With four games left of the season, the 3rds find themselves propping up the table in 6th, one point from safety. Their standing hasn’t deterred manager Ray Whitfield, who still believes his side has ‘every chance’ of staying up.

“We have to remain positive. The things we do in training have to transfer to the pitch when it matters and if that happens we have every chance [of staying up].”

Whitfield’s side have registered just one win in their opening six games, a surprising 5-2 victory over league leaders Hull 4ths in October.

Scoring 19 goals in six games this season, the team have not shied away from putting the ball in the net. It is keeping the ball out of their own net they struggle with, conceding 5+ goals on 4 occasions so far.

“Compared with last season, there has been changes in the majority of the lads who played. Their game has changed from a ‘kick the ball as hard as we can’ to a  more balanced game with passing and understanding,” added Whitfield.

Interestingly, the teams closest relegation rival is Sunderland’s 2nd team. One point separates the sides, who will face each other on the final day of the season in what could be a feisty affair.

“[There is a] rivalry for sure… On game day it will be them vs us.’ said Whitfield. The sides drew 2-2 when they met earlier in the season, but a point may not be enough for the 3rds next time round.”

When asked if relegating a fellow University of Sunderland side would be bittersweet, Whitfield said: “[It would be] bittersweet, yes. At the end of the day we are all Team Sunderland and ultimately we want all the lads to do well.”

The 3rds play the top two sides in the league in their final four games, which makes their fight for survival a daunting task, but their final game of the season promises to be a cracker as both sides battle to stay up.