The Hawks face a must-win game against Dover Athletic at West Leigh Park tonight after Chelmsford City put a huge dent in their play-off ambitions.
Shaun Gale’s men – hampered by the early dismissal of Ian Selley – were beaten 2-1 by Saturday’s visitors, making their uphill struggle for a spot in the Blue Square South finale even more difficult.
And those play-off dreams will almost certainly be assigned to the scrapheap for another season if they fail to return to winning ways against Dover (7.45pm).
The Hawks defeated tonight’s visitors last week but Gale is expecting them to be hungry for revenge.
He is, therefore, delighted to have skipper Ian Simpemba and Mustafa Tiryaki back from suspension.
The boss said: ‘Their return will give us the chance of a different option because the 10-men worked their socks off at the weekend.
‘Dover will be coming here looking for revenge after we beat them at their place last week, and it will be another tough test.
‘We must aim to pick up all three points.
‘Dover have the league’s leading scorer in Adam Bircahll but we kept him quiet last game and must aim to do the same again.
‘We need to win the game, it is as simple as that.
‘We still have eight games left, and all Saturday’s defeat does is just make it more difficult for us.
‘Plenty of people in our position might throw the towel in but we won’t.’
The visit of Chelmsford started so well for the Hawks on Saturday, with Giuseppe Sole giving them a ninth-minute lead.
But almost immediately the Hawks were left with a mountain to climb as Selley was shown a straight red card for a lunging challenge.
Despite the setback, Gale’s men continued to have the better of the first half and Manny Williams went desperately close to extending their lead.
But two goals in the first eight minutes after the restart condemned them to defeat.
‘We did brilliantly to get ourselves in front but once you go down to 10 men it makes it very difficult,’ said Gale.
‘Three minutes of madness at the start of the second half killed us.
‘For their first goal we were caught in possession in the middle of the field, which you can’t afford when you are a man down because then you get punished.
‘After that we gave away a cheap foul and they punished us again.
‘I thought Ian Selley was unlucky to get sent off, and if we had kept 11 men on the pitch I couldn’t see us getting beat.
‘Ian plays with his heart on his sleeve and we ask him to go out there and compete.
‘It is just massively disappointing that one decision against us changed the game.
‘Chelmsford couldn’t break us down, and apart from their two goals, our keeper Aaron Howe hasn’t had a save to make.
‘Both their goals came from our mistakes and that has been the story of our season in some respects.
‘The players are bitterly disappointed because we deserved to take something from the game.
‘Even with 10 men – against a side who are fifth in the league – we continued to create chances.’
The Hawks began the game in a confident manner and thoroughly deserved their early lead.
Sole and fellow striker Williams worked a sharp one-two on the edge of the box to slice Chelmsford open.
When Williams returned the ball across the area, Sole clinically slotted it past Carl Pentney and into the far corner of the net.
Within a minute, though, Selley dived into a 50/50 tackle with Ricky Modeste, taking man and ball in the process.
After consulting with his assistant, the referee brandished a red card to the former Arsenal midfielder, who maybe should have known better.
For the rest of the half, the Hawks frustrated their unimaginative visitors and Williams even went close to extending the advantage.
That all changed, though, at the start of the second half.
Paul Hinshelwood gave the ball away inside Chelmsford territory and the visitors broke quickly to tee-up Wayne Gray for an equaliser.
The Hawks had barely caught their breath when they were behind.
Jordan Sanderson’s free-kick was headed against the crossbar and the ball bounced kindly to visiting skipper Dave Rainford to head in.
Sole and Williams had chances to level but City held out.
Hawks: Howe 7; Newton 7, Tyrrell 7, Pearce 7, Hinshelwood 6 (Robson, 73mins), Selley 5, Fogden 8, Ramsey 7, Williams 7, Sole 8, Igoe 7 (Sewell, 83mins).