JUST when you thought it was safe to come out from behind the sofa, relegation once again stalks us, lurking in the background waiting for an opportunity to drag us kicking and screaming to our doom.

Every time you think we have a safe gap to the trapdoor, reality comes along and confirms we don’t. Survival might be still very much in our own hands, but there are circumstances which can conspire against us to pile the pressure on to a group of players and a management team that don’t do pressure. Circumstances like Ashton United’s coupon-busting victory at Chorley on Saturday.

With us not playing on Saturday due to Telford’s continued presence in the FA Trophy, there was no feeling the fallow week would come around to bite us in the backside given the only team which looked like threatening our safety, Ashton United, were at title-chasing Chorley. Who could have seen the lowly away side getting anything yet alone a win? By 5pm everything felt a little bit scarier than it had a few hours earlier.

Of course, we probably would have enjoyed our weekend off if we had made more of the two home games which preceded it. I was away when we drew 0-0 with Southport, but the messages I was getting during and after the game suggested it was a good game to miss.

Could the Southport game have been that bad? The clean sheet was a positive, but the real impact of the performance was the size of the crowd on Wednesday against Brackley Town. Whether I have been wildly optimistic or just deluding myself, I never thought we would attract a sub-1,000 crowd in the league at Blackwell Meadows. We’ve had a few close calls, but I never thought we would see a three-figure crowd. I thought there were enough fans within our core fanbase to prevent it from happening. How wrong I was. It’s not even as though the crowd was just under the thousand mark, at 915 we got under the bar with room to spare.

Those that didn’t attend appeared to know their stuff as the performance on the pitch probably didn’t even deserve what crowd there was. Don’t get me wrong, Brackley were probably the best side I have seen this season, home or away. They looked the business and quite frankly they rightfully turned us over. The disappointing thing was the manner with which we accepted our fate and rolled over.

Before the game, it felt like a great time to play Brackley. During the midweek, they had to travel a long way and they had a big FA Trophy game against Leyton Orient just ahead of them. Surely it was as good a chance of beating a quality side as you are going to get? Sadly, we were the perfect opposition ahead of their big cup game. We barely laid a glove on them. It was a really poor showing.

I can take losing to a better side. But what really let the air out of my tyres post-game was the performance. Since the turn of the year, we have looked a better side compared to the earlier months of the season. We had settled on a formation which seems to work with what players we have. I fancied we would have more than enough to get over the safety line. However, so insipid was the performance that it took me straight back to the shocking performances of November and December, the months where hope was nearly lost. If we’re going to return to those type of performances, we are going to become dependent on other teams getting themselves relegated to save us from the drop. For me, that isn’t acceptable. We need to retake control of our own destiny before the crowds dwindle any further.