MANAGER Mark Ashford says if Witham Town's players take care of their own preparations and performances then he is confident they will ease to Bostik League division north safety in the closing weeks of the season.

While Ashford was pleased with a strong display from his team last weekend, a 3-2 defeat by Dereham Town has left them three points above the relegation zone - currently occupied by Romford and Mildenhall Town - with three games to play.

Witham's run-in starts with a trip to Brentwood Town on Saturday and a home game against second-placed Maldon & Tiptree on Easter Monday and Ashford is stressing to his players that their own fate is very much still in their own hands.

"If you said to the Romford or Mildenhall managers where they would rather be, it would be where we are," he said.

"We are ahead of both of them with three games to go and have a better goal difference than both so we are in the better position.

"Now it's down to us to close the deal out.

"In an ideal world, we go to Brentwood on Saturday and get the win that will take us a massive step towards securing our future but it's up to us to do that."

Despite the end result, Ashford was pleased with the performance he saw from his team against Dereham and he knows similar displays over the Easter weekend should stand them in good stead.

He added: "It was one of the better performances for a little while and there was real drive from the players. "They were really pushing to get a result but it just wouldn't come.

"But they can take confidence from that and that is important.

"Back at the start of the season when we were losing games narrowly like we did against Dereham, people were saying that we were definitely going to go down.

"What kept us positive then was the way that we were playing and that was the message at the end against Dereham.

"If we put in performances like that for the remaining three games then things will take care of themselves.

"We have to take care of what we control and that is the level of performances that we put in.

"You will always have to rely on a little bit of luck and decent refereeing, but the starting point is getting preparations right and then putting in your own performance.

"If we can do that in our last three games then we will have enough points to ensure that we'll be playing division north football again next year."

There is also good news on the injury front for Witham heading into the final fortnight of the campaign.

The Town manager said: "I haven't spoken too much about it, but we've had a tough time with injuries over the last few months and we've had up to eight players out at a time.

"But we have started to get them back now and that's making a difference.

"We had three back for the Dereham game - Pat Ahern, Michael Osei-Saahene and Andrew Tirivanhu - we'll then have another one or two back for Brentwood on Saturday and then another back for Maldon & Tiptree on Monday.

"It's come just at the right time, with experienced players hopefully coming back so we are slowly getting there.

"It's been tough as we've had to make four or five changes each game and it does affect you not being able to have a settled side.

"When we went on that excellent run through December and January we had a stable line-up, especially in defence, and it does make a difference."

Ashford is hoping that midfielder Danny Norton will be back for the trip to Brentwood after recovering from an ankle injury and expects Kevin Coyle to return for Monday's home game against Maldon & Tiptree.