Jimmy Bell has issued a stark warning to the Stanley players, insisting it’s ‘imperative’ they stay in League One this season.

Stanley have lost each of their three league matches this calendar year, and were also dumped out of the Leasing.com Trophy by League Two side Salford City on Tuesday.

Defeat to second-bottom Southend last weekend leaves the Reds seven points above the dropzone, but assistant boss Bell says that’s not something they can rely on.

He feels Stanley need five wins to make sure of their status in the third tier for another season, and hopes that will happen sooner rather than later to ensure they are not dragged in to more of a relegation fight.

Bell said: “It’s imperative we stay in this league. We had a chat after the (Salford) game with the players and I said ‘we don’t want to go back in to League Two’

“Because there are 23 other teams like Salford all wanting to be where we are. So it’s important we stay in this league.

“That’s our aim and focus. We have a seven-point cushion but we don’t look at it like that. We have to push on and get as high as we can now.

“We’ve had a kick up the backside the last couple of weeks, we know what we have to do.

“We have to win five games, it would be lovely to do five on the bounce and why not? We went seven unbeaten just before Christmas.

“We have to be positive, learn and move on.”

Bell believes the defeats have been down to a cumulative effect of players not taking responsibility for their individual battles on the pitch.

Stanley will want to return to their form at the back end of 2019 that saw them put together their seven-game unbeaten run that included victory over this afternoon’s opponents Burton Albion.

And Bell added: “The players have to understand the meaning of one point, of one goal, of one header, of one block, because that can lead on to three points, just doing one thing.

“We were speaking about Burnley, a penalty save at 1-0 down against Leicester and then you go on to get three points and the consequence of that one thing is massive.

“We have to realise this. We’ve got to the stage where in the next three or four weeks it will determine where everyone is.

“If you’re up there mid-February then you’ll generally stay up there until the end. If you’re down near the bottom then you’ll generally be battling down there.

“The next four or five games for us are absolutely massive to pull us away even further and then maybe looking at pegging back teams above us.”

Stanley start the weekend in 17th place with still 20 games of the season remaining.

Bell believes things must improve at both ends of the pitch to ensure it’s not a nervy end to the season, adding: “We’re missing chances, certainly against Southend. They went in against Bolton (7-1 win).

“It was exactly the same game, we went 1-0 down but then blew them away.

“On Saturday we created seven or eight chances, went 1-0 down, got back to 1-1 and then flagged a bit in the second half.

“Against Salford we were 1-0 up, that should have been enough, and then we concede a goal with the last kick of the half, terrible defending, and it’s something we have to address.

“Individuals have to do their job, whether it’s taking their chances or defending.”