THERE may still be 27 games to go and 81 points to play for, but Torquay United's season – and their hopes of staying in the Football League – could actually hang on their next five matches.
They fall within 19 days of each other, from December 14 to January 1, and they include, of course, the Christmas-New Year programme of three Westcountry derbies.
United's top priority is not to worry about how many points they might need, or how many games they must win, between now and the end of the season.
The second half of the campaign can wait.
No, what United must do, between now and teatime at Plymouth Argyle on New Year's Day, is make sure that they are not cast adrift.
The situation is bad enough as it is.
The Gulls, bottom of the table after last Saturday's 3-1 defeat at Scunthorpe, are four points behind Bristol Rovers (22nd), who are currently in the last safety-spot. And their goal-difference (-13) is worse than any of the teams they are chasing.
Of course United can get out of this. Of course, there is a long way to go. And of course, they are capable of playing, as they did in last week's 1-1 draw against Plymouth at Plainmoor, football good enough to stay up.
But when they emerge from their current two-week mid-season break, it must be ready to fight as if the whole season is already on the line.
Southend (H) on December 14, Dagenham (A) on the 21st and then the three derbies – Bristol Rovers (Boxing Day) and Exeter City (Dec 29) at home and Plymouth away on Jan 1 must produce enough points to see United at least on the heels of their rivals and, hopefully, ahead of a couple of them.
Anything less is asking for a situation which might not be retrievable.