SOUTHEND United midfielder Will Atkinson wants to strengthen his push for a third promotion from League Two with a vital victory at Rochdale this afternoon.

The 25-year-old helped Dale work their way out of the division during a loan spell in 2011 before also being part of the Bradford City side that won the play-offs last season.

Atkinson now wants to experience more of the same with the Shrimpers.

And he knows this weekend could prove crucial in making that happen.

“We have Rochdale today and Accrington on Monday so it’s a very important time of the season and we need to pick up as many points as we can,” said Atkinson.

“At the moment a place in the play-offs is still in our own hands and that’s the best position to be in so we want to keep that going.

“We’ve trained all year to get ourselves in to a situation like this and, although we’re under pressure now, it’s a nice kind of pressure because we’re pushing to go up and that’s what we all want to achieve.”

Southend head to Spotland sitting sixth in the League Two table.

But their hosts sit second in the standings and will also be desperate for the points as they attempt to get their own quest for automatic promotion back on track.

“Rochdale are a good team but they haven’t win in their last three games and might be feeling the pressure a little bit now,” said Atkinson.

“They are obviously a good team though and Keith Hill is a very good manager.

“He was in charge when I played there as well so it’s not a surprise how well they’re doing this season.

“But I think it’s going to be a very close game and we’ve done well against the teams towards the top this season so hopefully we can do the same this afternoon and strengthen our own position in the league.”