CANVEY Island will face arguably their toughest test of the season so far tomorrow when they head to the Ryman Premier leaders, Whitehawk.
The Hawks won 2-1 in the reverse fixture in October and Gulls manager Steve Tilson rates them as the best side in the division.
“I think they are the best side we’ve played at home and I watched them play East Thurrock two weeks ago and they’ve got a lot of quality,” he said.
“We know that if we’re not right we will get spanked at their place.
“So we’ve got to go there and make sure we do work hard and be nice and solid, and who knows? But it will be a tough game, that’s for sure.”
But although Tilson feels Whitehawk are the best team in the division, he said the competitive nature of the league makes results so hard to predict.
He said: “You just have to look at some of the results from today to see how tight it all is. Wealdstone lost at home to Wingate, which is incredible. And Lowestoft drew at home to Leiston.
“So no one’s really getting away. So although Whitehawk are the best side we’ve played by a little distance, if we’re solid there’s no reason we can’t get a result.”
The Gulls hope to welcome back attacker Jay Curran from a hamstring injury for tomorrow’s trip to Brighton.
Midfielder Kevin Dobinson and defender Rickie Hayles will face late fitness tests on knocks they picked up against East Thurrock.
East Thurrock manager John Coventry was threatening to ring the changes in his side ahead of tomorrow’s visit of Enfield Town. The Rocks boss was fuming with the way his players let Canvey come back from 1-0 down on New Year’s Day to beat his side 2-1 at the Prospects Stadium.
“That is us all over — I’m looking for a bit of heart and a bit of character and I’m not seeing that,” he said after the match.
“They equalised and we were still well in the game. And if they did their jobs properly in that second half and did what they were supposed to do then we could have taken at least a point.
“But they had so much possession in our half because we just did not do the basics. They started finding their forwards’ feet from throws.
“It’s Enfield Town at home on Saturday but I’m looking beyond that because I think I need to make a couple of changes and get a couple of players in.
“But who they are and where they come from is another matter. I feel there are a couple of areas we need to improve upon, but it’s going to come down to who’s available, and can we get them.”
The defeat left Rocks in 15th and nine points behind the play-off places. Enfield Town are three points further back in 19th and come into the game on the back of a 3-2 home defeat to Bury Town.
Billericay Town will look to end a run of six defeats in seven and put behind them two keenly-contested 1-0 derby losses to Hornchurch and Chelmsford, when they host sixth-placed Farnborough in the Conference South tomorrow.
Town have been boosted by former-Woking keeper Sam Beasant’s decision to sign a contract with the club. And after trialing six keepers already this season, Billericay manager Craig Edwards was happy to have tied down a player he rates highly.
He said: “Finding a permanent keeper who is of the quality we wanted has been very difficult, but Sam has come along and he is just what we wanted. It was worth the wait.”
Edwards says he is expecting to announce the arrival of a “box to box, goal-scoring midfielder” before tomorrow’s game. He says he would also like to bring another forward to the club.
The Essex Senior League returns tomorrow after the Christmas break and Bowers & Pitsea have a trip to Sawbridgeworth Town.
Bowers have only played twice in the past five weeks, and they welcome back centre back Reggie Disley after his two-match ban.
Bowers beat Sawbo 6-2 in the reverse fixture with top scorer Calvin Poku scoring a brace.
But the 13-goal hit-man has not scored in six games and will be hoping to end that sequence at a Sawbo side with the second leakiest defence in the league.
Elsewhere in the division, Basildon United host London Bari, and Hullbridge Sports welcome Bethnal Green.
Southend Manor keeper Adam Seal is in line to make his 250th appearance for the club when they entertain Eton Manor at Southchurch Park.
Great Wakering Rovers are not in action tomorrow, but go to Barkingside for a league game on Monday evening.