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Thirst remains unquenched ahead of Würzburg visit

The end-of-season run-in is in full swing despite the postponement of several fixtures due to a spate of positive Covid-19 cases. Timo Schultz's side have thankfully not been impacted and will entertain Kickers Würzburg as scheduled on Saturday (13:00 CET). The Boys in Brown have not had their fill of success yet and go into the game determined to register their fourth win in a row against the bottom side.

Timo Schultz's side have struck a rich vein of form that has seen them record wins over Osnabrück (2-1), Braunschweig (2-0) and Aue (3-1) on their last three outings. But as Luca Zander, scorer of a rather unexpected brace in the win at Aue, pointed out during the week, the Boys in Brown are not about to rest on their laurels. "No one's thinking about letting up," he said. Which means the right-back and his teammates have set their sights on racking up as many points as possible in the final six games.

Amassing points was something of a problem in the first half of the campaign. After a decent start, things did not go at all to plan for the Boys in Brown, who went 13 games without a win until a last-minute goal from Igor Matanović gave them all three points in a 3-2 success at Hannover in mid-January. That victory was undoubtedly a key moment this season, as was the rearranged game at Kickers Würzburg ten days previously. The reverse fixture just after the turn of the year may have extended the winless run to 12 matches, but the circumstances in which the 1‑1 draw came about made it feel more like a win. After going behind early and then losing Marvin Knoll to a second yellow card just before the interval, the outlook was bleak, to put it mildly.

Yet head coach Timo Schultz must have hit the spot with his half-time rallying call because the Boys in Brown came back out and bossed the second half to secure a deserved draw. "A number of things went against us, but we fought back successfully and have been on the right track ever since," said Schultz looking back. Indeed, things could hardly have gone any better for his team, who have collected 32 points in 14 games since then.

The Schultz XI have not just fought their way out of the drop zone, they have the played their way out, and now find themselves eighth in the table. Würzburg, however, are still deep in the relegation mire. Despite garnering more points in the second half of the season (11 in 11 games) than in the entire first half (9 in 17), they continue to languish at the bottom of the table. They are not about to give up, though, as recent results under new coach Ralf Santelli show (2-1 at Hannover, 1-1 at home to Nürnberg – both after falling a goal behind). Würzburg thus travel to the Millerntor hellbent on claiming another crucial win to reduce the six-point gap to 16th and the relegation play-off place.

That win at Hannover should serve as warning enough for the Boys in Brown not to underestimate the tailenders. At Thursday's pre-match news conference, Schultz therefore emphasised the need for his side to impose themselves on the game against awkward opponents who will look to build from a solid rearguard and threaten on the break, saying: "We have to be pro-active on the ball, keep creating things and carve out chances."

Being pro-active and dominating the proceedings has proved the recipe for success since the turn of the year and the Boys in Brown will be hopeful of adding to their points tally against Würzburg. For that to happen, however, they cannot afford to take things easy. If anything, they will need to go the extra yard.

 

Photos: Witters

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