PICKERING Town manager Paul Marshall wants his players to shake off recent setbacks and finish the season on a high, writes Ian Appleyard.

The Pikes now look destined to miss out on promotion after Tuesday night's 2-1 defeat at Hemsworth Miners Welfare.

However, they can still make history by finishing second in the Toolstation Northern Counties East League.

It is 25 years since the Ryedale club achieved their highest-ever league position by finishing second in the ninth tier of the English football pyramid.

Although it is still mathematically possible to win the Premier Division title this season, boss Marshall admits it would be "incredible" to finish second.

Cleethorpes Town are now massive favourites entering the final six weeks of the campaign.

Both clubs are level on points but, significantly, Cleethorpes have FIVE games in hand going into Wednesday night's clash with Albion Sports.

They still have 12 games to play and have dropped only 12 points all season.

The Pikes, in stark contrast, have dropped 10 points in only the last six games, including last Saturday's goalless draw at bottom side Retford United.

"There was a massive sense of disappointment in the dressing room after that result," says Marshall.

"I think the players realised it was a blip that we could no longer afford – but we have got to put that result behind us now and look to win all our remaining games.

"No-one expected us to win the league this season. The target was to finish sixth.

"We have over-achieved as a club and it would be incredible to finish second in this league for only the second time in the club's history.

"There will be no change in my attitude and there can be no change in attitude from the players, who have done extremely well to get us in this position."

Eddie Birch missed a penalty in Tuesday night's defeat and Joe Danby was sent off for dangerous play.

Goals from Samuel Jones and Nash Connolly gave Hemsworth a 2-0 lead before defender Sam Denton pulled a goal back in the 66th minute.

Cleethorpes are now looking forward to a trip to Wembley after beating Bromsgrove Sporting to reach the final of the FA Vase, which takes places after the league season is over on May 21. They host Albion Sports in the league tonight.

The Pikes play Retford for the second time in eight days at Mill Lane on Saturday (3pm kick-off) and fit-again striker Ged Dalton is expected to start. Defender Denny Ingram (hamstring) is doubtful.

Last weekend's 0-0 draw at Retford was a game of few goal-scoring opportunities, although the Pikes were also indebted to goalkeeper Toby Wells for an important late save which preserved a point.

Marshall reflected: "It was a poor game on a rubbish pitch. Retford are fighting for their lives and their manager Mark Wilson has them fired up.

"We are expecting exactly the same from them this weekend but will be looking for a better result."

Three days earlier, the Pikes picked up three points with a 2-1 midweek victory at Albion Sports. Karl Hall edged the hosts ahead after 17 minutes but striker Ryan Blott scored in the 67th and 80th minutes to secure victory for the Pikes.