AS the end of the Evo-Stik West season approaches, two games over the Easter holidays will prove crucial for the prospects of Ramsbottom United.

Moving from a lower-league placing to the possibility of a play-off spot has been the result of the appointment of Chris Willcock as manager in early October. Greatly improved league form following a team rebuilding exercise has seen the Rams enjoy an encouraging campaign, but the battle for the play-off spots is hotting up by the week.

Currently occupying the last of the four places, three victories for the Rams would ensure a place in the end-of-season lottery, with promotion to Evo-Stik Premier the much-valued prize.

However, standing in the way over the next few days are two of Ramsbottom’s main rivals.

On Monday they travel to Radcliffe, who, after a number of years struggling at the wrong end of the table, have enjoyed a tremendous campaign.

Two days before that match comes Saturday’s hosting of Mossley, who likewise have had their best season in years.

Two wins would probably guarantee a top-five finish, with a home game against mid-table Kidsgrove Athletic the following Saturday, but defeats could edge the Rams agonisingly out of the equation, which would be hard to take after the performances under Willcock.

As well as an excellent run in the league, no-one will forget the record-breaking FA Trophy experience, which saw a last-gasp equaliser at home to Southern League champions Weymouth, followed by an astonishing victory on the south coast in the replay.

That, of course, took Ramsbottom onto the home game against Football League hopefuls AFC Fylde on a miserable Tuesday night at the Harry Williams Riverside Stadium. And what a game that proved to be, with Rammy twice coming back from a two-goal deficit, and staggering everyone by taking the lead late on, only to be pegged back to 5-5. The replay was lost, but much admiration gained from around the country.

Ultimately though, the league is Willcock’s priority, which is why this weekend is so crucial.

Both games should attract large crowds, and the club hopes supporters turn up in large numbers to cheer the lads to victories which would ensure an even better end to the season in what are always exciting and nail-biting play-off games.

Good weather is predicted with all teams in fine runs of form, so the entertainment should be well worth watching.