The Rocks head into their second-versus-first clash at Dulwich Hamlet with boss Jamie Howell admitting: We’re up against it.
They are without two players through suspension, another three through injury – and one who’s scoring goals at Newcastle but still being paid by the Rocks.
But joint manager Howell said the depleted squad were up for the challenge of playing their closest rivals – and determined to avoid a repeat of the display at Whitehawk, where they ‘didn’t turn up’.
Dulwich crushed their promotion dream last May by winning at Nyewood Lane in the play-off semi-final and have been title challengers all season. They moved second on Saturday, two points behind the Rocks, with a win at Eastbourne.
The Rocks travel to Champion Hill without Jon Marzetti, starting a three-match ban for a red card against Worthing, and Sonny Cobbs, the new signing from Eastbourne Town who serves a one-match ban for accruing five bookings before moving to Nyewood Lane.
Missing through injury are Ben Andrews, likely to be absent until mid or late Feburary with knee trouble, and Tim Bond, who may need surgery on a hernia and could even be out for the season.
Centre-half Bond made his comeback after hamstring and calf problems for Selsey last Saturday, but picked up the new problem and was forced off after an hour.
Midfielder Lewis Ide is a long-term absentee as he tries to get over a long-standing knee injury, while Dan Beck is also a doubt with a calf strain – although the captain is likely to be fit for Saturday.
The Rocks have taken only one point from their last two games – they let slip a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 at home to Ramsgate on Saturday when the highlight was a debut goal for new striker Ashley Robinson.
Howell said: “The problems we have are far from ideal, but we have to get on with it. We trained on Tuesday night and the lads are in good heart despite a couple of results which haven’t been the best.
“We’re without Jon and Sonny because of bans, and Ben will now be out for a few weeks. He’s due to have a cartilage operation next week.
“It’s frustrating. You’re bringing in new players and having little time to prepare them and get them used to the way you play. And you’re paying players who for whatever reason you can’t pick.
“But sometimes your best performances can come when you’ve got your backs to the wall like this.
“It’s going to be a tight game and I hope we do ourselves justice. We didn’t really show up at Whitehawk – the players know that and won’t want to lose like that again.”
Fellow boss Darin Killpartrick said: “We’re light on players and might change our shape at Dulwich and be a little more defensive. But our general approach won’t change.”
With Marzetti and Cobbs out and James Crane starting a three-match ban next week, the Rocks may sign another defender before Saturday for one of the full-back positions. Also pushing for a recall is Darryl Wollers, rested against Ramsgate.