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Recent weeks have not gone to plan for FC St. Pauli and SV Darmstadt 98, who have recorded just one win each from their last five outings. The two sides now go head-to-head at the Millerntor on Saturday night (20.30 CET) looking to take a big step forward in the promotion race. With the support of the home fans, the Schultz XI will be going all out to ensure the points stay in Hamburg.

Another thrilling weekend of second division football beckons, with the top four teams all facing each other on Saturday. It's first against second when FC Schalke 04 entertain Werder Bremen in a lunchtime kick-off before the Boys in Brown play host to Darmstadt in an evening meeting of the teams in third and fourth place. What a matchday! "These are the moments you play football for," said Etienne Amenyido during the week.

It's been a difficult time for both sides lately. The Boys in Brown have taken just six points in five games since mid-March, winning just once, while Darmstadt have managed just four. After defeats at Bremen and Nürnberg (1-0 and 3-1 respectively), the Lilies suffered their third reverse against a promotion-chasing side in three weeks last time out, going down 5-2 at home to Schalke. The Boys in Brown, for their part, had victory snatched from them at the death in a 1-1 draw at Sandhausen. As head coach Timo Schultz pointed out at the pre-match news conference, however, the players have turned the frustration into positive energy in training this week and now go into Saturday's game with renewed fire and purpose.

The Schultz XI will need to be at their best against a resilient Darmstadt outfit. "We're strong enough mentally to deal with setbacks," said Lilies skipper Fabian Holland after the crushing defeat against the Royal Blues. He and his teammates were clapped off the pitch by the home faithful after a decent performance in spite of the bitterly disappointing result, a goosebump moment from which they will draw much encouragement.

There was fantastic backing for the Boys in Brown last weekend, too. Some 2,000 fans made the trip to Sandhausen, and the players can count on the support of another capacity crowd at the Millerntor following the recent sell-out against Werder Bremen. "A packed Millerntor will spur the lads on," said Schultz in the run-up, a view shared by Etienne Amenyido: "The atmosphere motivates us, gives us a couple of per cent more and can definitely help us on to victory."

Saturday's game is the first of three consecutive meetings with promotion rivals. Nürnberg visit the Millerntor next week and then the Boys in Brown go to Schalke. Three points are a must, then, and the players are only too aware that they will have to improve on their showing at Sandhausen if they are to get them. "Everyone knows we have to go up another gear," said Amenyido. With this in mind, the players have worked very hard in preparation for the top-of-the table clash and are now raring to go after putting the frustration of Sandhausen firmly behind them. "We have to give it everything we have in the run-in," acknowledged Amenyido. Let no one be in any doubt, the Schultz XI are determined to show what they are capable of and make it 11 wins out of 15 at home on Saturday evening.

Photos: Witters