Gabriele Cioffi has an old Italian saying he trotted out with a smile as his Crawley side showed early signs of a play-off push.

It involved putting meat into storage while the going was good to see them through a tough winter.

The message behind the proverb was clear.

It basically meant to forget about promotion for the time being.

The first priority, despite their good opening, had to be to ensure survival, then go from there.

It seemed overly cautious at the time. When Reds led for 18 minutes at home to Exeter, they were on course to break into the play-off places.

That win would have put them on to 25 points from 15 games and sent them into sixth place.

Then, a mis-control and mis-communication just outside the Exeter box as they pushed for a killer second goal led to the visitors racing away for Lee Holmes to equalise.

Six months on, that warning about meat, storage and a tough winter is looking wiser than ever.

Reds have mustered just 20 points from 26 games since being pegged back by the Grecians.

Defeat at home to Forest Green last Saturday, having led through a wonder goal from Dannie Bulman, kept them six points clear of the drop zone.

That remained the case when Macclesfield beat Exeter 3-2 in midweek to leave the relegation spots.

But the gap will be down to three if they lose at currently 23rd-placed Yeovil tomorrow.

On the face of it, Reds still have the chance to take two wins against teams below them which could secure their treasured Football League status.

They have been a League club since, as their Twitter feed pointed out this week, winning promotion at Tamworth eight years ago.

That status will surely be retained if they beat Yeovil and Notts County in their last five games.

Notts are due at the People’s Pension Stadium on Easter Monday for the penultimate home game of the season.

The other way of looking at Crawley’s run-in is that they have the worst of both worlds.

As well as facing two teams who are below them and fighting for their lives, they also meet three who are going all-out for promotion.

They make the return trip to Exeter on Good Friday and complete their away schedule at Carlisle.

Then, on the final day of the season, Reds are at home to promotion-pushing Tranmere and their goal sensation from Eastbourne, James Norwood.

The Argus:

Crawley celebrate promotion in 2008

The hope might be that the men from the Wirral are, by then, adrift of the top three and preparing for the play-offs. But it could also be their promotion decider.

Mid-table opposition? That is what you want at this time of year and Crawley have no games which fit into that category.

Cioffi appears to be coming under increasing pressure from Reds fans who fear that League status is coming under threat.

And those fears might be increased by a look at what awaits their rivals at the wrong end of the table.

Macclesfield go to Forest Green tomorrow but then face a trio of mid-table opponents in Northampton, Newport and Port Vale.

Their final fixture is at home to Cambridge, a side who might or might not still need a point or three by then.

Yeovil visit Crewe and Northampton in the run-in and, once Crawley have left, will have home games to look forward to against Colchester and Carlisle.

Notts County are at Crewe tomorrow and then host promotion-chasing MK Dons.

Once they have been to Crawley, they will complete their season at home to Grimsby, which looks must-win from this range, and then a trip to Swindon, another of those sides who might or might not need a result by then.

Cioffi and his players have been adamant performances have been better than results of late. They will hope the return of three players can give them a lift at Huish Park.

Midfield pair Luke Gambin (groin) and Matty Willock (hamstring) have both recovered from injury while striker Ibrahim Meite returns after a three-match suspension.

Josh Payne has had surgery on his ankle. He is back in training and still hopes to play some part this season.

Cioffi said: “Matty and Luke have been important players for us so it is good that we have them back ahead of a busy time with three games in the next nine days. They are ready to play their part for us.”

That is just as well. Those supplies gathered early in the season might not keep the wolf from the door until the end of the season if they are not added to.

Crawley (43pts): Yeovil h, Exeter a, Notts Co h, Carlisle a, Tranmere h.
Macclesfield (39pts): Forest Green a, Northampton a, Newport h, Port Vale a, Cambridge h.
Yeovil (37pts): Crawley h, Crewe a, Colchester h, Northampton a, Carlisle h.
Notts County (37pts): Crewe a, MK Dons h, Crawley a, Grimsby h, Swindon a.