Every game is a must-win from now on – Liam Middleton
LIAM Middleton has backed his Bristol players to thrive on the pressure of playing "must-win" games every time they step on to the field between now and the end of the season.
Bristol have eight games left in which to secure a place in the Championship play-offs and are three points behind fourth-placed Leeds.
Back-to-back matches against second-placed Bedford and Nottingham, who are third, are on the horizon – but first Middleton's men host Rotherham on Sunday.
The head coach said: "I think the key thing for us is that we've got to keep it in our own hands.
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"Every game is a must-win game for us – but I think top performers love that situation. I like coaching in that situation, where every game means everything.
"But we've got to keep it in our hands, where we're not having to look at results and think, 'I hope so-and-so get a win' or 'I hope so-and-so get a loss, so that we can be in it'.
"At the moment, it's still in our hands and it's such a competitive league that teams are going to lose in the next eight games – we just can't be one of those teams."
In their final eight league games, Bristol have to play the top three sides in the Championship but also all the teams who are currently placed seventh to eleventh.
And Middleton is eager to ensure the games against teams such as seventh-placed Rotherham take on as much importance as those against Newcastle, Bedford and Nottingham.
"Sometimes you look ahead to the big games and you trip over what's in front of you," he said.
"But those are some of the tougher games – look at Moseley: they should not have beaten us at the Memorial Stadium but they did. We've got to give everyone the required respect. Jersey, for example, have knocked a couple of teams over at home, so they will be another tough one."
Bristol's trip to Moseley last weekend was called off on the day of the game following overnight rain. It will now be played on Friday, March 15 at 7.45pm.
The postponement means Bristol have not played since beating Leeds 12-9 two weeks ago – and Middleton said they will be raring to go against Rotherham on Sunday.
And he has no concerns about the players being overly fired-up after more than a fortnight without a game.
"I think the thing with us is that when we attack the game with that amount of excitement and intensity, we're almost unstoppable," he said.
"We need to start well against Rotherham, we need to get out of the blocks quickly and make sure we assert ourselves on the game.
"I'm really looking forward to unleashing the boys on the Mem.
"We're holding a fair bit of confidence at the moment – that's something we have to establish one week at a time – and I'm really encouraging the boys to go out this weekend and just show what they've got.
"They know how to play 'Bristol Fashion', they know what we need to do, and now it's just about attacking the game with the right attitude."