IF Huddersfield Town are to retain any hope of winning the three-way Yorkshire scrap for automatic promotion from League One, victory tonight is paramount.
It is a point Simon Grayson accepts, as do his players after a disappointing weekend that saw the Terriers lose as both Sheffield United and Wednesday won.
The upshot is that Town travel to Leyton Orient tonight sitting eight points adrift of the Blades in second place and six behind the Owls.
With Dave Jones’s Wednesday side due at the Galpharm Stadium on Saturday, two wins this week would be enough for Huddersfield to leapfrog the Hillsborough club in the table.
That, however, would still leave United, who have bagged three wins from as many outings in the past fortnight, above them which is why Town have no margin for error tonight or at the weekend.
Grayson said: “We want to win every game possible but there is more riding on Leyton Orient after what happened at Carlisle.
“We can’t affect what others do, apart from on Saturday against Sheffield Wednesday. But we know we will go to Orient and prepare right.
“If you look at this team over the season, they have always responded after a setback. They have come back from defeats and got results. We have to have a positive response. They know they didn’t do as well as they could and are desperate to put it right against Orient.”
Tonight’s fixture should have been played on February 11 but was postponed due to the Arctic weather that left the country shivering.
Three days later, a home defeat to Sheffield United signalled the end of Lee Clark’s reign as manager and the arrival of Grayson.
An unbeaten run of eight games followed as Town claimed 16 points to revive belief that second place could be theirs.
Those hopes, however, suffered a big setback last Saturday when a below-par display against Carlisle United saw Grayson taste defeat as the Terriers manager for the first time.
He was critical of his players in the wake of the 2-1 loss, highlighting the lack of work-rate and poor passing that allowed the Cumbrians to dominate.
Ahead of tonight’s trip to East London, Grayson will ponder whether to make changes with Danny Cadamarteri possibly being brought into the 16 along with Anton Robinson.
Alan Lee and Scott Arfield are also pushing for a start after their introduction from the bench kick-started an improvement in performance that, but for Lee Miller’s winner five minutes into stoppage time, would have been enough to earn an undeserved point.
Grayson said: “The defeat hurt, especially as we had an opportunity to get something out of the game.
“We went from one end of the spectrum of doing things really well against Charlton to a poor display (against Carlisle) and that was hugely disappointing.
“I felt more disappointed by what happened on Saturday than I did when losing leads against Bury and Stevenage.
“When you are 3-0 up (as Town were at Gigg Lane before drawing 3-3), of course you are disappointed. But the all-round performance at Carlisle wasn’t there and that isn’t good enough.
“The players were disappointed. Any time you concede a late goal is enough to make you down. But that isn’t what disappointed me, it was the all-round performance.
“The thing is we can’t do anything about it now. It is gone and the key is what we do to make up for it.”
Tonight’s visit to Leyton is the second of three long road trips inside nine days as the Town squad travel almost 1,200 miles for games against Carlisle, Orient and Bournemouth.
To try to ease the burden on the players, the Huddersfield squad travelled south yesterday and will remain down there tonight before returning to Yorkshire in the morning.
Then, on Sunday, the squad will fly to the south coast for the Cherries game in order to avoid the inevitable delays that accompany travelling by road over the Easter weekend.
Grayson is grateful for the support of chairman Dean Hoyle in making the trip possible and wants his players to repay the club by returning to the winning trail.
He said: “This is a good group and an honest group. But against Carlisle we were off the pace. They had played Tuesday night (against Milton Keynes Dons) whereas we hadn’t so we should have been dominant.
“But we couldn’t keep the ball. The front two didn’t and the midfield didn’t pass it well enough.
“Our best players who can handle the ball usually were poor. We sent too many long balls forward against centre-halves who are good in the air.
“Alan (Lee) coming on gave us some physical presence but it is so disappointing as we wanted to build on Charlton.
“The key now, though, is turning things round and getting back to winning ways.
“The chairman has been magnificent in allowing us to try and ease the burden of travelling long distances and we want to repay that support.”
Last six games: Leyton Orient LWLLWL, Huddersfield Town WDDWWL.
Last time: Leyton Orient 1 Huddersfield Town 2; September 11, 2010; League One.
Referee: J Linington (Isle of Wight).