Notts County host Port Vale on Saturday in what could be a hugely significant game for both teams League status. With both teams fighting it out at the bottom of the English games fourth tier, a win for either could make or break their season.
County sit rock bottom of League Two and are on their third permanent manager of the season, after young gaffers Kevin Nolan and Harry Kewell both failed to steady the ship, leaving current manager Neil Ardley the unenviable task of steering the side to safety.
With only six league wins this season and a wealth of behind the scenes issues including a recent winding up order due to an unpaid tax bill, County are spiralling out of control fast.
And with the owners going bankrupt and actively looking to sell the club, just having a club at all come the end of the season is the main aim for most fans, whether that will be in League Two or the National League remains to be seen.
Port Vale are enduring their own nightmare season, on their Second permanent manager of the campaign after Neil Aspin was relieved of his duties in late January, current manager John Askey has failed to record a win or even pick up a point in his four games in charge.
Vale have the 10th biggest budget in the league, but despite this fans are still protesting at owner Norman Smurthwaite’s running of the club, a situation not helped by the below par signings made during January, when the owner had previously stated funds would be available.
Currently on a run of six games without a win, it looks alarmingly like Port Vale have been dragged into their third relegation scrap in as many years, suffering relegation from League One in 16/17, and surviving by one point in League Two last year.
With only five points separating the two sides, a relegation “six pointer” has never been more true, as whichever team comes out on top is boosted not only points-wise but gains a huge psychological advantage over their rivals. The loser on the other hand is left disheartened and facing an uncertain future heading into the business end of the season.
The effects of dropping into non league are huge for all areas of a club and in some cases a whole town, as games go, they don’t get much more important than this.