Bulldogs coach Mick Schmiedel was simple and direct ahead of the side's "massive" away clash against the Roosters on Sunday.
"It's a massive game for us, to be honest," he said. "If we lose we go back to fifth and [that] could put us too far behind."
But if Gunnedah woin, he added, "then there could be three teams on 10 [points] and us two points behind [top spot]".
Schmiedel said this was " a pressure game for us".
"And I've said from day one [that] we need to be prepared for these pressure games," he added.
"We've had pressure games so far and haven't handled it well, haven't finished it off against Narrabri or Moree.
"We should have fought them off. But these pressure games are good to find out where you are and if you can handle the big finals at the end of the season.
"If we can't handle the pressure now, then we won't handle it later on."
He is missing two of his "big boppers" for the clash - KC Edmonds and Jacko Brookman.
"That hurts the rotation a lot," he said of his big forward pack led by Lincon Smith. "Most of the coaches are in the same position."
Meanwhile, Chris Vidler has taken annual leave from work after answering Roosters coach Geoff Sharpe's call for him to be available for the encounter.
Sharpe said the veteran prop remained "a big presence in the middle".
"We've done well to win games without him," Sharpe said. "We all knew he was going to be unavailable for half our games this year.
"But this game I pencilled in as a tough one and asked him if he could take annual leave."
Vidler's ability to make big yards in tough carries is immense.
Against Dungowan he was named man of the match because of those big yards in heavy duty areas.
His availability on Sunday has allowed Sharpe to "push Phil Beaton out to an edge" in a pack missing Zach Hatch, Luke Bonnell and Josh Kevill.
"Gunnedah have a real solid pack too," Sharpe said. "No doubt they are going to try and soften us up in the middle."
The first-placed Roosters are riding a three-game winning streak, while the fourth-placed Bulldogs are coming off back-to-back narrow losses to Narrabri and Moree.
The Roosters will also be without outside Jack Anderson and Dylan Clarke this week.
Sharpe was delighted by how well former Eels flyer Ethan Parry took to the fullback spot in the 44-24 win over Boggabri at Kootingal last round.
He was also pleased with how his former No 1 Jordan Sharpe slipped into the five-eighth role.
"Ethan's attitude at training has been real good the last three weeks too," the coach said. "He's a big body at fullback but he's the first to tell you his fitness needs to improve.
"Pushing Jordo up to six has also given us a bit more organisation and taken a bit of pressure off Sammy (Taylor)".
Gunnedah: 1 Dylan Lake, 2 Lachlan King, 3 Dylan O'Brien, 4 Aaron Donnelly, 5 Paul Sharpley, 6 Reece Jaeger (c), 7 Nick White, 8 Lincon Smith, 9 Liam Ireland, 10 Rory Harding, 11 Zac Turnbull, 12 Nic Altmann, 13 Hayden Jaeger, 14 Aiden Davis, 15 Dylan Smith, 16 Ben Gardner, 17 Jarred Denman. Coach: Mick Schmiedel.
Kootingal-Moonbi: 1 Ethan Parry, 2 Nic Zahra, 3 Ryley McKay, 4 Liam Hatch, 5 Marshall Field, 6 Jordan Sharpe, 7 Sam Taylor, 8 Chris Vidler, 9 Kurt Hartmann, 10 Cameron McDonald, 11 Phil Beaton, 12 Logan Howard, 13 Ben Williams (c), 14 TBA , 15 Kyle Cochrane, 16 Browdie Sowter, 17 TBA. Coach: Geoff Sharpe.
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