Birmingham City manager Steve Bruce has targeted the runup to Christmas as the crux of Blues' fastfaltering season.
Five successive league defeats have left Blues one place off the bottom of the Premiership with only six points from their first 12 matches.
Bruce knows that in the next five matches he needs his team to get a good return if they are to save themselves from the drop.
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The return to action against third-placed Bolton Wanderers on Monday week and the match at Manchester City, another high-riding North-west outfit, appear to be the toughest matcheses in that stretch. But Blues have two other home matches, both deserving of the tag 'must-win' against bad travellers Fulham and West Ham United.
They must also look at a three-point haul against bottom club Sunderland at the Stadium of Light on November 27 - the week after Aston Villa are due there.
Bruce said: "From the Bolton game until Christmas is vital to us. We have to pick up 12 points or more from that period to make sure we are still in there with a shout and can still compete.
"That would take us to Christmas on around 20 points which we all know is what we require. That's the challenge ahead of us.
"We have to stay in the division and we've got six points from the first 12 games which is not a good enough return."
Even winning three of those five games before Christmas would leave Blues needing a further 25 in the second half of the season to reach the supposed safety mark of 40 points.
That would mean winning every other game from then on. Even then, it might still not be enough, given that West Ham were relegated three seasons ago on 42 points.
But Bruce is at least comforted in his bid to make that demanding Christmas target by having virtually all of his injured players available at home to Bolton on Monday week.
Mario Melchiot, Damien Johnson, David Dunn, Julian Gray, Olivier Tebily, and Stephen Clemence are set to be in contention against the third-placed club.
"The good thing," Bruce said, "is that people like Melchiot, Johnson, Dunn, Gray, Clemence and Tebily should all be fit for Bolton after the international break.
"Apart from that one season when we were riding high two seasons ago, in my opinion we've always been involved in a relegation scrap, looking over our shoulder. We've never really been comfortable, so I'm used to it.
"With the start we've had, this time we're in a worse position but I've always been confidend in my players once people get fit and, make no mistake, some other club will go six or seven games without a win." n Chelsea have been ordered to pay up to £800,000 compensation to Stockport for Harry Worley, the 16-yearold defender who moved in the summer.
An initial fee of £150,000 will rise by £450,000 if Worley makes 40 appearances for the Premiership champions.
A further £200,000 will be added if he makes a competitive international appearance as part of the deal which includes a sell-on clause.
Stockport manager Chris Turner sees no reason why Worley, who played for County's reserves while still at school last season, cannot prove to be a success with the London club.
He said: "It's been a fair outcome for us. Ideally we would prefer the player to stay but I think we got fair monies up front. There's enormous potential."