The Rocks insist there’ll be no basking in the glory of three straight wins as they look to keep up their new-year momentum against Fleet on Saturday.
Their 2-1 triumph at second-placed Whitehawk made it nine points from nine this year, but the size of their task was demonstrated again in midweek when the three teams above them in Ryman one south all won.
The Met Police, Whitehawk and Leatherhead, plus the Rocks, are pulling away from the rest of the division and the Nyewood Lane squad know the next six weeks – when they will be playing two games every week – are absolutely crucial.
The Rocks’ defensive options have been strengthened this week with Stuart Axten’s return to fitness and the extension of teenager Perry Ryan’s loan from Pompey until the end of the season.
But midfield maestro James Fraser, whose consistent performances have been a key reason the Rocks have done so well this season, will be out for anything between a fortnight and six weeks after suffering a knee injury at Whitehawk.
Bosses Darin Killpartrick and Jamie Howell were delighted to win a very physical game at Whitehawk but are not getting carried away.
Killpartrick said: “It was three points, that’s all. Their ground is a fortress and we showed we could meet fire with fire. We can play when we need to and battle when we need to.
“You know what you’re going to get at Whitehawk, but when we got to half-time at 1-1 and were playing down the slope in the second half, we felt a win was possible.
“Now we have to keep on winning. There is no lift out of this division – we have to take the stairs.”
Killpartrick hailed two of his ‘warriors’ for their performances in recent weeks – skipper Michael Birmingham, whose free-kick put them ahead at Whitehawk, and loan man Ryan.
“Birmy drove the team on at Whitehawk,” he said. “In the big games, you need good players to become excellent players and he does that for you.
“And we’re delighted to keep Perry. He’s an excellent footballer and a real warrior.”
Howell warned Fleet would be a tough nut to crack at the Lane on Saturday despite being 17th in the table.
“We thought they were quite a good side when we went there on the opening day of the season,” Howell said.
“Although we ended up winning 2-0, it was 0-0 for a long time and they were hard to break down.”
The encounter could see Axten play his first league game since mid-November. He was due to have 45 minutes in last night’s Sussex Senior Cup tie at Lewes and, provided there is no reaction to his recent knee injury, he will be in contention for Saturday.
Phil Turner (hamstring) and Matt Whitehead (hip) are about a week away from fitness, while Fraser’s absence in midfield is likely to mean a start for Kane Wills or Matt Wood.
Next Tuesday the Rocks go to Merstham, who snatched a point with a late equaliser to draw 3-3 at Nyewood Lane in September.