DEFEAT on Saturday —Farnborough's sixth in succession on their travels — has got a few people sweating.

It's hard to believe that just a few weeks ago, Boro were eyeing a Play-Off spot with the top sides looking over their shoulder and confidence at an ultimate high.

Now the main aim at Cherrywood Road, however, is to avoid the dreaded drop, in what looks set to be a tense final quarter of the season.

Farnborough/Woking derbies are nearly always met with high expectations, but surely there could be no bigger crunch over the years than the one at Kingfield tonight.

The clash of the titans is not only about local pride tonight — it's about three vital points for two sides in serious trouble at the wrong end of the table.

If anyone deserves an inspiring glance from Lady Luck herself tonight, it's Boro caretaker chief Ian McDonald.

Working on a shoestring, with a transfer embargo and getting no help whatsoever from the "powers at be," Macca goes to Kingfield tonight with a bare squad of just 14, including two goalkeepers and two untried youngsters.

If ever there was a time to register a first Conference win since their 5-0 thrashing of Woking on Boxing Day, it's now.

Darren Annon's return from suspension is a welcome boost, especially with Gary Patterson injured and Stuart Reeks now back as a Woking player.

But if Reeks is selected and shows Rocky Baptiste the kind of space he allowed Forest Green striker Kayode Odejayi on Saturday, then Boro could well be in with a shout of a momentous double, thus plunging fourth-from-bottom Woking deeper into the mire.

Macca is well aware though that Annon and a 90 per cent fit Christian Lee will have to defend an awful lot better than Reeks and injury-ravaged Gary Patterson did on Saturday if they are to get one over the boys next door.

Three goals in 28 first half minutes all but killed off Boro's challenge at The Lawn where not even a sterling second half display could prevent them staring defeat in the face.

Macca's plight was not helped by assistant manager Patterson tweaking his troubled knee in the warm-up, although he felt fine to start the match after pre-match treatment.

But it seemed obvious from the start that he shouldn't as Forest Green put him, and Boro, to the sword.

Skipper Jon Richardson made it 1-0 for the home side with ten minutes gone after Boro failed to clear Ben Cleverley's corner from the right.

Before Boro could re-organise and settle, Matthew Russell's long ball forward caught Reeks flat-footed and Odejayi was on hand to control and rifle past Tony Pennock in off the far post.

Boro did show, in patches, that they were still in contest with Rovers keeper Steve Perrin forced to keep out a shot by young debutant Paul Harkness, who had a fine game, while Geoff Pitcher's 25-yard free-kick struck a post.

But just when you thought there may be a way through, Alex Meechan easily shrugged off struggling Patterson and squared for Odejayi, who left Reeks in his wake before beating Pennock with a very similar finish to his first.

Boro showed steel after that with Pitcher twice forcing Perrin into saves, but although Lee came on as a half-time replacement for Patterson, you always got the feeling it was a bridge too far.

In patches though, Boro played some of their best stuff away from home in many a week, and chances were created.

Chris Piper's rasping 20-yard drive cannoned off the top of the crossbar while Perrin admitted later that his lunge on Lenny Piper was a cast iron penalty which referee Kevin Friend — the same referee that robbed Farnborough at Dagenham on February 8 — chose instead to award the decision the other way.

But on 64 minutes, Boro did begin to make in roads when Pitcher played in Baptiste, who jockeyed two tackles before threading a superb ball to Harkness, who smashed his first goal for the club into the far corner of the net from the angle.

Boro continued to surge forward, while in-form Rovers were forced to retreat and happy to put ten men behind the ball. Dean Green could, and should, have bagged a brace with two excellent late chances from close range, before the home defence somehow cleared twice from desperate goalmouth scrambles.

But it was the defensive frailties which led to Boro's downfall — a fact Macca was well aware of come the final whistle.

He said: "Whatever team you are at whatever level, you can't be expected to recover from conceding three goals in the first half hour in the way we did. Our defending from the half way line to the goal just won't do and it's going to be one hell of a dogfight if we carry on defending like that.

"Tuesday is a massive game. It's a must-win for both sides, a draw might not do."

BORO: Pennock; Reeks, Taggart, L Piper, Pitcher, Baptiste, Patterson (sub Lee 45mins), Green, C Piper, Butterworth, Harkness. Not used: Osborn, Potter, Ayres.

Ref: Kevin Friend. Att: 825.