The Rocks are asking ‘What else can go wrong?’ as they scramble to replace their player of the season.
Skipper and midfield playmaker Dan Beck will miss the rest of the campaign after sustaining a broken shoulder in a heavy fall during Saturday’s hard-fought 4-2 win at Godalming.
It’s the last thing the squad need after losing a succession of key men since the start of the season in a run of injuries, player departures and suspensions that have tested their promotion credentials to the limit.
The club may bring in a new signing to fill the void left by Beck, who joint boss Jamie Howell described as the player of the season so far. But for now they look like having to shuffle their squad - again - to cover his absence. It’s not yet known who will take over as captain.
But it’s not all bad news - the Rocks have had a major boost with the news that striker Steve Harper, who has scored three goals in the past two games, wants to stay at Nyewood Lane until the end of the season rather than return to Met Police, from where he is on loan.
Howell and fellow manager Darin Killpartrick warned the run-in was going to be tough for the injury-hit squad, who are still set to be without versatile duo Ben Andrews and Sonny Cobbs for the visit of Folkestone this weekend.
The Rocks remain top of the table but Dulwich Hamlet moved to within three points of them – having played one more game – with a 1-0 win at Ramsgate on Tuesday night.
Howell said: “Dan fell awkwardly after a robust tackle and losing him for the season is a massive blow. He’s been our player of the season for me.
“He’s had a bigger role to play since others have left and although he’s not as vocal as some, he’s a very intelligent player and has taken on the mantle of driving the team forward.
“We are looking at how we fill that gap.”
Killpartrick added: “Dan’s been sensational this year - a true leader, and an example on and off the pitch. He’ll be missed badly. We seem to have been putting out fires all season. Now you think: what else can go wrong?”
Howell added: “The number of players we’re losing for different reasons is still a concern. People see we’re still top of the table and might expect us to stay there but there is a long way to go yet and Dulwich and Whitehawk are just waiting for us to fall.
“It’s all about who keeps their players fit and who deals best with the run-in.”
Andrews and Cobbs will both give the squad a major lift when they return from injury but this Saturday’s encounter with sixth-placed Folkestone - who the Rocks drew 2-2 with at their place - could come too soon for both. Cobbs will be a contender to step into Beck’s midfield boots when he is fit.
Harper’s keenness to stay with the Rocks is a tribute to what the club are trying to achieve and the managers are delighted.
They paid tribute to Met Police for allowing the forward to join them earlier in the season and said Harper’s recent form was making it difficult for them to choose a front pairing from Harper, Ashley Robinson, who has scored six in eight games, and Terry Dodd, who has 18 for the season.
Folkestone have won four and drawn two of their past six away league matches and were ten minutes from beating the Rocks at the Buzzlines Stadium in November.
Killpartrick said: “We know what to expect from them and will be ready. With the league positions as they are in the top six, they will need to come to us and go for the win.”