ALDERSHOT Town and its supporters were given a sign of things to come at Church Road on Saturday — and it's got the nerves jangling.
Terry Brown always said that Hayes away was the toughest of the remaining matches, Canvey Island included. But with Kingstonian, Sutton, Purfleet and Hendon twice still left to play, you get the feeling that the loyal Shots faithful will have to sprout a few more grey hairs yet before they eventually start celebrating promotion to the Conference.
The feeling come 4.45pm after Canvey had halved the advantage at the top to three points, was clear — there is still a long way to go yet.
Brown said: "We were beaten by a better side today. They wanted it more than us and went about their job in a professional manner and thoroughly deserved their victory on the day.
"I was disappointed with all the ex-Hayes boys out there, although I was pleased with Aaron (McLean's) debut. He was lively but how we didn't get behind them defensively is beyond me. It's disappointing because we will come across, on paper, harder sides than we lost to today."
As connections go, they don't get a lot closer than Aldershot and Hayes.
Naturally, after spending nine years as manager before leaving to join the Shots a year ago, Brown was the focal point and it was sad to see some sections of the Church Road crowd turn against him after all his work in transforming the club in the mid to late 1990's.
Not only that, the Shots arrived at Church Road with no fewer than SEVEN former Hayes players in their ranks with each and every one made to feel pretty unwelcome on their return.
Nikki Bull, Dean Hooper, Anthony Charles, Dominic Sterling, Lee Charles, Lee Holsgrove and Nick Roddis have all turned out in a red and white striped shirt, but all, at some point, became victims of the hate mob, and it seemed to unsettle them as the game went on.
None of the eight, including the boss, had points to prove either, with the exception that is of Holsgrove. His marker in the centre of the park was none other than his younger brother Peter, while the eldest sibling, Paul, was coaching from the sidelines.
An embrace at the end was touching, but Lee left Church Road in the knowledge that, having created the winning goal for Michael Currie in the 18th minute, it was Peter who won that personal battle.
Brown sprung a surprise in his team selection, dropping Jason Chewins completely, while new signing Aaron McLean was drafted straight into the side after arriving from Leyton Orient just 48 hours earlier.
The Shots started confidently - stroking the ball around majestically and giving the lively McLean plenty of ball to run onto it, despite the attentions of his huge marker Chris Wild.
Roddis went close with a 25-yard shot, which flew just wide with just 45 seconds gone, before Roscoe D'sane brought out the best in keeper Bertrand Bossu with a header from Anthony Charles' left wing cross.
But once the crowd livened up and niggly challenges began to outweigh the neat passing football, the Shots lost their way.
One by one you could sense the frustrations as the home side benefited from most 50/50's - one of which leading to the opening goal.
Roddis was adjudged to have fouled Mark Molesey on the right hand flank, Peter Holsgrove floated in the resulting free-kick which was finished off brilliantly by Currie's volley on the turn at the near post.
The Shots responded well despite the distractions around them, and might have levelled within three minutes when Ray Warburton met Paul Buckle's corner, only to see his effort crash off the top of the crossbar.
Bit by bit the distractions began to cause a problem to stewards and the police as a group of Hayes youth teamers, there in celebration of the club's thriving youth policy, made their way to the other side of the crowd divide and began goading the visiting supporters.
Despite this, the Shots still managed to focus on the job at hand with Warburton producing another fine save from Bossu with a similar header and Sterling shooting just wide of the post from the resulting corner.
Brown then opted to change the 3-5-2 system to 4-4-2, sacrificing Jason Cousins and Roddis for Stafford Browne and John Nutter, but, if anything, it had the reverse effect as the Shots consistently struggled to test Bossu further.
D'sane then went off for Lee Charles, who was booed by Hayes fans with his every touch, and maybe Brown's decision not to bring on Steve Perkins when the out-muscled Shots were crying out for his midfield presence, returned to haunt him, when Nutter picked up a hamstring pull late on.
As it happened, the Shots could point to crucial tackles from Anthony Charles and Warburton for not going further behind - especially when Currie broke through one-on-one in the final minute, only to pause and find Warburton intervene from behind.
With the 10-match unbeaten run over, the Shots must now pick up the pieces in time for the visit of FA Trophy semi-finalists Aylesbury United tonight (Tuesday, ko 3pm).
Steve Cordery's men have slipped into the relegation zone after a run of disappointing league results, but in a certain Richard Gell, have plenty of quality in the ranks to upset the Shots further.
Brown has hinted that Chewins and Perkins will both come into the squad, while Nutter is expected to be out for two to three weeks.
SHOTS: Bull; Hooper, A Charles, Cousins (sub Nutter 45mins), Warburton, Sterling, Roddis (Browne 45), Holsgrove, McLean, D'sane (L Charles 64), Buckle. Not used: Perkins, Howells.
Ref: S Chittenden. Att: 1,305.