The Rocks travel to face Met Police with their bosses telling fans: Don’t expect a nervy stalemate.
Managers Darin Killpartrick and Jamie Howell both reckon the first-versus-second encounter will be a classic case of two teams going all out for victory.
The Rocks will head to East Molesey on Saturday a point behind the Met but with a game in hand – and with the management playing down talk it’s a title decider. They have no new injury worries and have boosted their options by recruiting a trio of youngsters for the run-in.
Last Saturday’s 3-0 home win over Chipstead secured the Rocks at least a play-off place, but it’s the title – and the sole automatic promotion spot it brings – that’s now their goal.
The coming week is by far the biggest of the season to date for the men from Nyewood Lane. They follow the Met game by welcoming fourth-placed Leatherhead to town next Tuesday.
Howell and Darin Killpartrick’s side beat the Met 1-0 at home in January and it could and should have been a more comfortable scoreline. But Howell said the return game would be tougher. “They’re a very good team – better than we saw when they played at our place,” he said.
“They had a lot of injuries at that time and were having a bit of a sticky patch, but they’ve come good again since then.
“They deserve to be where they are in the league. I think they’re a similar side to us, but we’ll go there and give them a good game.
“I think it will be open. Playing defensively or for a draw isn’t our natural game, nor theirs. Having said that, we can’t afford to go there and be reckless.”
Killpartrick agreed and said talk of this being the game that would decide the title was wide of the mark.
“We’ve now secured a play-off spot, which is fabulous. Now we want to go on and admire the view from the top of the mountain.
“This game isn’t the be-all and end-all. We have six more games after this and I still think it will go to the wire.
“We will go for it against Mer Police. I think you’ll see two teams having a right go at each other.”
There’s mixed news on the injury front: 20-goal Luke Nightingale and skipper Michael Birmingham have shown no ill effects from having made quick comebacks last week from thigh and back injuries, but midfielder Dan Beck and defender Perry Ryan remain unavailable.
Beck is having a scan on a knee injury to establish whether it is medial ligament damage or more serious cruciate trouble, but won’t play this weekend. Also still out is Pompey loanee Ryan, who doctors say shouldn’t risk playing after a hairline wrist fracture.
But the Rocks have recruited two Brighton youth-team players as cover on work experience – defender Jamie Strong and winger Jordan Woodley.
In addition, teenage ex-Seagulls midfielder Conor Wilkins, who the Rocks recruited earlier in the season, is back at the Lane after a spell with Eastbourne Town.
Winger Phil Turner is available again after being absent last Saturday as his partner gave birth, but midfielder James Fraser faces another two to three weeks out with shoulder damage.
With some fringe players injured or unavailable, the new trio will give the Rocks breathing space should any more first-choice players be ruled out.
Howell said: “We looked at bringing in a couple of experienced players from Conference national level but it didn’t work out. But the squad have been fantastic and we are keen to keep faith with them all, while giving ourselves a bit of cover.”
The Rocks are likely to have a huge following again at the Met’s home. Supporter Ian Guppy said: “We took over a train carriage for the trip to Leatherhead – now let’s take the whole train!”