GOAL MACHINE Paul Mullin knows the next three games could define Accrington Stanley's season.
The Reds are still 13 points clear at the top of the Conference table and have a 16 game unbeaten run but they are now on their travels.
They face relegation-threatened Crawley tomorrow (Sat), followed by a long trip to mid-table Aldershot on Tuesday and then, next Saturday, it is what could be a huge game at nearest challengers Hereford.
But with Mullin in a rich vein of form, with five goals in the last three games and 16 goals for the season, no one would bet against Stanley winning them all.
"I am pleased the way it is going at the moment and I just wished I had nicked one or two when I had a lean spell earlier in the season and I would be higher up the goal scoring league than I am," admitted the 31-year-old.
"But it's going well for the club as a whole. These next three games are important though, especially as they are all away.
"It will be interesting to see what happens tomorrow as, while we are at Crawley, Hereford have a tough game against Morecambe. We just have to keep going."
The Reds made it eight successive wins on Saturday - chasing the league record of 11 - as, despite a poor show against Burton, Mullin scored a last gasp goal to seal another three points.
"To be honest we were awful against Burton and sometimes you have got to hold your hand up and say they were the better side," said Mullin. "But we played badly and still won so if we can do that, then it is a good sign. It was great when that goal went in,though.
"If we were honest, we were due an off-day so hopefully we have got it out of the way - and still picked up three points."
The trip to Crawley last season put a big dent in Stanley's play-off hopes as they lost 2-0.
"I don't have happy memories of last season's trip there. I remember I hit the post and I think Browny did and then they won 2-0 and there was a few recriminations in the dressing room after that," said the striker.
"But it will be tough. They are fighting for their lives but we are on an amazing run.
"We have set our standards and have now got to keep them and not let any doubts creep in.
"There are obviously nerves and you need to have them or else you can get lack lustre. We are in a great position and everyoneseems to be handling it well. But nothing is won yet and we have got to carry on keeping our heads. I think we have enough about us to see it through though.
"Hereford have kept with us to a certain extent but I think that is good as it does keep us on our toes."
He has set his goal target of 20 league goals - what he has achieved in the last two seasons - and he has 13 so far. "I would like to get somewhere near 20 league goals and I am closing in on it now and a few more will help in the next couple of games!"
Meanwhile, manager John Coleman is refusing to get carried away by all the league talk and the increasing attention his side are getting from local and national media alike. He is keen to keep his side's feet firmly on the ground - especially after the Burton game.
"Burton gave us a test and we are going to get more tests like that. All this palaver saying we have won the league is a load of nonsense and the lads have been told that.
"If we play like we did against Burton, between now and end of the season, we will find it hard to win the league. We have got 70 points now and we have got to build on that. We have got to learn from what went wrong and we have had a free lesson."
Captain Peter Cavanagh (ankle) is a doubt for the next two games while Robbie Williams faces a two game suspension. But Steve Jagielka is back in the frame after coming through Stanley's Lancashire Cup defeat to Southport on Tuesday night.
"I don't like losing any games and we gave bad goals away," admitted the boss.
But he hopes his troops are up for Crawley and Aldershot especially as he feels his side owe Crawley one.
"I remember we played some of our best football in the Conference for the first 20 minutes last season but we never scored and then we fell for a sucker punch. We will try and put it right but they are fighting for their lives.
"Hereford showed by winning against Stevenage on Monday that it is still wide open with everything to play for and we need to keep picking up points."
- DON'T miss our 8 page feature on the 44th anniversary of Reds' resignation from the Football League in this week's Observer!