Spencer Day is backing his Boro battlers to heap more misery on stuttering leaders Bromley on Saturday – and throw the title race wide open.
Mark Goldberg’s long-time front-runners are in danger of relinquishing top spot after taking just four points from a possible 18, including three defeats on the bounce.
And Day, whose side gave fellow title chasers Sutton United a run for their money at Cherrywood Road on Saturday, believes he has the tools to expose the defensive crisis which threatens to derail the Kent club’s promising season.
In particular, the Boro boss is pointing to new recruit Connor French, who followed up his first goal for the club in the 2-1 defeat by Sutton on Saturday with a timely double on Tuesday night to help them edge past AFC Portchester and reach the final of the Russell Cotes Cup.
Indeed, Day admits French is “hammering on the door” of a first start this Saturday and has so much faith in the young man he promoted from Walton Casuals, he has sent back loan hitman George Sykes to Barnet to give him more of a starring role.
The boss said: “It’s a big step up for Connor but he's settled in nicely and is literally hammering at my door for a first start. That’s what I want, young, hungry players itching to get onto the pitch to do their best for the club and it was great to see him get on the scoresheet on Saturday and in midweek.
“We know Connor has a fitness issue which he needs to address to play 90 minutes at this level but he offers us a good option at a time when we need to start scoring.”
And, at the same time, Day has also set his sights on bringing in a League Two loan striker to help his side through a gruelling schedule of four games in ten games, including a trip to Boreham Wood on Monday night.
Sykes’ last start in a Boro shirt ended in a frustrating defeat by Paul Doswell’s U’s, who held on for all three points despite playing over 50 minutes with ten men following the dismissal of captain Charlie Clough for hauling back Sykes.
Fired up by the dreadful 3-0 home defeat by Basingstoke under 48 hours previous – described by Day as the worst home performance of the season – Boro started the stronger and came within a whisker of a deserved opener when Sykes held up Harry Lee’s ball into the box for Adam Doyle to strike, but his 18-yard effort rebounded off the base of the post to safety.
But for all the home side’s pressure it was Sutton who made the breakthrough on 34 minutes. Lee Sawyer’s free-kick from the left was inadvertently flicked over the heads of the awaiting crowd of defenders and Jamie Taylor laid the ball off for Damian Scannell to fire past Kevin Scriven at the far post.
Shades of Thursday night looked on the cards but four minutes later, Day's men were handed a lifeline. Lee threaded a through ball to Sykes, only for the young striker to be hauled down by Clough just outside the box, prompting referee Stephen Daly to reach for the red card and reduce the visitors to ten men.
Incredibly, though, home spirits were dashed within a minute when Dale Binns' free-kick into the box was only half-cleared to an unmarked Taylor at the far post and the former Aldershot youngster volleyed sweetly home into the far corner.
Day’s men continued to pile on the pressure after the break but despite forcing a series of corners, never really tested Brown in the Sutton goal until French pounced two minutes from time to slot home beyond the desperate lunge of Simon Downer.
“Almost from start to finish the better team lost but quality at both ends has cost us,” Day surmised. “They've been in our box four times and scored twice through poor defending, whereas we didn’t take our chances at the other end. They are ruthless and are everything we’re not. It’s been the story of our season and it's hard to take.”
Still, the performance represented a monumental improvement on the 3-0 home defeat by rivals Basingstoke.
Manny Williams took a little under three minutes to put the Dragons in front before skipper David Ray made both Phil Page and Lowe pay for missing gilt-edged chances with a second goal seven minutes before the break.
And Boro’s misery was compounded ten minutes from time when Josh Huggins was harshly adjudged to have impeded Adam Green on the edge of the box and Williams slotted home from the spot.
The game was the last taste of action for young defender Luis Morrison-Derbyshire, who, after being praised by boss Day for a solid performance in the victory at Hayes & Yeading just a fortnight ago, was subsequently released.
At least Day has a cup final to look forward to after goals either side of the break from French helped a patched-up Boro side peg back the Wessex side, who led through Jamie Musselwhite’s opener.
But the boss was none too happy afterwards, adding: “It was a poor performance and a horrible trip and we were lucky to avoid extra time.”
Either Christchurch or Fareham Town await them in the final at a date and venue to be arranged.
FARNBOROUGH (v Sutton): Scriven; Huggins, Treacher (Berry 68), Bosch (Page 60), Inns, Doyle, Bennett, Ball, Sykes (French 59), Lowe, Lee. Subs: Siaw, Cole. Att: 345.