TOUGH-TALKING Aldershot Town boss George Borg issued a stern message to high-flying Canvey Island this Christmas — we're not scared of you!
Borg's side go head-to-head with the league leaders in an eagerly-awaited clash of the titans at the Rec on Saturday in the knowledge that his whole season could hinge on the next 72 hours.
Victory over the auld enemy and at second placed Gravesend & Northfleet on New Years Day will undoubtedly throw the premier division title race wide open. Defeat in both, on the other hand, doesn't bear thinking about.
This is undoubtedly a do-or-die period for the Shots and fans will be hoping that a repeat of the last festive period won't be in store.
On that occasion, defeat at Farnborough, Maidenhead and then at home to St Albans saw them slip from top spot down to fourth — and they never really recovered.
The task facing the Shots on Saturday, however, mustn't be underestimated. Not only are Canvey riding high in the division and current FA Trophy holders, but they are also one of just two teams flying the non-League flag in the third round of the FA Cup next Saturday — Jeff King's men eyeing a trip to Nationwide division one leaders Burnley.
Borg, though, has never been one to shy away from any challenge and after the brilliant 3-1 victory at Park Lane earlier in the season — Canvey's only home defeat in 16 months — he knows his side has what it takes to complete a memorable double.
He said: "Every game is a big game, but there's none bigger than this at the moment.
"After returning to winning ways at Hendon last Tuesday with a truly gritty performance, we've closed the gap at the top and don't want to relinquish it while putting the pressure back on Canvey and Gravesend.
"We're not scared of Canvey, why should we be? They are a good side with quality forwards but I believe we have better players in our squad then they have. It's just that they are producing it more consistently at the moment.
"I was delighted at Hendon because I think for the first time we ground out a result against a lesser side away from home. Hopefully now we've turned the corner.
"With that in mind, I'm sure now we can go into the Canvey game full of confidence, looking to repeat our victory in August."
Incredibly though larger-than-life Canvey chief King, however, was playing down the match as ‘just another game'.
He said: "They are all big games for us, Aldershot will be no different. We haven't had them watched recently but then we know them well and they know us. What with the league and the FA Cup, it's a very important period for us as a whole.
"We are both good sides and it's going to be about who wants it more on the day. We have certainly got that hunger."
The Shots were looking to set themselves up for the Canvey clash with a win over local rivals Basingstoke, which was kicking off as the News went to press on Boxing Day. Canvey travel to their Essex neighbours Billericay Town, while Gravesend have successive trips to Purfleet and Chesham over the Christmas break.
Borg reverted to a 4-4-2 for the Hendon trip on Tuesday and was due to do the same against Basingstoke. But don't be surprised to see a few tactical switches to quell the threat of the free-scoring strike force. No fewer than SIX Canvey players have netted ten goals or more in this season.
Saturday will also see the first visit to the Rec of tough-tackling former West Ham United defender Julian Dicks, who agreed to help out his old friend King while attempting to persue a professional golfing career.
Hard man Dicks has already made a name for himself in the Ryman League and will no doubt enjoy some banter with the East Bank on Saturday when a crowd in excess of 3,000 are expected to click through the turnstiles.
The Shots boss, will, however, have a full strength squad to pick from with Stafford Browne and Adam Parker now fully restored to the action following head injuries.