In what could turn out to be one of the biggest weekends of the Ryman League season, Roscoe D'Sane proved the match winner in Saturday's demanding 1-0 victory over Billericay — the club's first at New Lodge for six years.
D'Sane's fantastic strike in the eighth minute was enough to steal the points from a hardworking if not very adventurous Billericay, but it was the result 100 miles down the road that put the icing on the cake for manager Terry Brown.
Canvey's stalemate at Maidenhead United brought a halt to their 14-match winning streak and despite the Essex side avoiding defeat in the closing minutes, the title is now firmly back in the palm of Brown's side with the grasp tensing every week.
"I'm very happy," claimed a delighted Shots boss. "There is plenty to play for but we are still seven up and we are still trying to get better."
Saturday's game had all the history to indicate handbags at ten paces throughout. Despite George Borg's shock departure from the club in midweek there was still plenty of juicy stuff to get the fans going. Most notably, former Shots players Ollie Adedeji and Mark Graham playing in the colours of Billericay. The last time that any of the Rec faithful would have seen them both at New Lodge will live forever in the memory after a bout of fisty-cuffs were exchanged whilst both were playing for the Shots. The resulting sackings meant that there would surely be a point to prove and perhaps retribution would be in order.
However, the league leaders let their football do the talking on this occasion and D'Sane's opener was about as fruity as it got all afternoon.
The quality of the goal was unquestionable, and there is no doubt that moments of brilliance like that will win championships.
After turning Adedeji on the edge of the box, D'Sane's well-placed shot had too much on it for ‘keeper Jerome John but there were moments of scrappy play after that.
Richard Graham's free-kick sailed just wide of Nikki Bull's left-hand post in the 20th minute and when Dominic Sterling and Ray Warburton had a momentary lapse of concentration at the back — the home side appeared certain to draw level in the 39th minute.
However, Lee Williams fired wide from five yards out with only Bull to beat and the half ended with the Shots looking slightly jaded despite still holding the trump card through D'Sane's hand.
The second period was all about Brown's side though. Bull didn't have a single save to make throughout and the Shots neat build-up play and attacking football caused no end of problems at the back for the home side.
Jason Chewins tipped Paul Buckle's corner just wide in the 49th minute and D'Sane then continued to threaten two minutes later with a surge at goal. However, his rising shot was well wide of the mark despite breaking into the box with his electric pace.
The attacks continued from there. Chewins playing a one-two with the impressive Lee Holsgrove whose cross was well cleared by Adedeji as D'Sane lurked once more. Then Buckle tried his luck from long-range with a dipping volley that was palmed away for a corner by the lively John in the 67th minute.
The keeper had to be at his best again just moments later though when Anthony Charles' left-foot screamer appeared destined to break the back of the net.
Despite continuing to threaten the second goal never came but this was about as comfortable a one-nil win as you would ever get and Brown knew that more than anyone.
"This is a difficult place to come," he said. "We have put in a really professional performance and I cannot remember my keeper having a save to make."
Despite the comfort of the win though, the Shots boss still admits that he is looking to strengthen his side in the forward department, adding: "We did push on in the second half for the second goal but we didn't get it. That is an area that I am looking at and we need someone to give us that second goal. I am still expecting a top striker to come to the Rec, where he is from and currently playing is still in the lap of the gods as we have offers in for three of four people.
"We now have two weeks off but we would love to keep playing. This win and Maidenhead taking two points off Canvey gives us confidence and if I can add a fresh face to the squad in the front running department that will give us even more confidence."
SHOTS: Bull; Hooper, Chewins (sub Perkins 69), A.Charles, Warburton, Sterling, Roddis, Holsgrove, Browne (Harper 87), D'Sane, Buckle. Subs not used: Hammond, L.Charles, Howells. Att: 1,817.
l The Shots now have a two week break from their league programme. They travel to Andover on Tuesday March 25 for the second leg of the Hampshire Senior Cup. Then, on Saturday March 29, it's back to Ryman action with the away visit to Terry Brown's former side Hayes.