on a good run of form.
Paynter, out for the rest of the season with Achilles trouble, says his comrades have the ability to pull away from the bottom two.
“It’s in our own hands,” said the striker. “We shouldn’t be looking over our shoulders.
“Newport have had a great result at Exeter but our main focus has to be on ourselves. We can’t worry about what’s going on below us.
“If we do start looking then that’s when panic can creep in.
“The last thing you want to be doing is walking onto the pitch nervous.
“We have to be confident and keep believing in ourselves.”
It is easier said than done given that next up is a match with seventh-placed Carlisle while on the same afternoon Newport are hosting Yeovil at Rodney Parade.
The Cumbrians may be out of sorts after picking up seven points out of a possible 30 but Paynter rates his former club highly.
“They have done well this season, but I expected them to,” said the 32-year-old who was signed by Pools by then boss Ronnie Moore in the summer of 2015.
“Carlisle have a big budget.
“They have had a bad dip in form, they have dropped out of the automatic spots and they are now chasing a play-off spot.
“I think they’ll do it.”
However, Paynter says the better the opposition, the better Pools perform and he is quietly confident they can get a result on Friday.
“We seem to be able to more than hold our own against the teams that are up there at the top,” he said.
“We’ve beaten Stevenage and Exeter at home and it took a great goal to prevent us from beating Plymouth here.
“The frustrating thing about where we are in the table is that we have shown we can play when we’ve come up against the teams at the right end of the league.
“We’re confident playing our football and that’s what we need to do.
“I think Carlisle will be more nervous than us on Friday, the pressure is really on them to stay in the play-off positions.”
Paynter is a frustrated spectator – he is desperate to be on the field and scoring goals for the club.
The Scouser had undergone a series of injections in a bid to avoid surgery, only to bow to the pain last month and go under the knife.
“I tried my best to give it a go,” said Paynter.