Manager Ricky Marheineke admits St Ives Town face a crucial spell in their Southern League Premier Division survival fight.

Third-bottom Saints have managed only three wins in the opening half of a torrid season, but they face a host of big games to close out 2017 and see in the new year.

Marheineke is heaping huge amounts of significance on a six-match run which begins with a trip to Dorchester, who sit just two places above his side in the standings, tomorrow.

They also entertain second-bottom Gosport Borough the following weekend (December 23) and face a trip to Kings Langley, who are directly above them currently, on January 6.

A re-arranged trip to Chesham on Tuesday (for a match postponed last Saturday due to a frozen pitch), a Boxing Day date at leaders King's Lynn and a Huntingdonshire derby at home to St Neots Town on New Year's Day also feature in a period which could well shape Saints' campaign.

"Every game is important when it is so essential to pick up points," said Marheineke. "But it is obvious we're entering a key period in our season.

"We face the team below us and the two sides directly above us in the table in the next few weeks. The significance of those games is clear.

"We're good enough to win games at this level and the vast majority of our performances this season prove that, but we've conceded in the last five minutes of eight games and that has cost us 12 points which would almost double our tally and push us a lot higher up the table.

"This is the position we find ourselves in and the only way we are going to change it is by picking up the results we need.

"We have to ensure we continue playing well and hope we get that bit of luck go our way.

"One thing is very clear - we cannot allow our performances to drop."

Marheineke's men are seven points above bottom side Dunstable Town. Only the team finishing at the foot of the standings is relegated this season.

Saints go into the pivotal run with a new-look squad following a burst of transfer activity in recent weeks.

Eight new faces have arrived at ProEdge Westwood Road in the past month - including three players late last week - while four others have departed.

Marheineke is also boosted by the return of midfield duo Peter Clark and Tom McGowan from injury at Dorchester tomorrow.