The Rocks have been warned they will have to work hard for every point as they go into the four games that will decide their title dreams.
Saturday’s 1-0 win over Whyteleafe had more to do with hard graft than free-flowing football – and any or all of the remaining games could be similar.
The Rocks remain two points clear of Met Police with both sides having just two home and two away games to play. It’s reached the stage where one poor pass or refereeing decision could decide who wins the title.
Rivals Leatherhead and Whitehawk are doggedly continuing their pursuit of the top two although the next barrier could be cleared by the Rocks at home to Walton & Hersham on Saturday: if they win they will be guaranteed a top-three finish and at worst a home play-off semi-final. Managers Darin Killpartrick and Jamie Howell have no new injuries to report but remain pessimistic about the chances of Dan Beck and Perry Ryan being fit again this season, with midfielder James Fraser already ruled out of the run-in.
Michael Birmingham gave them an injury scare after Saturday’s game but trained without problems on Tuesday and should be fit to face Walton & Hersham before having to sit out the Sittingbourne and Worthing games after amassing ten bookings.
The bosses are trying to keep their squad’s minds on one game at a time and not worry about how many points they will need out of 12 to clinch the title and the sole automatic promotion spot that goes with it.
Killpartrick (left) said: “It was a professionally-won three points against Whyteleafe but we weren’t at our best. We played well in spells but at this stage it’s about getting the win.
“We’ll always try to play our normal passing and moving game but it won’t always happen as we’d like. Teams are going to make it difficult – they will in each of our final games, I’m sure.
“When we train, the players aren’t full of what we need to do to finish the job. It’s down to Jamie and I to soak up that sort of pressure and not pass it on. All we want the players to focus on is the next game.”
Howell said: “In my opinion we’re one of the best teams in the league and we need to remember that.
“We have to be brave, get on the ball and try to play the way we know we can.
“If we don’t score in the first 20 minutes, as was the case against Whyteleafe, we have to be patient.”
Howell singled out scorer Dan Royce for praise after the edgy win over Whyteleafe.
The winger has spent longer on the bench than on the pitch in recent weeks but has not complained.
“We feel some games suit Dan being in our team and others don’t, and it’s been hard for him,” Howell said.
“At half-time we felt introducing Dan and James Crane down the right would open up the game for us, and Dan repaid us with the goal. He’s had to be patient but he knows he’s important to us.”
Royce is pushing for a start against W&H, who are battling with Burgess Hill for the final play-off spot. But the Rocks may stick with the midfield who started last week.