WORTHING Rugby Club stalwart Ben Dudley believes the club have to treat all of their remaining seven games as cup finals.
Raiders are one place and one point above the National 1 relegation zone after third-from-bottom Cinderford’s 32-13 win over Blaydon on Saturday, when Worthing had a free week.
Raiders return to action at home to bottom-of-the-table Hull Ionians on Saturday and they also have three more of the bottom seven still to play.
Dudley, 34, who has been with Worthing for 11 years, said: “We’ve got seven cup finals left and that’s how we’ve got to play each game now.
“The club has kept progressing over the last few years. We were in London 3, then London 1, then we made it into the National Leagues and now we’re up in National 1. We are good enough to stay at this level and we’ve been competitive and there or thereabouts in games all season.
“It’s imperative that we stay in this league. It’s not quite got to the stage of sleepless nights but it’s not far away.
“This is such a strong league. Newbury were fifth at Christmas a couple of years ago and ended up being relegated with about 60 points. Even 60 points might not guarantee safety and, with the exception of Hull, every team is still hanging in there.
“It’s a tricky time of year, with some teams in mid-table having nothing to play for, so the formbook goes out of the window.
“Looking at the table right now, you’d say it’s three from the bottom five who will go down. Blackheath and Richmond look out of it but two weeks can make a big difference.
“We’re still in it and things are still in our own hands, so it’s down to us to show what we’re made of. We’ve got the teams around us in the table to play and don’t have any of the top three left to play.”
Raiders also have the timely return of a number of key players for the run-in.
Dudley came through the friendly with The Army on Monday, while Charlie McGowan, Scott Barlow and Matt McLean are coming back from injury and Liam Perkins is available again after his ban.
Top try scorer Alex Nielsen is also back available after work commitments and Dudley said: “We have had players out for various reasons recently and we’ve lost a bit of momentum in the last three weeks.
“We’ve had one or two key players out but they’re all starting to come back now.
“It will be a massive plus to have Alex back. He’s looking refreshed and he’s a player who you never know what he’s going to do. He’s got that X-Factor in that he can score a try from anywhere and we’re going to need players like him to stay up.
“We’ve got a really important game on Saturday and, hopefully, we can get the win and start to build some momentum.”